House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.


Revised Responses to Order Paper Questions Nos. 13 and 33
Points of Order

11:05 a.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills


Gordon O'Connor Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order to correct answers to questions previously given to the House.

While I issued a public statement on March 8 to correct the record, this is my first opportunity to address the House. In statements to the House and in two replies to order paper questions, I inadvertently provided inaccurate information relating to the role, relationship and responsibilities of the International Committee of the Red Cross with regard to Canada and detainees turned over by Canada to Afghan authorities.

I fully and without reservation apologize to the House for providing inaccurate information to members. I regret any confusion that may have resulted from these statements. The answers I gave were provided in good faith. I take full responsibility and do so without hesitation.

I would like to be clear. The International Committee of the Red Cross is under no obligation to share information with Canada on the treatment of detainees transferred by Canada to Afghan authorities. The International Committee of the Red Cross provides this information to the country that has the detainees in its custody, in this case, Afghanistan.

The arrangement between the Canadian Forces and Afghanistan recognizes the right of the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit detainees at any time they are in custody, whether held by Canadian Forces or by Afghanistan.

Flowing from that correction, I am also tabling revised responses to Order Paper Questions Nos. 13 and 33 which state, “--the ICRC would advise the Afghan authorities if they had any concerns about detainees whom we transferred to Afghan authorities”. And that, “The International Committee of the Red Cross would advise Afghan authorities if they had any concerns about detainees”.

These revised responses will ensure that the House has accurate information.

In addition, today I am tabling a letter from two senior officials to the chair of the Standing Committee on National Defence correcting information they provided to the committee on December 11, 2006, regarding Canada's notification to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission of detainee transfers.

Defence officials and I have appeared regularly before the Standing Committee on National Defence to provide parliamentarians with information and will continue to do so.

The letters establishing Canada's subsequent arrangement with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, which I would now like to table, are posted on my department's website. To be clear, this arrangement, which has taken many months to negotiate, provides that Canada will notify the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, the AIHRC, of any detainees transferred to Afghan authorities and the AIHRC will inform Canada should it learn that a transfer detainee has been mistreated.

Our government is committed to the goal of ensuring that each Afghan detainee is treated in accordance with international law. The protection of human rights is a central value to all Canadians and our government's commitment is to ensure that these values are held no matter where are forces serve.

To reinforce that, I personally met with the Kandahar representative and the national representative of the commission, the Afghan minister of defence and President Karzai, in which I received their personal commitments to ensure that the agreements will be honoured.

I believe that my statement this morning clarifies our important relationships with the government of Afghanistan, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

Revised Responses to Order Paper Questions Nos. 13 and 33
Points of Order

11:05 a.m.


The Speaker Peter Milliken

I thank the honourable minister for his clarification. The documents that are answers to questions that he has tabled will either be treated as tabled documents, if the original answer was in fact tabled, or, if they were printed in Hansard, they will be printed in Hansard accordingly.

It being 11:07 a.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from February 28 consideration of Bill C-257, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers), as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to complete my commentary on Bill C-257, an important private member's bill dealing with the federal Labour Code.

The last time a major consideration of the federal Labour Code was undertaken there were extensive consultations over a number of years. Private members' bills have a limited amount of time to address things. I will move quickly to what I believe is the essential element with regard to the debate on this bill, which has to do with the concept of essential services.

I think all parties, whether they be labour, management, members of Parliament or the Canadian public, agree that essential services must be continued in some fashion in the event of a labour disruption or dispute.

During the committee stage hearings on Bill C-257, amendments were tabled to introduce the elements of essential services. The committee, under the direct testimony of expert witnesses, found that the current provisions under the federal Labour Code did not include a definition of services but included only the concepts of safety and health. That means that railways, telecommunications, post offices, et cetera, are not included under the rubric of safety and health.

In an attempt to add the essential services element to the bill, the Liberal members introduced a variety of amendments to put that in to ensure the federal Labour Code would cover the so-called essential services.

