Mr. Speaker, I must say that every time in Parliament that we rise for a question period on a topic such as this which involves closure on a bill that is before the House, or will soon be before the House, it is an occasion that we should treat very seriously because as parliamentarians we are here to debate legislation. We are here to promote public discourse. We are here to put forward various perspectives and points of view.
When a governing party brings in a closure motion, which is what we are now dealing with today, to ram through legislation in an act of desperation, we have this 30 minute period to question why indeed this is happening. I am very pleased to rise today to question the minister and the government as to why they are now, at this point, bringing in closure on the back to work legislation.
It begs a question. Back to work legislation is a very serious issue. The situation involving CN and its employees has been dragging on for months. The members of the union have very legitimate issues around health and safety, which we will get into when we debate this bill. However, to deny workers a legitimate right to negotiate and to go back to the table, to force through legislation and bring in closure on top of that, and to rail this through Parliament in a few hours, which is what is going to take place today unless it can be held up, is a very serious matter.
I want to question the government on the principle and on the grounds of democratic process. It is using this very heavy-handed and blunt instrument of closure to force through this legislation that will deny workers the opportunity to negotiate in good faith.
We have seen CN locking out workers. We saw union members legitimately reject a tentative agreement. They have a right to do that. That is part of the Labour Code. That is part of fair collective bargaining and negotiations: the right of a membership to make its own estimation as to whether or not it agrees to a tentative agreement.
The members decided they did not like that tentative agreement and they voted it down resoundingly. They now, I believe, have a right to go back into the process and get into negotiations, and the minister's office and the government should be facilitating that. They should be using all of their resources to ensure that that happens, not using this hammer and saying, “We give up on this now. We are just going to roll over and do what CN wants us to do. We are going to bring in this back to work legislation and more than that, we are going to use a second hammer to bring in closure and make sure we march it through Parliament as quickly as possible”.
We in the NDP, on principle, find that to be offensive. We find it to be anti-democratic. We find it to be in violation of the basic principles around labour fairness in this country.
I would like the government to respond to that in terms of how it justifies what it is now proposing and putting forward before this House, these very drastic measures to railroad through this legislation.