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House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.

Topics

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House, as is the case all around, we are obviously always going to be very sensitive to workers losing their income because of disputes. But once again, the question is not well put.

If the minister had not interfered in the negotiations and said that there was going to be a bill anyway, the issue would have probably been settled, because the company would have had significant economic losses to consider.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand in the House and speak on behalf of working people across Canada.

Over the last few hours I have had to listen to debate where I have heard members from across the aisle saying that they are taking this action for Canadians. I want us to stop and reflect on that for a second. Working people in Canada are Canadians, except for the temporary foreign workers who come in right now. It is very hard to sit on this side of the House sometimes and listen to the diatribes that have occurred when people talk about Canadians in such a way that working-class people, whether they are professionals or they work in the service industry, it does not matter where they work as long as they are an employee working for someone else, are almost discounted by my colleagues across the way. If a worker should happen to have the audacity to belong to a union and, therefore, believe in collective bargaining, suddenly he or she is a bigger pariah.

I will take us back to the 19th century for a few seconds when the union movement came into existence. It came into existence because of the abuse of young children and workers by employers. Employers had all the power. People were dying on the job and terrible abuses were happening. Out of that industrial revolution, a kind of a balance emerged. It was the birth of the union movement where workers could get together as a collective and deal with their employer on a little more of a balanced playing field.

However, under the current government, the balanced playing field that has existed on and off for well over a century is being tipped in favour of the employer. I will explain why.

I have yet to see the government table legislation to help the workers in bargaining units, whether it was Air Canada, Canada Post or the Air Canada machinists and pilots. Air Canada pilots were legislated back even before they went out on strike. Now we have the CP teamsters. In every case, an employer is trying to take money out of the pockets of the workers and to dismantle their pensions. I know the government is very fond of attacking pensions, after all, it wants all Canadians to work until they are 67, whether they are able to or not. It has attacked the pensions itself. Therefore, why would I be surprised that the same group sides with employers who want to attack pensions?

Here we have an employer, CP, that makes substantial profits every year, millions and millions of dollars. Despite that, what is it asking their workers to do? It wants them to take a huge cut in their pensions. Do we not actually believe that people have earned these pensions and that they need to live a life of dignity? Should we not be bringing up every Canadian so that they have a pension and they can live a life of dignity? Instead, we have employers who are attacking workers' wages and pensions at the same time as they are making huge profits. I say that is such a shame.

Why would an employer like CP think there is any reason to negotiate? Even during the break week the minister made an announcement saying that when Parliament opens she planned to pass legislation. Can members guess what that does to bargaining? It brings it to a halt, especially on the part of employers who have no interest in negotiating because they have their friends holding a majority in this Parliament and they know they will get exactly what they want, which is another attack on working people.

I find it incredulous that people could sit in this room and say that the minister saying last week that she would be taking action did not have a chilling effect on negotiations. I think we need to accept that and the minister needs to take responsibility for prolonging the negotiations.

On this side of the House, we believe in full, free collective bargaining. I am getting so tired of my colleagues across the aisle talking about a free economy, the marketplace, letting things just go out and letting wages drop because, after all, they just facilitated bringing in, in a fast-tracked process, more foreign temporary workers who, they are saying, employers can pay 15% less. This is an abuse of those who come to work in this country. I believe that if they are good enough to work here they are also good enough to live here. Not only is it an abuse of those workers, but those kinds of policies actually lower the wages for other Canadians. Canadians are already struggling to make ends meet and now, with government intervention here and the changes to how we bring in people from overseas, especially the temporary foreign workers program, we are attacking Canadians from being able to make a liveable wage and to have decent security into their retirement years.

I am so proud of this collection of NDP members of Parliament who stand up for working people who are Canadians. We raise issues that are fundamental to a democracy, conventions that are recognized by the United Nations through the ILO and are recognized in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. When we stand up to defend full, free collective bargaining rights, I am tired of hearing comments like, “the NDP are not friends of western Canada.”

I come from western Canada. I am from British Columbia and I am the best friend it has, along with the NDP, right now. It is this party that is speaking out for British Columbians and for building a stronger economy that benefits all and does not lead to our resources being shipped out of this country along with the jobs. We have experienced that in B.C. We watch truckloads of logs leave, the logs get manufactured into two-by-fours and then they come back. How much environmental sense does that make? How much economic sense does that make when good paying jobs are taken out of Canada and moved overseas?

