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House of Commons Hansard #95 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rail.

Topics

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

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

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 14, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Government Business No. 10Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

When the House last took up this motion, the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre had seven minutes remaining in his time allocated.

The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

Government Business No. 10Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by noting that once again it falls to the NDP to try and defend these fundamental rights and freedoms that have been systematically undermined and eroded throughout this entire day, throughout this entire session of Parliament. We are here to remind Canadians that they do have friends, that they do have people who will defend and stand up for their rights that were so hard won and fought for over the years.

The fundamental cornerstones of our western democracy are: the right of working people to organize; the right of people to free collective bargaining; and, in the event of an impasse, the right of people to withhold their services to apply economic pressure in the historic imbalanced relationship between employers and employees. It is a constitutionally recognized and protected right. It is one of the very freedoms by which we define ourselves as Canadians.

For the third time in this short majority Conservative government, we are watching that fundamental freedom being systematically eroded and undermined by Bill C-33, which pre-emptively orders people back to work before there has even been a work stoppage. The bill would effectively strip Air Canada workers of their right to withhold their services in the existing bargaining impasse.

One has to wonder whose side the government is on. Is it on the side of the thousands of employees who are voters and citizens of our country, who are trying to eke out a fair living and a fair wage, or is it on the side of the corporation that has not exactly been a sterling corporate entity, nor a particularly good manager? I do not know who is being rewarded by the heavy-handed state interfering as if it is some state airline. It is as if the workers are there to do the bidding of the corporate directors of a lethargic and sloth-like management.

In actual fact the pressure put on businesses in the process of free collective bargaining, when it is allowed to proceed without interference and without any tourists at the bargaining table, has the effect of sharpening their gain. They are forced to be more efficient because they are paying fair wages. However, when the government intervenes and holds back the wages of workers, it makes me wonder who it thinks it is benefiting. If the government is smashing this strike for the sake of the economy, how does it help the economy when working people have their wages frozen year after year? How does that benefit anybody?

I would remind Conservatives that the greatest strength the North American economy has is a well-paid, consuming middle class. We achieve that economic status by free collective bargaining, by the hard-earned struggle in the early part of the 1900s when the right to organize was enshrined throughout North America. Fair wages were negotiated. That consuming middle class was the engine for the greatest and healthiest economic environment in the history of the world. The richest and most powerful civilization in the history of the world has its roots in part because of that consuming middle class that made it all succeed.

The Conservatives seem to be inspired by their American neo-conservative republican counterparts in the U.S. The United States, in its wisdom, decided to smash the labour movement in the 1980s and the 1990s with the right to work states. It legislated unions out of existence. The United States went from 33% unionized employees down to 6%.

The war on labour in the left has had the predictable consequence. There are no unions effectively in the private sector in the United States anymore and neither are there fair wages, pensions, health and welfare plans, dental plans, optical plans, daycare centres, all those things that we fought for in workplaces and managed to achieve. They are all gone and so is the American economy. With the demise of the middle class came the demise of the economy. Fair wages benefit the whole community and the whole economy.

The last time I was in Washington the best bumper sticker I had ever seen said “At least the war on the middle class is going well”. We can attest to that. The war on the middle class has gone very well, but who does the government think that benefits and how does it think that benefits the economy?

The workers at Air Canada have the right to withhold their services. We do not know if they would actually pull the trigger and have a work stoppage. We will never know because the heavy-handed state interfered. The government did not let the free market play itself out. Free collective bargaining is the free market in spirit and practice. It is the dynamic that is allowed to play itself out on a level playing field where the employer and employee deal with their issues without molestation and interference from, in this case, the government.

In this piece of legislation, which is unworthy of any western democracy I might add, the government even prescribes what it calls final offer selection. I am familiar with final offer selection. I have negotiated collective agreements using final offer selection. It can be an effective tool if both parties stipulate themselves to that type of arbitration to settle the impasse. However, when it is imposed on the parties, again in this case by the state, it will not work and is not fair.

Another unfairness is that the minister shall name the arbitrator. The arbitrator in final offer selection is agreed upon by the two parties.

I do not know how to describe how offensive this document is to anyone with any experience in human resources or labour relations. It is an affront to everyone who cares about these fundamental freedoms.

I condemn Bill C-33. I condemn the Conservative government for butting its nose into a negotiation between employer and employees in this country with no justification. It is completely unwarranted. It is part of a pattern. The Conservatives are determined to undermine and attack labour at every opportunity. They do it without provocation. They do it without justification. They do it through the back door with private members' business. They do it in legislation through the front door.

