Mr. Speaker, just weeks ago our government indicated in the Speech from the Throne that our priorities remain focused on jobs and growth. We also noted that the global economy remains fragile and risks to our recovery persist.
This week, a long simmering labour dispute at Air Canada has resulted in a work stoppage, an event that, if left unresolved, could jeopardize Canada's economic prosperity. Approximately 3,800 of the air carrier's customer, sales and service agents, represented by the National Automobile, Aerospace, Transportation and General Workers Union of Canada, otherwise known as CAW Local 2002, have walked off the job.
This involves more than the viability of Air Canada's daily operations as an air carrier and as the country's number one transporter of air cargo. It also raises the stakes on the ongoing health of our economy, the future of job growth, and the prosperity of all Canadians. I am very concerned about the effect this strike will have on Canada's economic recovery and on Canadians in general. The strike could have a serious economic impact, not in a matter of weeks or months but in a matter of days.
Canadians gave this government a strong mandate to complete our economic recovery. As Canada's labour minister, it is my view that the Government of Canada must take decisive action now before real damage is done to our economy. That is why our government has put legislation on notice to ensure continuing air service for passengers.
Unlike some members in this House, I will respect the rules of the House and refrain from speaking to the content of the legislation that has been put on notice, until such time as parliamentary procedure permits.
I see this labour dispute at Air Canada as one requiring a very clear and decisive response from Parliament. There are three reasons for this: first, this process has gone on without resolution for far too long; second, time is of the essence to respond with appropriate measures; and third, there is an economic imperative to take action before real harm is done to prosperity, to growth, and to job creation in this country.
Let me take the next few minutes to expand on each of these three points.
With regard to the duration of this process, the facts tell us that every avenue has been exhausted in a way to resolve the dispute between the parties. These parties have been at odds over pensions and wages for quite some time now, actually dating back to 2003 when Air Canada first entered bankruptcy protection.
Since early March of this year, the parties have engaged in negotiations to renew the CAW-Air Canada collective agreement. Through my portfolio's Labour Canada program, mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service were appointed to help the parties at the table. As a result, the mediators presided over efforts to continue to bring the parties closer to an agreement, from May 24 to June 13. Meanwhile, workers voted in favour of taking strike action.
According to CAW, that vote involved 80% of its members of Local 2002. Despite some measures of progress that were made through mediation, an acceptable resolution to the parties was not found in time to avoid a work stoppage. So, on June 14, these workers opted to walk off the job. Doing so, this has triggered a new chapter in the labour dispute, one in which others, third parties and the Canadian public, are put at risk of real economic harm.
Therefore, the time has come for Parliament to do the right thing. We must intervene and we must do so now. There are some members in this House who might think we have been hasty in our response, but we have not. The health of Canada's economy, the livelihood of families, the competitiveness of businesses, and the reputation of Canada as a reliable trading partner are all on the line.
I take all of these things very seriously and I have acted accordingly.
Some argue that there is a process to follow and that we ought to give the parties more time to resolve their dispute. However, the order of events that I have outlined demonstrates that a process has been followed. Every resource and support was offered to the parties to mutually resolve their dispute through collective bargaining. Unfortunately, those efforts were unfruitful and now time is of the essence to respond.
What we are now facing is a labour dispute that threatens to put the economic well-being of our country at risk. Canadians will not stand for this, nor will international marketplaces.
At this point in time, there is no benefit to waiting before taking action. Work has stopped at Air Canada in a key area of its operations, and that comes with a cost. What remains to be seen is just how much a price will be paid and who will be carrying that burden. Should it be business travellers who count on Air Canada for their livelihood? What about Canadians in remote areas who rely on the carrier for a range of goods? Should families and leisure travellers be the ones to pay the price as Canada heads into the busy tourism season? What about the possible repercussions on industries that rely on air cargo as an important part of how they earn a living? Is it reasonable to call on these Canadians who are not party to the dispute to put their affairs on hold? No, it is not.
Should we wait until uncertainty makes it impossible for citizens to count on Air Canada? Should we wait until all the hard-earned gains in our economy are undermined, sending all of us back to harder times? Again, the answer is no. That would be a terrible price to pay for indecision.
That is why we must act and why we have acted. This is not about taking sides in a dispute. Rather, it is about what Canadians have every right to expect what its Parliament is to do: step in when the economy of our nation is put at risk.
As noted in the Speech from the Throne, our government will remain focused on what matters to Canadians most, which is good jobs, security for our families and a prosperous future. It is for those key reasons that I have outlined in my remarks today that I maintain that the government must respond to this labour dispute in a manner consistent with what it has done before when faced with a situation that can imperil our economy.
Canadians are counting on their government to do the right thing. We owe it to each and every one of them to not let them down.