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House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was drugs.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-314, An Act respecting the awareness of screening among women with dense breast tissue, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingBreast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There is one motion in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-314, standing in the name of the hon. member for Vancouver Centre. At first glance, it appears that this motion could have been presented in committee.

However, in submitting her motion for consideration at report stage, the member for Vancouver Centre provided the Chair with a written explanation in which she outlined her efforts to propose a similar amendment during the clause-by-clause study of the bill, and where she explained that her amendment was based on the testimony of witnesses who had appeared earlier in the meeting. As the committee desired to proceed with the clause-by-clause study of the bill immediately after hearing from the bill's sponsor and other witnesses, she did not have time to avail herself of the drafting services of the parliamentary counsel assigned to the bill.

Upon presentation of her amendment, the member was cautioned by the chair of the committee that there was some concern over certain legal terminology her amendment contained that might have had the undesired effect of infringing on the financial initiative of the Crown. In this case, there was not sufficient time for the chair of the committee to carry out the necessary consultations and provide a definitive ruling on admissibility. As a potential remedy to this unusual situation, the chair of the committee suggested to the member that she might wish to submit her amendment at the report stage instead.

Having received the committee's consent to withdraw the amendment, the member for Vancouver Centre explained that she was able to consult with parliamentary counsel and the legislative clerk assigned to the bill. She was thus able to prepare a motion for the report stage which she feels, and I agree, does not appear to infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown. Therefore, due to the exceptional circumstances outlined above, the Chair has selected for debate the motion submitted by the member for Vancouver Centre.

I shall now propose Motion No. 1 to the House.

Motions in amendmentBreast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 a.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-314, in Clause 2, be amended by adding after line 20 on page 3 the following:

“(d) ensuring, through the Canadian Breast Cancer Screening Initiative, the collection, processing and distribution of information on best practices for the screening and detection of cancer in persons with dense breast tissue.”

Mr. Speaker, this is a very simple amendment. It says that there is already a Canadian breast cancer screening initiative. This vehicle, without any extra cost or work whatsoever, can conduct the collection, processing and distribution of information on best practices for the screening and detection of cancer in persons with dense breast tissue.

This is necessary because we listened to many witnesses who said that there are some places where this is being done well in Canada. There are other places that are doing some fairly remarkable innovative work in collecting this information. Witnesses felt it would be quick, easy and very valuable if other provinces and areas could use some of those best practices. Those provinces and areas would not have to reinvent the wheel because in many practices currently there is excellent work being done. It has been done for long enough now that there is evaluation that says this works very well.

There have been suggestions from the Canadian Cancer Society and cancer associations that in places like British Columbia the outcomes from breast cancer screening, treatment and surgery are by far the best in the country, by a really large percentage. We need to look at some of the areas which are doing good work, borrow it and use it without having to spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel, as I said before. This would be very beneficial.

This is an excellent amendment that would really enhance the bill to a great extent.

Motions in amendmentBreast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 a.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-314, An Act respecting the awareness of screening among women with dense breast tissue, is a piece of legislation that I have drafted because I truly want to make a difference. I want to ensure more women are aware of the impact of dense breast tissue on the analysis of a mammogram.

The bill would encourage the use of existing initiatives to increase awareness among women about the implication of dense breast tissue for breast cancer screening, and to assist women and their health care providers in making well-informed decisions regarding screening. It would recognize the work done by the provinces and territories and by many organizations in working towards these important goals. It outlines partnerships that our government has developed to enhance understanding of and to disseminate information about dense breast tissue during screening. I want to thank members from all parties for their support of this bill. I know full well that we are all anxious to ensure the bill passes as quickly as possible.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Vancouver Centre for her support and interest in this bill. She has expressed a desire to ensure best practices are disseminated. She has pointed out that Bill C-314 refers to sharing, through the Canadian breast cancer screening initiative, information related to the identification of dense breast tissue during screening and any follow-up procedures.

Indeed, the Canadian breast cancer screening initiative already helps us look at the best ways to raise awareness of dense breast tissue. The initiative also helps provide screening performance information and support evidence-based decisions.

Launched in the early 1990s, the initiative fully respects the role that provincial and territorial programs play in the early detection of breast cancer in Canadian women and the importance of sharing information and exemplary practices. In fact, it enables provinces and territories to continually share information on their screening programs, and discuss what they are learning.