It is a fight we will have for four years. The Canadian people are aware of it. They are taking note and they will not put up with it. It is in no one's best interest to squeeze the middle class until it is the lower class. Even if that is the Conservatives' intent, it will come back to bite them where they will not like it.

Government Business No. 10Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I can see that the government members are glued to their chairs. They do not dare ask the member a question because what he would tell them would be the facts.

It is great to listen to the member for Winnipeg Centre. Winnipeg is where a lot of the labour movement got its start in this country. What surprised me is that he said in his remarks that it makes one wonder whose side the government is on. I think the member for Winnipeg Centre would agree that it is obvious. The Conservatives clearly are on the side of establishment and big business. There are other examples as well since the Conservatives have come to power.

I fought side by side with the member for Winnipeg Centre in trying to retain the Canadian Wheat Board. We said at the time that the big Canadian grain companies would be bought out by the Americans. In fact it looks like that will happen. As well, we fought side by side against the railways. The government has failed to implement a service review to protect farmers.

Is it not obvious and true that the government is undermining the rights of workers and attacking the people who are not in a position of power? The Conservatives continually take the side of the corporation in almost every argument we have seen before the House since they have become the government.

Government Business No. 10Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Malpeque knows that my question regarding which side the government is on was a rhetorical one and did not need an answer. We judge people by what they do, not what they say. What the Conservatives do is undermine the best interests of working people, many of whom probably voted for them at every opportunity. A lot of people voted Conservative. A lot of blue collar hard hat workers voted Conservative. Now the Conservatives are undermining the workers' ability to negotiate a fair wage with their employer. Whose side are they on?

When the government says it is in the interest of the economy that it has to smash these workers' rights to negotiate a fair wage and fair living, what about the economy that would benefit from fair wages throughout the whole community? The way to stimulate an economy is to give people money in their pockets and they will spend it that day. If we give money to a corporation, it will invest it offshore in some tax shelter and that money will never be recirculated into the local economy.

Government Business No. 10Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to read a few words to the hon. member.

Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states:

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: …

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

(c) freedom of peaceful assembly;

(d) freedom of association.

We know very well that paragraphs 2 (c) and 2 (d), and even 2 (b), refer to union rights.

Under section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, rights can sometimes be subject to limits that can be justified in a free and democratic society.

Could the hon. member tell us how the government is blithely violating the rights of workers and unions, and whether it has any right to do so in our free and democratic society?

Government Business No. 10Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that thoughtful analysis and for reminding members present that it is a constitutional right, a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy that working people have the right to organize and all of the rights that flow from that, including the right to free collective bargaining and the right to withhold their services.

As my colleague from Malpeque pointed out, the government is systematically undermining many of the great Canadian institutions by which we define ourselves as Canadians, the progress we made in the postwar years, the Canadian Wheat Board, the CBC, the right to free collective bargaining. This is the country that our parents built and which those guys in eight short months are attacking on every front. The Conservatives want to recreate Canada in the image of the United States and their gurus in the neo-conservative Republican right-wing movement.

I do not want to live in the United States. Members should look south of the border and see how they like it. We did it right in Canada and we will not let them destroy it.

Government Business No. 10Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Kenora Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver South.

I want to start by saying as I often do, if not always, what an honour and a privilege it is to speak to this and any matter in this place on behalf of the constituents of the great Kenora riding, which is more than 326,760 square kilometres, a vast land and incredible people.

It is hard to follow that lineup, the member for Winnipeg Centre, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, and throw in the member for Malpeque asking some questions. It is quite a mix.

I would prefer to approach this issue with respect and humility in a quiet, avuncular manner focusing on one issue at a time.

I will begin by saying that what this is really about is the economy and the health and safety of Canadians, particularly at this peak travel time. I was a nurse in my previous life, and I am fully aware of the toll travel can take on people. I am concerned about Canadians being stranded in locations around the world trying to get back home.

Obviously, the economy is important. As we have seen in the past, these kinds of work stoppages have a profound impact on the economies not just of our big cities, but also of the smaller cities from which the feeder airlines derive their business. That is important for me. As a guy from Kenora, I can tell members that we depend upon Air Canada, the pilots and the important work they do, the company of Air Canada, and the baggage handlers, to see that we can make safe and timely connections to the much smaller and often much more remote towns and cities.

The first issue is between Air Canada and its pilots represented by the Air Canada Pilots Association. The second issue is between Air Canada and employees represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

As someone who has belonged to unions in the past, I can fully appreciate the issues. Each of these disputes, though, has the real potential to shut down Air Canada. This could have serious financial implications on Canada's economy, as well as on the health and safety of travelling Canadians.

