This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

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

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, we have heard from the other side with regard to the legislation that has been presented in this particular case. As we know, this is the fifth time that we have seen back-to-work legislation come from the government. Certainly in past cases, when we look at Canada Post, we saw legislation that came forward that was very restrictive and prescriptive. It really tied an arbitrator's hands. It really tilted the scales toward the company in that particular case. The Air Canada back-to-work legislation was a very similar case.

The minister is trying to shine her halo here by saying that this is a less egregious piece of legislation because the Conservatives have left a lot to the arbitrator. What the Conservatives fail to understand is that it is the actions of the past that have really set the dial. Last week she triggered the fact that she would be coming with back-to-work legislation. That tilted the whole issue toward the company and put the workers at a disadvantage.

I would like my colleague's comments on that.

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, it is exactly as I said in my speech. If the minister keeps saying in advance that the government will legislate people back to work because of the economy, that is what will happen.

Imagine what the Conservatives have done in the previous bill they put forward. It was not enough that Canada Post had given an increase of 2%. The Conservatives turned around and put in a decrease through the bill, making it a 1.5% increase. I bet Canadian Pacific thinks it will get that too. It is not enough that it was bringing the pension down by 15%; it probably thinks it could get a 30% decrease.

That is what the government has created with its mentality of hating the working people of our country.

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

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I will have to stop the hon. member there, as his time has expired.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Jonquière—Alma.

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

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry NDP Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, to begin with, I would like to say that workers have the right to organize, to choose their union and to negotiate. No contract, no work.

The employer also has rights. It has the right to manage its plants, to manage discipline, to manage labour, to organize the work, to negotiate collective agreements and to lock out workers. As we have seen here in the House, the employer has another right, and that is to call on the government to force workers back to work, despite their collective agreement. That is a new right, according to what we have seen in the House since 2011.

Regardless the colour of their party, every elected member of the Government of Canada has to listen to the men and women they represent. Unfortunately, since May 2011, I get the impression that the opposite is happening here, and I sense the contempt for workers.

I am a union worker. I feel the contempt; I feel it in my bones. That is what I am feeling in this House: contempt for workers. Yet they are the ones who keep the government working. They are the ones who contribute, who pay our salaries so that we can make decisions. They are entitled to keep the rights they have today, the rights our parents fought for.

Once again, we are presented with special back-to-work legislation. What a surprise. Were the Conservatives elected by large corporations or by Canadians? Do they think that Canadians gave them a mandate to scare labour organizations? I doubt it.

After what the Conservatives did to the employees of Canada Post, Aveos and Air Canada, now they are getting ready to stick it to the Canadian Pacific employees. The message they are sending to employers is crystal clear: if you have problems with your union, do not negotiate; we will introduce special legislation to force the employees back to work. The continuation and resumption of rail service operations legislation is unhealthy and irresponsible. Do you have any idea of where that will leave us at the end of the day?

What a great way to ruin democracy and humiliate those who want to stand up for their rights. The Conservatives want to make employees more dependent on their employers and to make secure jobs insecure, but at what cost? Let me remind you that we are talking about people who are free, free to choose, free to have the lives they want and free to say yes or no. It is a right people have here in Canada because they fought to have rights.

There is an imbalance of power because of a party that is systematically threatening the gains that unions have won in the past. The vast majority of Canadian workers, unionized or not, enjoy the rights for which workers have fought. No matter what the government says, it has to protect those legitimate rights that are essential to labour peace.

Sometimes, it seems that the government says one thing to voters and then does the opposite. At least that is what we are seeing from the other side of the House. I do not believe for a second that the government is impartial in its decisions. I do not feel that its actions are for the common good. How can it prove me wrong? The corporate tax giveaways give us a very good idea of how they see the common good.

I do not want to say that the Conservatives are acting in bad faith, but right now, their party is showing an intolerable contempt for Canada's low income earners. Their party is insulting the intelligence of those who understand their little game. In addition, the Conservative Party is denigrating unions, which are the source of almost all social movements in Canada. There is nothing to be proud of.

Do you see what is happening in Quebec at the moment? Ask your Quebec colleagues what has caused this crisis and its consequences. Do you not feel things sliding out of control? Always taking the same side is a huge risk. How much is peace worth in financial terms? I ask the question because telling the truth is important. Knowing the consequences, are my Conservative colleagues really going to keep putting social peace at risk in Canada?

