Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the NDP and to make it clear, as we have from day one, that we are 100% in support of Bill C-257, a bill that would ensure replacement workers are not allowed to be brought in during a strike situation.
After listening to the member for Mississauga South, I am quite appalled at the excuses being made by some members to slide out of supporting the bill.
I want to put it on the record that essential services have been in the Labour Code for the past 10 years. In fact, it was the former Liberal government that produced section 87.4 that spells out the provisions and the process for dealing with essential services during a strike.
For that member or any other member of the Liberal caucus to stand and say that somehow the bill is flawed and that it does not meet the tests of essential services is completely false. I want that to be very clear. Either they have not read the Labour Code or they do not understand that section 87.4 lays out the provision for the union and the employer to designate what essential services are before a strike begins. There is a provision for the board itself to do that if there has not been an agreement. There is even a provision for the minister to ask the Industrial Relations Board to make that designation.
If those members have not read the material, I hope they will today because many activists from the Canadian Labour Congress are on Parliament Hill today to provide that information. I hope they are not deliberately misleading the House by saying that the bill does not cover essential services. The provision was good enough for 10 years in the Labour Code, which the Liberals wrote, so why is it now suddenly a problem?
There is no question that the CIRB has ruled numerous times on essential services. In the code, it designates maintenance of activities but it is the same as essential services. If we read the rulings in the CIRB, we will see that it uses the words “maintenance of activities” and it uses the words “essential services”.
This is a process that is already in place and it is working very well. It has never been identified as a problem. I am astounded to hear members using this mythical issue as an excuse to slide out of supporting the bill.
This bill, which came from the Bloc, has been through the House 10 times. It is a bill that would produce a fair balance in labour relations.
The committee heard from over 100 witnesses. During 33 hours we heard from numerous employer organizations and employers. Probably about 80% of the witnesses were from employers. Only about 20% were from the labour movement. We did very thorough research on the bill.
At the end of the day, the bill is about establishing a very important principle, which is that when workers go on a legal strike they have a right to know and to expect that replacement workers will not be brought in or that people will not be able to cross the picket line, which are important rights for workers.
As we know from the history of what happened in British Columbia and in Quebec, this law has worked for years and years and actually works very well. It produces labour relations stability. Unfortunately, we have now come to a position on the bill where all kinds of fearmongering and misinformation is being put forward.
I would like to put forward another reason that the bill in no way impacts essential services. Even if the bill were approved, and I hope that it will pass today at third reading, it would not remove the rights of the federal government during any labour dispute, under federal jurisdiction, to bring in back to work legislation. The bill would not impede the right of the federal government to do that.
We recently saw the situation with the CN Rail strike and the legislation that was proposed to deal with it. This bill would not in any way remove the capacity for or the right of the federal government to do that. I personally do not support back to work legislation, nor does the NDP, but nevertheless the right of the government to do so would still exist.
This bill has had a lot of attention. It has had enormous debate in committee. It is very unfortunate that now as we near the end of the process there are members of the House and big employers who are trying to provide misinformation about the bill, because the essence of this bill is that it will establish a very important right for workers and produce a level playing field, as we have seen in B.C. and Quebec.
I am from British Columbia. We have a right-wing Liberal government in my province. British Columbia's legislation has worked very well. It was brought in by the previous NDP government but was left in place by the Liberal government because it understood that the legislation was producing labour stability. I think that is really what we want to see here in terms of labour relations in this country.
I urge members of the House to focus on the merits of the bill and not get bogged down in some of what I think is the political positioning that has taken place. I believe that the information provided by the Canadian Labour Congress will answer all the questions that members may have about the bill. This information shows that it is a very sound piece of legislation that provides the balance and the fairness we want to see.
I will end my remarks by saying that I think we are going to hear a number of times today about this question of essential services. We will hear members say they cannot support the bill because it does not cover essential services. I want to emphasize the fact that it is abundantly clear that the issue of essential services and the process for designating essential services are already in the Canada Labour Code.
In fact, one of the approved amendments to this legislation says that this bill would be subject to section 87.4 of the Labour Code. This is the section which outlines the steps that can be taken to designate essential services to protect the public's health and welfare and the public interest. That is very clear, so if people begin by providing further misinformation and organizing a campaign around this, it will clearly be politically motivated.
I urge members to look at the merits of the bill and to look at the principles of what is taking place in terms of protecting workers' rights and dealing with what sometimes in the past has been violence on the picket line. When replacement workers are brought in, they become the focus of the strike, and this actually prolongs the strike rather than having people focusing on the issues and ensuring that a fair collective bargaining and negotiating process is in place, which is what we want to see. That is why there should be a ban on replacement workers. That is why 100% of the NDP members will be in their places on Wednesday to vote in favour of the bill.