Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-19. This bill starts with a change in the name to the bill from the Canadian Labour Relations Board to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board. This certainly differentiates it from the original bill that was brought forward. It is not as specific. I would like to point out that this bill still has to do with labour relations.
What else does this bill do? The member for Palliser commented very strongly on support of the union particularly on the west coast. I would like to make it clear that the NDP, the member for Palliser and the rest of his colleagues have at heart only the interests of the unions. The Reform Party has the interests of unionized workers and the non-unionized workers such as farmers in western Canada. It is this kind of an approach that is required when bringing legislation before this House.
Serving only the interests of the big unions on the west coast is a dramatic hindrance to the economic performance of this country and it is a dramatic hindrance to agriculture in western Canada. We only have to look at some of the problems that arise for farmers in the west to see that every dollar counts.
In the past couple of years we have had the transportation problems with grain moving to the west coast. Over the years there have been many strikes and grain sales were held up. The problems I am referring to in the past years have ended up costing farmers in the neighbourhood of $100 million between demurrage costs, lost sales and those kinds of thing.
When legislation is brought forward in this House, we have to look at whether or not it is good overall in the sense that is it 80% to 90% good for everyone, or is it really just good for a small segment of workers. Good legislation should not disadvantage to a great extent any one group in Canadian society. As an example, a piece of legislation which comes to mind as good and which everyone can support is the RCMP superannuation act. It is legislation where everyone wins.
Bill C-19 has some good points. However in the whole it is insufficient to pass a bill that does only a little good and a whole lot of harm. It certainly does good. If there is an elevator terminal on the west coast full of grain and a strike happens, the people who move the grain from the elevator on to a ship are required to go back to work to put that grain on.
However, as the days drag on in a strike and if the elevator was empty or was not necessarily full at the start, what happens then? This legislation will not enable the agriculture products from western Canada to continue moving because there will not be anything to move. What is the solution? Certainly labour has to be treated fairly and properly. There are mechanisms by which this can be done.
The Reform Party has very clearly come out with a plan that would enable the unions and the workers to be treated fairly. They would receive good compensation for the work they do. It would also protect those people who do not have protection under legislation, for example the farmers in western Canada and other small businesses that move their products through ports.
I would suggest as put forward by the Reform Party that a labour dispute settlement mechanism such as final offer selection arbitration would be useful on the west coast. It would ensure that labour is treated fairly, that it is properly compensated for its efforts and that farmers in western Canada continue to have their grains and other products moved.
Strikes in the public sector differ from those in the private sector because of the monopolistic nature of most public services. Final offer selection arbitration gives labour and management the tools to resolve their differences. It does not favour one side over the over. It eliminates government interference in the negotiations.
The Reform Party believes that final offer selection arbitration would provide protection from back to work legislation in a strike or lockout situation.
We only have to look back a few weeks to see the mess we were in during the post office strike. In that case both union and management knew that the House was going to have to do something eventually. Therefore they had no incentive to get together to come up with a good solution. As a result many Canadians suffered drastically as that strike went on, primarily small business and small farmers.
My friends to the left in the NDP represent only the big unions. They have no balanced approach to represent all Canadians. I agree the unions have to have the right to organize, the right to bargain, but their right is not supreme over the right of all Canadians. That is the point I make in that regard.
I will quickly comment on how this final selection arbitration would work. If and only if the union and employer cannot make an agreement by the conclusion of the previous contract, the union and employer would provide the minister with the name of a person or persons they jointly recommend as an arbitrator or arbitration panel. The union and employer would be required to submit to the arbitrator/panel a list of the matters agreed upon and a list of matters still under dispute.
For disputed issues each party would be required to submit a final offer for settlement. The arbitrator/panel selects either the final offer submitted by the trade union or the final offer submitted by the employer, all of one position or all of the other position. The arbitrator's decision would be binding on both parties.
As the member for Brandon—Souris commented, this legislation is exactly like Bill C-4. Nobody but those with a narrow little interest wants to see this legislation go ahead. As a result I cannot support this bill.
I support the Reform Party's position that we want to see unions treated fairly. We want to see non-unionized people treated fairly. I believe the plan we have put forward will do that.