I appreciate the great work of the minister. She has done a fantastic job in a number of instances, and not just in the current one. She always promotes that the best agreement is one that arises between the parties. She has facilitated those. She has supported those. We see her in action again. It is just incredible work. However, there comes a time, as a leader of a department and under the great leadership of our Prime Minister, when one must take steps that are in the interests of the health and safety of Canadians and of the economy.

Last week the minister referred the issue of maintenance of activities to the Canada Industrial Relations Board. This was a fair step. This is not just about labour. This is about standing up to the corporation of Air Canada and saying that we cannot have this stoppage, that this is important for all Canadians.

Subsequently with this motion we are sending the message again to corporate Air Canada and to the labour groups to settle this matter. They should get down to business and settle this, but if they cannot we will not sacrifice Canada's economy and the health and safety of Canadian travellers and our friends from different parts of the world who have planned their trips, who have come to spend time with their families here in our country.

While we encourage both unions and the employer to continue their normal work activities until this matter of maintenance of activities has been decided by the CIRB , and the fact that these referrals ensure the safety and health of the public, we will not be put at risk by the imminent work stoppages at Air Canada, whether it is a lockout or a stop in labour from one of the organizations.

I have said a bit about the health and safety concerns. A shutdown of the country's largest airline would have an impact on travellers, the country's transportation system and the economy as a whole.

This is real. These are facts, and so we are compelled as a government to ensure the continuation of air service operations at Air Canada.

We believe that Canadians overwhelmingly expect the Government of Canada to act. We are doing it because it is necessary, because in the face of the risks posed by these labour disputes, taking action to ensure continued air service operations is the right thing to do.

Despite the tendency of the NDP troglodytes to make this a debate on the singular issue of labour, intellectually and practically that is not a proper analysis, I say with the greatest of respect. I outlined from the beginning of my speech—

Government Business No. 10Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please.

The hon. member for Pontiac on a point of order.

Government Business No. 10Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the term “troglodyte” is unparliamentary and disrespectful, and I would expect better from the member, who just got up a few minutes ago to make the same point in regard to another member.

Government Business No. 10Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. It is not uncommon for members to make references to members of parties, parties themselves or sections of members in the House, shall I say, with the use of adjectives that are not particularly supportive of those groups. However, it is usually when those references are made in regard to an individual member, or perhaps a member in the other place, where that crosses the line and becomes unparliamentary.

We will go back to the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

Government Business No. 10Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will continue with my speech. I will acknowledge that this word has actually been used by members on both sides of the House in at least one or two instances when we were talking about how an issue might be approached in a rather narrow way. I have heard it from some of the sophisticates across the floor as well on a couple of occasions, so it is meant respectfully, and they can do a word search in Hansard for that. I think they might be surprised where that word was actually used in this place a time or two before.

That said, we need to do this to protect the people of Canada and the economic recovery that we are all counting on for growth and prosperity in years to come.

There are a lot of great things happening in parts of Canada. I want to focus on northwestern Ontario and our reliance on feeder airline systems. I am thinking of Wasaya Airways and Bearskin Airlines and many of the charter companies that depend on Air Canada to take us to different cities, either just outside the great Kenora riding or in the beautiful province of Manitoba. We depend on them because we are talking about land spaces as large as many countries in Europe, land spaces that do not have this kind of carrier service in their riding.

Hence, time is of the essence. We must act now and we need to act for Canadian businesses so that we can ensure that we have an economy that continues to fire on all cylinders, or as best as possible. Important materials, supplies and persons are transported across our country.

This is what is at stake for Canada and our economy. All parliamentarians, I truly believe, want to see Canada grow and be successful. We may not always agree on how to achieve that, but I think we do agree on a common goal. That is why I would ask us to take our blinders and lenses off and not be so narrow on this issue. We need to understand it in its greater context and, perhaps, over the course of the evening, come to a common understanding that this truly is in the best interests of Canada's economy and the health and safety of its travellers.

We are investing in people, in families and communities. As someone from an isolated community, I hope that I have brought to this debate a greater understanding of the kinds of things we need to be thinking about when we talk about what is at stake for Canada and, finally, what is at stake for the families who would be affected by this stop of work and service at Air Canada and its groups.

No one wins, and so I am encouraging us all to act in the best interests of Canadians here tonight to broaden our perspective and our horizon on what this is really all about and to ensure that for the remote and isolated communities across this great country, particularly in the great Kenora riding, and the families who are coming back to Canada or those who are waiting to go away, perhaps for business or in some cases perhaps for profound or unfortunate reasons or for a well-deserved and earned vacation, we take this opportunity to understand the broader context in which this debate is taking place.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity.