The argument that the NDP members are not friends of western Canada is just meant to detract from the real debate in this House, which is whether the Conservatives believe in free collective bargaining, and, obviously, by their actions, they do not.

I want the Conservatives to show me where they have intervened in a dispute and told employers that they were being unreasonable, that they should get back to the table and that it is not right for them to take away the salaries and pensions from employees. The Conservatives do not come out with statements like that. Instead they say that it is all being done to somehow save Canadians.

Right across the country, hundreds and thousands of workers are finding out how they are being saved. Their pensions are under attack and their wages are going down. The unemployment rate is high. As the they are looking at all of this, they do not see much of a salvation in this. What they see is a government that is going out of its way to take punitive action against employees and putting a chill over the whole bargaining process.

This is not right. This is not good for Canada. It is earning us a bad name both internally and internationally. It certainly is not good for our future generation.

We are looking at attracting more people to come to Canada, and we keep hearing from the minister that we are going to need more immigrants, but they are going to look at this and choose other locations.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

6:50 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, as members know, I represent Oshawa. I have been listening to the ramblings of the NDP, and I actually think these speeches are very good for Canadians because they realize the truth in its leader's statement that he feels that jobs are diseases. In other words, we thought it was just western Canada, but now we have an attack on farmers and on my community of manufacturing. We need car parts to build cars; no parts, no cars, no paycheques, no stimulus to our economy.

The hypocrisy of the NDP members is that they say they are standing up for unions and union jobs. Well in my community, we are standing up for union jobs because my guys need to get to work tomorrow.

With these labour disruptions, they ask internationally how it is being felt. I can say right now that our supply chain in Canada, with these parts, is affecting American plants. We need to get these guys back to work.

We offered 120 extra days of the government's resources to help end this dispute. How long would the NDP allow this disruption to go on before it would intervene and help Canadians in my region of the country get back to work, because we need the jobs?

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, we heard it again, talking about the CP workers who are out there saying that all they want to do is negotiate a settlement. I met with them at lunch. Once again, they are not considered Canadians.

Surely in Canada we do not start trampling on some people's rights just to speed things up. Any government that was committed to collective bargaining would allow the bargaining process to work out and it would put pressure on CP to sit down and actually negotiate instead of giving it a get-out-free card, which is what this legislation—

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the member for Cape Breton—Canso, raised what I thought was a good issue. It is an issue that has been talked about a lot by the Conservative Party when it talks about back-to-work legislation.

Back in 1995, there was back-to-work legislation, but that legislation was quite different. It was legislation that was brought in by the Liberals but supported by the New Democratic Party, and Reformers I must say. It was a different approach in terms of labour relations.

I wonder if my colleague from Vancouver would comment and maybe explain the difference between the back-to-work legislation we collectively supported back in 1995 and the back-to-work legislation that is being proposed by the Conservative government.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, once again I will say that I and my colleagues believe in free collective bargaining. We absolutely believe that in order to find solutions we should get the two parties at the table and give them resources and support.

One thing I have found, and I have had personal experience with this, is that neither the employer nor the government will make any gains when they squeeze workers so hard that they lose the love and passion for the job they do. When workers are feeling used and abused, that their rights are under attack and they are not being treated equitably and fairly, that sucks the life out of them. That cost to society is greater in the long run.

When people go out to work, they do not just get out of bed and do their work. People get passionate about their work. They care about their work no matter what it is they do, and they give it 100%. However, if they are continually being hit on the head with a baseball bat, having their rights taken away by a government that is supporting the employer all the time as it attacks their pensions and salaries, then they will not be able to give 100%, and that is harmful for Canada.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul.

Whenever a government intervenes, it must prove that such intervention is both necessary and just. The labour minister's bill today proposes an intervention that must pass these same tests. Is it necessary? Is it just?

To consider the necessity test, let us consult history, geography and economics.

History tells us that British Columbia would not have joined Canada without the promise of a railway, and John A. Macdonald confirmed that the nation would not have survived its embryonic state without the tracks. Rail, he said, would “give us a great, an united, a rich, an improving, a developing Canada, instead of making us tributary to American laws, to American railways, to American bondage, to American tolls, to American freights...”. In 1885, Donald A. Smith pounded the last spike into a rail line that would climb over the Rocky Mountains, cut through the Prairies, link communities and unite Canada from sea to sea. We would not exist, quite simply, without the railway, and its necessity lives on to this day.