The Speaker, after taking advice from the House officials, officers and legal counsel, determined that those amendments were out of order because they tried to introduce a new element into the federal Labour Code that was not previously there. This is extremely important because it changes the whole focus and the whole consideration of Bill C-257. Based on the ruling of the Chair, Parliament now has to understand that essential services are not covered by Bill C-257.

I would like to indicate that many members of Parliament were pleased to receive input from the labour sector and they agree that it is very important that we protect the delicate balance between labour and management and respect the collective bargaining process.

I will read from one of the letters here that states that “Section 87(4) of the Canada Labour Code was specifically written with essential services in mind”. That is a very interesting way to describe it, “in mind” but not “in fact”. Essential services are not in the federal Labour Code. Unfortunately, that is the case and it is something we need to reconsider.

It is my recommendation that the inclusion of essential services in the federal Labour Code is an important element. We certainly do not want to disrupt the flow of cheques to seniors for their benefits, nor the transport of important materials to our vital manufacturing sector. That would damage jobs and hurt the labour force and I do not think anyone wants to do that.

I believe that Bill C-257 does not meet the need but we do need to address the elements of the federal Labour Code.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

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.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-257. I would also like to thank the hon. member for Gatineau, who introduced this bill which the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert has masterfully shepherded along. We would not be here today, debating Bill C-257, were it not for the work of the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert.

My remarks will be mainly directed to the public and the viewing public. I think that the minds of the political parties concerned, the Conservatives as well as the Liberals, are pretty much set. But it is the citizens who are watching us debate this Bill C-257 with respect to replacement workers who will have the last word. We may be going to the polls again shortly, and it is my understanding that this will be an opportunity for the public watching us at home to punish these two political parties for their lack of action on the issue of replacement workers. Let us start by looking at what the use of replacement workers is all about.

Workers are unionized. They have the right to strike, the same way that the employer has the right to lock them out. They may exercise this right upon the expiry of their collective agreement; but for the entire life of the collective agreement, the only right they have is to abide by the agreement and do as they are told by the employer. We must not forget that, when bound by a collective agreement, one has to abide by it from the day it is signed to the day it expires.

Only once the collective agreement has expired can workers stand up to their employer and tell him that, during the life of that agreement, there were things they liked and others not. They put all aspects into perspective. They are basically without rights while the collective agreement is being negotiated, especially since the Canada Labour Code is completely different from the labour code in Quebec. They are without rights in the context of a strike in particular. What happens then? Negotiations go on for a certain period of time. If they eventually fail, the workers end up on strike.

Today we are discussing the issue of replacement workers. In the Canada Labour Code, the employer has all the rights. Even if the other opposition parties think that the poor employers do not have all the rights, we firmly believe that these employers have these rights. The proof is that if at the end of negotiations an agreement is not reached, the workers vote either to return to work or to go on strike. In the case of the latter, these workers find themselves on the street and the employer has every right to hire other people to replace the strikers.

This is where things get difficult. Why do we want to take up this issue? Because it is wrong that workers have the right to strike, but that they are the only ones punished.

Why does the employer have all the rights? If I understand correctly, the two other parties agree with giving all the rights to employers. Maybe there is something we do not know. Maybe something was said that we did not hear and that made the Liberals change their minds mid-stream. I do not understand. I think that everyone here has the right to their own opinion and that they have rights. We want to protect the rights of workers.

I come back to the situation I was just talking about. These workers are out on the sidewalk without pay. When they are not working they are not being paid, unless the union has the money to pay them during strike weeks.

These people earn no salary during the entire period. This can lead to some friction at home, since the father is not working and stays home. The children wonder what is happening and why their father is at home rather than at work. A loss of earnings leads to family conflict. All of this because of a strike.

What of the employer in all this? In the factory, the employer hires management personnel and has the right to use them to replace the workers, like in any other factory—including factories in Quebec.

The thing is that people from anywhere who do any kind of work are being brought in to do the work instead of using the workers who are on the picket lines.

Imagine, for just a moment, that you are a factory worker and you are not happy with the working conditions of your work place. You are on the picket line and you see a bus load of people who are coming to replace you in your job, often at a salary that is lower than yours was before you left. Thus, you find yourself in a situation in which the employers hold all the cards.

