Madam Speaker, I am pleased on this snowy Tuesday morning to have an opportunity to voice my concerns about some of the legislation passed by the previous government. It is a part of the things that we are going to have to fix.
Bill C-4 is sound legislation that has been written in collaboration. I emphasize that word because it is important when we are producing legislation that it be done in collaboration with the people who are going to be affected. That was not done in the previous government. It was done through a private member's bill, not through the government introducing a piece of legislation the proper way. It was done through the back door, and I am sure we will see that attempted again. However, this time the Conservatives are on that side and we are the government.
Labour stakeholders are important people for us to be talking to when we are putting legislation together, and we have the intention of reversing several destructive policies from the previous Conservative regime. Specifically, Bill C-4 will repeal Bill C-377, Conservative legislation that promised to upset existing labour relations and did just that. It ignored the fact that union financial disclosure, which they continually talk about, is already addressed in the Canadian Labour Code and many provincial labour statutes. It failed to recognize that Bill C-377 is discriminatory against unions and ignores other types of organizations. It is one of those pick and choose options, which was very typical of the previous government. Why were professional associations not part of that? They also received favourable treatment under taxation law, but no one said anything about the professional associations and promised to invade the privacy of labour organizations and their members.
Obviously, the underlying intention of Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, the other legislation being repealed by Bill C-4, was to attack organized labour. I am pleased to say, thank goodness that assault is over, which brings me to the second point.
Bill C-4 marks the end of the federal government's intentional confrontation with labour. Most who follow these matters will readily admit that Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, both brought in by the previous Conservative government, were part of a hostile attitude toward labour and labour supporters. Bill C-4 will help to set that relationship back on a positive path, something that would improve working conditions, advance productivity, help create jobs, and continue to build this great country of ours.
Of course, creating jobs, promoting innovation, and improving productivity were key planks in our Liberal platform. Moreover, our government recognizes the important role that unions play in protecting the rights of Canadian workers and in helping the middle class grow and prosper. I am pleased to add my support to this approach.
We on this side of the House are committed to fair and balanced federal labour policy, and one of those steps is what we are doing today by repealing Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. Bill C-377 had nothing to do with efficiency. There was a lot of talk about that, but it had nothing to do with efficiency. It actually created new and unnecessary red tape for unions. This happened because the government imposed new demands on workers, even though the Canada Labour Code and many provincial labour statutes already ensure financial accountability from unions. This costly by-product of a vindictive and anti-labour government put unions at a disadvantage during collective bargaining, hindering productivity at the front end of the process.
Then, just to make things worse, Bill C-525 made it more difficult for employees to unionize and easier for a bargaining agent to be decertified. This negativity, which is a continued rant on unions, took a toll on labour and the environment in which they have to function. Bill C-4 is part of our government's plan to ensure that Canada's labour laws best serve employees, and, very importantly, employers, which by extension also serves Canadians. Put another way, when labour is successful, our economy can prosper in ways that ensures prosperity is felt by each and every Canadian, not just a select few at the top of the corporate ladder.
It is also worth noting that Bill C-4 does more than stop the federal government's attack on labour; it also responds to very serious concerns expressed by experts all across Canada. For example, the Alberta union of public employees launched a constitutional challenge against Bill C-377. While the court proceedings have been temporarily suspended, given this government's stated intervention to repeal the bill, the underlying concerns remain valid. Privacy concerns were also raised by the Canadian Bar Association and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. The CBA suggested that the bill may be subject to legal challenges on those very grounds.
Despite all of this, the previous government plunged forward with its ideologically driven legislative agenda, which showed indifference to the Canadians who were suffering and the difficulties it was creating in our economy and our country. This is just a small snapshot of the trouble prompted by the passage of Bill C-377.
Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island are all on the record as opposing Bill C-377. Those seven provinces, bastions of manufacturing, resource extraction, hospitality and tourism, and countless other sectors that are vital to GDP maintenance and growth, all called on the previous federal government to stop the assault against labour.
Let us stop to think about the fact that seven of our ten provinces were actively opposing this and the Conservative government did not care. It did not matter to the Conservatives. They had their own ideology, and that is what they were working with. These seven premiers specifically raised concerns that Bill C-377 encroached upon their jurisdiction over labour issues. They also criticized the bill for potentially destabilizing their labour relations environment, particularly with respect to collective bargaining processes. These premiers know that kicking labour does nothing to advance job creation or industrial growth or relationships.
Three of the provinces, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, also criticized Bill C-377 for eroding the privacy rights of union members and expressed concerns that it would create an unnecessary burden on labour organizations. These premiers understand the added dangers of more red tape.
However, Bill C-377 was not the only problem with the labour agenda of the Conservatives. Sadly, for a government that pretended to have a strong fiscal management style, much was lacking in its approach. It could be argued that multiple recessions, waning consumer confidence, and shaky job numbers all bore witness to clear Conservative fiscal failures.
Bill C-525 was equally problematic for many stakeholders. A number of labour organizations, such as the CLC, Unifor, the Air Line Pilots Association, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the Public Service Alliance of Canada, all expressed opposition to Bill C-525, arguing that the card check certification model is quicker, more efficient, and more likely to be free of employer interference.
However, good governance was not the goal of Bill C-377 or Bill C-525, which is why Liberals in the Senate and the House opposed the legislation. Of course, debate is healthy and something we want to see happen, especially when it comes to any measure that impacts such a large section of society. Unfortunately, the process used to pass Bill C-525 did not allow debate to surface. That is because the previous Conservative government introduced their agenda in Bill C-525 via a private member's bill rather than government legislation. If the government is serious about doing something, it introduces its own legislation; it does not do it through a back door via a private member's bill. This may seem like a nuance, but the tactic is not without compromise and consequences. Government legislation is introduced after public consultation and outreach. A private member's bill comes with no such effort, and it shows in the diminished quality of the statute.
All labour organizations in Canada, including even the smallest locals and national unions, labour councils, federations of labour and other umbrella organizations, as well as intermediate organizations, were left out of the process by the previous government. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has said that more than 18,000 labour entities would be affected by the implementation of Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, yet the government of the day locked them all out of the process. That is wrong. Bill C-4 would make things right again.