In the 127 years since the completion of that project, geography has made rail essential to our well-being. Some 5,500 kilometres separate Cape Spear, Newfoundland, from the Yukon-Alaska border, giving us the second largest country in the world and the eighth least-dense population on the planet. In such a country, freight moves roughly 70% of surface goods every single year, which brings us to economics.

If Canadian Pacific were one of many rail lines, we would not be having this conversation. Shippers would simply hire another rail line and continue about their business until the strike was done, but it is not just another rail line. It is one of only two class 1 railways. It has 24,000 kilometres of rail that link six provinces, all the way from Port Metro Vancouver in the west to the Montreal port in the east. It handles 74% of potash, 57% of wheat, 53% of coal and 39% of container traffic. What would happen to all the workers who depend on potash, wheat, coal and container shipping if it were to sit idly during a strike? Factories, farms, mills and mines cannot reach their markets, grains pile up, workers down their tools, consumers pay more and wait longer, all at a cost of $540 million per week to the Canadian economy.

Does this back-to-work bill pass the necessity test? Economics make Canadian Pacific necessary to rail service, geography makes rail service necessary to our well-being and history makes it necessary to our nation's very existence. Yes, it is necessary for the strike to end and for us to end it.

The second test for government intervention is whether it is just. I detest, with every fibre of my being, unnecessary and unjust state intervention. It is good, therefore, that back-to-work legislation is rare. Last year, there were 407 collective bargaining agreements reached across Canada in federal jurisdiction.

We legislated back-to-work laws twice. That is less than one-half of 1% of the cases, yet opponents of this bill will argue that a free enterprise government like ours should never intervene in a private sector bargaining dispute.

The government is already involved. Section 70.(1) of the Canadian Labour Code forces workers to pay union dues, even if they do not wish to be members of a union. The law forces money out of workers' pockets into union coffers. The union has the power to shut down a workplace, even for those workers who do not support the strike.

These legal powers give the union a state-enforced monopoly on labour in the rail sector. Unions want the law to grant them monopolistic powers without any laws to limit the damage that these powers can do to unwilling bystanders. The bystanders in this dispute are the workers who do not want to be on strike, the farmers trying to ship their goods, the consumers trying to buy them and every Canadian who must bear a part of the $540 million a week cost of this strike.

Given these facts, it is necessary for Parliament to act, it is just for Parliament to act and act we will.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin NDP Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, there are aspects of my colleague's speech that I agree with.

What I do not agree with is the use of the power of the government to inhibit the collective bargaining process. We cannot deny that the hint of government intervention had a role in making the management of CP not bargain in good faith, because the government was going to do the work for it.

This is the issue. It is not a matter of whether it is the right time or the wrong time. It is wrong, I believe, for the government to send a message to management that it is going to step in, because then management basically says it does not have to do anything, because the government will do it. That is an attack on workers' rights.

These same workers are taxpayers, and they help drive the economy. If they do not make a decent salary, how do they pay in and how do they work for the economy? How do we resolve that issue?

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member seems to suggest that the government should not get involved in these kinds of disputes, but I am telling him that according to section 70.(1), government and law are already involved.

The law forces workers at CP to be members of the Teamsters Union, even if they do not want to be. They have to pay in through union dues. So the government is already involved at that point.

That gives the union an enormous amount of power. When the union exercises that power to cost the economy $540 million a week, to harm farmers, workers in manufacturing plants, workers in mines and the rest of the Canadian economy, it is the responsibility of the government to act to protect all of those innocent bystanders against union activities.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, why is there improvisation? The government appears to be improvising when it comes to labour relations.

One would expect labour policy would be rational and systematic and would say how we are going to approach strikes by major corporations in this country. We would have a schedule of major corporations whose employees were not allowed to strike, and there would be an alternative model of arbitration to deal with those situations.

Why do we not have a consistent approach, one way or the other, to labour relations in this country? Why are we improvising? Why is there ad hockery?

When I was taking an industrial relations course in university, the professor called this kind of behaviour permanent exceptionalism. Where is the systematic approach to labour relations in this country?

