Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-386 introduced by my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel who, on behalf of his political party, is trying for the umpteenth time to put an end to the use of replacement workers in Canada and Quebec.
While Quebec legislated on this a long time ago, workers governed by the Canada Labour Code working in Quebec are not covered by Quebec's Bill 45, passed during the first mandate of the late René Lévesque. This Conservative government is once again ignoring one of the main demands with respect to how the whole area of work relations is governed.
Why is anti-strikebreaking, or anti-scab, legislation necessary? For one thing, the Bloc Québécois would like all workers in Quebec, whether governed by the Quebec Labour Code or the Canada Labour Code, to have the same rights. The Conservative government's stubbornness is creating two distinct classes of workers in Quebec. The Bloc Québécois believes that the best way of recognizing the outstanding contribution of all these men and women who are helping build the Quebec society on a day-to-day basis is to show genuine respect for their rights, starting by banning the use of replacement workers during strikes or lockouts.
Anti-scab legislation would ensure that workers governed by federal legislation enjoy balanced bargaining power, and would keep tension on the picket lines to a minimum. That is the basic objective of Bill C-386, which would prohibit the hiring of replacement workers.
At this point, I would like to list what the Conservative government has done in response to the many expectations of the labour movement. It is a very short list. How much has the Conservative government given to help the unemployed, the tens of thousands of workers who have lost their job in the forestry sector? Peanuts, compared to the billions of dollars it has showered on Ontario to help auto workers. What has the Conservative government done to eliminate the two-week waiting period for people who become unemployed? Nothing.
Workers who lose their jobs go through stress and anxiety. Their income is cut off at the source. Meanwhile, they are expected to wait patiently for a Service Canada official to examine their file, and often they have to endure processing delays, not to mention the 1-800 telephone line, which is insane. In addition to waiting for an answer, the poor jobless people have to put up with this irresponsible treatment.
I will continue with my list, because since I came to the House of Commons in 2004, my social priorities have always included the unemployed and older workers. This government is still refusing to support our proposal to increase the maximum EI benefit period for workers with a serious illness from 15 to 50 weeks. It is currently 15 weeks, as if someone's cancer could be treated in 15 weeks.
I could pull out the list of measures we have called for in recent years and the many bills we have introduced to help our workers. The list of no's from ministers and members is as long as our list of requests. By the way, the government voted against Bill C-429, which would have promoted the use of wood in the construction of federal buildings and would have helped workers in Quebec. But no, the government ignored our workers again. That was another trademark vote by the Conservatives.
I would like to remind hon. members once again of one of the most anti-worker statements ever heard here in the House. On December 3, 2009, the member for Souris—Moose Mountain said this:
I do not see anything in the bill's proposed provision that would help boost Canada's ability to create jobs and to be more competitive in today's economy. What I do see in the bill is a recipe for instability and uncertainty in Canadian labour relations.
What an explanation. According to him, having workers out on the street for months or years is what will stimulate employment, as will the uncertainty of the workers who do not have sufficient power to assert their legitimate rights. What is the government doing about the uncertainty experienced by the many families of strikers affected by these lasting disputes? Nothing, nothing and more nothing. It prefers to build lakes—that is a good one—for journalists and delegates at the G8. In their right-wing vocabulary, the Conservatives call this “stimulating the economy”. I call it keeping families in poverty.
Let us get back to the Conservative government's sad record.
Here is a clear example of that record. During the CN conflict, the Conservative government passed special legislation with respect to Canadian National. The latter had been training its managers and a large group of non-unionized employees for several months in order to maintain service. In the case of CN, they were maintaining over 60% of service. However, Canadian Pacific, which has two parallel lines across Canada—one used by CN and the other by CP—could have covered the other 40% that CN claimed it could not. They could also have resorted to trucking, as well as the short lines in the regions, to serve the Canadian public.
For the Montreal region, for example, AMT had signed an agreement for continuous passenger service and CN would have covered not just 100%, but 120% of the service provided to its clients.
Given all these responsibilities and possibilities, I wonder why the Conservatives thought there was a crisis and why was there a need for additional service? We have to allow negotiations between the parties to continue in good faith and force them to agree on a collective agreement, and not vote on a special law to force workers back to work.
I would also point out to my hon. colleagues that CN is a private corporation, which is why I do not understand why the government became involved in the dispute. Indeed, when it comes to private corporations, we believe that they are in a position to negotiate with workers themselves and capable of doing so, but they do not, nor do they have to. All they have to do is call up the government and say that they are going on strike and will not be able to provide the service. Since it is a transportation service, it is very important. What did the government do? It passed special legislation to force the workers back to work. They forget about negotiating; they make them work and everything goes back to what it was before, without any thought given to negotiating with the workers. I find that unreasonable on the government's part. It is always trying to denigrate workers. Yet our workers form the foundation of the Canadian and Quebec economy. And they are the first people the government tries to steal from.
We saw it again with the $57 billion that the government stole from workers. It is not enough to tax them or to take taxes off at the source, it always wants a little bit more. As for employers, their taxes have been cut. It is not employers that are producing what Canada needs to survive. It comes from the taxes paid by workers.
I could also talk about the theft from the employment insurance fund surplus. My mother always told me that when you take something that is not yours, it is stealing. When they dipped into the employment insurance fund that was not theirs, it was stealing. I will not contradict my mother here today. If she said it, it is because it is true. Nothing will change my mind.
Back when the Conservatives were in opposition, they constantly condemned the Liberals' practice of pillaging the employment insurance fund. Now, with Bill C-9, they are about to keep doing the same thing. How? By wiping the slate clean, as they say. The Conservatives are telling workers and employers, the people to whom that money belongs, that they should forget about recuperating the $57 billion that the government siphoned off over the years.
The Prime Minister himself once recognized that employment insurance fund money was misappropriated to pay down the deficit. He promised workers that he would repay the $57 billion that Ottawa diverted. Now he is breaking that promise.
The proposed new employment insurance measures are particularly sickening because the Conservatives are trying to hide them among the dozens of other initiatives in Bill C-9. Unfortunately, these kinds of anti-democratic manoeuvres have become par for the course with the Conservative government.
With the end of the parliamentary session just days away, on behalf of unionized workers subject to the Canada Labour Code, and on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, we urge the Conservative ministers and members to say yes to anti-scab legislation.