Earlier, I heard some hon. members opposite say that the NDP was made up of people who are against everything. The Conservatives say that we are in the workers' camp and that it is too expensive when the country has to be saved. In my riding, factories have been shut down, jobs have been lost, workers have been locked out and plants have been moved to the United States. The cost to the community is in the millions of dollars. No one on the other side of the House has said a word. So the Conservatives have nothing to teach us about standing up for Canadian workers. This is bullshit, and that is putting it politely.

I must certainly take a moment to congratulate the workers at Canadian Pacific. Despite everything, they have maintained rail service to Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver so that Canadians are not the victims of this labour dispute.

Nobody is surprised when the government tries to stir up panic by saying there is an urgent need to restore services, but nobody believes it either. We must condemn this abusive behaviour. Let us not allow this government to destroy social peace.

Surely we all know the story of the boy who cried wolf. I certainly do not need to remind anyone of that. This will end very badly in 2015.

If the government is in such a rush to intervene in workers' lives, let it start by creating good jobs and good working conditions for workers. The job market is collapsing, new jobs are mediocre more often than not, and Canadians’ standard of living is declining before our eyes. Those should be our priorities.

As I have said before, people have the right to be represented, to organize in unions, and employers have rights too. What I have seen in this House since May 2011, with Air Canada, Aveos and so on, it is that the government intervenes when it suits them. It does not intervene when there are job losses, or when plants relocate, even when it could have had something to say about that. Some of our dams and rivers belong to foreign capital interests. That is unacceptable.

The government's “we know best” attitude is insulting. It is insulting because we come from the union community and we are workers. The government should not spit on the workers. We are here this evening because it is the workers who pay our salaries.

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

May 29th, 2012 / 7:45 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I am really disappointed in that member in terms of his unparliamentary language here in the House of Commons. I think he owes all parliamentarians an apology and should withdraw those remarks.

Second, I would like to point out that CP Rail is a vital link to the west coast for produce and products leaving Canada and coming into Canada. With this strike there is a huge potential to damage Canada's international reputation as a reliable supplier.

I know that the member is being pulled by the strings of his union bosses. My question to him is this: do the union bosses who are pulling his strings want to bring the Canadian economy to the same level as we see in Greece?

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

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry NDP Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I do not need to withdraw my remarks because I insulted no one. I come from the labour community. I have my language. I have my ways of thinking and speaking. I insulted no one. I named no one in this House.

I talked about the Conservative government, which is thumbing its nose at us, belittling us, regarding us with contempt. And I should apologize to them? I said nothing wrong. I gave my opinion. I was elected to represent the workers and to give my opinion. That is how it works, and I will not withdraw my remarks. If my colleague is unhappy, he should come and see me.

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

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I would appreciate it if you would have the blues checked and ask the member to repeal his comments and apologize to parliamentarians for his use of that type of language here in the House of Commons.

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

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have to say to the hon. member for Medicine Hat that I did not catch what was said in terms of the complaint, but I would be happy to check the blues and get back to the House as to whether or not the member should withdraw the remarks.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt.

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

7:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, a lot of economies are going into default, and my colleague from the Conservative Party happened to mention Greece. I would like to point out that it is not just Greece; it is also Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland.

I know there is passion when we are talking about the workers and the Teamsters, but there are only two teamsters in this. I and my colleague from, I believe, Vancouver could probably start a union.

My question to my hon. colleague is this: does he not feel overwhelmed that the Conservative government, one year after the election when it got a very large majority, is able to do whatever it wants?

I would also like to point out that the Conservatives would not have gotten a majority if it was not for the NDP taking the Liberals down in 2005.

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

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I do not believe it was the NDP that took the government down; it was Canadians who did that.

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

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry NDP Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, to answer the question, when I arrived in this House in 2011, I was retired. I am a factory worker and a former union president. I am not a puppet. I have a lifetime of experience behind me. I worked in factories for 35 years. I know how it goes.

I came here to work, regardless of party. I often say that in the House. I try to work with people to make progress for Canadians. That is what I want. Yes, I am disappointed because I expected we would be doing more for Canadians. That was my goal in this House. I can work with anyone in this House, if we are making progress for the country and our people. That is what I have in my mind. For the moment, yes, I am disappointed, because I have felt disrespected since 2011.

