House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was children.

Last in Parliament November 2005, as Liberal MP for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe (New Brunswick)

Won her last election, in 2004, with 59% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canada Labour Code May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, as I already mentioned, amendments to the Canada Labour Code were made in 1999. Employers and employees can see me at any time to review the situation. I am prepared to meet with both groups.

It is important to remember that the Canada Labour Code belongs to both employees and employers.

Canada Labour Code May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, what the Bloc is not saying is that the Canada Labour Code is such a significant instrument that last year 90% of labour disputes were settled without a strike or lockout. That was because the code belongs to them.

I would also like to tell the Bloc that, as Minister of Labour, I listen to employees and employers. If they come to see me with a better solution than what we have now, I will certainly listen to them, because we, on this side of the House, work in partnership.

Canada Labour Code May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it is often said that decisions cannot be made alone. Decisions must be made in cooperation with people all over our country.

It took six years to implement the Canada Labour Code. Why? Because the minister and the department listened to employees and employers.

Because we did it that way, the code belongs to them.

Canada Labour Code May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it is clearly understood that the Canada Labour Code is a tool for both employees and employers.

It took six years to get it in place. I agree that there was no agreement in the discussions on replacement workers, but we did reach a compromise.

The Canada Labour Code is, however, a tool for them and one that belongs to them.

Canada Labour Code May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, as I said this morning, and say again now, the Canada Labour Code is in place because we negotiated with employees and employers.

It has only been in effect since 1999. In the discussions, we were forced to reach a compromise on replacement workers, and that is what we did.

Supply May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, perhaps my hon. friend has forgotten that I had a food bank and that I saw people who had lost their jobs come in. I saw people who had nothing to eat. I am very sympathetic to what the member is saying. However, these employees can go to the Canada Industrial Relations Board. There is a process in place to protect them. There is no need to play politics with the plight of people who are hungry.

Supply May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, being a leader means being able to listen to what everyone has to say. Being a leader is not going to just one person and saying, “I will be there for you”. Being a leader means saying that the Canada Labour Code belongs to employees and employers. And this House can be proud of parts I and II of the Canada Labour Code. We can be proud of the fact that we have had leaders who made the right decision because they listened.

I want to commend the hon. member for the extensive work she has done. I might add that when I met with employees and employers last October, I asked them, “What do you think? Do you feel we should consider some compromises?” If representatives of labour and management told me they wanted to look into it, because the code belongs to them, I would be prepared to listen to them. We are talking about their tools for resolving labour disputes. What the people I met with in October told me is that they did not think they could come up with a better compromise than the one they had.

Let me assure the House and the Bloc Quebecois that, based on the work I have done in my community during all the years I was involved, if the employees and employers told me they wanted to work on it, that is how it would be. But when I ask them, they tell me, “We have worked so much on this issue that we have worked out a compromise”.

This came into force only in 1999. Time will tell how well it works. I can assure the Bloc Quebecois, and indeed the House, today that I will be monitoring this very closely. If changes can be made to improve on what is there, we are certainly prepared to consider them.

Supply May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the right thing to do is take the Canada Labour Code seriously, as we did with part I, which had to do with strikes. Then we did it with part II, which had to do with health and security. When we take that seriously and say to both employees and employers that this code belongs to them, we cannot make an amendment on one part by listening only to the employer and then on another part by listening only to the employee and then saying, “I am the Minister of Labour. I know best. You are going to win this one and you are going to win that one”.

That is why it worked in this country: because we took both sides equally seriously. We did not do the consensus ourselves. The Sims report worked on it and the staff worked on it with both the employees and the employers. It was not done pie in the sky and that is why, when there is a conflict and a collective agreement is being negotiated, in this country 90% of the conflicts are resolved without a strike or lockout: because we did not say that on this one we will listen to the employer and on that one we will listen to the employee. We made sure. And when we came up with a compromise, it was done with the employees and the employers.

Supply May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, unions in New Brunswick, as elsewhere in the country, know quite well that I spend a lot of time with them. They have had more meetings than ever with a Minister of Labour, as was the case last October.

I often meet with my friend and colleague to discuss different things. He must understand that, as the federal Minister of Labour, I saw what was done during the six years that led to the implementation of the Canada Labour Code. The Canada Labour Code works quite well in a labour dispute because we were able to work together with employees and employers and we listened to both parties. In my speech, I explained clearly that, when the issue of replacement workers was raised, we had to discuss this at length, because some people did not agree and we had to reach a compromise.

This is the answer that I would give my union friends in New Brunswick or elsewhere. As the federal minister, I worked very hard with employees and employers to get both sides to reach a compromise.

Supply May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it is very appropriate that we are discussing this motion on replacement workers on May 1, a day that organized labour has traditionally used to celebrate the role and importance of workers in our society.

People who know me know that I am an advocate of fair treatment. I have devoted most of my life to making sure that all Canadians are treated fairly by our society.

I have brought that same commitment to my job as Minister of Labour. I think it is very important that the rights of workers are protected under the Canada Labour Code and I have worked very hard to ensure that they are. But I also understand the importance of bringing a balanced perspective to labour policy issues. That is why I cannot support the motion of the Bloc Quebecois

The motion is seeking a ban on the use of replacement workers. However, this motion represents only one side of a very complicated issue. Indeed, anyone who follows this issue knows how complicated and divisive it can be. This is because there are two clearly divided sets of opinions on the use of replacement workers during times of work stoppage.

Employers typically see the issue one way and employees and their unions typically see it from an opposite point of view. This lack of consensus became very clear in the period of consultation that the government engaged in prior to making amendments to part 1 of the Canada Labour Code a few years ago.

