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House of Commons Hansard #127 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was table.

Topics

Consumer Product SafetyOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, as Canadians we can take a significant step this afternoon toward replacing 40-year-old legislation and ensure that products sold in Canada are safe.

Senators are going to vote on Liberal amendments that significantly weaken our consumer safety bill.

Will the hon. Minister of Health please tell us why the Liberal leader should instruct his senators to vote against the amendments?

Consumer Product SafetyOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Nunavut Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, as parliamentarians it is our responsibility to protect the health and safety of Canada's children. Yet the Liberal leader continues to encourage his Liberal senators to gut our consumer protection bill.

This afternoon those same senators have a choice: they can choose to protect the most vulnerable or those who do not respect the law. While those Liberal senators may not be accountable to Canadians, the Liberal leader is.

I call on him to do the right thing and ensure that our bill passes unamended.

Statement by Minister of International Co-operationPoints of OrderOral Questions

December 9th, 2009 / 3:10 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in question period, there was a point of order made by one of the Liberal members regarding the Minister of International Cooperation, and when the minister spoke, she made a statement and said that she was quoting me.

In fact, the quote she was referencing was a quote from an article I wrote about better aid. I was not talking about KAIROS. I fully support KAIROS, and in fact if she had read the whole article, she would know that I was asking the government to support organizations like KAIROS.

I would like the minister to clarify the statement she made yesterday quoting me for the record. I would ask the minister to straighten the record out and to ensure that my quote was not used for her political benefit.

Statement by Minister of International Co-operationPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am sure quotes would never be used for such purposes, but I am sure the minister will take note of the hon. member's query and come back to the House if, as and when necessary.

Youth MobilityRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, with leave of the House and pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I would like to table, in both official languages, a treaty entitled “Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Slovenia concerning Youth Mobility”, signed on October 22, 2009.

Social SecurityRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

I would also like to table a treaty entitled “Agreement on Social Security between Canada and the Republic of Macedonia”, signed in Ottawa on August 26, 2009.

Exchange of Information on Tax MattersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Finally, I would like to table a third treaty entitled, “Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in respect of the Netherlands Antilles on Exchange of Information on Tax Matters”, signed in Vancouver on August 29, 2009.

FinanceCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Finance in relation to prebudget consultations 2009, entitled “A Prosperous and Sustainable Future for Canada: Needed Federal Actions”.

I would like to thank the members of the committee for all their work, and the committee staff, the clerk, analysts, all the logistics people and the interpreters.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-491, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and respecting the On-Road Vehicle and Engine Emission Regulations (emissions labelling for vehicles).

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to table a private member's bill, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and respecting the On-Road Vehicle and Engine Emission Regulations.

To address greenhouse gases and pollution, Canada must have a focused policy for on-road emissions. This bill would contribute by ensuring that mandatory labels are placed on new vehicles in Canada that clearly show the amount in grams of carbon dioxide emitted by the vehicle per kilometre for both highway and city use.

Canadians must have the information they need to make environmentally conscious decisions when purchasing their vehicles. It is a selling point for consumers when a vehicle has lower greenhouse gas emissions. Importantly, the mandatory clear labelling of CO2 emitted by a given vehicle would foster competition between companies eager to offer the consumer greener and more efficient products.

I ask for the support of this House for this private member's bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Temporary Resident Visa Processing Requirements ActRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-492, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (denial of temporary resident visa application).

Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas, this bill to amend the immigration and refugee protection regulations, aiming to bring more transparency to the visitor visa program.

The bill requires that a person, whose application for a temporary resident visa has been denied, be allowed to receive detailed reasons for the refusal, to have a subsequent application heard by a different officer, and to be able to resubmit a second application within a year without having to pay an extra fee.

The Prime Minister just returned from China, and Canada has obtained a destination agreement that would bring many Chinese tourists to Canada, but one in four Chinese tourists were turned down last year. Other than getting a form letter, they have no idea, and they have no way to find out, precisely why they were turned down. If their circumstances changed, they could be given another chance within a year.