To ensure strong collaboration and to work in a collective fashion to assess breast cancer screening programs, the government established the federal, provincial and territorial national committee for the Canadian breast cancer screening initiative. The committee is instrumental in providing us with the opportunity to work with provincial and territorial governments to measure screening program performance throughout the country and to develop better screening approaches.

This committee also includes non-governmental organizations, medical professionals and stakeholders. This allows for more opportunities for dissemination of practices, as well as for sharing different views. The initiative is aimed at evaluating and improving the quality of organized breast cancer screening programs. By facilitating information sharing about breast cancer screening across Canada through governments, practitioners and stakeholders, it can achieve this goal.

The bill clearly outlines the need for the Government of Canada to “encourage the use of existing programs and other initiatives that are currently supported by” the entities that have a role in breast cancer screening, be it prevention, detection, treatment, monitoring, research or the provision of information. Collaboration amongst these entities is instrumental.

Members will note that there is a great deal of good work under way through the Canadian breast cancer screening initiative. Jurisdictions are working together, sharing best practices and discussing questions that are important to them.

The amendment brought forward by the hon. member is consistent with the goals and approach of the initiative. The national committee has well-established partnerships to undertake identification and distribution of information on best practices. The committee can direct analysis on breast cancer screening, including best practices for dense breast tissue.

The dissemination of information and facilitation of use of best practices in screening in assessment are key objectives of the initiative. Provinces and territories can use this information for their respective breast cancer screening programs. The proposed amendment speaks to the need for collecting and processing information on best practices for breast cancer screening, and more specifically dense breast tissue. This is a fundamental part of the initiative. It is already enabling us, along with our provincial and territorial colleagues, to look at the best ways to raise awareness of dense breast tissue.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, through the Canadian breast cancer screening database, collects, synthesizes and distributes information on the breast density of women who are screened. It provides this information to provincial and territorial breast screening programs to support the development of best practices.

The concerns with the amendment are with regard to the word “ensuring” used in the proposed amendment. The work of the Canadian breast cancer screening initiative is not controlled by the Public Health Agency of Canada, and as such should not be ensuring the collection, processing and distribution of information or ensuring the identifying, synthesizing and distributing of information.

Therefore, while l appreciate the intention of the hon. member for Vancouver Centre, I do not see the need for this amendment. As we all want to get the bill through, I ask my fellow colleagues to continue to show support for the passage of the bill. Greater awareness and information about dense breast tissue will enable us to make a difference. It would help women and their doctors make well-informed decisions regarding breast cancer screening.

Again, I want to thank the member for Vancouver Centre for bringing this issue up. I hope all my fellow colleagues can continue to support the bill.

Motions in amendmentBreast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to debate Bill C-314, An Act respecting the awareness of screening among women with dense breast tissue. As a young woman, I am aware that I am at risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, we all are, because breast cancer can affect anyone, both men and women, young and old.

According to the statistics, 23,400 Canadian women and 190 Canadian men were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. Age is an important factor. It is a fact that older women are at greater risk. In 2011, an estimated 80% of cases were diagnosed in women over the age of 50. Young women are also at risk. It is estimated that 3,500 new cases, or 14%, were reported in women between the ages of 30 and 49 years, and 965 cases, or 4% of cases diagnosed, were women 40 and under.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, breast cancer starts in the cells of the breast. The breast tissue covers an area larger than just the breast. It extends up to the collarbone and from the armpit across to the breastbone in the centre of the chest. Each breast is made of mammary glands, milk ducts and fatty tissue. The breasts also contain lymph vessels and lymph nodes, which are part of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system helps fight infections. Lymph vessels move lymph fluid to the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes trap bacteria, cancer cells and other harmful substances. There are groups of lymph nodes near the breast under the arm, near the collarbone and in the chest behind the breastbone. Cancer cells may start within the ducts or in the lobules. Ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer.

As a woman, I know the importance of mammography, which is a low-dose x-ray of the breast. Mammography pictures, or mammograms, show detailed images and views of the breast from different angles. The breast is placed between two plastic plates. The plates are then pressed together to flatten the breast. Compressing the breast tissue helps make the images clearer. Better quality mammography and increased participation in organized breast screening programs have led to more breast cancers being detected earlier, which means successful treatment is more likely. Unfortunately, this test does not always detect cancer, especially among women with dense breast tissue. In such cases, doctors may opt for scintimammography or an MRI. A biopsy is the only way to make a definitive diagnosis of cancer.

