Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to speak on behalf of Davenport residents on Bill C-29, which would require employees and employers at the Port of Montreal to resume operations. There is currently a work stoppage due to a long-standing dispute between the Montreal longshoremen's union and the Maritime Employers Association. Unfortunately, this bill is urgently needed.
The Port of Montreal is the second-largest container port in Canada. Every year it handles around 40 billion dollars' worth of goods. The current work stoppage is causing dire economic impacts in Montreal and across the country. It has health implications, and it is threatening the viability and reputation of the port. These reasons and more are why it is important to pass this bill immediately.
I know the Minister of Labour introduced this bill with a very heavy heart. She is the daughter of a steel worker, and I know she felt it was her last option. I also know it was our government's least favoured option. We believe in the collective bargaining process. We believe in our workers' right to strike. In the heart of my own riding of Davenport, which is mostly composed of working-class communities and has many first-generation Canadians, many constituents are part of a union. Unions protect them, ensure safer and better working conditions, and ensure fair pay for their valuable working contributions.
To this day, Davenport continues to be home to working people. I, myself, am the daughter of working-class immigrant parents. I grew up appreciating the value and dignity of labour, and the need for fair, safe and healthy workplaces. There are many unions in my riding that are active. They are pillars of the community in Davenport. I want to thank them now for everything they do to protect the rights and interests of our workers.
In the case of the Port of Montreal, our government has demonstrated our commitment to the collective bargaining process. In this case, through over two and a half years of mediation, CUPE Local 375 and Maritime Employers Association have been at the table since September 2018. Our federal government has supported the mediation process since October 11, 2018.
Our government provided significant support in making our top mediators available to them to help them reach a new collective agreement, and this amounted to 100 days of mediated bargaining. Very little progress has been made. Both parties remain far apart, and there is now a work stoppage with enormous implications. The broad economic and health consequences of the current work stoppage have left us with no choice but to take this step.
I want to echo something the Minister of Labour said when she introduced this bill. When a work stoppage impacts only the workers and the employers in question, there is no justification for the government to intervene, but in this case, the dire, long-lasting impacts to the economy of Quebec, eastern Canada and the entire country are so severe that the government must protect all the other jobs that are at stake.
Let us talk numbers. Right now, the current strike is halting the flow of around $270 million per week. Economic modelling puts the cost to our economy between $40 million and $100 million per week. The port has experienced a 10% decrease of container volume, estimated to be worth $30 million per week for the month of March 2021, compared to the previous year. The volume of containers arriving at the port bound for the Canadian market has declined by 9% year over year, while the volume of containers bound for the U.S. market has declined by 19%.
The work stoppage is paralyzing the port, forcing companies to reroute their supply chains and incur significant additional costs in the process. In addition, this is happening during a pandemic when our businesses are already under enormous economic strain and stress. This only adds additional, unwelcomed pressure at a time when too many companies are just trying to survive.
Let me bring it back to my own riding and the people I have the absolute honour of serving. My riding of Davenport in downtown west Toronto is home to many Portuguese speakers, including those from the Brazilian-Canadian community. They, and many stakeholders specifically from the Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce, have raised with me over the past year the issue of the disruption of trade between Canada and Brazil and the impact it is having on many small businesses here in Toronto and the broader GTA.
There are so many other stakeholders who are being impacted in Canada, including farmers, who have been waiting for seeds and fertilizer, which they need to arrive on time. It impacts their livelihoods. It impacts our food supply chains and business contracts.
There are 19,000 direct and indirect transportation jobs at the Port of Montreal that are being impacted, including rail and trucking jobs. As well, there are 250,000 jobs in Montreal and another 273,000 manufacturing jobs in Ontario that are also very much impacted.
Other industries in Canada also depend on the goods that flow through this port. Many, as I have mentioned before, are already struggling to adapt and recover from the COVID recession. The diversion of ships to other ports, including those in the United States, could permanently change shipping routes and cut Montreal out of important supply chains for the long term. Canada's reputation as a reliable trading partner is at risk, and the reputation of the Port of Montreal is at risk as well.
The work stoppage also has implications for the health of Canadians. As the minister has mentioned a number of times, right now there are ships waiting that are holding life-saving medicines and medical equipment, some of which is COVID-related. I understand that the minister has heard from many who have said that this strike has life-and-death implications as many hospitals are waiting for medicines and medical equipment.
Let me touch on the key things the bill would do. It would extend the expired collective agreement until a new collective agreement comes into effect. It would prohibit any other work stoppages until the extended agreement expires. It would require the minister to appoint a mediator-arbitrator, one who is jointly approved by the parties or, failing that, a neutral person of the minister's choice. It would refer all disputed matters to the mediator-arbitrator, and it would require them to attempt to resolve the dispute within 14 days.
It would also empower the mediator to resolve outstanding issues to arbitration if mediation fails. It would provide for the new collective agreement to become binding for the two parties when the mediator-arbitrator reports back to the minister. If, on the other hand, the parties reach a new collective agreement before the mediator-arbitrator reports back, that new agreement would be binding instead.
There have been a number of objections raised over the course of our discussion yesterday and today, and one of them is that the government has not done enough. I think that the minister and many of my colleagues from all parties have pointed out, particularly colleagues from my side of the House, that we have spent an exorbitant amount of time trying to make sure that we have offered every available tool to allow the two sides to come together. We have offered our best mediators, and they have accumulated over 100 hours of mediation time. We have also offered whatever other tools are available that could be at their disposal. Unfortunately, the two sides are still too far apart.
Some may also say that this legislation takes away bargaining powers from the parties. I would say that, on the contrary, the parties are still negotiating now. The minister has strongly encouraged them to reach an agreement before this legislation is passed because that is the best way to actually reach an agreement. We know that the bill also contains several key provisions to keep the collective bargaining process going.
The bill creates a clear path to finally resolve the dispute in a way that is fair and that is neutral. We do not want to disrupt the collective bargaining process. Our government believes that both sides getting together to reach an agreement is one that is good for both of them without the government getting involved. To us that is absolutely the very best outcome. Hopefully that is where it will end up.
If circumstances were different, our government would not be intervening. We would let the bargaining process continue, but in this case, unfortunately, the cost of the work stoppage to other Canadians is too great. Therefore, our government is introducing the bill to mitigate those harms to other Canadians, workers and businesses, and to give the parties a pathway to a new and fair collective agreement.
I trust that my colleagues in all parties will agree that these dire circumstances leave us no choice but to introduce this bill in this House. We have to have this debate and this vote. We are asking for all sides to say that this is a reasonable step for us to be taking at this point, as we have exhausted all other options.
We are coming to the end of my time. I think I probably have about a minute left. Is that right, Mr. Speaker?