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6:55 p.m.

NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member spoke about investing in families and broadening our perspective, or looking at the big picture. I will ask the member opposite these questions. What about future generations? What about working conditions and pensions? Is this really the best approach? Does the government have the right to say to workers that they will no longer be entitled to better working conditions, and to tell young people my age—I am 23 years old—that they will not have the right later on to work and have stability with a good pension? Is that the broader perspective the government is talking about? Is the government trying to give us a lesson on the economy and economic recovery?

Last week, the Minister of Finance said that Canada is number one in the world for investment. Did the government invent an economic crisis in order to do what it has wanted to do for a long time, that is, cut Air Canada services? We know full well that it has wanted to cut pensions and working conditions for a long time. The government has no lessons to give to anyone today—

Government Business No. 10Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I would like to have interrupted the hon. member. I am sure there are other members who would, indeed, like to put a question to the hon. parliamentary secretary.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

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6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question—I think. It is true that our priority is the economy, and the health and safety of all Canadians and their families. In the short term, this is a serious situation for Canada's economy, especially in regions such as the one I come from, as I mentioned a few minutes ago. With regard to future generations, our government will work hard to serve the interests of Canadians in the event that a situation might have a serious impact on the health and safety of Canadians and the economy.

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6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member said in his remarks that the government must “act for Canadian businesses”. A lot of business actually depends on working people having money in their pockets to purchase goods and services from small Canadian businesses. They must have decent wages, too. Part of the problem with the airlines is the excessive wages taken by executives or management while workers have taken cuts. Look at it this way. When former CEO Robert Milton took about $100 million out of this country while the workers took cuts, what did that do for Canadian business?

When the government talks about the economy, is the government really using the economy as a fig leaf while it beats up on trade unions, especially national ones? We have seen it with Canada Post, we are seeing it with the airlines and we are seeing it with public sector unions. Is the government using the economy as a fig leaf instead of trying to find the balance between—

Government Business No. 10Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Time is limited. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

Government Business No. 10Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I feel like I have just been listening to the Flight of the Bumblebee and it is hard to answer a question that long.

We are concerned about families, and that is why we are acting. We are concerned that we are not focusing on the broader issues at stake. Folks in the great Kenora riding want to know if they can get home. They do not have an Air Canada that lands in the Kenora riding but they still depend on that airline, in particular, for the safe transportation of persons and goods. That affects the economy of the great Kenora riding and that is what we are here to defend. That is what I was sent to Ottawa to defend, and by golly I am going to defend it.

Government Business No. 10Air Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Conservative Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, each year at this time over one million Canadians take to the skies for their spring vacation. Families, students and parents make plans to get away from their regular routines for a week of family time and relaxation. Many have saved for months and have paid a valued portion of their income for this March break, one of the busiest travel seasons of the year.

As much as break-bound Canadians look forward to this annual tradition, Canada's airlines and countless tourism operators across our country count on this activity for a substantial portion of their annual business. However, this year Canadians' travel plans and the economic health of the numerous sectors relying on them are in jeopardy.

That is because of a threatened strike by the roughly 8,200 mechanics, baggage handlers and cargo agents at Air Canada who are members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, and a threatened lock-out by Air Canada of its approximately 3,000 pilots who are members of the Air Canada Pilots Association.

Indeed, all sectors of the Canadian economy are at risk of disruption, with potentially devastating financial consequences if a work stoppage goes ahead. The greatest risk may be to Air Canada itself. A work disruption during the busy March break period could potentially wreak havoc on the financial viability of Canada's only national airline and the many communities that it serves.

I remind the House that Air Canada has been struggling with financial problems for many years dating back to 9/11. The entire global airline industry has been under strain ever since. Indeed, by 2003, Air Canada was facing the prospect of bankruptcy. It began operating under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act when the Ontario Superior Court issued an order granting it protection from insolvency.

In 2004, it emerged successfully from the restructuring. In the years since, Air Canada has sought solutions to its financial situation to ensure its long-term viability. However, like airlines all over the world, it faced yet another setback in 2008 due to the global financial collapse.

When commercial credit markets all but freeze, companies like Air Canada with defined benefit pension plans suddenly face much higher pension funding obligations. The combined effects of the recession and Air Canada's contractual obligations led to more challenges for the company.

The airline continued its aggressive cost-cutting to ensure its financial stability and sustainability. Every option had to be considered. In 2008, Air Canada asked its unions to agree to the extension of existing collective agreements. In the end, all the bargaining units at Air Canada renewed their contracts for an additional 21 months. They also agreed to a short-term pension funding moratorium.