Breast density is a radiological concept, but it has a major impact on the accuracy of mammogram interpretation. Dense breast tissue is a concern for all radiologists, as well as epidemiologists and gynecologists. A dense breast appears white on a mammogram because it contains little fat.

Breast tissue is quite variable. Changes in breast tissue are hormone driven and occur throughout an individual's lifetime. For example, young women typically have denser breasts than older women because breast tissue becomes less dense as women age. However, even though older women's breasts tend to contain more fat, women of any age can have dense breast tissue.

Bill C-314 requires the Government of Canada to encourage the use of existing initiatives to increase awareness among women about the implications of heterogeneous or dense breast tissue for breast cancer screening, and to assist women and health care providers in making well-informed decisions regarding screening.

Although the purpose of this bill is to improve breast cancer screening for women with dense breast tissue, we believe that it should go further still. Why not institute accountability measures to shorten waiting lists and ensure that women have access to timely screening?

Any bill designed to improve breast cancer screening should include federal funding for national breast cancer screening programs for all women, which should be systematic, free and available without a doctor's referral, beginning at age 40.

Health care workers and women who are concerned about breast cancer need more than just encouragement in order to raise awareness and promote best practices.

The government should put in place standards. Under these standards, all provincial programs would start screening women for breast cancer from age 40. The standards should include the regular and optimal use of digital mammography machines such as MRIs and ultrasounds for screening purposes. Lastly, screening standards should focus on the particular challenges of screening for breast cancer among women with dense or heterogeneous breast tissue.

The Quebec breast cancer screening program is a good example of a screening program with very good results. Screening using a mammogram targets women aged 50 to 69 and is carried out, systematically, every two years. According to data from Quebec's health and social services department, the breast cancer mortality rate for women who are systematically screened dropped by at least 25% between 1996 and 2006.

It is high time that the federal government showed leadership by adopting a funding plan and implementing a real national strategy to improve breast cancer screening in Canada. That also means honouring the commitments made as part of the 2003 and 2004 health accords, including the commitment to reduce waiting times and increase the number of doctors and nurses to ensure that women at risk have access to primary care or specialists as quickly as possible.

Experts and organizations fighting breast cancer are asking for more and agree that this project does not go far enough.

The Canadian Breast Cancer Network does not believe that this bill will improve screening procedures for those women most at risk of developing breast cancer. Breast cancer survivors direct the network. It is a national link between all the groups and individuals concerned about breast cancer, and its members, partners and founders include the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and the Breast Cancer Society of Canada.

The Canadian Cancer Society supports a bill that would improve cancer screening measures, particularly for patients with dense breast tissue. However, the society believes that this bill will not produce concrete results for patients living with breast cancer and their families.

Lastly, Quebec's association of hematologists and oncologists says that while it is important to increase breast cancer screening, we cannot forget about other kinds of cancers. Improvements need to be made in the prevention of and screening for all cancers. We must not concentrate all our efforts on one single category of women or type of cancer.

I wonder when this government will start to take this issue really seriously? The Conservative government introduced a bill that will in no way improve the lives of Canadian women. The government must start thinking more seriously about this issue in order to prevent even more women from developing this destructive disease.

Motions in amendmentBreast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-314 seeks to improve breast cancer screening measures for women with dense breast tissue.

One woman in nine is expected to develop breast cancer during her lifetime, and one in 29 will die of it. The current mortality rate is 21%. Risk factors can be both genetic and environmental, and breast tissue density is one of those factors, hence this bill.

Women with high breast tissue density face two challenges: the probability of developing breast cancer is higher and screening is more difficult because the X-rays are harder to read. It is therefore important to improve care for women with dense breast tissue because of the increased risks to their health.

This bill seeks to do that and:

...requires the Government of Canada to encourage the use of existing initiatives in order to increase awareness among women about the implications of heterogeneous or dense breast tissue for breast cancer screening, and to assist women and health care providers in making well-informed decisions regarding screening.

Still today in Canada, not all women are fully informed about breast cancer. As a former nurse, I know that not all women—far from it—have access to a family doctor and therefore to the chance to discuss the risks with a professional. Sometimes people in remote areas do not have the same access to health care as others. Sometimes women end up not having access to full and accurate information about breast cancer, its risks and the importance of screening. And the doctor ends up not having access to the patient's complete medical file because she has several different files. These women see a doctor when they go to emergency. In the long term, there is no continuity of care because doctor visits are always one-offs.

