Mr. Speaker, thank you for that information.
I would like to begin by saying that I am not a big fan of the Winnipeg Jets, unlike my colleague who spoke before me. I must admit, however, that after their win last night, knowing they are the only Canadian team still left in the running for the Stanley Cup, I was actually happy for them. It would be great to bring the Stanley Cup back to Canada, hockey being our national sport and all. That is the end of my comments on hockey. Let us get back to Bill C-49.
Mr. Speaker, you said I will not have my entire speaking time before question period. I want you to know right away that I have deliberately chosen not to use all of my time, if only for the sake of consistency when we are talking about the urgent need for action, while the Liberals insist on just talking.
This is about consistency, and I hope there is also some symbolic value here, since one cannot speak from both sides of one's mouth at the same time. One cannot suggest, as I did with my motion here this morning, to return Bill C-49 for royal assent as soon as possible by accepting the two minor amendments that remained out of the ones proposed by the Senate and, at the same time, launch into these endless, long-winded speeches on a bill that will have a real impact on the ground for those who are waiting for this to be resolved, one way or another.
I would like the Hansard to reflect the reasons why senators are insisting on these two amendments to which the Liberal government has unfortunately closed the door.
The message is that the House respectfully refuses the amendments, but I fail to see any respect in all this, except perhaps for the wording of the message. What did the senators send us as justification for insisting on these two small amendments?
I will read their reasoning, not only because I agree with it, but also because I believe that it is important to put it on the record. Why was the Senate so emphatic about its amendment? Let me quote the Senate:
That the reasons for the Senate’s insistence on its amendment 7(c) be:
“because all regions of Canada should be treated equally, with fairness and respect. ...because shippers in the Maritimes will continue to have access to other shipper remedies in the Act. As the proposer of the Senate amendment pointed out in committee, this is unfair for the maritime region, since there are roads and therefore other modes of transportation in areas like Prince Rupert and northern Quebec where an exemption is provided.”
The House no doubt knows that NDP members are not huge fans of the Senate, and especially an unelected Senate, but since this is the way things are for now, I must recognize a job well done.
It is not true that the only job of an opposition party or member is to oppose everything, all the time. I remind members that an opposition member's job is not to oppose everything, but to point out things that could be improved in a bill, to make it as close to perfect as possible. Every bill can be improved upon, and the government that sets the legislative agenda should be open to amendments that make sense. These amendments did not pop up out of nowhere. They are the result of discussions with experts in House committees and parliamentary committees.
I want to talk about another reason why the Senate asked and insisted that its amendment no. 8 be recognized, and I say “asked” because we now know that this request has been denied. I want to share the following quote from the Senate:
That the reasons for the Senate’s insistence on its amendment 8 be:
“because this amendment entitles a shipper to obtain a determination of the railway’s cost of transporting its goods to assist an arbitrator in final offer arbitration to determine whether to select the offer of the carrier or the shipper. By declaring that final offer arbitration is a commercially based process and not cost-based, the House of Commons has removed that entitlement from the shipper;”.
That explanation is as clear as can be, and it is indisputable. Anyone who has negotiated a contract or a collective agreement under arbitration knows that the parties are more likely to reach a fair agreement when there is a balance of power. If Bill C-49 makes that impossible, it is obvious which party stands to benefit the most. The purpose of the amendment was to restore a level playing field and ensure that the arbitrator making the final decision will have the tools to make an informed decision in the event that the process does come to fruition. Even that idea was rejected by the Liberal government.
In light of this morning's decision to reject the amendments, it is once again very clear that the Liberal government is always trying to cozy up to big business, which I imagine can be very generous when it is time to fill the campaign coffers. I suppose I could be wrong, but I will leave it up to everyone to observe the political game-playing. Later today, we will be debating Bill C-76, which is about new election rules. There again we will see how the Liberals want voters to make decisions based on money instead of the various parties' development philosophies. I will have more to say about Bill C-76 later. I will leave it at that for now.
I quoted the Senate's explanations so that they appear in the Hansard, but since I have a few minutes left, I would like to point out everything that this bill does not do. The matter of contracts is urgent, but so is the development of a passengers' bill of rights, which air travellers have been waiting for for years. In the previous Parliament, the NDP tabled a document—it was not even a bill—that sought to examine the possibility of putting regulations in place before the next election as the minister saw fit, but I would be willing to bet that the Liberals will wait until just a few months before the 2019 election is called to introduce the passengers' bill of rights.
It is clear that this government is not here to serve its constituents but to further its election strategy. Meanwhile, all this time, Canadians have been waiting for a real passengers' bill of rights that would ensure that they are compensated in situations like the one we saw here in Ottawa with Air Transat only a year ago. The passengers' bill of rights is also long overdue. When Bill C-49 finally receives royal assent, we will still not have a passengers' bill of rights. All we will have is the first step in a process to develop a bill of rights in the future.
Bill C-49 is absolutely unbelievable. If the Liberals wanted to take quick action on grain transportation, they could have done so. Let us remember that, at the beginning of the process, we proposed dividing Bill C-49 to quickly examine the aspects that addressed grain transportation, but this government refused to do that. We also proposed to extend the measures taken by the previous Conservative government so that farmers would not be left in limbo when the temporary measures ended and before Bill C-49 came into effect.
There are many causes for concern with this bill, and we cannot understand why the Liberal government is not more open to the amendments that are being proposed.