That refusal disappointed over 17,000 Chinese visitors and 200,000 visitors around the world. That is a loss of economic stimulus for the tourism industry, and in some cases Canadians who want to reunite with their relatives are not able to do so. I hope the House will support my private member's bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-493, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (foreign nationals).

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to introduce a bill to reverse a draconian change brought in by the Conservative government in May 2008 by Bill C-50.

This change separated many families. My bill would ensure that all children and direct family members left overseas be granted a consideration on humanitarian and compassionate grounds when their Canadian parents want to sponsor them and bring them into the country as permanent residents.

The Christmas holiday season is quickly approaching. Many Canadians came from war-torn countries, both to escape refugee camps and find a safe haven in Canada. Some of these Canadians have left behind children in refugee camps and have been waiting for a long time, sometimes for many years, to bring them to Canada.

The law must be changed to bring these families together. Some of these children may not be admissible under the normal considerations because they might be sick or they may not have proper identification. I hope the House supports this private member's bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Year of the Métis NationRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, there have been the usual consultations, and if you were to seek it, I think you would find unanimous consent for the following motion, which would be moved by me and seconded by the hon. member for Labrador. I move:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should utilize next year, 2010, to commemorate the Year of the Métis in recognition of the 125th anniversary of the historic events of 1885 in Saskatchewan; and further, the government should recognize and celebrate the invaluable contributions of the Métis Nation across Canada which have enriched the lives of all Canadians, socially, economically, politically and culturally.

Year of the Métis NationRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Wascana have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Year of the Métis NationRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Year of the Métis NationRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. government House leader is rising on this point.

Year of the Métis NationRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I note that the seconder for the motion is not in the chamber. I would be happy to second it.

Year of the Métis NationRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

If it is going to go on consent, I am not particularly worried about having a seconder, but I am sure if one is required for the Journals, we will put one in, but normally it just says, “By unanimous consent, it was ordered”.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Year of the Métis NationRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Year of the Métis NationRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the third report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, presented to the House on Wednesday, December 2, 2009, be concurred in.

I will be sharing my time with the member for Hamilton Mountain.

This debate is very important and I will be looking to my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois and the Liberal Party to work with us to have a fulsome debate on the issue at hand. Following the committee report of November 26, 2009, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage called on the Government of Canada to help facilitate, to the best of its ability, the establishment of a timely and equitable resolution to the labour dispute between the 420 employees of the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the War Museum who make up the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Local 70396, and museum management.

Today in the House our attention is drawn by the bitter cold and the snowstorm out there. I know from talking to colleagues in the hall that they are tired, they are looking forward to going home for the Christmas break, but here in the House we have to remember that we have 420 unionized employees who have been walking the picket lines for 80-some days, asking for a just settlement to the dispute that is happening at the Museum of Civilization and the War Museum.

This issue came before the heritage committee because we are talking about two of the key heritage operations in Canada. Any visitor who has ever come to Ottawa or Gatineau has gone to those museums.

As someone whose uncles fought with the Ontario Tanks at the Battle for Ortona, whose uncles were with the Cape Breton Highlanders all through the battles of Italy, and whose relatives who were on the convoys, going into that War Museum, it is very difficult to walk through those exhibits and not feel an extreme sense of emotion, and to sense the great pride that the staff and the researchers have put into that museum.

Likewise, going into the Museum of Civilization and walking through that first floor one sees the staggeringly beautiful and respectful architecture that shows all Canadians and visitors to Canada the incredible first nations history on British Columbia's coast, those first nations families who lived and fished there for centuries.

Further, of course, once one goes into other sections of the museum, and I have been through it so many times, the cultural history is unparalleled anywhere in this country. I always like to point out that it is not just the old history of Upper Canada and Lower Canada and their battles, but we can actually go into the Winnipeg Labour Hall where the founders of the Winnipeg General Strike met in 1919, one of the seminal moments in labour history. It is celebrated there. It is something that we teach our generations.