Women may be seen by their family doctor, and now by specialized nurse practitioners who may also work in this area. Nurse practitioners will ask questions, analyze risk factors, conduct assessments, teach women to perform breast self exams and help them do so. These concrete measures can help these women. If a woman does not have access to a family doctor or nurse practitioner, she will not know that she may have access to screening programs and, consequently, will not take advantage of them.

I believe that it is important to talk about this. Breast cancer will result in the death of 14 women a day in Canada in 2012. It is a very important issue. Screening and awareness of the risk factors are also major issues. Early diagnosis and treatment greatly increase women's chances of survival.

Women with dense breast tissue should be made aware of it and should undergo more tests before being given a diagnosis because cancer is more difficult to detect in x-rays of dense breast tissue. The more tests, the great the difficulty. Consequently it is important to promote detection screening to these women. It is also important to promote and to circulate this information among health professionals so that they can screen women.

We often see people die from cancer because of this. We must not take it lightly.

The Canadian Cancer Society's website talks about the determinants of survival. It points out the factors related to the cancer control infrastructure, such as the availability and quality of early detection, diagnosis and treatment.

Depending on where a woman lives and the quality of infrastructure available, and depending on the timeliness of detection, she will have a greater or lesser chance of dying of cancer.

This is not an equitable situation. In my opinion, access to health infrastructure should not be one of the determinants of breast cancer survival.

The fact that such is the case in Canada in 2012 does not make any sense. And this should also not be the case for any other illness. For example, to date, Nunavut does not have a formal screening program.

We therefore really need to do more than encourage the government to get the message out and to facilitate screening. Clearly, we need more concrete action. We need better access to health care and infrastructure; we need more family doctors, more nurses and more nurse practitioners; and we need improved prevention measures. We must decrease wait times—which have reached record highs—for tests and treatments. We must improve access to medical specialists who are better able to diagnose and treat these patients. We must work with the provinces to come up with a national strategy to combat breast cancer that is fair to all women, regardless of their geographic area or their income.

We have no choice. We must really discuss this with the provinces. We need real leadership on this issue. For example, Canada should abide by the 2003 and 2004 health accords, which were meant to improve the accessibility, the quality and the viability of the public health care system.

In order to prevent all these bills on health from being just words written completely in vain that look good on paper but do not contain any concrete measures, we should ensure that they include measures such as federal funding to create systematic breast cancer screening programs for all women across the country. These programs should be made available free of charge, on a voluntary basis, to women aged 40 and over. Right now, the systematic program that exists in Quebec is free for women over the age of 50.

I would like to take a few minutes to talk to you about my cousin Linda, who passed away from breast cancer when I was in Vancouver in June. Her daughter had just had her first baby when Linda learned that she had breast cancer. She was only 42 years old when she died. I believe that this is a concrete example of why systematic screening programs should be made available free of charge to women as early as age 40, not age 50. This is a good example, and I thought it was important to talk about what happened to my cousin. I was close to her, and 42 is very young. I thought it was important for members to be aware of this.

Such bills should also include standards requiring that existing provincial programs begin screening women at age 40. Early detection is essential and should be a priority. We know that. I do not know if people understand this, but the earlier in a person's life breast cancer—or any type of cancer—shows up, the more likely it is to be aggressive, because an immune reaction takes place. The stronger the immune system's reaction, the more aggressive the cancer can be. That is why very early detection is important, as I just explained.

Similarly, any health-related bills should include standards for existing screening programs to optimize and standardize the use of digital mammography equipment such as magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound units. Women should have access to these devices, which, once again, improve detection rates, particularly for women with risk factors such as high breast density.

Health-related bills like this one must go farther: instead of offering vague suggestions, they have to propose practical measures. This must be done together with the provinces and territories, of course, because health is under provincial jurisdiction. It is important to truly work with the provinces to develop an action plan. If we do that, we can hope to save lives. If health-related bills are too vague, they are not useful; they are nothing but nice ideas on paper that do not really change anything for the better.

