Mr. Speaker, it is my great honour and pleasure to talk about Motion No. 294 to amend the Canada Labour Code to prohibit the use of replacement workers, thus relegating them to a chapter in history, and a dark one at that.
On 11 separate occasions, the Bloc Québécois has introduced bills to harmonize the Canada Labour Code with the Quebec Labour Code. On 11 separate occasions, the Liberals and the Conservatives have worked together to defeat those bills. We came closest to passing a bill on the subject at hand during the last government. Unfortunately, when it reached report stage, the Liberals listened to their leader, the one who replaced Paul Martin, because they were so worried about Bay Street.
The day after they realized that our bill would not make it past second reading to third reading and then to the Senate before being passed into law, the Liberals introduced a very similar bill in which they changed just two words to try to save face. However, when the time came to place it on the orders of the day for debate in the House of Commons, it was delayed for so long that the sponsor, the labour critic, was replaced by another member who was strongly opposed to the bill. They saved face and remained true to form. Dark blue or red, they are cut from the same cloth and they all have it in for workers.
It is also important to remember that the first time the Bloc Québécois introduced this bill, the NDP voted against it because the nasty separatists were introducing a bill. Fortunately, they saw the light, which I hope the Liberals and Conservatives will do one day, and they supported us the other 10 times. We want people to know that. We must avoid repeating the ignominy of violating the rights of striking or locked-out workers who are out picketing while people are taking their jobs so that the employer keeps turning a profit while the workers are forced to live on the meagre strike pay they get, if they get any at all. When this happens, the two sides are not negotiating on a level playing field.
We must also remember that when the previous government was in power, 19 Conservatives voted to refer the bill to committee. But when the time came to take a formal stand, only one stood up and the other 18 toed the party line and voted against workers.
In Quebec, 7% of workers are likely to fall victim to strikebreakers, because they are governed by the Canada Labour Code. In 1977, during the first term of the PQ government of René Lévesque, a sovereigntist government that cared about Quebec and its workers, the National Assembly passed an anti-scab law, which is still in effect today. It is still in effect, and it has shortened strikes. During negotiations, it has become imperative to find a way to avoid a strike. But in sectors under federal jurisdiction, strikes took place after 1977, and they were often extremely violent. People crossed the picket lines and took food out of the mouths of the strikers' children. The strikers negotiated in good faith while these people took away their livelihood.
And all under the eyes of the federal government. That is completely unacceptable. Harmony is needed and the Bloc Québécois is the party of Quebeckers. Since 1993 we have held a majority of the seats in the House of Commons because the people of Quebec trust the Bloc Québécois, because we fight so that Quebeckers will have better living conditions and to make sure that the money sent to the federal government, as long as we are in this federation, comes back to us so that it respects the consensus in the National Assembly of Quebec.
Anti-scab legislation is essential if we are to have civilized bargaining when disputes occur. In fact, there is no real, full recognition of the right to strike unless the use of scabs, the people who take away workers’ jobs during a strike, is prohibited.
In October 2003, the Bloc Québécois introduced a petition with 46,000 signatures supporting the position of workers and calling on the government to enact anti-scab legislation.
Under the last Conservative government—you were there, Mr. Speaker—we will recall what the Minister of Labour at the time, the member for Jonquière—Alma, had to say. In 1990 he supported an anti-scab bill, when he was an MP in the Mulroney government. He voted in favour of that legislation. And then, when he became a minister, he turned his back on workers.
I was the sponsor of Bill C-257, to introduce anti-scab legislation. In the Human Resources Committee I heard apocalyptic tales, things that simply could not be believed. My stars, it was worthy of a B-grade horror movie. He said that if the baggage handlers at an airport went on strike, Canada’s economy would be paralyzed. Any more and he would have said that the earth would stop rotating on its axis. There was a provision for maintaining essential services.
For a minister to say things like that amounts to saying just anything at all. He said that if telephone operators went on strike, 911 would cease to function. Any more and he would have had the crime rate quintupling or more, because that falls under telecommunications, and that is under federal jurisdiction.
He did go farther. He spoke directly to the Liberals in committee and told them that when they returned to power—and that indicates just how much confidence he has in his government—recess would be over because of the separatists in the Bloc and the New Democrats and they would have labour relations problems, and that is completely false.
British Columbia has also had anti-scab legislation since 1993, and Quebec has had it since 1977. I hope that Quebeckers who fly the red or dark blue colours today remember that this bill has brought about a much healthier labour relations climate in Quebec and much less violence in labour relations situations under Quebec’s jurisdiction. It covers 93% of workers in Quebec.
I hope that members will have their hearts in the right place and will allow the other 7% of workers in Quebec to enjoy the benefits of anti-scab legislation. At the same time, and as fallout from that, I am proud to say that Canadians throughout Canada will benefit from it as well.