Mr. Speaker, I am proud to speak in Parliament today in favour of Bill C-58, a historic piece of legislation. It is a piece of legislation that is in support of workers, and in support of their fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively.
Fundamentally, this legislation is about fairness. By banning the use of replacement workers, also known as “scabs”, we are supporting fairness, and the right of workers to exercise their fundamental rights.
Before I go on, I want to make sure I mention I am splitting my time with the member for New Westminster—Burnaby.
Many may wonder why this legislation is necessary. We know that, historically, there are employers who have done what they can to attack workers and to undermine their rights. We know that scabs are often brought in during lengthy strikes, and it is not about providing essential services or other excuses that employers might use. It is about breaking workers. It is about breaking unions. We are all worse off for it.
This legislation matters in my riding. I am proud to be from northern Manitoba. I am proud to be from Thompson, a working-class town, a mining town and a union town. I am proud to have been a union member before I got into politics. I am proud to represent communities like The Pas, Flin Flon, Churchill, Norway House and others where workers have a history of standing up and fighting back.
Manitoba has a long history of labour activism. We all know the general strike of 1919 where there was a violent repression against workers fighting for their rights. There have been many strikes and walkouts in the history of our province here in northern Manitoba. We know that workers have stood up with everything they had to fight for better wages, for safety in their workplaces, and for support for our communities and our region. They have fought for all of us.
Let us be clear about the fact that anti-scab legislation is a victory for working people everywhere. I am proud to be in the NDP, a political party that supports workers. We are part of a movement that was created, of course, in large part by workers and organized labour. We, in the NDP, are unequivocal in our support of workers and workers' rights, rather than the billionaire-class, corporate coalition the Liberals and Conservatives always fight for.
Workers, as represented by organized labour, have made this call for anti-scab legislation for years, and the NDP has been there to support them every step of the way. Eight times in 15 years the NDP has introduced anti-scab legislation. We know that the B.C. NDP government brought in anti-scab legislation years ago. I also acknowledge that Quebec has had anti-scab legislation for a long time. I hope the newly elected NDP government in Manitoba brings anti-scab legislation into force as well.
At the federal level, we must acknowledge that this is a historic moment. This is historic legislation. It feels like this time, the Liberals will finally pause their corporate, anti-worker coalition with the Conservatives for a brief enough time to pass this vital piece of legislation. It is legislation that, even through the negotiations with the Liberals, they had to be pulled kicking and screaming toward the finish line. Finally, we have it in sight.
What workers are used to from the Liberals and Conservatives is lip service and not a whole lot else. I, along with my colleagues, hope that we can strike down the 18-month implementation period that is far too long for Canadian workers.
We know that when not one billionaire tax cheat has been punished for parking their money in offshore tax havens, and when billionaires are given a free ride time and time again, we all see the power imbalance in this country for what it is. We see it when the Liberals let 123 corporations avoid paying $30 billion in taxes, all while patting themselves on the back as the defenders of workers that they pretend to be.
We see it in the anti-worker, back-to-work legislation that both Liberals and Conservatives have consistently brought in and supported when workers collectively fight for their rights, like with postal workers, dock workers, Air Canada workers, PSAC workers and UFCW workers. Neither the Prime Minister nor the leader of the official opposition has seen a strike they are uncomfortable quashing. We now have the power to change that.
At this point, it is pretty clear that workers have seen a lot from the federal government that is anti-worker. They have seen billion-dollar contracts with Amazon, while workers rely on food banks. They have seen how hard it is to afford rent or buy a home when billionaires are making record profits.
It is also very important that we remind Canadians of the record of the Conservative Party and the leader of the official opposition who has reshaped himself into a so-called champion for workers, but when they look at his record, he is somebody who has made clear that he hates workers and the defence of workers' rights with the same zeal as the Prime Minister. In fact, when the leader of the official opposition was in government, he cut billions of dollars from health care that we all rely on, he cut EI benefits and he directly attacked workers. He attacked unions. He voted against raising the minimum wage and, of course, we know he supported back-to-work legislation. Simply told, he may talk a big game, but we have seen this before and workers will not buy it.
Because both the Liberals and the Conservatives will try to fool people and they do it any time they need a political boost, out comes the “aw shucks” defence of working people. If we are lucky, some may show up to a picket line, but if either the Liberals or the Conservatives cared for workers, they would not push for trade deals that actively harm them. and it would not have taken the eighth try in 15 years to actually pass anti-scab legislation. It would have happened by now.
I am proud of the work that our federal NDP has done to push the Liberals to bring this piece of legislation forward. We know that this is legislation that would not just lift workers up but would lift Canadians up as well. It is sorely needed to restore the power imbalance between workers and the billionaire class, where workers have been forced to fight for scraps while the ultrarich in this country make record profits. There is hope. I think of workers at a Starbucks in Chicoutimi who just signed their first union card, or workers in Montreal at Amazon working to unionize their workplace. It is time we fixed this power imbalance and it starts with enshrining worker protections, like anti-scab legislation, so that every worker has a voice.
The reality is that billionaires and their enablers in the Liberal Party and Conservative Party are all too happy to quash the power of workers. However, with this legislation, fought for by the NDP, we have made it a bit harder. Any day we make it easier for workers and harder to be a billionaire is a good day for Canadians.
I am going to make a prediction that the Conservatives are going to talk a good talk, as we are hearing in the House with respect to how tough people have it, but I predict that they are not going to support anti-scab legislation which is fundamentally tied to the ability of workers to fight for fairness. We know that from the track record of their leader and we know that from the track record of many MPs who were part of the previous Harper government, which was a dark time for working people in this country.
I can pretty well guarantee that despite some of the verbal pronouncements of support for workers, we certainly will not hear them singing Solidarity Forever or see them standing up to vote for this legislation that would ban the use of replacement workers. The bottom line is that if they really support workers, if they really support their right to organize and their right to bargain collectively, and if they support the labour movement and believe that it is fundamentally tied to bettering the lives of workers and all Canadians, they will vote for this legislation. I hope all parties will do just that.