Madam Speaker, the act to provide for the continuation and resumption of rail service operations is designed to address the labour dispute between CP Rail and two units of approximately 4,420 employees, rail traffic controllers, locomotive engineers, conductors, train men and yard men represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference.
Our government has grave concern regarding the complete shutdown of the services of CP Rail, which is having a negative impact on Canada's economy. The global economy is extremely fragile, especially in Europe.
Our government’s priorities are job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity. The work stoppage at the Canadian Pacific Railway is costing the Canadian economy more than $540 million every week, and if it goes on, it could endanger the jobs of thousands of Canadians.
Our government has taken the first step toward enacting back-to-work legislation, to end the work stoppage at Canadian Pacific, in the interests of the Canadian economy. This bill will end the work stoppage and will submit the disputes between Canadian Pacific and the TCRC to an interest-based arbitration process.
Canadians have mandated our Conservative government to protect our national interests in a period of global economic uncertainty. The message cannot be clearer. We need to protect the people of Canada and the economic recovery upon which we are all counting. If we are to enjoy growth and prosperity in the years ahead, it is clearly the only course of action. I cannot emphasize too strongly that time is of the essence here, and that is why we must act now. We must stop the harm to Canadian businesses and restore confidence.
I will give the House an indication of the kinds of businesses that are being harmed as a result of this work stoppage. According to CP Rail's annual report, 44% of CP Rail's revenue is generated by the transport of bulk commodities including grain, coal, sulphur and fertilizers; 30% from merchandise freight including industrial, consumer and automotive products; and 26% from intermodal traffic. By intermodal traffic, we mean the movement of goods by more than one means of transport. In Mississauga—Brampton South, we are a hub for intermodal traffic. We are home to many trucking freight haulers. These run the spectrum from self-employed new immigrants to large logistics firms. The nation's largest airport is next door and more than 12,000 businesses surround our airport, and most rely on intermodal transport in some manner. With no trains running, the implications of this work stoppage are widespread.
In addition to impacting intermodal traffic, halting the movement of different types of commodities, the work stoppage is also impacting our local auto industry. Auto parts are the third-largest container import good that enters Canada through Port Metro Vancouver. This work stoppage is preventing these parts from being shipped to manufacturers in my community in Ontario. Without the parts they need, assembly lines may slow or stop, resulting in lost production and, depending on the duration of the work stoppage, possible layoffs of our neighbours.
As members can see, countless employees in diverse sectors of our economy are affected by the shutdown of CP Rail. Weston Forest Products, one of my local companies, which relies on CP Rail to transport lumber, has had to alter its business models and it is costing it greatly. My neighbours in Mississauga—Brampton South are concerned about the economy and therefore would like to see an end to this dispute as soon as possible.
CP Rail annually transports freight in Canada valued at about $50 billion. Transport Canada tells us that in 2010 CP Rail handled 74% of potash, 57% of wheat, 53% of coal and 39% of containers moved in our country. CP Rail's network operates in six provinces and thirteen states. This network extends to the U.S. industrial centres of Chicago, Newark, Philadelphia, Washington, New York City and Buffalo. Agreements with other carriers extend CP's market reach east of Montreal, within Canada and throughout the United States and into Mexico. These geographical names alone tell us how strongly CP Rail is written into the story of Canada's economic success, not only for transport of goods within the country but also for trade with other nations including ones in Asia.
CP Rail is a vital link in moving freight to and from Canada's west coast ports, which are an integral part of the Asia-Pacific gateway. This work stoppage is undermining Canada's reputation as a reliable place to do business, a setback from which it could take years to recover lost business for Canadians.
The Minister of Labour has heard from numerous stakeholders, who have all been very clear in urging the government to take action to prevent a prolonged work stoppage at CP Rail.
The minister has heard from the automobile sector, which is very worried. Many of my neighbours who work at Ford are somewhat concerned. Ford relies heavily on rail for the transport of parts and finished vehicles across the country. If the strike is prolonged, Ford will be forced to make some tough decisions on whether it can maintain production operations during a strike. We have also heard from GM, Honda and Toyota. Automobile manufacturers are worried. They are nearing the point of having to shut down their plants temporarily.
As we heard from the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food earlier, farmers and others in the agricultural sector are worried. There are not a lot of options when it comes to transporting goods. The trucking industry cannot pick up the slack for CP Rail's work stoppage. The movement of goods will be stalled.
I know that every member of the House wants to see Canada's economy grow and our success as a nation continue. We want to retain our enviable position of being one of the few nations in the western world to weather the global economic downturn.
The MPs sitting across from me in the House may not always agree with us on the best ways to keep Canada's economy strong; nevertheless, we are all of one mind when it comes to this common goal.
Our Conservative government continues to work diligently to ensure we have all the right factors in place to maintain Canada's economic success story, and Canadians can be proud that ours is a story envied by many other countries. Canadians welcome our investments in people, families and communities throughout the nation. They see that these investments work and they are counting on us, with good reason, to help them build for their very secure future.
Our concern is that the stoppage at CP Rail is jeopardizing our work and our achievement today. It is putting our economy seriously at risk. As we have witnessed time and time again in Canada's history, the best and longest-lasting solutions to labour disputes occur when the parties come together to resolve their differences without a strike or lockout. It is very heartening that when the labour program's professional mediators and conciliation officers get involved in negotiations, 94% of the disputes are resolved without a strike or lockout, and this is undoubtedly the best option. Regrettably, agreements were not reached and a strike has occurred. When the national economy and the public interest are affected, as they are in this case, our government has no choice but to act.
To round out my remarks on this situation, I would like to give the House some background on the dispute. On December 31, 2011, the collective agreement expired for both units of employees represented by TCRC. The parties began negotiations earlier in the fall. On February 17 of this year, the Minister of Labour received notices of dispute from the employer. On March 2, the labour program appointed conciliation officers to work with the parties. The parties were released from conciliation on May 1, 2012, and began a strike on May 23.
The Government of Canada has done its utmost throughout the negotiation process to encourage both parties to reach agreements. However, despite assistance from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the parties were unable to resolve their differences. In fact, the parties declined an offer by the Minister of Labour to provide them with extended mediation. They declined the offer.
At this critical juncture, we must take action as parliamentarians. We must end the rail service stoppage that is undermining the economic recovery of all Canadians.
We have worked very hard to nurture this economic recovery. I therefore urge all members of the House to support this bill. Let us do the right thing for Canadians. Let us do the right thing for my neighbours in Mississauga—Brampton South. Let us take action to protect our economy.