Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise at this point in our study of the bill, which we will oppose for various reasons.
First of all, this bill covers workplaces under federal jurisdiction, which tend to be key sectors for our economy such as railroads, air transportation, ports, and telecommunications. These are key sectors not only for our economy, but also for our security.
Imagine a labour conflict in the communications sector that prevents a company from operating. How could people use 911?
Imagine a labour conflict in the air transportation sector that shuts down an airport. What would happen? The whole community would suffer, and the repercussions would reach near-global proportions in the transportation sector.
Since this affects key sectors, the situation is much too delicate for a measure like this. If the bill goes through, the House of Commons could end up spending its time passing back-to-work legislation, and nobody wants that.
We think that the current Canada Labour Code strikes the right balance and that the balance of power between employees and employers is fair. If we pass this bill, it would prevent companies, mainly SMEs, from hiring replacement workers during disputes and upset the balance of power at the negotiating table. Let us not forget that striking workers can always go work somewhere else. However, under the bill, SMEs would not be able to hire people from outside.
In our opinion, this disrupts the balance of power that must exist between workers and employers.
As the Coalition of BC Businesses said during an appearance here in Parliament in 2007:
...[the] options a small-business owner faces in this so-called level playing field are essentially three: to shut down; to give in to union demands to avoid a strike that it knows it cannot withstand; or thirdly, in the event of a strike, to seek a quick settlement rather than a settlement that serves the long-term viability of the enterprise and the jobs it supports.
This imbalance could ultimately be harmful to the workers because if the business closes its doors, everyone loses. That would also be harmful to the Canadian economy.
Earlier, when referring to studies, the hon. member mentioned that it is always tricky to quote studies because it depends on who conducted them.
I would like to talk about four studies commissioned by the Government of Canada, including the 1968 Woods commission. That goes back a long way, but it shows that this is not the first time that we have talked about this issue. In 1968, the Liberal government created the Woods commission, which found that these sorts of changes should not be made to the Canada Labour Code because the balance was being respected.
In 1996, the Sims task force, set up by the Right Hon. Jean Chrétien's Liberal government, found that the measure proposed by the NDP would not be good for the economy and would disrupt the balance of power between employees and employers.
In 1999, Cramton conducted a statistical study that analyzed 4,340 labour contracts in Canada from 1967 to 1993. The study found that in provinces that had this type of legislation, labour disputes lasted an average of 54 days longer than in provinces that did not have such legislation. Strikes therefore lasted 86 days. The same study found that this type of legislation increased the probability of a strike by 15% to 27%, depending on the industry.
Finally, in 2007, a study conducted by the department of employment and labour found that there was no evidence to show that a law prohibiting employers from hiring replacement workers reduced the number or length of work stoppages. On the contrary, this type of legislation was linked to an increase in the number and length of strikes.
I spoke about four studies, one conducted in 1968, one conducted in 1996, one conducted in 1999, and one conducted in 2007. The studies commissioned by the Government of Canada found that this sort of legislation is not a good thing. We need to keep that in mind.
Quebec has this type of legislation. It was implemented about 30 years ago. According to a study conducted by the Canadian Bankers Association, which compares Quebec and Ontario, this situation led to 90% more labour disputes in Quebec, and in 87% of cases, those disputes lasted longer in Quebec than in Ontario.
Unfortunately, the numbers speak for themselves. We do not think that this policy, this proposal, is good, which is why we will vote against the bill. We must not forget that this could have a devastating effect, or perhaps more of a very negative effect, on the Canadian economy. In the context of globalization, in which the economies of our cities are not competing against each other, but are competing with the economies of foreign countries, if we unfortunately pass this law that weakens our balance of power in the foreign market, we will only hurt ourselves.
This law exists in Quebec, and I can say that no one has died as a result. However, I am a member of Parliament from Quebec and I wish this were not true, but the Montreal Economic Institute conducted a study, which showed that, sadly, private investment rates in Quebec were 25% lower than in other Canadian provinces.
Therefore, we must be very careful for reasons linked to key sectors, Canadian economic security, and also goods and people, because we already have measures that strike a balance and four studies conducted over the past 50 years arrived at the exact same conclusion, namely, that we must not touch this sector. In fact, the Quebec experience shows us that this can be worthwhile in some respects. However, it can cause more and longer labour disputes.
In closing, I would like to sincerely congratulate and thank the member for Jonquière for introducing this bill. She is a new MP. She has been in the House for only a few months and she has already introduced an important piece of legislation. I salute her. We should remember that this is not the first time. I see some veteran MPs. I will not say that their hair is greyer than mine, but they have more experience than I do, and they can attest to the fact that this is not the first time that such a bill has been introduced. More than 15 such bills have been introduced, the fact that we do not agree with them does not mean that we do not respect them.
That being said, I heard people on the government side earlier arguing their point of view. What did the governing party say? It said that it would vote against the bill because it believes that bills like these should come through what it calls the front door. Bills like these regarding labour relations should not be private members' bills. They need to come through the front door, as government bills.
That party keeps going on and on about its lofty principles regarding labour relations, protecting workers, protecting widows and orphans, and protecting unions. If the Liberals are willing to walk the talk, I encourage them to introduce a bill, and not a private member's bill, but a government bill that gets to the bottom of the issue. Those people believe in this and I respect them. I do not share their point of view, but they were duly elected by Canadians and I respect them. Clearly, the people who form the government are saying that they will not touch the bill because it is a private bill, although they are using the wrong term. It is a back door bill.
I want to make this clear. As far as I am concerned, everyone here is equal and everyone has the right to table a bill. I do respect them, whatever they want to do or say. I respect the fact that we are all members from the front door, not the back door. I remind members of that.
I respect you and I hope that one day you will table a bill. I will never call your bill a back door bill. You are a front door member. It will be a front door bill.
I really salute my NDP colleagues. Although I do not share their point of view, I have to commend them. I have seen the work they do. We will be voting against the bill because we have convictions. It seems to me that they do not really want to talk about the matter.