Mr. Speaker, I want to start by saying that my colleague from Thérèse-De Blainville gave an excellent speech.
I think that we all need to learn from her compelling experience in organized labour, and the government would do well to listen to people like her.
The situation we are in right now is a little unusual. The strike at the Port of Montreal was not unexpected, since this labour dispute has been going on for months. Some time ago, there was an agreement to proceed with negotiations without a lockout or a strike. The government even appointed mediators.
Everything had been going well. There was even some hope that this dispute could be resolved. However, as the months passed, it became clear that things were not looking quite so rosy. Newspapers have reported that the employer unilaterally decided to change shift schedules. The union took that move as a sign of disrespect during the negotiating process. Tensions escalated, and workers started floating the idea of going on strike.
There were snubs from both sides throughout the months, yet the government was nowhere to be seen. Its only contribution was to say that it was thinking of introducing special legislation. It missed the point. The Liberals are constantly boasting about defending workers' rights and repealing some of the laws passed by the Harper government. There may be some truth to what they say, but, at the end of the day, it is just like everything else. The Liberals talk about climate change, but they keep subsidizing oil companies. What is more, they are not doing a thing to address the issue of tax havens.
I will get back to the Port of Montreal, but it is still interesting to see that, in the end, it is the same story with workers' rights.
The same thing happened with Aveos workers. Air Canada violated both the terms of the contract and the law when it shut down the aircraft maintenance centre in Montreal. The Liberal Party promised Aveos workers it would support them. What did it do once it came to power? It amended the act in such a way that Air Canada did not have to respect workers. Clearly, the Liberals can be counted on to say one thing and do the opposite.
The urgent matter here is not the Liberals. The urgent matter is finding a solution so the Port of Montreal can keep operating. We know there is a problem. In a perfect world, a work stoppage at the port should not have an impact on Quebec's economy. This is serious. The employer should not be allowed to rest on its laurels because of this special legislation. It should not be allowed to avoid negotiating because it is going to get special legislation that will give it everything it wants. That is not how it works, but the Liberals seem to think that is how it works.
When the Liberals talk, they almost sound like the NDP. When they act, however, they are more like the Conservatives. It is a little hard to figure out how they think. The fact is, we are always disappointed, and that is a shame.
There was a truce that lasted several months, so the government had time to see what was coming, and yet it did absolutely nothing.
I myself have had discussions with the Port of Montreal. My colleague from Thérèse-De Blainville has had discussions with the union. What has the government done? When did the Minister of Labour talk to them? When did the Prime Minister talk to them? For them, the solution is simple. They just wash their hands of it, since special legislation will make sure there is not a single day of strike action. I have to say, that is weak. Everyone agrees that a negotiated agreement is better than one imposed by special legislation. Imposing special legislation is like dictating to them how things are going to go and telling them to just suck it up.
I am trying to imagine how the workers will feel the day after this vote, when working conditions are imposed on them. Do members think those workers will feel like going back to work? Do members think the workers will be happy about the situation? Do they think that the Port of Montreal is going to come out the winner in the end?
The way I see it, if workers do not feel like going to work because they do not feel appreciated or respected, then there is a good chance that they will be going in reluctantly and will not be as productive. Generally, after a labour dispute and difficult negotiations, and especially after being told by the government to suck it up, workers may need time to calm down. The situation needs to be defused. The parties need to find a way to open a dialogue and work together. It is impossible to do that when one side is saying that it has all the power and the other has none. The government has a strange way of looking at things.
I am also surprised that the government is using the strike argument. It is saying that avoiding a strike is crucial. If workers go on strike, it is the end of the world.
There is no hiding the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, there will clearly be economic repercussions that no one wants. The Port of Montreal, the maritime employers that employ the workers, and business people have all said that the port must not be shut down. The workers never said that they wanted the port to shut down. They said that there would not be a strike if the new shift schedules that were unilaterally imposed during negotiations were rescinded.
It makes me wonder. I am not in the shoes of the port workers or the administrators. However, I imagine that if there were no special legislation, I would ask myself if I wanted to shut down my port. I could lose customers if the port shut down, and Quebec would not be in happy. If the government said that it would not pass special legislation, perhaps I would sit down, negotiate and try to keep the port open because I want goods to keep moving. Perhaps that is what would have happened. Perhaps the Prime Minister or the Minister of Labour could have picked up the phone, called the port representatives, the maritime employers and the union members and asked them if there was any way to lower the temperature a little, cool off, step back and for each party to give a little. Instead, the government is siding against the workers, and that is unacceptable. I hope that the workers will remember this.
This has happened before. The government has let conflicts escalate. It never seems able to take action or be proactive when issues arise. The conflict with the Wet'suwet'en went on for months, and the government was not even able to speak to them. It did not want to. The Wet'suwet'en were blocking rail lines all over the place, but the federal government claimed it was a provincial jurisdiction and that it did not want to get involved. It was mind-boggling.
The same thing happened during the CN strike. It took a propane shortage during that labour dispute for the government to wake up and realize that it should maybe facilitate dialogue. It is frustrating when a government does not have its act together and simply gives up. A government's job is to govern, not to constantly impose decisions or take sides. The government's job is to help improve these situations. That takes dialogue and a little moral authority, not just the government's usual heavy-handed approach.
Today, the Liberals have tabled special legislation, after waiting until negotiations hit a wall. I think that, although we are disappointed, it is not too late. I think the government could still change its mind. It still has a chance to recover its sanity and realize that if we really want a balanced society, that happens through free collective bargaining. A balanced society can only be achieved through dialogue, not through imposing work conditions or through a government taking sides. We need a government that can bring some common sense to all this. That is what I am asking of the government going forward.