Motions in amendmentBreast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

Motions in amendmentBreast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Motions in amendmentBreast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Motions in amendmentBreast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Motions in amendmentBreast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Motions in amendmentBreast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Motions in amendmentBreast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Motions in amendmentBreast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Motions in amendmentBreast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 98, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 14, 2012, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Suspension of SittingBreast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The House will now suspend until 12 p.m.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:34 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12:01 p.m.)

Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

8 a.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, a bill in the name of the Minister of Labour, entitled An Act to provide for the continuation and resumption of air service operations, shall be disposed of as follows:

(a) the said bill may be read twice or thrice in one sitting;

(b) not more than two hours shall be allotted for the consideration of the second reading stage of the said bill, following the adoption of this Order;

(c) when the bill has been read a second time, it shall be referred to a Committee of the Whole;

(d) not more than one hour shall be allotted for the consideration of the Committee of the Whole stage of the said bill;

(e) not more than one half hour shall be allotted for the consideration of the third reading stage of the said bill, provided that no Member shall speak for more than ten minutes at a time during the said stage and that no period for questions and comments be permitted following each Member’s speech;

(f) at the expiry of the times provided for in this Order, any proceedings before the House or the Committee of the Whole shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the stage, then under consideration, of the said bill shall be put and disposed of forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment, and no division shall be deferred;

(g) when the Speaker has, for the purposes of this Order, interrupted any proceeding for the purpose of putting forthwith the question on any business then before the House, the bells to call in the Members shall ring for not more than thirty minutes;

(h) the House shall not adjourn except pursuant to a motion proposed by a Minister of the Crown;

(i) no motion to adjourn the debate at any stage of the said bill may be proposed except by a Minister of the Crown; and

(i) during the consideration of the said bill in the Committee of the Whole, no motions that the Committee rise or that the Committee report progress may be proposed except by a Minister of the Crown.

Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

8 a.m.

Halton Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt ConservativeMinister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I am here today to explain why we put an act to provide for the continuation and resumption of air service operations on notice. The reasons for introducing this bill are threefold.

First, we are acting to protect the Canadian economy. A work stoppage at Canada's largest airline would be detrimental to our economic recovery.

Second, we are acting to protect the public interest. March break is one of the busiest travel times of the year and a work stoppage right now would affect hundreds of thousands of Canadian families who have made travel plans. In fact, over one million passengers are scheduled to travel with Air Canada over the course of this week.

Third, we are acting to protect all of those additional employees who would be affected by a work stoppage at Air Canada. Air Canada directly employs 26,000 people, but its operations have an indirect impact on an additional 250,000 employees. Many of these people have families and these families rely on the livelihoods of these employees for their daily living expenses.

As members may recall, last June there was a three-day strike by Air Canada's customer service and sales agents. It was quickly resolved by the parties and Canada's economy was spared unnecessary harm.

Also, in 2011, when talks broke down between Canada Post and CUPW, the union representing Canada Post employees, we acted decisively by introducing and passing the Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act. Again, Canada and its hard-working businesses and workers were spared from continued hardship in that case.

Canada faces a new challenge today: Canadians are faced with two potential work stoppages. Talks have broken down between Air Canada and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Talks have also broken down between Air Canada and the Air Canada Pilots Association. Just as they did last year, these developments create uncertainty and doubt where we need stability and certainty, because stability and certainty help keep Canada in business.

I would invite members to ask their constituents or in fact anyone in Canada right now about this and they will hear what I have been hearing, that we cannot afford this work stoppage. It is that simple. The risks are too great and we have a responsibility as parliamentarians to act. That is why I would like to ask this House to support an act to provide for the continuation and resumption of air service operations.

This is an important bill. We have tried to avoid the need to step in, but this measure is necessary because there is something vital at stake. As parliamentarians, we have to take a stand on this issue. We need to take a stand for Canada's recovering economy. We need to take a stand against uncertainty in this matter. We need to take a stand and demand a better solution in the interests of all Canadians.

I will take a few minutes to elaborate on each of these points.

Like other industrialized economies around the world, Canada is coming out of a difficult recession. Our economy has weathered the storm well, but we are mindful that these are uncertain times and that we cannot afford to take our relative good fortune for granted.

Our government is proud of its record of sheltering Canadians from the worst effects of the downturn and laying a foundation for recovery. As of February 2012, our employment rate was at 7.4%, which is an improvement over last year. There is definitely some wind in our sails, but that also means it is a risky time for Canada.