Why should an employer agree to negotiate in good faith with workers when he can do without those workers because the factory is still in production?

The employer never has to deal with problems. What could happen? Workers could be out in the streets for months and months. There have even been cases where workers were out in the streets for years.

During that time, these people go without work and without money because they want rights under a collective agreement and they want to improve their lot. Is there anyone in this world who does not want to improve their lot and their working conditions? We all want to improve our working conditions.

I do not know anyone who would negotiate a pay cut or poorer working conditions with an employer unless that employer was up against a wall and could prove to workers, in black and white, that there were serious problems. Then the employer could propose cuts to pay or benefits. Usually it is during bargaining that workers would make their demands known.

Earlier, I listened to the Liberal member talk about measures taken and essential services. Since 1999, rulings have indicated that section 87.4 of the Canada Labour Code is a provision to maintain essential services.

The June 30, 1999, ruling in Aéroports de Montréal vs. Public Service Alliance of Canada, CIRB File 20258-C, contains 15 references to section 87.4 of the code as pertaining to essential services.

The June 22, 2001, ruling in Atomic Energy of Canada Limited vs. several trade union organizations, CIRB File 21134-C, contains 60 references to section 87.4 of the code as pertaining to essential services.

The March 26, 2002, ruling in NAV CANADA vs. Canadian Air Traffic Control Association and several trade union organizations, CIRB File 21881-C, contains 30 references to section 87.4 of the code. This is nothing but an excuse the Liberals are using to justify supporting Bill C-257.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this morning to this important bill to foster more harmonious labour relations between workers and employers under federal jurisdiction.

First, I want to congratulate my colleague from Shefford for his speech, which, in my opinion, put the entire issue into context quite well, and my colleague from Gatineau who agreed to champion this important bill. He did so with much dedication and skill. Since I represent the neighbouring riding, I have the honour of rubbing shoulders with my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, who also championed this bill. She did so not just during the debate, but she also contributed to preparing it and ensuring that all parliamentarians were well aware of the extent of the problem.

Today, some are still against this bill, but not for lack of trying by my colleague from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert to make them understand. In my opinion they are against it because they did not want to understand.

We are dealing with a situation that is unacceptable on many levels. First, we are repeating what is happening in a number of other jurisdictions when it comes to sharing power between the provincial, Quebec and federal governments. We see what an imbalance this causes. We have seen this with the fiscal imbalance and with various positions on health, education and national defence. In that sense, a certain number of provinces, but Quebec in particular, have values and principles that often differ from those that are defended in this House and that do not represent what the public wants in any way.

We know that the Bloc Québécois circulated a petition to support Bill C-257. Some 46,000 people signed it in order to call on the House of Commons to pass this bill. It is therefore surprising today, after trying 10 times to get a similar bill passed, that the hon. members of this House are still opposed to it.

The purpose of this bill is to civilize labour relations among a certain number of employers because employers in businesses operating under federal jurisdiction do not all act accordingly. On several occasions, my colleague has mentioned a number of conflicts that have dragged on for a very long time but that should not have lasted for such a prolonged period. She has spoken of the conflicts at Vidéotron, Sécur, Cargill, and Radio-Nord Communications—which lasted 10, 3, 38 and 20 months respectively—and we could add others.

These conflicts were marked not only by their duration but also by the events that took place during the conflicts. The use of scabs—or replacement workers for the purists—leads to deep animosity, not only between the replacement workers and the strikers but also between the strikers and their employers. We must remember that, once the conflict is over, the parties that make the company function must resume harmonious labour relations and contribute to the profitable operation of the company.

Some employers give little thought to this. They are the employers who habitually use an iron hand, ruling by decree, and who rely on the fact that, once the strike is over, they will succeed—through the governance structure or even by outside means and often by long legal disputes and proceedings—in imposing their will even though labour relations remain strained.

In this House, worst case scenarios were described in an effort to get parliamentarians to vote against the bill. But none of those related to actual events. They remain hypothetical situations.

At the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, of which I am a member, we studied this bill and heard from 13 or 15 unions and other organizations which support the bill. Three times as many people appeared before us to oppose it; they did so at the request of the Conservatives to try and justify maintaining the status quo.

