Mr. Speaker, the principle of free collective bargaining is accepted by all parliamentarians. However, when a 14-day strike at Canadian National paralyzed Canada's economy and our exports dropped by $1 billion in February as a result of the dispute between CN and the United Transportation Union, our government had a responsibility to act when it saw that the parties did not seem to be able to reach an agreement. Hon. members will recall that after Bill C-46 received first reading, the parties reached an agreement in principle.
However, the members voted nearly 80% not to ratify this agreement, and workers are now holding rotating strikes across the country. We have heard from a number of companies that are affected by these strikes and are afraid they will not be able to move their own goods within their company.
Under the circumstances, how long should we wait? Should we wait until 5, 10, 20 or 30 rotating strikes have taken place? How long should the government wait and let the economic situation deteriorate before taking action? We told the parties that the government would do what it had to do, given that an agreement did not seem possible. We are going to proceed with this bill.
There is nothing preventing the union from reaching an agreement with management. Even though the bill will come into force, the parties can still reach a settlement, in which case it will take precedence. But we are determined to protect Canada's economy.