The situation for the people who do this incredible work is absolutely appalling. We see that the current practice, corroborated by the employer at the bargaining table, is to sever temporary employees immediately before they reach the threshold in the collective agreement to become permanent workers, and then they rehire them under a new contract three weeks later. So these employees continually start from the bottom in terms of salary when rehired, and they acquire no seniority.

We have a museum operation management there that does not respect the issue of seniority for people who are very skilled in what they do. These are national heritage sites. They do not just pick up people who work at McDonald's, and no disrespect to McDonald's workers, but these people who have not just a skill but a passion and a love for those museums are being treated as if they are disposable commodities on the labour assembly line.

We know that the Public Service Alliance represents the 420 workers there. The workers have no job security. The majority of jobs are being given out to contract companies. They are moving people through all the time. We look at the wage discrepancies between these two national museums and other museums in the country, and it is shocking.

We have security and cafeteria services that have been outsourced to private companies, undermining workers and their collective agreements. Then we see the CEO, Dr. Victor Rabinovitch. He makes 20% more than any museum CEO in the region.

We have to ask ourselves once again why the people at the top see themselves as entitled to so much more when the people who are doing the work are walking in the snow today, asking for arbitration. They are not asking for an outrageous sum. They are asking for arbitration. We know that Mr. Rabinovitch makes $236,200 a year, plus a performance award of up to $61,400.

As the heritage spokesman for the New Democratic Party, I ask the government, how could a man be receiving a performance bonus when he is denying the taxpaying citizens of this country, who paid for these services, the quality work that is needed? Sure, there are temporary workers. One can call them scabs, if you will. However, they should not be looking after world-class museum exhibits.

My uncles left the mines of Timmins and Cape Breton and their work on the railway, where they were bull-gang workers, and went and risked their lives in Europe. They went and fought for a principle. Knowing what my uncles and grandfathers believed, I certainly do not think they would want scab labour looking after the great historic war record of our country.

We are not asking the government to do anything extraordinary. We are asking the government to put pressure on management to come to arbitration. We have met with the PSAC workers. I have stood out on the picket lines with them in Gatineau. I stood with them with the great British rocker Billy Bragg, who was over from England. Billy Bragg took time out of his tour to come and sing for these workers. These are reasonable people. They are not asking for the moon. They are asking for the government to help them bring Mr. Rabinovitch and his gang to the arbitration table and let professional arbitrators settle this dispute.

We have heard the Minister of Labour claim that she is willing to facilitate if they are willing. That is not good enough. The money comes from the taxpayers of Canada. At the end of the day, the taxpayers and the Government of Canada are the employer who should be telling the management at the Museum of Civilization and the War Museum to get back to the table and settle this in a timely manner.

As someone whose family comes to Ottawa on a regular basis, I would find it very distasteful to try and invite someone and have to walk across a picket line. Nobody I know in the Timmins—James Bay region would ever cross a picket line and I do not think that visitors who come to see our world-class exhibits should have to be walking a picket line, not when there is such a reasonable position from the union on the table.

Let us bring this to arbitration. Let us settle this. Christmas is coming. These families give so much of themselves to maintain the best of our Canadian culture and history. They deserve a little bit of respect. The Museum of Civilization and our War Museum make such incredible contributions. They are the national centres for preserving, studying and presenting information about the human, social, cultural and military history of this country. This is the story of us. This is the story of where we come from.

The museums and public galleries in the national capital region are only part of the services the corporation provides to Canadians. They also extend the knowledge and resources across the country through publications, the use of artifact loans, travelling exhibitions, and an ever-expanding website. In order to do this, we need to have people who are committed to this, people who will bring a particular set of skills so that they present with accuracy but also with passion the story of Canada.

We look at the impact that they have in the region. There are over 1.8 million visitors a year. Approximately half, or about 900,000 visitors, are Canadians from outside the national capital region. On this cold winter day just before Christmas, we are asking for the government to work with us to call on the management at both of those museums to come back to the bargaining table, to meet under arbitration, and to let the arbitrator decide what is a fair and just settlement for these workers, who give so much of themselves to our country's heritage.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Timmins—James Bay for bringing this issue to the House of Commons today. It is a matter of urgency, given the fact that these workers have been off the job for so long and there has been so little movement in resolving this labour dispute.