We heard the same bunch of examples that do not hold water, like the one about banks no longer being able to operate. The fact of the matter is that less than 1% of bank employees are unionized, and there has never been a single dispute.

We also heard the one about railways. Even without anti-scab legislation, locomotive operators and railway employees, who are skilled workers, could not be replaced in the event of a work stoppage.

We saw it recently. There was a labour dispute that lasted two weeks. The employer could have replaced these employees with replacement workers. The problem was that, in fact, there were no specialized workers with similar skills to do the job. This resulted in a shorter conflict. But had replacement workers been available, and considering that the act still allows the use of such workers, the CN labour dispute would still not be settled, based on the examples that I mentioned earlier.

They are also giving us the example of telecommunications, including the 911 line, which comes under provincial jurisdiction. That is not a good example. During the debate, when they saw that the testimonies given by these companies and organizations were not going anywhere, they talked about the mines that could stop operating. We were given the example of a diamond mine in the far north. They gave us a spiel about how tragic it would be if we did not manage to get the diamonds out of there at the same pace. It would not be possible to use winter roads, because these diamonds can only be transported over ice bridges.

They never cared about the people living there. They never used these people as an example. Yet, when it comes to essential services, the provisions of the Canada Labour Code, particularly section 87.4, do provide such measures. The legislator included these measures to help those who could become more vulnerable following a dispute. The Canada Labour Code already provides that.

I find it unfortunate that they invoke the fact that it was not possible to insert a provision on essential services into Bill C-257 and say this prevents the provision of essential services. But such a clause already exists. It would be better for those members who are opposing the bill on the grounds that it does not include a provision on essential services to say openly that in fact they oppose the principle of anti-scab legislation. Their position in this debate would be clearer for everyone, and also more honest.

Like all my fellow Bloc members, I will support Bill C-257, and I invite other members—

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to speak to this bill.

Perhaps some of my colleagues are unaware that in a previous life, before I was elected to this House on October 25, 1993, I worked in labour relations for 16 years in the pulp and paper industry for Abitibi-Price and in the food industry at Métro-Richelieu headquarters in Montreal.

Unfortunately, during my time in labour relations, I experienced some labour disputes. As you may know, workers in these two sectors are governed by the Quebec Labour Code.

It is important to note the similarities between this bill, which was presented by the Bloc Québécois, and the replacement workers provisions in the Quebec Labour Code. These Quebec Labour Code measures came into force before 1977. As an aside, in Quebec, this replacement workers bill is part of the René Lévesque and Parti Québécois legacy.

As we may recall, and I believe my memory is correct, Pierre Marois was the labour minister who reformed the Quebec Labour Code. The replacement workers measures were a critical part of his reforms.

Members may also recall that in 1976, in Longueuil, in a company now known as Pratt & Whitney—if its name has not changed due to acquisitions—and known at the time as United Aircraft, workers governed by the Quebec Labour Code experienced what happens when scabs literally cross the picket lines every day. At the time, the company decided to continue operating.

Since this law came into force in 1977 or early 1978, and since the Quebec Labour Code reforms, violence on the picket lines has dropped significantly, and labour disputes are now much shorter.

Imagine participating in a union meeting where it was decided that the balance of power was such that there was no choice but to confront the employer. I may be repeating myself, but I want to make the point that I always worked on the management side, unlike some of my colleagues in this House who were CSN vice-presidents or held permanent union positions in the FTQ or worked in the education sector. My perspective is that of someone who spent his career in labour relations on the management side.

I was at the bargaining table. In the pulp and paper industry, there was a strike from July 1, 1980, to December 16, 1980. When they were not in negotiations, managers were crossing the picket lines every day. This was done in a civilized manner.

The company, which manufactured cardboard, did not try to operate with replacement workers or managers. Instead, they thought that a balance of power needed to be established, and that negotiations would eventually produce results. In this case, it took five and a half months.

This is how a balance of power works. The company stood its ground, while the unionized workers and the CSN stood theirs. With the help of a negotiator, they eventually resolved the strike issues. The workers shut down the mill from July 1 to December 16, 1980, and it was all done without violence.

