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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was colleagues.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Ottawa Centre (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply May 1st, 2003

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to take part in this interesting debate on the motion by the member for Laurentides.

The motion reads as follows:

That this Houserecognize the urgency of amending the Canada Labour Code toban the use of strikebreakers.

As you know, the Canada Labour Code is composed of three parts: the first deals with industrial relations; the second deals with occupational health and safety; and the third deals with standards related to the workplace.

Today's motion calling for a ban on the use of strike breakers concerns Part I of the Canada Labour Code.

You will recall that Part I of the Code was amended in 1999. These amendments, which were passed by the House, came about after a long and thorough review process during which a study was conducted by an independent task force, the Sims Task Force. This group was composed of experts in industrial relations.

What came out of these consultations is that the representatives of the unions and companies directly impacted by the code agreed on a number of major reforms. However, as concerns the use of replacement workers, the positions of the unions and of the employers remained entirely different, and the working group was unable to make recommendations based on consensus.

The government has already implemented most recommendations of the Sims working group. With the new provisions, the use of replacement workers is not prohibited generally, but it is possible to prove that it is an unfair practice in labour relations.

The parties involved in collective bargaining under part I of the code consider the current approach a reasonable compromise.

As you know, the government thinks that this balanced approach is the best way to settle this issue in the context of federal jurisdictions. The government does not see any compelling reason to change the legislation at this time.

Personally, I am quite pleased to address the House on the motion by the hon. member for Laurentides. I encourage her and all my colleagues in the House to nonetheless examine all the ramifications of this motion.

As we all know, the issue of replacement workers can lead to positions that are opposed one way or another. Typically, employers see things one way, and unions have another point of view. There are sometimes diverging views.

That is why we should take a few minutes to consider what the Canadian Labour Code says on this issue. More specifically, let us examine the amendments that were passed in 1999, as I said earlier.

What these amendments achieved was an eminently balanced approach to the issues, an approach that protects the interests of workers and employers during work sabotage. This balanced approach prohibits the use of replacement workers if they are hired to undermine a union representational capacity during the work stoppage, yet it is simultaneously an approach that allows an employer to continue operating. In the event there is a dispute about the use of replacement workers, employees and their representatives can make their case before the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

As my colleagues know, the Canada Industrial Relations Board is an independent third party. It is made up of an equal number of members from both the employer and the employee communities. As well, the board has an independent chairperson.

I want to point out that this board already has the appropriate expertise and mandate to address these labour relations issues. It is incumbent upon the Canada Industrial Relations Board to determine the circumstances underlying the dispute and help the parties reach an agreement.

I also want to talk a little more about some of the other provisions of the current Canada Labour Code concerning replacement workers.

Current legislation contains several provisions regarding practical issues arising from the use of replacement workers. These are the kind of issues that, in the past, led to bitter and endless disputes.

Finally, I also wish to give a very good example of this. Under the provisions of the code, replacement workers are now excluded from the bargaining unit. In practical terms, this means that these workers do not have the right to participate in representation votes to decide whether a recognized bargaining agent should be either replaced or removed, nor in other votes in the collective bargaining process.

As well, no employer can cancel or threaten to cancel medical, dental, disability, life or other insurance plans or deny these benefits to employees who are on strike or in a lockout position.

In addition, during the prolonged work stoppage, no application to change or decertify a union can be made without the independent consent of the Canada Industrial Relations Board. The board, as I stated earlier, is in a sense bipartisan and in a sense is chaired by a person who is not associated with representatives of either the employees or the employers.

Finally, the code recognizes the rights of employees in the bargaining unit to return to their jobs at the end of the work stoppage ahead of any replacement workers. As the hon. member may be aware, in the past an employer could apply to decertify a union after a work stoppage had continued for six months.

Since it was amended, the Canada Labour Code provides that employees have the legitimate right to choose their bargaining agent. The object of this provision is to ensure that work stoppages do not last unduly.

Under this balanced approach, part I of the Canada Labour Code now provides the settlement of disputes through arbitration, in the case of dismissal or disciplinary action taken during a work stoppage.

Altogether, the 1999 amendment to the code adds up to a very balanced package that we believe is the right way to proceed.

Well over 90% of all disputes that arise between employers and employees under the Canada Labour Code are settled without a work stoppage. This fact in itself speaks volumes about how well the code's balanced approach is working.

It would be very helpful to reflect for a moment on just what this legislation means to Canadians. The federal legislation applies to employees and employers under federal jurisdiction. This includes Crown corporations and industries with an interprovincial or international dimension, such as the transportation sectors, the banking sectors and the broadcasting sectors. The Canada Labour Code also applies to many first nations activities.