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member seems to suggest that we should be outlawing strikes at CP. I do not agree with that.

It is hard to follow the opposition parties logic. One of them says that everyone should be on strike all the time. The other one says that they should all be banned from striking. We are the sensible ones in the middle over here. We believe that in the vast majority of cases, collective bargaining agreements can be arrived at in a completely free and non-interventionist fashion. That is why 405 of them occurred last fiscal year, and we only intervened in two of them, less than one-half of one per cent.

Our approach is to minimize the intervention by government. However, in instances where the unions use the power that is vested in them by the fact that they force every member to be part of their organization to shut down big parts of the Canadian economy, it is our responsibility to step forward, protect jobs and protect the livelihoods of millions of Canadians. That is what we are doing in this situation.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak about the current work stoppage at Canadian Pacific Railway involving its engineers, conductors, real traffic controllers and others. I am very pleased to do this because I feel very passionately about the fragile economy happening in Canada and the first responsibility of the government to see that people have jobs, get back to work and cause the economy to continue to grow and flourish.

I would also like to take this opportunity to present to the House a potential solution to this conflict. Bill C-39 is that solution.

As members of the House know, CP Rail and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference have been actively negotiating since last fall. However, I am very sorry to say that during that time no progress has been made. As we all know, work stoppages in any of our key industries will negatively affect our economy, particularly while the world continues to struggle through the economic downturn. I think we can all agree that things are still shaky and that we are still recovering.

To be frank, no country's economy can afford a disruption in one of its primary industrial transport industries. This fact, together with the mandate Canadians have given us to protect our national interests in this period of economic uncertainty, makes the need for action clear.

We continue to encourage CP Rail and the TCRC to reach an agreement through the negotiation process. However, even with help from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the parties have been unable to resolve their differences. Therefore, we need to act now to stop this work stoppage. CP Rail is only one of two class I freight railways in Canada. It does significant business. According to Transport Canada, CP Rail moves almost $50 billion in freight in Canada every year.

This work stoppage could have a deep impact and does have a deep impact.

In 2010, CP Rail handled the shipment of 74% of potash, which we just heard a few minutes ago from my hon. colleague, and many other kinds minerals and products go via rail. On an annual basis, this represents $5 billion worth of potash, over $11 billion worth of grain and over $5 billion worth of coal. That is a lot of industries.

While the economic impact of this work stoppage could be considerable, we must also consider the well-being of our citizens. For many Canadians, at first glance, rail transport is almost like an invisible industry, until people are sitting at a railway stop and watching freight cars up to 14,000 feet long go past the crossing. If they looked a little closer, what would they see as the train rolls by?

CP carries materials related to agriculture, manufacturing and heavy industry. This means a lot of trains are full of grain, coal, cars, trucks, steel, lumber, et cetera, and countless amounts of manufactured goods. Virtually everything in people's houses today likely moved on a train at some point. Think about it. It means products that make people's lives easier, more pleasant, more efficient and safer, even products that are necessary for food production.

However, rail freight is not only about products that make our lives easier.

CP Rail trains also carry the basic building blocks for products that are critical to the well-being of Canadians. For example, they carry potash, an ingredient used in fertilizers that allow us to feed our citizens and export food around the world. It is essential to agriculture because it improves, among other things, nutrient value, food texture and disease resistance of food crops. Fruits, vegetables, rice, wheat, sugar, corn, soybeans, even cotton all benefit from potash.

From that one example, everyone can see just how important it is that we resume the CP Rail services as soon as possible. We rely heavily on this mode of transport to keep the supply of goods moving across the country.

I would like to provide the House with some quotes taken directly from stakeholders that have written to the government, urging action to prevent a prolonged strike at CP Rail.

The Vancouver Board of Trade wrote to the Minister of Labour to say:

“Canadian Pacific is a critical supplier for many industries in British Columbia and, in many cases, there are no practical alternatives to maintain continuity in shipments to customers and suppliers. Even a short disruption in service will have significant impacts on business — directly on immediate sales commitments and very quickly thereafter on production...At this delicate state of our economic recovery, any service disruption stands to undermine the confidence placed by our interprovincial and international customers in doing business in this region”.

