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 rail 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) any division requested in the Committee shall be deferred until the end of the Committee's consideration of the Bill;
(e) not more than one hour shall be allotted for the consideration of the Committee of the Whole stage of the said bill;
(f) 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;
(g) 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;
(h) 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;
(i) commencing when the said bill is read a first time and concluding when the said bill is read a third time, the House shall not adjourn except pursuant to a motion proposed by a Minister of the Crown;
(j) no motion to adjourn the debate at any stage of the said bill may be proposed except by a Minister of the Crown; and
(k) during the consideration of the said bill in the Committee of the Whole, no motion that the Committee rise or that the Committee report progress may be proposed except by a Minister of the Crown.
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity today to explain to the House why we should expedite the passage of an act to provide for the continuation and resumption of rail service operations.
As each of us is well aware now, work stoppages in any key industry, including rail transportation, can have serious consequences for the economy. For some time now, we have been navigating through challenging times. Our government has taken swift action to protect Canadians from the worst effects of the economic downturn. It is clear as well that the House has an important role to play when we are faced with a situation that could negatively impact our recovering economy and, indeed, the well-being of our citizens.
Canadians have given our government a strong mandate to protect our national interests in a period of global economic uncertainty. We are fortunate in our country to have some of the best working conditions in the world. To a very high degree, our federal workplaces are safe, our employment practices are fair and employees' rights are protected by the Canada Labour Code. Among other rights, the code ensures that workers have a right to collectively bargain. It gives the parties many opportunities to reach a settlement, with or without the support of the federal government. The Canada Labour Code also recognizes the right of employees to strike or employers to lock out if their negotiations fail.
We now find ourselves in a situation where traffic controllers and running trades employees at CP Rail are on strike. Even while we sit here today discussing legislation, it is our sincere hope that the parties will find a way to settle their differences and come to a collective agreement. This is the best solution to any labour dispute. It is particularly important given CP's role in our economic security.
We are proposing this legislation today to protect our recovering economy and resume rail services. I am not sure that all hon. members realize just what CP Rail means to Canada's economy. According to Transport Canada, CP Rail moves almost $50 billion worth of freight each and every year.
However, before I talk about the economic impact, I would like to sum up the dispute that is before us today. This will be a broad overview because the parties have been hard at work negotiating for many months. However, I want to reassure the House that the labour program and I, as minister, have been involved throughout this process.
The parties to this dispute are the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, or TCRC.
The Teamsters independently represent 4,200 running trades employees and about 220 rail traffic controllers. Running trades employees includes employees such as locomotive engineers, conductors, baggagemen, brakemen, car retarder operators, yardmen, switch tenders, yard masters, assistant yard masters and locomotive firemen. The men and women who fill these roles keep one of our country's most important rail systems working, and they do a good job.
The railway is a 22,000 kilometre network that links our country together. Not only does it extend across the country but it links us with other major industrial centres like Chicago, Philadelphia and New York City in the United States and further into Mexico. The railway is truly the backbone of our economy as a trading nation and of our country. CP Rail transports the grain, coal, potash and consumer and automotive products that keep our country functioning.
The negotiations between CP Rail and the TCRC, or the Teamsters, began in October and November of 2011. On February 17, 2012, I received notices of dispute from the employer regarding both units. Two weeks later, in accordance with the Canada Labour Code, on March 2, the labour program appointed two conciliation officers to help the parties work through the collective bargaining process. As per the Labour Code as well, the parties were released from conciliation on May 1 and, as such, received the right to strike or lock out on May 23. As of 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, May 23, the work stoppage began.
Our hope is that the groups will still be able to resolve their differences, as they did in their 2006 round of collective bargaining, with the help and assistance of a mediation officer.
As you know, CP Rail is a privately owned company, and the responsibility to bargain and reach new agreements ultimately rests with the parties. Unfortunately, so far the parties have been unable to resolve their differences, even with help from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
I continue to encourage the parties to end this work stoppage. I encourage them to negotiate deals on their own, to restore the public's confidence and to restore the confidence of Canadian workers and businesses that rely on commercial rail services.
As for my part, on May 16 I met with representatives from CP Rail and the Teamsters to offer them an extended mediation process to help them reach agreement, or at least move forward, on some of the remaining issues from the bargaining table, issues that included pensions, wages, benefits and working conditions. Regrettably, this additional assistance was not accepted by the union.
Again on May 22 I met with the parties late into the evening before the work stoppage, to encourage them and to assist them to move forward in the negotiations. It was during these meetings on May 22 that the two parties finally agreed to maintain commuter rail services in the greater Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal regions.