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

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the last thing that would occur to me would be to accuse my hon. colleague of beating around the bush.

In view of the disputes at Canada Post and Air Canada, and now at CP, has my colleague seen anything in his riding, which is particularly affected, to indicate that bargaining between employers and employees is changing?

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

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry NDP Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have a major dispute, a lockout, in Alma. We are seeing organizational changes being made. There is a lot of talk about pensions. That is being talked about here. The people and the unions are worried. They see what is happening in the paper and aluminum industries. They see that public and private pension funds are short of money. Yes, everyone is worried.

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

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise and contribute to the debate on Bill C-39, the restoring rail service act.

Let me come right to the point. Our government has decided that it is necessary to bring in legislation to end the work stoppage at CP Rail. I am speaking of the work stoppage resulting from the outside disputes between the Canadian Pacific Railway, CP Rail, and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, the TCRC.

The TCRC represents 4,200 running trades employees at CP. The running trades include locomotive engineers, conductors, baggagemen, brakemen, car retarder operators, yardmen, switch tenders and locomotive firemen. It also represents 220 rail traffic controllers.

I would like to talk a little about the history of the dispute at CP Rail. As members know, the collective agreements for these two groups expired on December 31 of last year. Negotiations for a new collective agreement for both units began in October 2011. In March of this year, the labour program appointed conciliation officers to help the parties conclude an agreement. However, sadly in my view, these efforts were unsuccessful.

On May 1 of this year, the parties were released from conciliation. On May 16, the Minister of Labour offered the parties extended mediation to help them reach agreements, or at least move forward on some of the remaining issues from the bargaining table that included pensions, wages, benefits and working conditions. However, sadly, this offer was declined.

On May 22, the Minister of Labour again met with the parties. While she was able to get the parties to agree to maintain commuter rail services, the parties were unable to reach an overall collective agreement. On May 23 of this year, the strike began. That brings us to the unfortunate situation we are faced with here tonight in this House. The strike has caused a complete shutdown of CP Rail due to the lack of personnel trained and certified to work as conductors, engineers and rail traffic controllers. The legislation we are proposing would resume services at CP Rail.

What are reasons for this legislation? We understand that labour dispute legislation is rarely popular. Canadians are rightfully concerned about preserving the right to strike or lockout. Of course we have heard a great deal about that from our friends on the other side of the House. We do not come to this legislation easily. We regard it as a last resort, but certainly a necessary last resort for reasons that I am going to briefly outline.

Our government has compelling reasons for intervening in this particular case. Most important of these reasons is that a continued work stoppage at CP Rail will seriously and possibly irreparably damage the Canadian economy.

We have used this argument before to justify pre-emptive, back-to-work legislation, but the danger was real then and the danger is real today. Our recovering economy is still fragile and it cannot afford a sustained work stoppage in a major transportation mode.

I am not exaggerating when I say that CP Rail is a major transportation mode. Let me give this House an idea of some of its operations. We can think of CP Rail as a ribbon of steel that extends from the Port of Metro Vancouver to the Port of Montreal, with connections to the U.S. industrial centres of Chicago, Newark, Philadelphia, Washington, New York City and Buffalo. We are talking about a 22,000 kilometre railway network.

CP Rail operates in British Columbia, my home province of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, as well as in 13 American states. Through agreements with other carriers, CP Rail extends its market reach east of Montreal into the Maritimes, and south throughout the U.S. and all the way into Mexico.

According to Transport Canada, in 2010, CP Rail handled the shipment of 74% of Canada's potash, 57% of Canada's wheat and 53% of Canada's coal. Let me put this in dollar figures. Every year CP Rail moves $5 billion worth of potash, $11.1 billion worth of grain and $5.25 billion worth of coal. The total value of freight moved in Canada by CP Rail every year is $50 billion.

These numbers are so large that they are difficult to comprehend, but I think Canadians can understand that when the movement of commodities like wheat, coal and potash is interrupted, reverberations are felt throughout the entire economy.