We cannot afford to have disruptions that draw attention and resources away from a growing economy because there is so much potential there. We cannot let a labour dispute in a major industry get in the way, and a labour stoppage that cripples a major transportation sector is certainly no exception. We depend on air service; that is a fact.

It is not just industry that depends on air service, but individual citizens as well. They depend on air service for work and for leisure. The sheer size of our country means that Canadians depend on air service more than citizens of most other nations do.

A work stoppage would have important financial implications for Canada's economy. There is no doubt it would adversely affect our efforts to revive our economy and create new jobs for citizens. A 2009 working paper by the International Labour Organization, ILO, states that for every job lost in the airline sector, up to 10 jobs could be lost elsewhere. Estimates of the impact of a stoppage on the Canadian economy vary, but some put it as high as $22.4 million for each week of work stoppage.

Consider what this could mean to businesses. A work stoppage at Air Canada could mean the loss of sales at home or abroad. Would businesses be able to recoup those losses? There is really no way to know. Would a business be able to quickly adapt and find alternative solutions? Again, we cannot say, because a labour dispute creates a ripple effect, one ripple of uncertainty after another.

What is clear is that a work stoppage at Air Canada would be bad for Canadians. It would be bad for the workers, and it would be bad for business. Even a short strike could be very costly. For example, in 2005 a one-day wildcat strike involving ground crew workers at Air Canada in Toronto saw 60 flights delayed and 17 cancelled. We have to take a stand against uncertainty.

Let us talk about what a labour stoppage could do to the company as well. The airline business has high fixed costs and it has a low profit margin, and that is at the best of times.

In April 2003 the financial pressures on Air Canada became so severe that the corporation applied for bankruptcy protection. Air Canada emerged from that protection in September 2004 under a court approved plan which saw it stripped of its assets and restructured under the name, ACE Aviation Holdings Incorporated.

Consider what happened after the 2008 global financial collapse when commercial credit markets all but froze. Companies like Air Canada which provided defined benefit pension plans suddenly faced much higher funding obligations. The combined effect of the recession, less air travel, and Air Canada's contractual obligations led to further challenges for Air Canada.

In 2008, in order to avoid the threat of bankruptcy again, Air Canada had no choice but to secure additional loans to keep it going. The company at that time was also able to get the co-operation of its unions to extend its collective agreements without any work stoppages.

The potential for a work stoppage involving Air Canada's pilots and the technical maintenance and operational support employees is creating more uncertainty and more instability for Air Canada.

Air Canada has indicated that it is already feeling the effects of the labour uncertainty. It has to cancel flights on a daily basis and cargo shipments are suppressed. That could be the tipping point for an airline already operating on the very edge of profitability.

Let me take a moment to recapitulate the developments in these two separate disputes that we are talking about today.

The IAMAW, the machinists, represent a unit of approximately 8,200 employees. They are responsible for the technical, maintenance and operational services, including the mechanics who service Air Canada's aircraft and those who handle the baggage and the cargo. Their collective agreement expired on March 31, 2011.

On December 2, 2011 a notice of dispute was sent by the employer to our offices at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services. On December 21 Madame Louise Otis, a conciliation commissioner, was appointed to assist the parties in their negotiations from outside of the labour program. Madame Otis is a very respected former jurist in the province of Quebec.

On February 10 the parties reached a tentative agreement. In her report and recommendations which she shared with me, Madame Otis said the following:

Taking into consideration the situation of the Parties, the tentative agreement is reasonable and fair. The negotiation process, which was carried out diligently and competently, has been exhausted. I do not recommend that negotiations be resumed or that a mediator be appointed. Under the full circumstances, I consider that a reasonable agreement had been reached.

Unfortunately, she wrote this in response to the fact that this tentative agreement was rejected by 65.6% of the union members, having had the tentative agreement unanimously recommended by the negotiating committee. Therefore, on March 6, 2012. the union provided me with its strike notice.

I want to reiterate that one point I made. These parties reached a deal which the union membership did not ratify. That is very important to remember because a similar situation has occurred with the Air Canada Pilots Association. The collective agreement covering a unit of approximately 3,000 pilots expired on March 31, 2011. On March 17, 2011, the parties reached a tentative agreement in direct negotiations without the help of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The negotiating team recommended the deal because it was subject to ratification by the union membership. On May 19, the union informed the employer that the membership voted to reject the tentative agreement. In October 2011, a notice of dispute was received by our program from the employer in the matter, and on November 10, 2011 a conciliation officer from the Department of Labour was appointed.