I am also very glad to hear that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage took the time to look at this issue and bring this report to the whole House. I think their intervention is necessary to get the government moving. These are two important national institutions. I think it shames us all that this dispute continues when these people provide such an important service to all Canadians.

I wonder if the member for Timmins—James Bay might tell us a little more of the discussion that happened at the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and why the committee felt it was important to bring this report to the House.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has spent a good portion of his career sitting on the heritage committee.

For the folks back home so they can understand, outside of the House we have committees that are charged with certain responsibilities. The heritage committee, which has representation from the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party, works together to study issues that are germane to our cultural identity and our heritage.

When we heard this strike had passed four weeks, we began to ask ourselves questions. What is the state of these international artifacts? What is the state of these national treasures?

The management structure is not willing to sit down. As members of Parliament from various political parties, we felt there was an obligation to the Canadian public identity and to the taxpayer. We felt Parliament should call on management and have it sit down with an arbitrator so these national treasures could be maintained to the quality and the standard they deserve.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, prior to being elected, I worked for 16 years with a trade union. I was involved in many labour disputes of different kinds. I know that at the end of the day, they all come to resolution. However, the question is this. How much pain and suffering has to happen before that comes?

I am really pleased to see that the text of the motion calls for the establishment of a timely and equitable resolution to the labour dispute. I would think all members of the House would support a phrase such as that. I do not think anybody could possibly be against equity or timeliness when we talk about people who are out on the street.

Could the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay tell us a bit about some of the issues that he thinks need to be resolved so we can get at that equitable and timely response and get these people back to work, providing the kind of cultural services that are not only so important to the people of Ottawa but are important to the people of our country as well?

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, as someone who worked in labour law, my colleague has seen a lot of terrible workplace situations.

What is hard to fathom is that this is happening in our beautiful museums. We know of a woman who last year was let go after 20 years of service. The museum got rid of her. We know of people who have been treated as temporary workers for many years. They continue to apply for full-time positions but they continue to be turned down. Once they reach the point where they are entitled to become full-time, they are let go. Then they are rehired at a starting position.

This is the kind of labour politics that I hoped we were beyond. I would hope everyone in the House would recognize the need to have fair and just working conditions for people who give so much of themselves to our nation's heritage.

Canadian HeritageCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand in my place to speak to this motion and, more important, to stand in solidarity with the striking PSAC workers at the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

I want to thank the member for Timmins—James Bay for speaking so eloquently about the impact on our natural heritage and culture as a result of the strike. As the NDP's labour critic, I want to take a few minutes during the time I am allowed to speak this afternoon to talk about the labour issues that are at stake.

As we are aware, 420 workers at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum have been on strike since September 21. That is 80 long days, 80 days during which the union has worked tirelessly to achieve a fair and just collective agreement, 80 days during which management has stonewalled and piled up budget savings on the backs of its employees.

This impasse is not going to end on its own. The Minister of Labour has to act and she has to act now. She cannot leave for the parliamentary recess when she knows that her holidays will mean prolonged days of hell for 420 of the country's best public servants.

Let me remind the House of how we got here.

On March 19, more than eight months ago, the union representing the employees at the museum, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, served its notice to bargain. After 13 negotiating sessions, the parties were unable to come to an agreement. Major concerns regarding contracting out, job security, recognition of seniority and wage parity were all still outstanding. In fact, the parties had signed off on only two of them.

On June 24, the union filed for conciliation. The parties met in mid-August and talks broke down within a few hours. On August 27, the union voted 92% in favour of strike action. The union and the employer met again from September 15 to 18, but talks broke off and, as I said earlier, the employees have been officially on strike since September 21.

Since the strike began, numerous attempts have been made by the union to reach a settlement. Museum workers have attempted to present their concerns to the museum board, but security evicted them from the meeting and did not give them an opportunity to speak. They have approached cabinet ministers, opposition party members and bureaucrats and have held rallies and information pickets, all in an attempt to bring their concerns forward and have them addressed in a meaningful way by management.

