Mr. Speaker, today I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Vaughan—Woodbridge.
I am honoured to give my maiden speech on Bill C-4, a bill that would re-establish a productive balance between unions and employers. I represent the riding of Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, where many proud union brothers and sisters reside, work, and prosper together. The building trades, teachers, electricians, labourers, police, steelworkers, carpenters, and many others work to build this prosperous and peaceful city through their ingenuity and stubborn belief in hard work that should be rewarded with fair wages, safe working conditions, and equality of opportunity.
These are the values that I grew up with. Unions were a big part of my life and my family's life for the last two generations. I am the daughter of a proud steelworker. My father, Phil Tassi, was a millwright at Dofasco. It was through his hard work and passionate commitment that my family prospered and that I, with my brothers and sister, were able to build lives founded on security and stability. In fact, my sister, my brothers, my mother, and I all worked in the steel industry.
While Dofasco was never unionized, it benefited from what other unions in Hamilton attained. The hard-won achievements of unionized labour set an example for my father's employer to give its workers comparable rights, safety, and wages. This is but one very personal example of how unions directly and indirectly have improved the lives of Hamiltonians.
When conditions are at their best, unions, employers, and government work together to build safe, prosperous, and stable communities. It is this balance that Bill C-4 seeks to re-establish. This bill sets right what was skewed by Bill C-377 and Bill C-525.
Hamilton is a city whose history is closely connected to the labour movement. It was in Hamilton that the movement for the nine-hour workday in Canada was started. It was in Hamilton in 1920 that Katie McVicar and Mary McNab, who were shoe workers and members of the Knights of Labour, fought for the rights of women to join the labour force and to be respected.
It was in Hamilton in 1935 that steelworkers organized a strike. Their employer did not accede to their demands. However, a greater victory was achieved. The union expanded to include all workers, regardless of skill or nationality. That was progress. These are the footings of the middle class in Hamilton: strong, built of cement, steel and hard work, wrought by the hands of people who believed in themselves and in one another.
Unions have been creating conditions where individual workers can be resourceful, innovative, and contribute to an employer's intellectual capital. That is good for workers and for business.
The Prime Minister has made a commitment to restore a fair and balanced approach to labour relations in this country. This will be a welcome relief from the previous government's approach, where labour and employers were pushed apart by legislation aimed at dividing and separating, rather than creating a healthy balance between worker and employer.
One only needs to look to Hamilton to see how a city can be built up through labour success and ravaged when industry declines. Even former Conservative Senator Hugh Segal criticized Bill C-377. He stated:
This will actually worsen labour relations in Canada, slow economic development, and upend the balance between free collective bargaining, capital investment and return, which are vital to a strong and free mixed-market economy. As a Conservative, I oppose the upending of this balance.
There is no need for Bill C-377. We already have legislation in place to ensure that unions are financially accountable to their members. All of this is referred to in the Canada Labour Code. The needless red tape created by Bill C-377 creates an unfair playing field, where unions could be disadvantaged during collective bargaining. We believe in fairness for both parties during collective bargaining and feel that tilting the game in favour of one party is an affront to the ancient principles of fairness upon which Canadian democracy is founded.
The introduction of Bill C-377 in the House of Commons was an affront to Hamilton's working people. It was a bill designed to solve a problem that did not exist. No one I know in Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas has ever told me they are clamouring for the far-reaching and personal information this legislation was designed to uncover.
Why was the last government interested in the private, personal information of union members? The Income Tax Act protects taxpayers from revealing their personal financial information. Yet, Bill C-377 reversed those protections and will force the disclosure of people's personal information to the general public. That is one of the reasons we are repealing this unnecessary and mean-spirited bill.
Unions have an important role to play. This repeal would allow the unions to continue to focus on finding their members work in this challenging economy, rather than focusing on mountains of unnecessary filings to the CRA.
Unions are democratic organizations and they are accountable to their members. If members do not like what unions are doing with their money, those members can vote their leaders out.
In fact, Bill C-377 requires that labour organizations disclose information that no other organization is required to disclose. That is not fair treatment.
There has been some discussion in the House about how other countries in the world require disclosure. Let us consider some of the facts.
I believe one example of France was raised. However, in that country, not only do the unions report but the employers report, too. In the United States, legislation similar to Bill C-377 has existed for a number of years, but one could argue that it has done little to further the cause of transparency and accountability.
Having discussed Bill C-377, I will briefly consider the ramifications of Bill C-525.
Both the Federally Regulated Employers—Transportation and Communications and the Canadian Labour Council have argued that Bill C-525 establishes a dangerous precedent for labour relations law reform in Canada.
Traditionally, in Canada, any amendments to labour relations law have been arrived at through tripartite consultation between employer, labour, and government. This tripartite consultation has been considered essential by stakeholders to the maintenance of a labour-employer balance. Bill C-525 was introduced as a private member's bill, and private members' bills are outside the traditional tripartite process.
The tripartite process encourages balance between labour and employers. However, the previous government chose to use a back door to pass its legislation instead. This demonstrates a clear and utter disregard by the previous government for Canada's democratic tradition in labour relations law.
Bill C-525 is also an anti-union bill. More specifically, by requiring a secret ballot vote, Bill C-525 adds an unnecessary layer to the process of union formation. Bill C-525 makes it more difficult for employees to unionize and easier for a bargaining agent to be decertified.
As I have already said, organized labour has provided stability and security to workers. To impede unionization is to hold workers back by making them fearful of being thrown into precarious working conditions. This makes people focus on the short term. It makes them anxious and tentative, rather than open and confident.
Hamilton and Canada were built by proud, confident workers. I came to Ottawa to represent a city that grew out of the fires of industry, through hard work, sacrifice, and care for each other. When Hamilton was most productive, it was because of labour, employers, and government working to create a safe, stable, and prosperous city, where people could innovate and create from a place of relative security. This collaboration depends on a balance between labour and employers, which was upset by the ideology of an anti-union agenda of the previous government.
Bill C-4 would be a positive step toward righting the balance between labour and employers.