This conciliation period was extended three different times in an attempt to provide more time for the parties to reach a deal. A mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service was appointed and met with the parties on a number of occasions. On two separate occasions, February 6 and 13, I met with both parties to urge them to reach an agreement and stressed the importance of a deal for the Canadian public.

During the last meeting with the parties, I informed them that I would be appointing two new co-mediators to assist them in reaching a deal and that they would be entering into a process that could take up to six months because they had indicated to me they needed the time. However, despite all this assistance and despite both parties confirming in writing that they would co-operate with the co-mediators and comply with the six-month mediation process, the union sought and received a strike mandate from its membership. The pilots voted 97% in favour of strike action.

On February 17, the two co-mediators, Madame Justice Louise Otis, who had just been successful with the machinists, and Jacques Lessard from my department, met with the parties. However, following this meeting, Madame Otis determined that it was necessary for her to tender her resignation, the reason being that the details of the mediation on that first meeting were made public by the pilots association. Madame Otis, being a well-respected former member of the judiciary, felt this failure to observe confidentiality would further hamper the efforts of any mediator to assist the parties in reaching a deal. This breach of confidentiality by one party at the table was instrumental in the resignation of a well-respected former judge. That speaks volumes about the state of bargaining in this matter.

Finally, this brings us to the reason for introducing the bill. On March 8, the employer gave notice of its intent to lock out the pilots on Monday, March 12 at midnight.

I want to take a moment to stress to members of the House that the parties in the case of the pilots association had reached a deal too. They had concluded their collective bargaining process but again, that deal could not be ratified.

As a matter of interest, Air Canada has reached a deal with every bargaining unit that it negotiated with over the course of this fiscal year, six bargaining units. Eight times within those six bargaining units, Air Canada came to the table, reached a deal and shook hands with the respective union bargaining teams, only to find that four of those deals were rejected by the union membership.

This has gone on long enough. This labour uncertainty is eroding the public confidence in travelling. While it goes on, Canadian businesses, travellers, workers, students, parents, seniors and professionals and many others are feeling the pressure. How will businesses manage their travel obligations? How will families take their vacations? What about the 45,000 passengers who fly across the oceans daily? What will Canadians do? We just do not know. In all fairness, these are not questions that Canadians should have to be asking themselves, especially at a time when Canada's economy is still in recovery.

It is important to remember that there is more at stake than the matters being dealt with at the bargaining table.

The employees represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, IAMAW, want to be treated fairly, and the pilots represented by the Air Canada Pilots Association, ACPA, want to be treated fairly. I understand that. It is very important. What I also understand is there are millions of Canadians who depend upon air service. They want to be treated fairly too. In fact, as I stated earlier, over one million passengers are scheduled to fly with Air Canada over the March break period. This is an incredibly bad time for hundreds of thousands of families with travel plans to be faced with work stoppages. Additionally, Air Canada is simply not in a position where it can afford the risks associated with a prolonged work stoppage. Our economy is also vulnerable.

As stated in the preamble to the Canada Labour Code, free collective bargaining is the basis for sound industrial relations. The code gives the parties in a dispute the right to strike and walk out. The federal government only intervenes in situations where the public interest is negatively affected. This is true, for example, when the national economy is affected by the threat of a work stoppage, as in this case.

I have no doubt that a work stoppage at Air Canada is contrary to the best interests of Canadians and Canadian businesses. I have no doubt that a work stoppage could cause serious harm to the health of our recovering economy. The economy and the public interest would certainly be affected in this case and the legislation is clearly necessary. That is why the bill must be passed. It would protect our economy and would ensure that Canadian businesses and communities would not continue to suffer.

Some would say that we should do nothing and that we should let this dispute come to its natural end, whatever that may be. That would certainly be easier for all of us, but I say that we must do the right thing rather than the easy thing. Canadians expect us to show leadership and they expect us to act.

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8:20 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, this is déjà vu all over again.

