Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster.
It is always a privilege to stand in the House to speak on behalf of the constituents of Kelowna—Lake Country. Today, I rise to speak to the government's legislation, Bill C-58, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Canada Industrial Relations Board regulations. The bill has two main elements. First, it would affect the use of replacement workers only in those workplaces that fall under federal regulation. To be clear, this is not for federal public sector workers. Second, the bill would amend the maintenance of activities process. Again, to be clear, this is not for federal public sector workers. This is only for companies that fall within federal regulation.
If this legislation is so fantastic for workers, as the labour minister and other Liberal members say, it is extremely curious that the Liberals did not implement it into the contracts it negotiated just recently in the federal public sector. The Liberals plan to enforce legislation for the private sector that they themselves will not be held to. The golden rule of doing unto others as one would have them do unto oneself does not exist for the NDP-Liberal government.
One of the most interesting parts of this legislation is that, if it were to pass through the House of Commons and the Senate, and receive royal assent, it would not come into effect until after the next election. Here we have another example of the Liberal government promising sunny ways now and pushing off the effects its policies would have until after an election.
One of the great privileges of serving as the shadow minister for employment and workforce development is the number of meetings and conversations I have with workers, including unionized workers. I have talked with many workers from many different industries across many provinces in the country, in Yukon, and in my community.
Most workers whom I have talked to have top priorities in their concerns with tax increases, inflation and interest rates eating away at their paycheques. These are the top issues they bring up with me. I have had workers talk to me about concerns with stable EI programs, access to training, temporary foreign workers, better access to professional testing, and the ability for people working in the trades to expense items such as tools.
I was recently speaking to a young man who is a construction worker who told me that he has a place to sleep, but it is not a home. Even though he has a good job, he does not feel like he will ever own a home. We know it now takes 25 years to save for a home in Canada. There are so many good jobs that either have left the country or have evaporated, but the NDP-Liberal government does not want to talk about that.
Let us look at the forestry sector. Thousands of good-paying jobs have been lost in my home province of British Columbia alone. These were good-paying jobs supporting families. It is not like there was less of a need for softwood lumber or pulp, but due to the Liberal government's not negotiating a softwood lumber agreement with the U.S., a lack of business confidence and an unfriendly business regime created by the government, the jobs have gone south of the border. The Prime Minister promised a new softwood lumber agreement within 100 days of his first election in 2015. We are now thousands of days past this, three U.S. presidents later and no closer to that agreement.
Mills have shut and thousands of jobs have been lost in B.C. alone. This is another broken promise. Two hundred workers whose livelihoods supported their families in my community of Kelowna—Lake Country lost their jobs when the mill closed. The Liberals were not successful in negotiating a softwood lumber section into CUSMA either. They left it up to negotiating a separate agreement, and this has not happened.
In the energy sector, over $100 billion in investments evaporated with project cancellations under the NDP-Liberal government, and tens of thousands of jobs have either been lost, or there were lost opportunities. Many cited Canada's red-tape regulatory regime as a major barrier. There used to be direct flights to Fort Mac from Kelowna International Airport, with families living in Kelowna or Lake Country. When there were massive layoffs in the energy sector early in the Liberal government's time, the flights stopped.
Around this time, I recall speaking to a family where the husband had a good job working for an oil and gas company, and his company laid off a lot of its workforce. The only work he could find at the time was cutting lawns, and he and his wife had to make the tough family decision for the wife to go back to work, even though, with two young children, she did not want to. Even with them both working, they were making less than his one previous job in the energy sector. She was also no longer able to volunteer at the kids' school, and it created a lot of coordinating challenges with activities in the family. These are the tough decisions parents make every day. If the government were truly concerned about workers, as it says it is, it should focus on making sure there is investment in Canada and removing red tape and bureaucracy. It should stop stifling business and focus on creating well-paying jobs.
The anti-energy Prime Minister and radical activist environment minister have shrunk Canada’s energy workforce while promising a “just transition” that cannot guarantee workers the same pay or benefits. The government’s own document on the just transition refers to affecting 2.7 million workers' jobs within the energy, manufacturing, construction, transportation and agriculture sectors. Let us not forget the anti-energy industry bill, Bill C-69, parts of which have now been deemed unconstitutional.
The Prime Minister said there is no business case for LNG, yet the U.S. has become a major exporter in the world in just a few years. This is another lost opportunity for Canadian workers. If the NDP-Liberal government is so concerned about replacement workers, why did it seemingly negotiate an agreement in Windsor, Ontario, which will include foreign replacement workers? The Liberals originally called this disinformation, but we now know and have confirmation from the very company hiring the workers that at least 900 taxpayer-funded foreign replacement workers from South Korea would be brought in to work on that plant, which would be subsidized by 15 billion taxpayer dollars.
The executive director of Canada’s Building Trades Unions has called the decision to allow foreign replacement workers to replace Canadian jobs at the EV battery manufacturing facility in Windsor “a slap in the face” and an “insult to Canadian taxpayers.” We now know that the Northvolt project in Quebec will bring in taxpayer-funded foreign replacement workers as well.
The government needs to make public copies of all contracts, memorandums of understanding or any other agreement between any minister, department, agency or Crown corporation of the Government of Canada, as well as all companies it has announced tax breaks and subsidies to in relation to battery production. When the Liberals put taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars, the jobs those subsidies pay for should go to Canadian workers, not foreign replacement workers. Common-sense Conservatives are calling on the Prime Minister to release the documents for all these taxpayer-funded battery plants, so Canadians can see if the Liberal government did anything to secure guarantees for Canadian workers.
Let us talk about another recent broken promise of the Liberal government, with the announcement that it will now be raising EI premiums on every paycheque of workers in Canada in 2024. Just seven months ago, in budget 2023, it said that premiums would not be increased. The government’s inflationary deficits have crushed the purchasing power of workers' paycheques. Inflation increases the costs of basic necessities, and food inflation has been even higher. Despite the finance minister’s victory statement in September, inflation is still high; the Prime Minister's promise of bringing down food costs by Thanksgiving has come and gone. We know there is a record number of two million Canadians using a food bank each month. Rents have doubled, and taxes such as the carbon tax keep increasing. Families of all generations are being squeezed; they are on the edge of not being able to fulfill their financial commitments and pay their bills.
After eight years, inflation and interest rates at generational highs are impacting workers and their families everywhere they turn. Only a Conservative government will focus on making life more affordable and removing red tape and bureaucracy so Canadians can bring home powerful paycheques once again.