On November 17, the Minister of Labour, the hon. member for Edmonton—Spruce Grove, said in the House:

Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, we have been working with both parties since before the strike began and, in fact, for quite some time. This is a very difficult situation for both parties. We encourage them to come back to the table as soon as possible to find a resolution.

As I indicated, I am prepared to appoint an arbitrator, but unfortunately at this time, neither of the parties will agree to that.

Following that statement, the striking workers gave their union a mandate to seek a fair settlement through arbitration, but the employer did not agree and, instead, requested that the parties return to the bargaining table. In good faith, the union accepted.

Negotiations resumed yet again on November 20, but were suspended until November 25 at the request of the employer. On November 26, the employer tabled a without prejudice final offer and the negotiating team decided to put that offer to a vote of the membership.

On November 26, striking workers from the Museum of Civilization and the War Museum reviewed the employer's offer and voted overwhelmingly to reject the corporation's final offer. Hundreds attended the meeting, voting to reject the offer by a margin of 96%.

On November 26, John Gordon, the national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, wrote to the Minister of Labour, advising that a negotiated agreement was highly unlikely. He said in his letter:

“At this stage, I believe that the only reasonable solution is to submit the outstanding issues to a third party. This is, in my opinion, a fair solution under the circumstances, but a solution the employer has to date refused to accept.

Given the union's willingness to accept your direct intervention through the appointment of an arbitrator or otherwise, and the employer's refusal to agree to same, immediate action on your and/or Parliament's part is required”.

Since the beginning of the strike, the union has made it very clear to the employer, to the mediator, to members of Parliament and to the general public that what workers at the Museum of Civilization and the War Museum seek are the same terms and conditions of employment as other federal workers doing the same work in the national capital region.

These employees are the only federal museum workers in Ottawa-Gatineau with no job security whatsoever and no recognition of the years of service in a number of critical areas, including career advancement. Their salaries are the lowest among all federal museum workers in the National Capital Region.

Workers at the two museums have little or no job security. The majority of the floor staff, guides, program animators and hosts work on temporary contracts. Most of them have been working from one contract to the other for long periods of time. Out of 55 guides at the museums, only 6 are permanent employees.

The museums do not respect employees' years of service outside of vacation scheduling. This affects layoffs and internal hiring procedures, meaning that managers can hire people or end their contracts on a whim, with no consideration of years of service. Last year, the museums laid off workers, including a woman with over 20 years of service.

I would like to remind the members of the House that women working in precarious or part-time employment are consistently at a high risk of poverty, especially women with children.

Unlike other federal museums in the region, workers at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the War Museum have no opportunity for career advancement under their collective agreement. There are no provisions that give preference to internal candidates when permanent positions become available.

One guide has worked as a “temporary” worker for over eight years. She applied for a permanent position twice, was forced to interview for it both times and ultimately the job was given to a less senior employee. In another case, an administrative worker has been temporary for 19 years.

The current practice, corroborated by the employer at the bargaining table, is to sever temporary employees immediately before they reach the threshold in the collective agreement to become permanent and rehire them under a new contract three weeks later. These employees start from the bottom in terms of salary when rehired and acquire no seniority. These practices are blatantly unfair.

Unlike most other museums in the region, the workers have no protections against contracting out. Security and cafeteria services have already been outsourced to private companies. The remaining workers wonder if their jobs could be next.

Lastly, when compared to colleagues at other museums, workers at the Museum of Civilization and the War Museum are paid the lowest salaries in the National Capital Region. Meanwhile the museums CEO, Dr. Victor Rabinovitch, makes 20% more than any museum CEO in the region, $236,000 a year plus a maximum performance award of $61,400.

It is no wonder that PSAC members are fighting above all for respect; respect from their employer, respect from members of the House and respect from the government they serve.

I urge the minister to show the same respect to museum workers that she showed to the teamsters just a week ago. I would ask her to bring the same pressure to bear on the museum as she did on the management of the Canadian National Railway. In the rail strike it took five days. Surely, after 80 days, PSAC members deserve nothing less.