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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

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is the second time today we are debating an attack on democracy.

There has been a shutdown of the investigation into the F-35 hearings, as well as the refugee abuse bill earlier this morning. It is the 23rd time since being elected to a majority that the government has used this abusive tactic in Parliament, a tactic that it used to say was contemptuous of Parliament and against the democratic values of the House.

The government has to justify using this brutal tool against democracy and against the interests of Canadians.

Because I suggest that the minister may not be moved by my own words, I will repeat the words of the Prime Minister when he believed in the powers and supremacy of this place to actually have debate. He stated:

We have closure today precisely because there is no deadline and there are no plans. Instead of having deadlines, plans and goals, we must insist on moving forward because the government is simply increasingly embarrassed by the state of the debate and it needs to move on.

No more than 10 hours after negotiations began, the minister and the government indicated clearly that they would be introducing back-to-work legislation thereby siding with one side of the table.

I cannot understand how the minister and the government do not realize that they poisoned the well of negotiations between employers and employees and have now poisoned the well of the democratic values of this place to have a fair and free debate by invoking closure and shutting down debate in the House for the 23rd time in just over a year.

Where are the principles that Conservative members used to have for the supremacy of Parliament?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Halton Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt ConservativeMinister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, first, I do not think the hon. member meant to say that we had introduced the motion 10 hours after negotiations began. I think he meant 10 hours after the work stoppage began. Negotiations have been ongoing in this matter for many months, with many hours of help from Labour Canada. That is the point.

During all of this time the parties have not been able to conclude an agreement. They have not been able to even agree to a process that they can voluntarily submit to. Now we have a strike that affects the national economy and we need to act because a prolonged strike has a great effect on the prosperity of our country.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, what is clear is that a Conservative majority government does not support democracy within this chamber. We can talk about time allocation records dealing with issues like the Canadian Wheat Board, the pooled pension, copyright bill, gun registry, financial system reviews act, back-to-work legislation for CP Rail today, Canada Post in the past and Air Canada not once but twice. The minister in particular has introduced more time allocations and back-to-work legislation than any minister prior to her.

To what degree does the minister believe that she has any credibility whatsoever when it comes to the issue of having a fair bargaining process? If we talk to the workers, whether of CP, Air Canada or Canada Post, there is great disappointment that the Conservative government does not believe in the free bargaining process.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is the opinion of the member and it is completely incorrect. We truly believe in free collective bargaining. It is a very important part of the Canada Labour Code. That is why we put so much work and effort into trying to help the parties before they actually get to an impasse. Indeed, labour officials, my deputy minister and I, in my role as Minister of Labour, worked many hours with the parties to try to get them to their own deal or to get them to a process. Instead, we have a work stoppage, which is affecting the national economy and the Canadian public interest.

I understand the member has talked to workers. We as well have a greater audience and a greater universe we must talk to and consider. That is the Canadian public in general and it is being affected as well, in industries and in businesses, with possibilities of lay-offs coming in industries that are not CP Rail. That is why it is important to move it forward quickly today.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, it seems strange for me hear the words “we believe in free collective bargaining” from the minister. If the Conservatives believed in free collective bargaining, they would allow that bargaining process to play out. Even before the workers had been on strike for more than a few days, the minister announced that there would be an intervention as soon as the House opened. That took away any incentive from the employer to bargain.

My question for the minister is very simple. Did the minister meet with the employer and tell it that its demands to take away employees' pensions and take more money out of their pocket was contrary to the fact that it made millions and millions of dollars in profits last year?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is where the opposition does not understand the role of government. The role of government is to be the third party to help the parties to a deal. We are not on one side of the deal or on the other side of the deal. I do not give explanations of management or labour to the other side. I am there to help them talk to each other. When they do not talk to each other and we end up with a strike that affects the national economy or the greater public interests, that when we indicated, which we did last Wednesday, that there would not be a prolonged strike and that we would move in this fashion.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, having had an opportunity to read the legislation, it is completely different than past back-to-work legislation that we have seen in this chamber. We have seen it far more prescriptive and almost offensive.