The Minister of Labour has met with some key stakeholders, including CN Rail, VIA Rail, Port of Metro Vancouver, TSI Terminal Systems Inc., Potash Corporation Inc. and Teck Resources, which is a coal company. When she asked them how they would be affected by a CP Rail work stoppage, they confirmed it would be devastating to their businesses.

The different transportation modes in this country are all linked to each other and function best as part of an integrated whole. The rail-based logistics system is complex and involves a range of associated operations, including terminal operators, transloaders, ports, shipping lines and trucking firms. When even one of these operations shuts down, the problem can cause congestion and delays that affect all of the other modes of transportation. That is what we are currently faced with.

Many Canadian enterprises depend on efficient and reliable rail services. The sectors that use rail transport contribute significantly to the Canadian economy. The four key industries that use bulk shipping are oilseed and grain farming, coal mining, wood products manufacturing, and pulp and paper. These industries add more than $81 billion to Canada's GDP annually and account for close to one million jobs.

It is not an over-exaggeration that a work stoppage at CP Rail is particularly bad news for the forest industry, which is still struggling to recover from the economic downturn. It is a hard blow to the automotive industry because imported auto parts travel by rail. It is also a serious hardship for Canadian wheat producers. Work stoppages in the rail industry are very disruptive to the flow of products like these. It often takes several weeks for operations to recover after disruptions.

CP Rail is also a vital link in moving freight to and from Canada's west coast ports, which are an integral part of the Asia Pacific gateway. The work stoppage is preventing our ability to keep products moving between Canada and Asia and threatens Canada's reputation as a reliable place to do business. There are no good alternatives to rail.

Now that CP Rail is sidelined, are there other rail companies that are able to take over? The answer is no. The ability of CN Rail to handle additional freight is quite limited. For example, for a commodity like grain, CN estimates it can pick up less 10% of CP Rail's capacity. VIA Rail could not mitigate the damage caused by this work stoppage because it is a passenger rail service that is not equipped for freight. Rail is a relatively cheap and efficient way to move bulky products. In fact, most commodities that are currently moved by rail cannot be transported by alternative means, such as truck or barge. Even when there are alternative carriers, the cost and requirements of switching may be restrictive.

This work stoppage could not only lead to shutdowns and layoffs in many industries, but the added costs of transportation would be passed on through the supply chain to the Canadian consumer, leading to higher retail costs for many of the goods that I have just outlined. Just to give one rather obvious example, a prolonged work stoppage at CP Rail could affect every Canadian simply by raising the price of bread.

The government does not use this type of legislation without careful deliberation. Our government's use of legislation to end labour disputes in the rail industry is not unprecedented. In fact, the Government of Canada has taken this step eight times since 1950, which would show the importance of rail movement to Canadians.

The last time there was back-to-work legislation involving CP Rail was in 1995 when minister of labour Lucienne Robillard introduced Bill C-77, the Maintenance of Railway Operations Act. The act ordered a resumption of operations at CN, CP and VIA Rail and the establishment of mediation-arbitration commissions for each of the bargaining units.

The Canada Labour Code specifically recognizes that free collective bargaining is the basis for sound industrial relations. When collective bargaining fails, the code gives the parties the right to strike and lockout. Government intervention is used only in situations where the public interest or the national economy is threatened. That is the case here.

As we know, in March 2012, the government brought in an act to provide for the continuation and resumption of air service operations to prevent work stoppages at Air Canada by the Air Canada Pilots Association and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. We did that to protect the public interest. The government will continue to use its legislative powers to protect Canadians from strikes and lockouts that could paralyze Canadian infrastructure.

Labour stability in the railway transportation sector is critical to the functioning of the Canadian economy and to our continued recovery. Therefore, in a country as large as Canada with such vast distances over which products must be moved, it is imperative that the rail lines continue to operate. For those reasons, I urge all hon. members to support the quick passage of Bill C-39.

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

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the motion now before the House.

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

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

8 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

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

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

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

8 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

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

8 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #230

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

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

[For continuation of proceedings see part B]

[Continuation of proceedings from part A]

Restoring Rail Service ActGovernment Orders

8:45 p.m.

Halton Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt ConservativeMinister of Labour

moved that Bill C-39, An Act to provide for the continuation and resumption of rail service operations, be read the second time and referred to a committee of the whole.

Mr. Speaker--