Mr. Speaker, I reluctantly rise today, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, to speak to a bill that takes away one of the most basic rights of honest workers. I would like to begin by stating that I stand with the workers who are facing strong-arm tactics and who are being denied freedom of expression and the power to negotiate. The government is treating them like cattle, but Quebeckers see them as people. We recognize their work, we appreciate the service they provide and we are with them.
Taking away workers' right to strike makes government less democratic and more authoritarian every time it happens. In 2015, the Supreme Court was clear about that in its decision.
The ability to engage in the collective withdrawal of services in the process of the negotiation of a collective agreement is, and has historically been, the irreducible minimum of the freedom to associate in Canadian labour relations....the right to strike is an essential part of a meaningful collective bargaining process...
I am not the only one to have said it today. It is a quote from the Supreme Court.
This is a ruling from 2015, not 1822. Many things have happened since 2015, starting with a federal election that put the Liberals in power. Unfortunately, there is the same corporate culture as there was under Paul Martin. When a party moves to the other side of the House of Commons, it leaves a lot behind on the opposition benches, starting with its honour.
Let us begin by making one thing clear. “A rotating strike is not a strike, it is a pressure tactic used to force a negotiated settlement.” It was a fine, loyal Liberal who said that. The former mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre, who lost the election, said that on June 23, 2011, when the Conservatives wanted to ram special legislation down postal workers' throats.
I want to clarify something else. Special legislation is the kind of last-resort measure a government uses to end a strike that has been dragging on and on and is affecting essential public services. It is not a measure to be taken lightly before strike action even begins in earnest. The government is not taking a last-resort measure today; it is literally depriving postal workers of their right to strike. Special legislation makes no sense when there is not even a strike on. Others have said so before me. The current Minister of Transport, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, said exactly that on June 16, 2011, when the Conservatives were trampling on postal workers' rights with their own special legislation.
Does it come as any surprise to anyone that the Liberals would say one thing while in opposition and do exactly the opposite when in power? No.
Here in the House and elsewhere, people are used to Liberal ways. The Liberals are always like that. It is really something to see the government spend its time boasting about what a tough negotiator it is with respect to protecting the right to strike around the world in talks with its trading partners, when it is now suspending that right here at home. That comes as no surprise to anyone. Everyone knows that when it comes to workers' rights, the Liberals and the Conservatives are cut from the same cloth. The two parties are one and the same.
By imposing special legislation, they both infringe on workers' rights. It is shameful. By imposing special legislation, they both fail to show a modicum of respect for workers. That too is shameful. By imposing special legislation, they both conduct negotiations in bad faith, and that too is shameful.
Liberal or Conservative, the federal government is and has always been the government that treats its employees the worst. No one in the two major government parties cares about job security. That is what the little people care about. They are elitists. Workplace health is important to people who do physical labour, who work outside. Very little thought is given to that in ministers' wood-panelled offices. The only workplace injury they might get is a paper cut.
It is no coincidence that postal workers have been treated to special legislation in 1987, 1991, 1997, 2011 and today. That is how it works in Ottawa. It is 30 years behind Quebec when it comes to labour law. It is no coincidence that it is only at the federal level that employers still have the right to hire scabs when workers are on strike. It is no coincidence that it is only at the federal level that the right of Quebeckers to work in French is violated.
It is no coincidence that the federal government is the only one that could not care less about the safety of pregnant women and their unborn babies, since it will not let them apply for preventive withdrawal without penalty when the job becomes dangerous.
This is what happens when a government is so high and mighty and so far removed from the real world that it knows nothing about how things work in real life for ordinary people.
I introduced a bill to fix all of this, but even before it was debated, I could already tell what the two federal champions of management were thinking. They always side with the employer, never with honest citizens who simply want to earn a living with dignity.
In the face of so much bad faith in a case like this one, we have every right to wonder why the government will not back down. There are a number of possibilities. The first is that the Liberals are once again beholden to the web giants, and their campaign coffers are filled to the brim with donations from these giants, much like the Prime Minister's bank account was filled with money from Chinese bankers in July 2017.
The second possibility is that the government does not understand the issue, which is improbable, but would not be surprising.
The third possibility is that the Liberal members are, as usual, weak, spineless and gutless in the face of cabinet, which is helping itself to billions of dollars in public money to enrich its buddies, as we saw with the cannabis industry. What a bunch of cowards.
If I were a Liberal member of Parliament, I would be embarrassed to walk down the street and meet my constituents. If this were the wild west, the Liberals would be tarred and feathered. They would be paraded around town so they could feel the weight of the shame and contempt they inspire. A good Liberal MP is an obedient sheep who licks the master's boots. They should be ashamed of what they are doing.
It should come as no surprise that the Bloc Québécois sides with the workers and strikers and will vote against this bill.