I would appreciate if the minister would explain the shift in the approach of the back-to-work legislation, where this one certainly would not put the same parameters around as did the past two pieces of back-to-work legislation. It allows allow more flexibility with the arbitrator.

Could she explain the rationale as to why she followed this path at this time?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, this legislation clearly would not predetermine any issue. That is still in dispute between the parties, to be a fair and balanced approach in interest-based arbitration. I will also point out that it is very similar, if not identical, to the legislation that was tabled in the House in 2009 with respect to CN Rail. It very much is, and was, the approach that we take with respect to the private companies associated with the railways.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I just heard the Minister of Labour say that the government was not on either side of the negotiations, but that it acted as a third party that intervened when the talks broke off or, it seems, when they were interrupted. It is funny, but this afternoon I really feel like I completely understand the position of the Canadian Pacific workers because in this very House, where there are two parties that should be able to discuss this new bill, the government tells us point-blank after just a few minutes that it will impose closure on us, the hon. members of this House, and that we will have a limited time to discuss an approach as significant as the one the government has now used repeatedly. The same thing happened with Air Canada and with Canada Post.

Is this how the government intends to conduct negotiations in Canada's public and private sectors from now on?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I cannot speak for other matters with respect to time allocation, but I can speak to this specific case.

In this case, we are on day seven of a work stoppage, a strike. We know from past precedents, from 60 years of history, that if the work stoppage is prolonged, rail strikes have dire and serious effects on the national economy.

We have given space at the table for the two parties to negotiate with the help of our labour officials, mediators and ourselves within the ministry. Unfortunately, they have not come to a deal within that timeframe.

We are looking at a situation in which companies are reporting to ministers of transport, agriculture, industry and natural resources that it is getting very tight for people who rely upon CP Rail for the transit of their goods and receipt of their materials. For the greater good of the economy, we feel that when the negotiations have stopped and the work stoppage continues, we really do need to make sure that CP Rail gets working on Thursday.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, in my area we have a commuter rail system that is very important to commuters getting to and from work. I know the minister was involved early on in the conversation to resolve the commuter rail issue. Could she explain what she did there, and what the minister's role was? Overall, what is the role of the Minister of Labour in any dispute that has come to her attention?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, in accordance with the Canada Labour Code, the Minister of Labour actually has no distinct powers to do anything about a work stoppage but to come to Parliament and ask for back-to-work legislation or to work with the parties to get a deal or find a process.

In the case of the commuter portion of CP Rail, in the past, CP Rail and the Teamsters have not made an agreement to provide commuter rail services. What we saw in 1995 was the shutting down of commuter rail services in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto. At the time, 75,000 Canadians could not get to work or get home from work as a result.

It was very important for us, as one of the first steps when the negotiations were coming to a close and the cooling-off period ended, to make sure that Canadians were provided with commuter services, and both parties did agree to it finally at the end.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, this type of back-to-work legislation is far from unprecedented. Unfortunately, this has become common practice.

Can the minister tell us why she is refusing to guarantee collective bargaining and why she has introduced yet another bill to erode workers' rights?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, this back-to-work legislation today is a fair and balanced approach. It does not predetermine any issue and it provides the parties with a resolution to their matter, but from our perspective it also provides something equally important: it provides resumption of the service. In this way the national economy can continue to prosper and grow and the Canadian public's interests are upheld.

Collective bargaining is enshrined within the Canada Labour Code. We do all that we can in Labour Canada to support it, but there is a point in time when the greater balancing has to happen. As government, it is our obligation to ensure that we act on behalf of the entire nation and the economy on which we rely.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister, who has worked extremely hard on this file, not just this week. For several months, she has helped and encouraged the two parties to negotiate.

I am personally concerned about the economic recovery here in Canada. We are all aware that this strike is hurting the economic recovery.

For the sake of everyone in the House and all the Canadians watching us today, I would ask the minister to clearly explain the impact of this conflict on the Canadian economy. What will the impact be if we do not fix this problem?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her question specifically focusing on the economic aspect.

A report in 2009 out of the Rotman School of Management indicated that just in terms of the four bulk carrier areas of oil, oilseeds and grains, pulp and paper products, and coal, a cessation of rail service that would cause these products not to move would entail a weekly cost to the economy of $540 million. That is the cost associated with just those four areas.