I have a question for the Minister of Labour. She is not the Minister of Industry, but rather the Minister of Labour, for workers, industries and anything to do with labour. I would like to read part of today's motion:

e) not more than one half hour shall be allotted for the consideration of the third reading stage of the said bill, provided that no Member shall speak for more than ten minutes at a time [we are limited to 10 minutes] during the said stage and that no period for questions and comments be permitted following each Member’s speech.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives workers the right to unionize and to have free bargaining. The minister said so herself. We have the right to debate bills in Parliament. Yet according to this motion, there will not even be a question and comment period. We have seen this before. During the Canada Post lockout, the government intervened and lowered workers' wages even more than the employer was going to do.

What did workers ever do to this Conservative government to make it hate them so much and deprive them of their fundamental rights? What is this government trying to do to workers? It uses the argument of the economy or certain people, but we cannot compare a group of individuals to 3 million people and say that the 3 million people do not want it. This takes away the fundamental rights of workers. I wonder if the Minister of Labour, who is not the Minister of Industry, would be able to explain that to workers, not just to Canadians. Workers have fundamental rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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8:20 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I outlined in my speech, we went to extraordinary measures to ensure there was free collective bargaining at the table. We appointed an outside conciliator. We have monitored the files. Indeed, since I became minister in January 2010, it has been an incredibly important file to us. We recognize from an economic, social or any other point of view, that avoiding an impasse and avoiding a work stoppage is worth far more than having to deal with a work stoppage once it has happened. We put that effort in.

As the Minister of Labour, I am very proud of the efforts we have made with the parties. We have found success in a number of cases. In fact, 94% of the time matters are settled in collective bargaining. This is a unique case. It is a unique case because of a number of external factors.

What I would say to all workers and all Canadians is that at the end of the day, the Canadian public interest is the greater interest. It is the one that has to be taken into consideration, as well as what is happening at the table. That is why we are introducing the legislation.

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8:20 a.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, my friend and colleague, the minister, and I both wear X-rings. We are both Cape Bretoners and no one more than a Cape Bretoner would understand the hard fought battles of Canadians who won that right for free, open and fair bargaining.

What raises my concern is the actions of the government that we have seen time and time again. We have seen rights taken away from pilots, flight attendants, groundworkers, baggage handlers and mechanics. Some 22,000 Air Canada employees have seen their rights evaporate over the last year with the actions undertaken by the government. That adds up to one big wrong. It was employees who over 10 years took rollbacks to ensure this was a viable company. Once it declared bankruptcy 10 years ago, it started the rollbacks. The company has saved $2 billion on the backs of the workers.

Could the minister not see the injustice, especially in light of the bonus to be paid to Calin Rovinescu, the CEO of Air Canada? He signed on in 2009. By being there for three years, he gets a $5 million bonus at the end of this month. Does the minister not see herself as being complicit in this grave injustice?

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8:25 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his shout-out to our Cape Breton roots. I am the proud daughter of a union family. I am sure that a lot of folks in the chamber are shocked by that. However, that being said, we need to balance the interests, as the member knows.

I point out that with respect to his home constituency, where I was brought up, as a result of a work stoppage at Air Canada, Sydney, Nova Scotia would receive absolutely zero air service and would be cut off from the rest of Canada.

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8:25 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for her speech. The economy is extremely fragile now and because of that many citizens are very concerned about what type of action this work stoppage would have and what kind of impact it would have on their lives.

In my riding of Simcoe—Grey, many families are extremely concerned over this March break period. They may be unable to see their families or spend time with loved ones.

The minister has stated that we will take this bold action. I want to commend her for that. Maybe she could tell the House what efforts she has taken in the past to ensure that we did not come to this impasse and why now this bold action to ensure we can avoid this work stoppage?

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8:25 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will share with the parliamentary secretary my concerns for my constituents with respect to the travel. We have heard many calls in the office with respect to concerns regarding March break travel. They have also expressed concerns, especially in my riding, about whether they will have jobs because they work for ancillary services of Air Canada in the case of a work stoppage.

The member has brought to my attention the fact that we have used an extraordinary amount of resources of the federal government in helping along these six separate bargaining units. Much of the time of my staff in the department has been focused on trying to get these parties to a resolution.

Indeed, last year, it was recognized by the Minister of Finance and put in the budget that we should try to do more preventive mediation because that actually helped the parties. We had great success in other sectors. For example, TELUS had an acrimonious work stoppage a number of years ago, but through work with preventive mediation, its last collective bargaining session was very seamless and both parties walked away from the table with a deal.

I hope Air Canada takes the same opportunities with its unions to utilize the services of Labour Canada more and avoid this kind of situation.