Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-295, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, replacement workers.
The House may find that it is experiencing a bit of déjà vu, as the House is also considering Bill C-257, a bill with the same title, same principle and same goal. Nonetheless, I am pleased to speak today and address this important labour issue.
I have a bit of a different perspective than most members on labour issues. I grew up in eastern Europe in the 1950s and 1960s. The House is familiar with the strife, fighting and the unrest that existed in many former Warsaw Pact countries. The transition to communism brought much upheaval to communities all across eastern Europe. We all had to make significant lifestyle changes while living under its powerful grip. Thankfully, my family came to Canada in the 1960s. We came to a land of peace, social security and balance. I am shaped by my childhood experiences, as we all are, and I do not take the social cohesion and solidarity we enjoy in this country for granted.
Peaceful relations between employers and workers are the norm in Canada. This was the case in the 1960s and it still is today. We must do what we can to ensure that we continue to enjoy social security as well as labour, peace and stability.
The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines economy as the state of a country or area in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services and the supply of money. We often equate the economy with finances but it is much more than that. It is a human construct of perimeters that include a whole range of human activities.
A stable economy, in my view, brings with it peace, security and an environment in which people may gain a livelihood. People may work, enjoy leisure time, spend time with families and friends, pursue hobbies and engage in sports, academics or whatever they may choose.
No one should underestimate the influence of the labour movement on our day to day activities and our economy in the above sense. Peace and stability in the labour movement ensures that we may enjoy our lives to the fullest extent possible.
I grew up in an environment where this was not possible because of the power of the Communist dogma and the labour unrest and discontent that it entailed. The tensions were high between the working class and the government. Trust me when I say that this is not a situation in which anyone should want to find himself or herself. That is why I chose to speak today.
An act that restricts replacement workers from being hired during a strike or lockout is important. It is important for workers, for employers and, ultimately, for all Canadians.
Anti-replacement worker legislation is presently on the books in British Columbia and Quebec. This is an important policy for ensuring that rights are respected and all stakeholders are brought to the table. Such legislation may help to end strikes or lockouts sooner. It can help bring people together to make compromises and ensures an end to the work disruption, which comes at a later time.
Anti-replacement worker legislation is about encouraging all players to come together to find common ground and find the solution. A lockout or strike inevitably entails tension, hard feelings and stress between workers and management. We must seize the opportunity to help reduce tensions and bring the parties together on some sort of equal footing.
The principle of this legislation and Bill C-257 allows the Canada Labour Code to be a progressive document. We have a duty as parliamentarians to look after both the interests of workers and employers. We can best do this by respecting human rights, ensuring an inclusive environment and a level playing field for all.
I have spent the last few minutes speaking in support of the principle of the bill. It is unfortunate, though, that the House has to deal with Bill C-295. We already have another legislative proposal, Bill C-257 on the order paper. I question why the hon. member for Vancouver Island North introduced Bill C-295 after an almost identical bill was introduced just 13 days prior to her own bill.
As a result, I question the efficiency of the House having to deal with Bill C-295. It would be much more efficient and more conducive to realize the goal of the legislation if we were to all work together and urge our colleagues to support Bill C-257 which was already on the order paper. This way the House could have spoken with one voice on this matter in a much more focused fashion.
Even the leaders of the Canadian Labour Congress want to see one piece of legislation because it means a better chance of something actually getting passed in the House. With anti-replacement legislation already on the order paper, this would have been a once in a lifetime opportunity for the hon. member for Vancouver Island North. As she knows, private members do not often get the opportunity to bring the issue that matters to them most to the floor of the House.
As I was lucky to be number eight in the private members' draw, I put a motion on rural route mail delivery before the House. In my view, she could have worked with the member for Gatineau on the replacement worker legislation and introduced another bill or motion on another important issue in her riding. After all, every constituency has several matters that deserve attention. In that way she could have had her anti-replacement worker legislation and addressed another subject of importance to her constituents.
For that reason, I find it very difficult to support Bill C-295. I support the principle but, with another similar bill ahead of it in the queue, Bill C-257, it just does not make sense, from the viewpoint of efficiency, for the House and it is not in the interest of employer-labour relations.
Let us put our support behind workers and employers in a focused fashion and speak with one voice. A legislative proposal of this kind has been before the House several times before. Let us work together in a concrete fashion, like we are urging employers and workers to do, and get Bill C-257 to committee so it can be further studied and we can hear from stakeholders and experts in the field.
I have a riding that is very much engaged with the Canadian economy. A number of head offices and headquarters are located in Oak Ridges—Markham and I have a very low unemployment rate. As a matter of fact, I am pleased to host a business seminar in my riding.
On October 11 in Markham, Public Works and Government Services Canada will be doing a seminar presentation on how to do business with the Government of Canada. I am pleased to host this seminar which would be useful for any enterprise in attempting to promote its goods and services to the Government of Canada.
I congratulate members for raising the issue of replacement workers in the House and I look forward to hearing from my colleagues in the debates that follow.