Car parts come in through the port of Vancouver each and every day. They are needed for the assembly plants in southwestern Ontario. That is extremely important to our economy. The effect in 1995 is untold, but economists have put it very close to the $3 billion to $5 billion range.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Teamsters Union for bargaining in good faith. We can say they were bargaining in good faith because they did not disrupt commuter transportation.

Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said about CP Rail management. Why would they bargain in good faith when they know that the Minister of Labour is going to interfere with workers and bargaining rights?

This is my question for the minister. Why does she not believe in collective bargaining?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe in free collective bargaining. The bulk of my work as Minister of Labour is to support it and to help provide parties with the space to do that.

That said, I have to commend both the Teamsters, who were first to offer to provide the commuter services—which was a very great gesture—and CP Rail, which at the end of the day also agreed to provide the commuter services.

The parties did work diligently at the table and attempted to find a way, but they were unable to or did not want to. As a result, we are here today to introduce and debate back-to-work legislation so that the trains can commence on Thursday.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah NDP Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have become accustomed to this government's gag orders and strong-arm tactics. Once again, as always, the Minister of Labour wants to use another strong-arm tactic. Here is my question. How far will they go in acting this way?

During the Canada Post negotiations, the government's proposals were well below the salary levels discussed. Tomorrow, by passing the legislation, the minister is going to introduce her own right to strike or lock out.

What is this country coming to? Where is our democracy? Where are the workers' rights?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, in 60 years of parliamentary precedent, rail strikes have occurred ten times, and ten times the government of the day either asked and ordered the workers to go back to work or the companies to end the lockout, the reason being that we balance the workers' right to strike. We recognize it in the Canada Labour Code and there are rules and regulations around it, but we need to balance that against the greater issues of the national economy and the Canadian public interest.

That was measured in 1995. It was measured in 2007. It was measured in 2009, and prior to that in the 1960s and 1970s. It is the same set of circumstances that cause us to come to the conclusion that back-to-work legislation needs to be introduced. The effect on the national economy and the effect on the Canadian public interest is so great from a work stoppage that we have to balance it against the rights of the workers to strike. That is why we are announcing back-to-work legislation.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the minister mention a 60-year history, and she rhymed off some numbers. Can the minister can tell us when it was, during the last 60 years, that we passed back-to-work legislation three times consecutively in one year?

In one year we have had postal workers, Air Canada and now Teamsters. I am wondering if the minister could answer that question. I am sure she does not have those figures.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the year was 1995 and the government was Liberal.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Conservative Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have heard the minister speak about meeting with the parties to try to facilitate a collective agreement. It was the Minister of Labour who assisted in the agreement between the parties to maintain commuter rail service during the strike.

Could the minister further explain the role that she, as the Minister of Labour, plays in these labour relations?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, in an ideal world everything would go as planned, as with what happened with respect to the BCMEA and the longshore in Vancouver. What happened in that case was that the parties remained at the table and were diligent in negotiating. It took two years for us to get to the point of a deal, but they did their own deal, with the help of Labour Canada and myself. They ended up with a fantastic deal. It was good for management and good for employees, and there was a great renewed sense of importance for the Asia-Pacific gateway. That is a true measure of success.

Ending a process by having to introduce and pass back-to-work legislation is not a measure of success. What it indicates is that the parties could not find a deal at the table, and because the strike would have an effect on the national economy, the government needs to step in. That is not what is supposed to happen. We much prefer to be on the side of facilitating the parties in collective bargaining and making sure that they find their own way to a deal or, if they cannot, to a process.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedContinuation and Resumption of Rail Service Operations LegislationGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to know from the minister why back-to-work legislation is being imposed for the third time on a group of employees who have fought for recognition of their right of association and their bargaining rights.

This is the third major union, the third major employer that they have disagreed with. This is even a repudiation of management's negotiators and shows a lack of confidence. They are taking away all the tools that both management and union sides use when bargaining without legal interference.

What kind of labour climate does she think this will create for these three major businesses, these three major entrepreneurs? What will happen? Employees will wind up on unemployment and will be forced to work for 70% of their salary.