This was a long strike. Imagine what would have happened if they had used replacement workers.

Mr. Speaker, you seem like a rather peaceful person by nature. Say you have been picketing for five and a half months, and that every day workers go by in school buses with bars on the windows. They give you the finger—among other things—and literally insult you. Although you seem peaceful, as I said earlier, I think that after a while, it would only be human to get upset with the situation. This is exactly what happened before the new Labour Code in Quebec.

That brings me to my question. If this is true for workers in Quebec, and for workers in British Columbia, why would it not be so for workers whose company comes under federal jurisdiction? This legislation has had a positive impact on the violence and duration of disputes. However, if someone has the misfortune of being unionized in a company under federal jurisdiction, they are not entitled to this protection. This allows for replacement workers to cross the picket line every morning in front of the workers.

I will not repeat the list of disputes my colleague from Chambly—Borduas provided. They included Vidéotron and the dispute at Cargill, in Baie-Comeau, which lasted 42 months, I think.

Not having these anti-scab provisions upsets the balance of power to some extent. By definition, the balance of power involves two entities facing one another as equals. One party decides to close the plant, and thus, the plant cannot operate as long as that no one goes in to work. We cannot have a situation where a company continues to operate while the other workers are on the sidewalk. In that case, the balance of power no longer exists, or, at least it is quite skewed.

That is all we are asking for. I know that other hon. members want to say a few words on this. I think a member from the NDP wants to support the bill. I do not want to unduly prolong my speech. However, I am calling on the good will of the hon. members of this House, from all parties, even my colleagues from the Liberal Party who have heard the siren songs of the chambers of commerce and various lobbies. My colleagues from the Liberal Party have workers under federal jurisdiction in their ridings. Let them ask those workers whether they would like to have the same protection that exists elsewhere. Let them ask whether they agree to considered second-class workers and second-class citizens. Let them ask and we will see how those workers respond.

In closing, I am also calling on my colleagues from the Conservative Party to do the same. We know the right-wing philosophy of the Conservative Party. However, let the members of that party not forget that they were elected by workers, unionized or otherwise. By the way, some non-unionized workers agree with the anti-scab bill.

For all these reasons, I will vote with my party in favour of this bill and I am appealing to the good will of all the hon. members of this House.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-257, a bill that has historic significance for working families across Canada.

I come from the region of Timmins-James Bay and the people there have a long, historic memory of the need to fight for legislation like this because they remember their grandparents and parents telling them about the Noranda strike, the Kirkland Lake strike and the Dome strike in 1990. They have seen strikes in our lumber and paper mills and the incredible damage that has been done when scabs are allowed to cross picket lines.

There was a truce of some sort in the northern mining industry after the 1958 Inco strike for years. It never attempted to bring replacement workers through mine properties, not until Peggy Witte in Yellowknife broke that unspoken covenant. We saw the horrific damage that resulted. We saw it in Falconbridge in 2002 and in the Ekati mine recently in the Northwest Territories.

New Democrats know there is a need for legislation across this country that brings fairness. That is what we are talking about. We are talking about fairness and the need to have labour settled at the negotiating table where it needs to be done.

We were proud as New Democrats in October 2006 to see 167 members of the House stand and recognize the principle that fairness for working families and our union brothers and sisters is a principle that the federal government should stand up on. However, I began to worry after that because the numbers we were seeing in the House did not seem right.

We know where the Conservative Party stands. No matter what we agree or disagree on, the Conservative Party will at least say whose side it is on. It is very clear. It attacks working people straight, with no chaser. It is very up front.

I was interested with the position of our Liberal brothers and sisters. They were suddenly on the side of and concerned about working families. They sat hour after hour in committee and heard the recommendations. They were there for the planning of this bill.

They stood up at second reading in record numbers to say they were suddenly on the side of working families, but then they had a problem because they knew it was coming to third reading and they would actually have to make a decision as to whether they were finally going to stand up for working families or do what they always do, which is sell working families down the river. They needed an excuse. They needed to find a way to do their usual flip-flop.