Spectra Energy has also voiced concerns over its natural gas operations being affected by a strike. It said, “CP Rail provides the critical rail services Spectra Energy requires at Empress, Regina and Winnipeg”. Winnipeg is where I come from and we have seen the train roll in every day until now. It went on to say:

“The rail strike has immediately eliminated Spectra Energy's capability to ship its product by rail at these terminals, and should the rail strike not be resolved in the very near future, Spectra Energy will be required to shut down its Empress plant. This has the potential to result in the loss of approximately 200 well-paying direct jobs linked to Spectra Energy's Empress, Regina and Winnipeg network”.

It is clear that the well being of our citizens associated with the work stoppage will impact Canadians all across the country. We cannot stand by, as a government, and watch, while the supplies that we need to create goods and sustain agriculture sit idle. Protecting the well-being of Canadians is one of the government's most basic responsibilities, and it costs $500 million a week for this strike. That is a lot of money going down the drain. I assure members that we take this responsibility very seriously.

Intervening in a labour strike is always a last resort. With CP Rail and two of its unions still at odds and with a strike currently taking place, we are left with few options. As I mentioned before, we have to consider Canadians. We also have to consider another key factor, the impact on the Canadian economy.

I do not need to remind members of the House that we continue to live in a climate of global economic uncertainty. We are proposing this legislation today to protect our still recovering economy.

I am not sure hon. members realize just what CP Rail means to Canada's economy. An October 2009 report by the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management estimated that four key Canadian bulk shipping industries, oilseed and grain farming, coal mining, wood products and manufacturing and pulp and paper and paper products manufacturing contributed over $81 billion to the Canadian GDP each year.

Canadians are looking to the government to sustain and grow the economy. That is our principal mandate, and Canadians should expect nothing less.

We must take decisive action to resume rail services. I ask the members on all sides of the House for their support for the bill and for the good of the Canadian economy and Canadian families.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to what my colleague was saying. She said “the well-being of Canadians” and “consider Canadians”. Does she not consider workers as Canadians? Does she not think workers should have a decent income on which to be able to raise their families?

I have an email from Brian Ferguson who actually works for the railroad. I do not know if the member knows how it is to work on the railroad, but he has been there for 26 years. He says:

The Company wants us to degrade our pensions to levels in place at CN. The 2 pension structures are totally different from each other. We pay higher premiums than our counterparts at CN and have for some time. Why should we now have to drop to their pension levels. We do not have time now to start putting extra funds away to make up the difference we would be losing if our pensions are reduced to levels the company wants.

When we look at this, they have been planning for retirement just as people with OAS have been planning for their retirement and you are willing to pull that off of them. Why are you doing that?

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I remind hon. members to direct their questions and comments through the Chair.

The hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, the workers will be hurt. Everyone will be hurt if the economy slows down. If we do not have jobs, we do not have pensions. With the OAS, if we do not increase that for two more years, there will be no OAS.

That is why Canadians have elected this side of the House for their government because they are confident that the economy will stay stable. That is why I implore all sides of the House to please support this legislation.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, if I heard correctly the hon. member said at the beginning of her speech that railways should never be allowed to go on strike. If that is the case, will the government table legislation to communicate to Canadians that railways should never be allowed to go on strike because they are an important infrastructure in this country?

If I have it wrong, I would like to know under what conditions railways would be allowed to go on strike. If the economy were stronger, would they be allowed to go on strike? What would the threshold be? At what growth rate in the economy would railways be allowed to go on strike?

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong. We believe in free bargaining. We believe that if parties can come to the table, negotiate and do a deal, that is the best way of doing it. However, through mediation and conciliation, every possible avenue that has been taken to get this deal made did not work. That is when this legislation has to be put in place.

It is not a matter of saying the railways cannot go on strike. If free bargaining does not work, it is a matter of stopping the economy from coming to a standstill. The responsible thing is for our government to intervene and that is what we are doing tonight.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague from Kildonan—St. Paul and I understand that CP runs through her riding in Winnipeg. CP also runs through my riding in Medicine Hat.

In Medicine Hat, we have a huge agricultural component of the economy. Farmers are wanting to get their products to market. We also have a Methanex facility there, which produces methanol, which ships its product. We also have Canadian Fertilizers which ships its products. If this strike continues, there may be individuals whose positions may not be sustainable by those companies.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very insightful comments because he has figured it out. He has figured out that if a strike continues, the economy will stop. The workers, as the members opposite call them, would have no place to work. The workers would not have what they need to grow and prosper with their families in this country.

