Madam Speaker, thank you for letting me have the opportunity to speak today. This is the first time I have risen to speak in debate. I first want to thank voters in my riding of Saint John—Rothesay for electing me. They elected me with a very strong mandate, almost 50% of the vote. I certainly want to acknowledge and thank the great MPs who ran and served in my riding before me: Rodney Weston, Paul Zed, Elsie Wayne, Gerry Merrithew, to name a few. This is a matter of note too. I am the third Liberal MP to serve in Saint John—Rothesay in the riding's history, so I am very honoured by that.
I also want to thank my great campaign team and my campaign managers, Warren Coombs and Warren Long, for their leadership in helping me along the way; and I certainly want to thank my constituents very much.
I was elected on a mandate to stand up for Canada's marginalized and middle class. The past 10 years of the Conservatives' attempts to degrade, demoralize, and dismantle unions cannot continue. That is what Bill C-4 begins to do.
I would like to begin my speech today by highlighting the proud history of unions in my riding of Saint John—Rothesay. We are the first incorporated city in Canada. I am tremendously proud to represent Saint John—Rothesay in the House.
In 1851, believe it or not, Saint John stood as the third largest city in British North America, with a population of 31,000. Saint John was led by the hands of merchants, financiers, railroad men, and most importantly and significantly, shipbuilders, envisioning a prosperous economic centre. At this time, business in our great city flourished, pioneered by the shipbuilding and rail community. Saint John was a stronghold for trade unions. With united and well-represented tradespeople, Saint John was a perfect example of how unions can positively contribute to our communities. Let us not forget that it was unions that built the middle class of our country. It is unions that protect the workers. It is also the Liberal Party of Canada that is standing up for the middle class.
Saint John was a perfect example of how unions can positively contribute to our communities. As a cornerstone of business, unions created a strong and vibrant middle class that built an unrivalled shipbuilding and trade hub for Saint John.
As Saint John proved that the strength of our economy relies on the middle class, bills like Bill C-377 and C-525, and the proposed amendment from across the floor, weaken the labour movement and hold back Canadian potential. The bills must be repealed.
In 2016, unions continue to play a vital role in my riding's economy. I stand up for, and will continue to stand up for, local unions such as our local firefighters union, police union, IBEW, the Public Service Alliance, and many more. We are a union city. That is exactly what Bill C-4 does. It stands up for unions, Canadian workers, and most importantly, Canada's middle class. It is why I whole-heartedly disagree with the amendment presented by the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, and I stand with the government in supporting Bill C-4 as currently written.
Bill C-4 should be supported by all members, without the proposed amendment, for two reasons. Bill C-377 creates unnecessary red tape for unions. Bill C-525 was supported without evidence, and neither unions nor employers wanted it. The amendment only seeks to undermine the purpose of Bill C-4, by pitting employers against employees.
At the time, the Conservative government claimed Bill C-377 was in large part justifiable due to the complaints received from union members. Let us be clear. These complaints represented 0.0002% of the over 4 million union members in Canada, while pre-existing legislation from both provincial and federal governments already required unions to issue financial reports and make them available to members.
This did two things. It created a massive unnecessary administrative burden as well as put unions at a major disadvantage during collective bargaining, making it more difficult for unions to influence the Canadian labour landscape. That is not what this government is about. In fact, it was the right hon. member for Calgary Heritage who stated in January of 2011: “Cutting red tape is a most effective way to show that we are making government work for people, not the other way around.”
The opposition could not justify support for Bill C-377 then, and it cannot justify it with these proposed amendments.
The amendment presented before the House speaks specifically to Bill C-525 and the certification and decertification of unions. This amendment seeks to oppose the exact goal of this bill. It cites legislation that was baseless and without evidence in 2014 and continues to be so in 2016. Bill C-525 was presented on the basis of consultations with labour unions and employers. However, neither employers nor unions sought out these changes or identified a single problem in the process in relation to this amendment.
Opposing this amendment upholds the commitment of our government to building evidence-based policy. If the Conservatives ever looked at considering the evidence, they would have found that their so-called mountain of complaints, which is how it was described at the time, was a whopping six complaints out of 4,000 decisions the Canada Industrial Relations Board made in the past 10 years. Although I am not a member from British Columbia, six out of 4,000 does not seem to be a very big mountain.
This amendment states:
...the bill violates a fundamental principle of democracy by abolishing the provision that the certification and decertification of a bargaining agent must be achieved by a secret ballot vote-based majority.
In fact, it does the complete opposite.
This amendment promotes a system that unions in Saint John—Rothesay and across the country agree has not been working well.
Bill C-525 eliminated card-check certification and added an unnecessary second step for certification. It has become an invitation for employers to interfere with the democratic right of workers to choose representation. Amendments made to this bill in 2014, went even further on the Conservatives' assault of democracy and the attack on unions by further lowering the threshold for decertification applications to reach a vote. It undermines collective bargaining and, to be clear, the Canadian labour movement.
I would like to clarify what the secret ballot vote-based majority discussed in the amendment actually means. It requires any organization seeking certification as a bargaining agent to enter into mandatory voting and replaces the card-check system whereby employees voice their willingness to form a union by signing a union card. In the system imposed by Bill C-525, unions require support from 50% of all employees instead of 50% of the employees who voted. If we were to apply this same logic to the 2011 election, which elected the previous Conservative government, it would have received only 23.6% of the vote, not even half of what is now required to form a union.
Numerous unions from my riding have voiced their opposition to Bill C-525, arguing that the card-check certification model is quicker, more efficient, and more likely to be free of interference.
In conclusion, as the member of Parliament from a community with a proven union track record, I unequivocally support Bill C-4 without the presented amendments. This amendment is just like Bill C-525, which is a complete assault on unions and especially employees. It has created a diluted form of democracy that gives employers too much influence over the creation of a union, and attempts to fix a problem that never existed, and is based on evidence never existed.
I am standing up for unions, and for the unions in Saint John—Rothesay, by saying no to this amendment and yes to evidence-based policies.
In closing, I would like to thank union leaders like Dave Stevens, Peter Anderson, Abel Leblanc, Pat Riley, Chuck Hickey, Darlene Bambridge, Debbie Ferguson, and other great people in the riding of Saint John—Rothesay, for taking a leadership position and helping unions grow in Saint John—Rothesay.