In the Liberal back room, and people at home may not realize this, there is a glass case which has a sign that says, “In case of emergency, break”. It contains all the Liberal excuses that can be used. The new Liberal leader went to the back room after second reading, broke the glass and asked what was in it that the Liberals could use to damage the rights of working families. He said, “Why do we not offer an amendment on a provision for essential services and that way we will look like we are standing up for all Canadians? We will be sitting on the fence post once again where we normally are”.

However, what was understood was that this provision already exists in the Labour Code. It was a meaningless provision. What has been shown is that the Liberals are raising a chimera to the Canadian people, pretending that somehow they are taking a principled stand when everybody knows that once again they are selling working families down the river.

The new Liberal leader has a dog named Kyoto. I can tell everyone that his dog will not hunt. I bet that dog is like rest of his pack of hounds. I understand he now has a dog called “Tax Cuts” and another called “Maybe I am Tough on Crime but Maybe I am Not”. It depends on which way the dog is walking. Now we have a new dog in the pack.

The Liberal Party hates working families. We have to get a shorter name for the dog, but I can say that it is one ugly mutt, just like the rest of the broken promises that he carries around with him, with his little collar and chains. That is what we are seeing.

The people back home need to ask themselves a question. It is all about strategic voting. Who makes strategic votes in this country? It is people sitting in Calgary boardrooms asking whether they want to attack working families and take money out of their pockets, straight with no chaser, or with a little green scarf when they do it? That is what is being offered by the Liberal Party now. It has stood up with its green scarf and made a bunch of vague and empty promises that it has absolutely no intention of living up to because it never lives up to any of its promises.

This is the party that year after year floated the greatest fraud in Canadian history, called the red book. It just changed the numbers year after year. It changed the dates every year and so it was the 1993 red book, it was the 1998 red book, it was the 2000 red book, it was the 2003 red book. It was the same red book of empty promises.

The best thing of all, when the Liberals were finally exposed, the Canadian public finally said, “Do you mean year after year we've been listening to this same line and we never got anything delivered?”

Then the Liberals did something different and it is absolutely fascinating. They turned around and took the red book off and referred to the promises that they have delivered on. Now they are going across the country telling people that they had a plan for the environment and they were actually saving the planet. They blamed those rotten Conservatives, and they are very rotten as a party, but at least they are telling people where they are coming from.

The Liberals had child care fixed. They had everything fixed. Everything that they did not do year after year after year.

Why am I picking on the Liberal Party? It is very simple. The Liberals are standing up here today and betraying the working families of this country. One more time they are going to say, “On this day we're going to stand with you but when push comes to shove, when the time comes to stand up, when it is what side are you on”, we know what side they are on. They are not on the side of working families. They are not on the side of fairness. They are definitely on the side of putting it to average Canadians, like you and me, Mr. Speaker.

I am telling people back home to watch this vote. Watch to see if the new Liberal leader will have to whip the few members that he has with good conscience into voting to kill a bill that works for Canadians and a bill that the Liberals fundamentally do not want to have happen because they have stood against this legislation time and time again.

In conclusion I would like to say we have been through this bill ten times in the House. Ten times the working families of Canada have brought this bill forward. Ten times we have gone through all the arguments. Ten times we have heard the various excuses and reasons why it would not work.

However, we know at the end of the day those excuses do not hold water. The bill is a reasonable bill. The bill will bring labour peace rather than labour conflict. This is a bill that has been thought out. This is a bill that certainly will not in any way hinder the ability of the federal government to bring back to work legislation if it deems necessary. This is a bill that in no way will limit any minister's decision to say whether something is an essential service or not.

If members are hearing anything else on the bill then they are obviously hearing it from a Liberal because the Liberals do not believe in these things. They do not believe in putting into law the rights that will protect working families.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thought for a moment that, in his fervour, the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay was going to take all of my time. I would not have been able to speak to this bill, which is so important for my riding.