This concession is extremely important, and it is something I pushed for from May 16 in order to lessen the effects of the work stoppage on commuters who use the CP Rail line to get to and from work on a daily basis, and that is approximately 65,000 commuters each day. I was pleased that the parties agreed to maintain this commuter service during the period of the strike, but despite this one agreement, the parties were unable to reach an overall collective agreement.
Let me say a few words about how the work stoppage at Canadian Pacific is affecting, and will continue to affect, the economy.
An October 2009 report by the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management estimated that four Canadian key bulk shipping industries—oilseed and grain farming, coal, wood products manufacturing and pulp and paper—contributed over $81 billion per year to the Canadian GDP and accounted for nearly one million jobs.
Let us think for a minute about how many jobs that is. The highly skilled people who are employed by Canadian bulk shipping industries, these one million people, depend upon CP to help move their products. Without trained and certified conductors, without engineers and without rail traffic controllers, CP Rail services has completely shut down, and that has resulted in temporary work losses within both the Canadian bulk shipping industry and within CP Rail.
It has been pointed out that there are other rail carriers that have the ability to pick up the slack. Canadian National, which is the only other Canadian class one freight railway, has been attempting to help, but it is too much. VIA Rail, on the other hand, is a passenger railway that does not have the ability to transport commercial freight. Some VIA rail trains do run over tracks that are owned by CP Rail; without rail traffic controllers, no trains are able to run on these tracks, so we are seeing delays with respect to VIA service right now.
In terms of the freight, what does this cost the Canadian economy? According to Transport Canada, in 2010 CP Rail handled the shipping of 74% of this country's potash, 57% of this country's wheat, 53% of coal and 39% of containers within Canada. To put that in monetary terms, that is $5 billion worth of potash, $11.1 billion worth of grain and $5.25 billion worth of coal annually. In these four bulk sectors alone, a complete shutdown of this railway over a prolonged period of time could have an impact on the economy of $545 million per week. That is half a billion dollars.
If this work stoppage is prolonged, the loss of productivity and the loss of revenue could translate into permanent job losses. With no trains running, the implications of this work stoppage are widespread.
However, we have to consider more than the bulk carrier aspect of rail. In addition to halting the movement of potash, wheat and coal, the work stoppage is also impacting the auto industry.
Auto parts make up the third-largest container import good that enters Canada through Port Metro Vancouver. This work stoppage is preventing these parts being shipped to manufacturers in Ontario. Without the parts they need, assembly lines will slow down or stop. That will result in lost production and, depending upon the duration of the stoppage, possible layoffs.
In terms of exports, CP Rail is a vital link in moving freight to and from Canada's west coast ports, and we know that Canada's west coast ports are integral to the Asia-Pacific gateway.
The work stoppage is preventing us from keeping products moving in and out of Canada. That undermines Canada's reputation as a reliable place to do business. It, quite frankly, is a setback from which it could take years to recover lost business and lost investments.
It is very clear that the Government of Canada must act now to resume rail services at CP Rail, as the prospect of ratified agreements in the short term seems highly unlikely.
Although our economy is recovering, it is still fragile, so we have to ask ourselves whether or not, for the nation's good, we can afford this work stoppage at CP Rail to continue. Hundreds of businesses are affected, and these are businesses that already took a hit during the recession.
We also need to think about all the people who depend on the railway for their livelihoods. Let us just start with CP Rail's tens of thousands of employees across this country.
How about the impact of this work stoppage on our international reputation as an efficient and reliable business partner? We are only one link in a long supply chain. What happens here affects inbound and outbound traffic, as well as our ability to grow other North American businesses. We all know what they say about chains: they are only as strong as their weakest link. We cannot afford to be that weak link.
It is clear that without this network, the economy suffers. We need it to keep businesses operating, businesses both large and small. Our customers around the world will not make allowances for our difficulties. Indeed, our competitors in the international marketplace will not graciously refrain from competing while we solve a labour problem.
The issues cause a ripple far beyond the bargaining table. They need to be addressed in a larger forum. They need to be addressed by Parliament.
The time for us to act is now. Every step set out in the Canada Labour Code was taken and every resource and support was offered to the parties to help them reach an acceptable compromise. Simply put, the strike cannot go on. We need to get the trains running again.
Canadians want responsible leadership from their parliamentary representatives, so the sooner the bill is passed, the sooner Canadians, businesses and investors will be reassured.
I call upon my fellow members today to support the expedited passage of this bill in order to allow our economy to recover and to keep Canadians working.