Thanks to these agreements and Air Canada's success in securing additional loans, the airline was able to continue operating and again avoid bankruptcy. However, Air Canada remains in a fragile financial situation today, with high fixed costs and low profit margins. In fact, it did not see a profit at all last year, in part because of fixed costs which airlines have no control over such as foreign exchange and fuel costs, sometimes representing as much as a third of their operating costs. These price increases, coupled with a sluggish economy and increased domestic competition, resulted in a loss for the airline in 2011, including $80 million in the fourth quarter alone.

The threat of a work stoppage at Air Canada for the third time in less than a year during such an important travel season is the last thing the company needs.

Given the precarious financial position of Air Canada and the fragile state of our economic recovery, Parliament must meet its obligation to get involved and stop any potential negative economic impacts of the current Air Canada labour disputes.

We know from past experience what a heavy toll these stoppages take on the economy. Since 1984, there have been 35 work stoppages in the air transportation industry, six of them involving Air Canada.

The last time pilots walked off the job in 1998, the airline industry was in a much better position than it is today. Even then, Air Canada reported losing some $300 million. That does not begin to take into account the inconvenience and cost for the individuals, families and businesses relying on the airline.

Each time there has been a labour disruption, business travellers have either been stranded or forced to miss meetings and sometimes have lost valuable contracts because they could not get to where they needed to be.

Air Canada provides a comprehensive range of air services to small and large Canadian communities and destinations in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Mexico and South America. These are important markets for Canadian businesses. They are places businesses need to get to and from in order to maintain their businesses, create jobs and grow our economy.

Companies that rely on the airline to ship cargo to their customers have also been seriously hurt in past air transportation work stoppages. Air Canada is this country's main air cargo carrier. It provides 22% of domestic capacity, 4% of transborder capacity and 49% of international capacity. At the Toronto Pearson Airport, Canada's largest air cargo hub, the airline moves approximately 68% of domestic and 40% of international air cargo lift.

To put this into perspective, if a work stoppage were allowed to proceed today, losses to all sectors of the Canadian economy are estimated to be as much as $22.4 million a week for every single week the stoppage drags on.

Any work stoppage right now would have a drastic and negative consequence for Canadians and our economic recovery. The Government of Canada is committed to doing what it takes to sustain our economy, keep businesses working and support Canadians who rely on air travel.

Let me be clear, the government action on this dispute is certainly not our preferred option. Ideally, all three parties would sort out these disputes between themselves and get back to business. I can assure this House that the Government of Canada respects the right of unions to strike and the right of employers to lock out their workers. In fact, the Minister of Labour has done everything she possibly could to avert a work stoppage.

The collective agreement of approximately 8,200 Air Canada employees represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers expired on March 31, 2011. From the outset, the Government of Canada encouraged both parties to reach an agreement through the negotiation process. Initially this appeared to produce success. On February 10 of this year, the parties reached a tentative agreement.

However, despite assistance from a conciliation commissioner and a tentative agreement, the parties have been unable to resolve their differences. The tentative agreement was rejected by union members at 65.6%. The members also voted 78% in favour of a strike and gave the Minister of Labour their strike notice on March 6.

It is a similar narrative in the case of Air Canada and its pilots. These parties have been bargaining for a year. During that period, the parties did reach a deal that needed to be ratified by ACPA's membership. Unfortunately, that deal was ultimately rejected by the membership and the parties had to go back to the bargaining table. They were assisted at the bargaining table by not only a conciliator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service but also by two co-mediators who were appointed by the Minister of Labour.

However, after many months of negotiations and meetings between both parties and the Minister of Labour, ACPA voted 97% in favour of strike action. On March 8, Air Canada gave notice of its intention to lock out its pilots.

In the event of a work stoppage involving technical, maintenance, operation and support workers, Air Canada would have no choice but to begin shutdown protocols almost immediately for safety and insurance purposes. In the event of a work stoppage involving the pilots, Air Canada, again, would effectively be grounded.

As previously outlined, the ensuing inconvenience to travellers and the serious disruptions to Canadian businesses would have a dire impact on Canada's fragile economy.

Canadians have mandated the government to protect our national interest in a period of global economic uncertainty. That is precisely what we are committed to do. As the prospect of ratified agreements in the short term seems unlikely, the Government of Canada must act now to ensure the continuation of air service operations at Air Canada.

It is clear that Canada cannot afford the consequences of a work stoppage. For the sake of our fragile economic recovery, Canadian businesses and Canadian families, I urge all parties to support the government in its actions to keep Air Canada flying.