First and foremost, I would like to respond to the Leader of the Opposition, who wrote a letter to Buzz Hargrove about this bill. He tried to explain that he could not vote in favour of this bill. I would like to call him to order. I would remind my hon. colleagues of the Liberal Party that the legislator does not speak in vain. Section 87.4 of the Canada Labour Code states:

During a strike or lockout not prohibited by this Part, the employer, the trade union and the employees in the bargaining unit must continue the supply of services, operation of facilities or production of goods to the extent necessary to prevent an immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public.

I will interpret this for my Liberal friends: these are known as essential services. Since the legislator does not speak in vain, that is what this means. It would therefore be a false pretext to now say that they will not support this bill, because the Speaker of the House did not find in their favour. The Speaker of the House used that section to demonstrate that everything already appears in the Canada Labour Code. They are looking for an excuse.

I would like to talk about my riding and Radio Nord Communications. Few members in this House have experienced disputes similar to those in Abitibi—Témiscamingue regarding televised communications. Imagine, if you will, a strike that lasts 20 months, leaving an entire region without any televised information. For 22 months, no one knew what was going on in Abitibi—Témiscamingue. If for that reason alone, we must vote in favour of this bill. As explained by my hon. colleague, the chief whip of the Bloc Québécois—whose riding I cannot recall, since the name is so long—things can be extremely difficult for the region when a dispute arises.

In my riding, scabs would come to the radio station and provide a sketchy kind of news. There was no longer any news on television, there was no longer anything news on what was happening in Abitibi—Témiscamingue. For 22 months, the only television news we were getting in Abitibi—Témiscamingue was on what was happening on the Jacques-Cartier bridge, on the Mercier bridge, on the Champlain bridge, or in the Laval area. Because of this lack of televised news, we no longer knew what was happening in Abitibi—Témiscamingue. I entered politics with the goal of having this bill passed. We have every reason to support this legislation.

Since 1977, labour conflicts in Quebec are more civilized, thanks to our anti-scab legislation. From 1992 to 2002—a period of 10 years—under the Quebec Labour Code, with an anti-scab act, the average dispute lasted 15.9 days. Let us round that figure to up 16 days, to please Conservative members. During that same period, under the Canada Labour Code, the average conflict lasted 31 days.

Some might say this is not significant. In my opinion, it is a huge difference and this is because there is no anti-scab provision preventing the hiring of replacement workers. When such a provision is not included in the legislation, it creates an imbalance between the two sides. This is what happened at Radio Nord Communications. Every morning, scabs—this is what they must be called—crossed the picket line. They crossed the picket line. We are talking about a small region. We are not talking about Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver or Quebec City. No.

We are talking about towns like Rouyn-Noranda or Val-d'Or, where everybody knows one another. Cars, vans and pickup trucks came in, their windows tinted but not barred, hiding the scabs who were going to replace the striking workers. Everyone knew one another. Everyone in the area knew who was going to work, who was crossing the line that morning to steal the workers' jobs. I believe that for this reason alone this social measure is so important.

This bill has been brought forward in the past 10 years because it is vital to a region such as ours as well as to other Canadian regions. It has been brought forward so that a law can emerge that will ensure that labour conflicts do not last indefinitely and that individuals do not destroy property, as was the case with Vidéotron, which suffered damages of about $42 million. These damages were not necessarily caused by the workers.

The same thing happened in the case of Radio Nord: damages were incurred. For years, Cargill suffered damages. And what were we told? We were told that—it may be possible, possibly, perhaps, coincidentally—it could be that this law does not cover all circumstances. A law adapted to the circumstances enables us to meet society's needs.

As I have been signalled that I have less than one minute, and since I know that I am the last speaker in this debate, in closing I would like to sincerely thank the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert for her extraordinary work on this bill. She is at the heart of this bill and she has the workers' interests at heart. On Wednesday, the final vote will take place, and then we shall see the true faces of the two parties who believe they will one day form the government: the party now in power and the party that hopes to gain that power. We will truly see if the rights of workers are their priority.

I urge them to reflect on this matter. They have 24 hours to take a position. I invite the Liberals to redo their homework and revisit the legislation and to vote in favour of this bill. I hope that everyone in this House will at last respect the rights of workers.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It being 12:07 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired.

The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt this motion?

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members



Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those in favour will please say yea.

Canada Labour Code
Private Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members