At that time a broad range of labour management issues was up for discussion as the government sought stakeholders views on how the Canada Labour Code could be made to work more effectively for both employers and employees. On almost every issue the stakeholders were able to arrive at some degree of consensus on how they wanted the law to be changed. However on the issue of replacement workers, consensus was not possible. I do not think a consensus would be possible today.

Even across the different labour jurisdictions within Canada there is no common position on the issue of banning replacement workers by law. Quebec has had a ban on the user replacement workers in organizations under provincial jurisdiction since 1977. British Columbia has a similar ban, although it was introduced more recently.

Ten years ago the government of the day in Ontario brought in legislation banning replacement workers but a subsequent government repealed the law a few years later in 1995. No other provinces have legislation banning the use of replacement workers.

When the opposition members propose a ban on the use of replacement workers, they are proposing a change that does not have a clear consensus of support throughout Canada. When it comes to both workers and employers, they would clearly not have the support of both the sides that would be directly affected.

I believe that the balanced approach we brought to the legislation concerning the use of replacement workers when we amended part 1 of the Canada Labour Code in 1999 is still the right approach to follow today.

When the code was amended in 1999, it struck a balance between protecting the interests of workers on the one hand and employers on the other. Thus the existing legislation does not prohibit the use of replacement workers outright, as this motion seeks to do, but it does put clear restraints on their use.

At the same time, the legislation allows employers some flexibility to use replacement workers to meet their operating responsibilities. And remember, in the case of some large national organizations falling within the application of the Canada Labour Code, such as utilities or transportation companies, for example, those operating responsibilities might be of critical importance to the well-being of individual people, not to mention the country

What would happen, for example, if a major telecommunications company was forbidden to maintain service by using substitute personnel during a work stoppage? How many homes would be without phone service? Or how many other jobs would be affected if the commercial telecommunications infrastructure was shut down?

In some cases, it is critical that organizations be able to continue to operate during times of work stoppages. But that does not mean that replacement workers should be used to interfere with the legitimate bargaining objectives of a union on behalf of its members.

So the existing law allows employers some flexibility to meet their operating responsibilities, but it specifically prevents them from using replacement workers to undermine a union's legitimate bargaining objectives.

In effect, the changes governing the use of replacement workers made to the Canada Labour Code in 1999 represented a compromise between the position of employees and unions on the one hand and the position of the employers on the other. It is a balanced approach that also reflects the majority recommendation of an expert task force that reviewed the issue, consulted with stakeholders and provided a comprehensive report that helped guide the legislation.

In practical terms, most of the parties who engage in collective bargaining under part I of the code have accepted this balanced approach as a reasonable compromise in the real world. Because, as a practical matter, the issue of replacement workers comes up in only a very small number of cases under the Canada Labour Code. Over 90% of labour disputes in the federal jurisdiction are settled without a work stoppage. In the vast majority of cases replacement workers are not an issue.

Nevertheless, there are still cases where the issue does come up and part I of the code provides for measures to deal with these cases. Section 94(2.1) of the code states the following:

No employer or person acting on behalf of an employer shall use, for the demonstrated purpose of undermining a trade union's representational capacity rather than the pursuit of legitimate bargaining objectives, the services of a person who was not an employee in the bargaining unit on the date on which notice to bargain collectively was given and was hired or assigned after that date to perform all or part of the duties of an employee in the bargaining unit on strike or locked out.

In other words, the federal law now prohibits the use of replacement workers to undermine legitimate bargaining activities. If a union believes an employer is using replacement workers in a manner contrary to the provisions of section 94(2.1), it can bring the case before the Canadian Industrial Relations Board under section 97(1) of the code.

Since the code was amended, only a handful of cases have been referred to the board under section 97(1). A few of these have attracted particular attention, but in the vast majority of situations under the Canada Labour Code the existing balanced approach to the difficult issue of replacement workers is working.

By proposing a prohibition on replacement workers today, the Bloc is trying to reopen the debate on this contentious issue, but the Bloc is advocating only one side of the argument. The government has to take a broader perspective: We have to look at the issue from both sides.

As minister responsible for the Canada Labour Code, I have to take into account the competing values and interests of both employers and employees and their unions, not just one side.

Based on the advice the government received during a broad process of consultation in the period leading up to the amendments to the Canada Labour Code in 1999, we made changes to the Canada Labour Code that took both sides into account. And I believe that is still the right approach today.

It is too soon to conclude that the replacement workers provision in part I of the code is not working in the broad public interest. It is too soon to disturb the practical balance that has been achieved and to say the law needs to be changed, and especially to be changed on an urgent basis, as the opposition motion suggests. But it is an issue that I, as Minister of Labour, will continue to monitor with great interest.

One thing is clear to me: This is not a simple issue. It is an issue that can elicit strong opposing views like those we are going to hear all day today. It is being strongly expressed on Parliament Hill, so we know that this issue can divide business and labour.

It can also divide experts within the labour relations community. When the Sims task force looked into this issue a few years ago, it was the only item in a broad range of labour management issues that evoked a minority written report.

As I have already mentioned, across Canada where the jurisdiction for labour law is a shared responsibility between the federal and provincial levels of government, there are different approaches to the use of replacement workers in these different jurisdictions.

So there is no clear consensus position on the use of replacement workers in this country. Clearly, each province can deal with the issue in the way it believes is best for the needs and interests of the workers and employers in its jurisdiction.

Those jurisdictions represent some 90% of workers in this country. But at the federal level we have to be concerned for the approximately 800,000 workers who come under the jurisdiction of the Canada Labour Code. We know that most federally regulated employers do not hire replacement workers in any case, although they might reassign management and other non-bargaining unit personnel to maintain operations.

So, on balance, I do not think it would be advisable at this time to change the provisions of the Canada Labour Code governing the use of replacement workers. Therefore, I am not in favour of the motion.