Mr. Speaker, this is a point of order regarding Bill C-415, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (replacement workers).
I would first like to point out that bills to ban the use of replacement workers have been introduced six previous times since 2004, and defeated twice. In this Parliament alone, it is the third attempt at similar legislation, and the House has already voted against this idea.
Given that this bill is virtually identical to Bill C-257, with only one new clause and one new subsection, I would ask that you, Mr. Speaker, clarify two points.
First, I would ask for you to clarify whether it is in order for Bill C-415 to have been introduced. Standing Order 86(4) provides that the Speaker is responsible for determining whether two or more items that are similar can be placed on notice.
Mr. Speaker Fraser stated, on November 2, 1989, that a bill would not be placed on notice if it had the same purpose as another private member's bill before the House and if it met this purpose by the same means as that other bill.
Bill C-257 and Bill C-415 clearly have the same purpose, namely to ban the use of replacement workers. They also seek to meet this purpose by virtually the same means. They both amend the Canada Labour Code and are identical apart from one clause and one subsection. They contain the identical paragraph in their summaries, stating that their purpose:
—is to prohibit employers under the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out.
Since Standing Order 86(4) does not specify that bills must be identical but they must “so similar as to be substantially the same”, I submit that Bill C-415 is so similar as to be substantially the same as Bill C-257, and I would ask that you, Mr. Speaker, clarify this issue for the House.
The second issue on which I request your ruling is whether this bill can be called for debate and vote. Marleau and Montpetit indicate at page 495:
A decision once made cannot be questioned again but must stand as the judgement of the House. Thus, for example, if a bill or motion is rejected, it cannot be revived in the same session.
Allowing Bill C-415 to proceed to a vote would be inconsistent with this rule and with the rule of anticipation. As Marleau and Montpetit note, at page 476:
—two bills similar in substance will be allowed to stand on the Order Paper but only one may be moved and disposed of. If the first bill is withdrawn, the second may be proceeded with. If a decision is taken on the first bill, the other may not be proceeded with.
On November 7, 2006, respecting Bill C-257 and Bill C-295, you ruled that the second bill could not proceed because:
—a careful examination of both bills reveals that they have exactly the same objective, that is, to prohibit employers under the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out.
There we were dealing with a question of similar legislation. Bill C-295, Bill C-257 and Bill C-415 are aimed at the same objective on replacement workers.
I would argue to you, Mr. Speaker, and suggest to you with respect, that your ruling on November 7, 2006, applies equally in this case to Bill C-415. You indicated that you were at the time ruling on the issue bearing in mind Mr. Speaker Fraser's ruling of November 2, 1989.
I reiterate that Bill C-415 has exactly the same objective as Bill C-257, which the House rejected at report stage on March 21. As a result, allowing Bill C-415 to proceed would mean that the House would reconsider its decision with respect to Bill C-257.
The purpose of Bill C-415 is exactly the same as that of Bill C-257, namely to prohibit employers under the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to perform the duties of employees during a strike or lockout.
Bill C-415 seeks to do so by the same means as Bill C-257, namely by amending subsection 94(2.1) of the Canada Labour Code.
Members opposite may suggest that the bills are not similar and that Bill C-415 differs because it refers to the preservation of essential services during a strike. However, I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that is not the purpose of the bill. The purpose of the bill is to ban replacement workers.
The apparent difference from Bill C-257 is not in fact a material one. Bill C-415 would not create a new category of essential services. Nor would it designate a group of workers to perform this work. Rather, it simply recasts as “essential services” existing provisions in the Canada Labour Code, which obliges services to be maintained during a strike or lockout in order to “prevent an immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public”.
Since Bill C-257 would not have affected these existing protections in the code, simply adding a provision about essential services to Bill C-415 does make it substantively any different than Bill C-257.
Therefore, the purpose of both these bills is simply to ban the use of replacement workers. As I have already indicated, Bill C-415 does not alter the means to use to achieve this purpose which is primarily by amending section 94(2.1) of the Canada Labour Code.
By allowing Bill C-415 to proceed, Mr. Speaker, you will be asking the House to revisit its decision on Bill C-257, which is not permitted. I submit that it should not be called for debate or for a vote and would ask that you rule on that question.