This is a last resort. Everyone believes in the free bargaining process. It is very hard to make the decision to say we have to intervene, but for the good of Canadians and of the country, that is exactly what we have to do. I implore all sides of the House to please support this legislation and get Canadians back to work.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with the member for Jonquière—Alma.

I will begin by saying that this is déjà vu. This is the same old same old. We have seen this before.

It is not surprising that the Conservative government is introducing a bill to force people back to work because this is what it has done since winning a majority. During the lockout ordered by Canada Post, no doubt with the Conservative government’s encouragement, I remember making the following comment in the House: what have the working men and women of Canada done to this Conservative Prime Minister—we cannot name him, but I believe everybody knows who the Prime Minister of Canada is—to make him hate them so much?

Legislation has been passed to send people back to work or to force them into arbitration, but this Conservative government holds the record for saying in advance that, if a collective agreement is not ratified, it will pass back-to-work legislation in the event of a strike or lockout.

My colleagues have put it well: what employer will want to negotiate a collective agreement in good faith when it knows the government has a sledgehammer that it is ready to bring down on workers? The government has never brought the hammer down on employers, only on workers. And it is doing this on behalf of Canadians. What an insult! In Canada, the workers are Canadians.

The only argument we hear from the other side of the House is that we, the NDP, want to deal with the union officials. There is no shame in belonging to a union. It is a fundamental right under Canadian law. The Charter of Rights gives workers the right to belong to a union, but this government has never shown any respect for unions or for workers.

Shame, shame, shame. This government continues to abuse workers' rights, especially by announcing in advance that it will never permit national strikes or lockouts. And yet that is a fundamental right under the Charter of Rights. It is a fundamental right that has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The government is the worst law-breaker in Canada. This is unprecedented in the history of Canada. The Conservative government we have before us today is the worst in this regard. It did it with Air Canada, it did it with Canada Post, and now it is doing it with Canadian Pacific. It says there are no other ways to do things.

The member from Manitoba said the train went through her region and people would no longer be able to ship things by rail. I have taken the train from Vancouver to Halifax. It is funny, because I was with CN and I went through Winnipeg. So there are other avenues.

If they are trying to make us believe it is the same in Medicine Hat, I am not sure of that. I will not question it because I would have to check. But I think CN goes through there. It apparently still goes through Winnipeg. And there are also other modes of transportation.

When the government says in advance that it is going to get involved in the negotiations and take the side of the companies and the big corporations, it is to be expected that the companies will not give their employees anything. They are even going to take things away from them.

The Conservative government says that it is doing this for the economy of our country. On the contrary, it is crucifying our country’s economy in the long term. If working people lose their pension funds, and their wages are driven down, who is going to pay the price? The Canadian economy will pay the price.

This is not something that affects just the employers. The government is even attacking the programs working people have, like employment insurance.

They are talking now about 70% of earnings. So let us talk about that 70%. If someone cannot find a job after six weeks and is a frequent employment insurance claimant, they have to accept a job that pays 70% of their previous earnings. If they lose their job again, they will again have to reduce their earnings to 70%. And that will go on until they get down to the minimum wage. If they are thinking about imposing that on fish plant employees, they are mistaken: the 70% formula does not work, because fish plant workers are paid only minimum wage to start with. They are not going to be able to hurt them that way.

When it comes to employment insurance, the Conservative government is telling seasonal workers that if they are not able to find a job, it will find them one, it will grind them down and it will take away their employment insurance. I say that because this is an attack on working people, just like at Canadian Pacific, at Air Canada and at Canada Post.

The Conservatives say that they are doing this because they cannot accept the fact that foreign workers are able to work in Canada, while Canadians are being forced to look for work. They do not understand that when there is work in the fishery, for example, nobody is looking for work, because everyone is working. It is when the fishing is over that these people are out of a job.

The government says that Canadians should go west. The member for Madawaska—Restigouche, who is the Minister of State responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, says that people from our part of the country prefer to go hunting and receive employment insurance benefits than work. Residents of Madawaska—Restigouche who have spoken to me recently say that they are now ashamed of their member. Rather than standing up for New Brunswick, the member insults his fellow citizens each time he opens his mouth.

