Mr. Speaker, I would like to emphasize the fact that the Bloc Québécois is opposed to this back to work legislation for the railway sector. Above all, we ask ourselves this question. How is it that this House should be asked to consider such return to work legislation? How did we wind up in such a mess? First, how is it that this Parliament is today legislating a return to work when the Minister of Labour himself boasted many times in committee and even in this House that return to work legislation was no longer required since anti-scab legislation was adopted in 1999?
He said that, as a matter of fact, in his own opposition to anti-scab legislation, and he found that it was a very good argument: Look, we no longer need back to work legislation! Well, that is not so. As I have told him time and again, it proves once again that his 1999 anti-scab legislation is not working and is certainly not the great success he claims.
On the other hand, if we are dealing with this back to work legislation today, it is precisely because there is no anti-scab legislation. If there had been such a law, CN management would not have adopted such a hare-brained and twisted strategy. It would not have said that it would try to break the union; that it would hire replacement workers; that it would call back retired employees and hire American workers to do the work of union members out on strike.
Obviously this strategy proved unworkable. CN was not able to replace its unionized workers. CN management will have to learn to negotiate with its unions. That is what anti-scab legislation does. It introduces some balance between the two parties, management and the union. They learn to sit down and negotiate together, without bringing in new players, such as replacement workers. CN management must learn not to be arrogant in dealing with its workers. It must also learn to avoid confrontation with its unions. In addition, it must learn not to scorn the work that employees perform and also stop neglecting their safety, which is extremely important. Once it has finished with this legislation, the government should give serious attention to the matter of safety in the railway sector. That is extremely important. We have often sounded the alarm on this issue.
Something else is just as surprising about this Conservative government. Why does it want to intervene here anyway? The industry minister never stops telling us that market forces will reach a balance. According to my notes, he says that he is just going to let things go; things will take care of themselves; market forces mean that everything usually reaches a balance; and if companies are good enough, they will do just fine.
Finally, a government that supposedly believes that the spoils go to the strongest is going to end up intervening in a dispute between two parties. That is really surprising. Why do this? The labour minister told us this morning that his office had received 78 calls—that is not the end of the world for a minister’s office, I hope—from business leaders who had called to complain. I cannot understand why the minister did not just stand up to this pressure and deflect it onto CN management in order to push it into negotiating. That too would have been showing leadership. It is not enough just to tell the House that he has received 78 calls and special legislation needs to be passed.
The Bloc Québécois is far from oblivious to the logistical and economic consequences of this labour dispute. So far, though, the consequences have been rather minor. For example, the transportation systems in the greater Montreal and Toronto areas have continued to operate. The union has given the company verbal assurances that it will continue to exempt the commuter trains in both these areas from its rotating strike.
Rather than immediately imposing an arbitration procedure that will probably please no one, the labour minister should take advantage of this opportunity to put the emphasis on mediation efforts and provide more support for them. In any case, the labour minister is coming in pretty late with all this mess.
He should have shown leadership much earlier and forced the parties to negotiate and reach an agreement.
The government has a responsibility not just to get involved but also to foresee what is happening and take the necessary steps to avoid the kind of messes that it is making today.