The member for Madawaska—Restigouche should remember what happened in the late 1980s, when he made cuts to employment insurance when he was Minister of Employment and Immigration under Brian Mulroney. Canadians booted him out. There were two Conservatives left in power: Jean Charest and Elsie Wayne from Saint John. They were the only two that were left. Remember what happened to the Liberals when they made cuts to employment insurance in 1996: in 1997, they completely lost Atlantic Canada. It is important to remember what happened. Unless we close the fisheries, people from Atlantic Canada will go and work in the west, and foreigners will come and work in our region.

That is the trick that the government has devised. Foreign workers will come and work in the plants because Atlantic Canadians will have headed west. Then the foreign workers will go home and will not get employment insurance. They will not receive benefits. The Conservatives have got things all worked out. Back home, we call that a quiet deportation. In 1755, the Acadians were deported and scattered far and wide both in Louisiana and elsewhere. This is a new way of deporting Acadians, of sending them elsewhere rather than coming up with a proper response and engaging in economic development in our regions.

Rather than doing that, the government is attacking workers. It is shameful. The major centres think that they are the only ones and that the world revolves around them. They do not recognize our country's rural regions. It is a lack of respect. Even debate is limited in the House of Commons. What a great attitude the Conservatives have: they do not even believe in democracy. Their way of doing things is to rush to make us vote at 2 a.m. because they want to get rid of a bill rather than debate it. They are not even prepared to do that.

They have imposed gag orders on over 20 bills. Their undemocratic measures are at an all-time high. This has never been seen before in Canada. It has become embarrassing to be Canadian and to live in our country. It is shameful. It hurts me to say these things because I love my country, but the Conservatives are destroying it. They are destroying our democratic country and the pride we have or had.

I think that the Conservative government will learn its lesson in three years, in 2015. It is coming. If the Conservatives looked at the polls and listened to what people are saying, they would see that they are not upholding Canadian values.

We have the ability to help each other. We should respect workers. The Conservatives are not respecting workers when they allow companies to cut pensions and decrease wages. These workers are Canadians just like the rest of us.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the previous speaker's comments and to his colleague from Newton—North Delta before that. I have had different people in my riding ask me from time to time, after listening to the craziness that happens in the House and some of the bizarre comments, why I listen to that and what keeps me around. I jokingly say sometimes that I just want to see what the heck is going to happen next, because we have just about heard everything on this.

I was talking to some colleagues of mine in agriculture in Saskatchewan and Manitoba on the weekend. Their big fear in Alberta and parts of Saskatchewan is that their seeding is not done, and with CP shut down, there is absolutely no other recourse to get their potash and fertilizer to them. It is as simple as that. They cannot just put it on trucks. The sheer volume does not work.

Therefore, I want to ask the member what he has to say about that. Does rural Canada not matter? Does our food source not matter?

As well, the member seems to think it is a God-given right to have a job. I would have to agree with that; it is great to have a job. However, at the same time, they turn around and kick the daylights out of the people who supply those jobs.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to answer my colleague with a question. The thing is, what do we do with the rights of the workers? Do they have the right to strike? In this case, they are not on strike. It is a lockout. The company knows that the government will support it and that the government will legislate them back to work. Do they not see it at all?

My people at home ask me if I am not tired of listening to the craziness of what the Conservatives are doing every day to Canadians. That is what they ask me. They ask me if I am not tired of seeing the way they are treating Canadians and cutting employment insurance, which is an insurance that belongs to them. The government stole over $57 billion to put—

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

An hon. member

The Liberals did it.

Act to Provide for the Continuation and Resumption of Rail Service OperationsGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

He is saying that the Liberals did it, but who put the bill forward to legalize the stealing of the money? It was the Conservative Party when it came with a new agency and said it would take $2 billion and put it into it forget about the rest. It was the Conservative Party that legalized the stealing, hand in hand with the Liberals.

At the beginning of my speech, I said the member for Madawaska—Restigouche was the one who was cutting with Brian Mulroney at the end of 1989. Let us remember what happened to the Conservative Party. There were two left at the end when Canadians were finished with them. They were sick and tired of listening to them. That is what happens.