Employees under the jurisdiction of the Canada Labour Code make up approximately a total of less than 10% of the Canadian workforce. The House is well aware that the provinces each have their own labour legislation. Provincial laws and regulations therefore apply to approximately 90% of Canada's labour force. These various jurisdictions all share the same vision: we want to promote and work toward a fair, safe, healthy, stable, cooperative, productive work environment. We also want to foster a work environment that contributes to the socio-economic well-being of all Canadians.

I believe that the balance struck in the existing provisions of the Canada Labour Code greatly support this vision.

By reaching a fair compromise between the values and interests, which are not easy to reconcile, of employers, unions and employees, part I of the Code touches on the critical issue of replacement workers with logic, balance and respect for all parties.

In fact, the philosophy underlying part I of the Canada Labour Code recognizes the precedence of compromise and negotiation in the resolution of the problems we are facing.

I greatly appreciate that my colleague, the member for Laurentides, has given the House the opportunity to deal with this issue. But, for all the reasons that I have just set out, and for another reason that my colleague knows—a bill has already been presented to the House—I hope that the House will have the opportunity to discuss this issue, which has been brought forward by my colleague—in a straightforward manner.

If the House decides to support this bill, I hope that the appropriate committee of the House of Commons will have the opportunity to examine these issues again, to analyze them in a fair way and to listen once more to representatives from all sides, that is the employees and the employers. This could lead to suggestions that will improve the bill in one way or the other.

I am sure that the government is listening to ensure that it responds positively. You know that, in my riding of Ottawa Centre, we had problems, several times, where employees and employers could not reach an agreement or a positive resolution that was beneficial to one party or the other.

I know that the then Minister of Labour, Alfonso Gagliano, worked extremely hard to ensure that there would be a positive solution in this regard.

Another time, with the new Minister of Labour, another problem was front and centre in the national capital region. We saw how the minister managed to promote a positive dialogue between representatives of management and labour. Once again, we were able to find a solution.

I point this out to show how most problems that may arise at times between employees and employers are solved through mediation, and sometimes through direct or indirect negotiations or arbitration.

So far, we have not seen, at the federal level, problems indicating that the system is not working. We talked about these issues in 1999, when the government asked a task force o study the labour code, to look at the different aspects of this code and to make recommendations to the government to act positively to help employees and industries. Most of these recommendations were included in a bill that was passed by the House.

Even though I know that the intentions are good, this is perhaps not a good time to raise these issues and to adopt these provisions, particularly because the motion before us does not provide details. We would need the appropriate details to take action on this issue. However, perhaps the member's bill will be drafted in such a way that we can look into this issue more closely.

National Volunteer Week May 1st, 2003

Mr. Speaker, this is National Volunteer Week, an occasion to thank the people who donate their time and talents in service of their fellow citizens. All across Canada much of our quality of life depends upon the commitment, compassion and generosity of volunteers. Now more than ever Canadians need to strengthen their sense of community.

The theme for National Volunteer Week 2003, “The Power of One, the Value of Many”, highlights the uniqueness of each volunteer and acknowledges the importance of their collective contribution.

I call on my colleagues to join me in celebrating the spirit of caring as we thank Canada's 6.5 million volunteers for the support they bring to countless causes every day, all year round.

Petitions April 10th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by rural route mail couriers. The petitioners ask Parliament to repeal section 13(5) of the Canada Post Corporation Act.

Teresa Boselli April 8th, 2003

Madam Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre, I am saddened by the news that one of this city's leading restaurateurs, Mrs. Teresa Boselli, passed away last week at the age of 88.

Mamma Teresa Ristorante became a landmark in downtown Ottawa when Giuliano Boselli named the restaurant after his mother in 1970. Teresa Boselli and her husband Riccardo came to Canada from Italy in 1957 with their three children, Remo, Anna and Giuliano. After more than 30 years of business, Mamma Teresa's became a successful and favourite fixture in the capital of Canada.

Her family and friends will miss her gentleness and joyous personality. I would like to offer, on behalf of all my colleagues, our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Teresa Boselli.

Juno Awards April 7th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, this weekend Ottawa played host to the Canadian music industry's biggest bash of the year, the 32nd annual Juno Awards. The sold out Corel Centre was jammed packed with fans to celebrate internationally renowned Canadian music talent.

Award winners included Avril Lavigne who took home four awards including album of the year and new artist of the year. Other winners included SUM 41, Daniel Bélanger, Remy Shand and Our Lady of Peace. Ottawa's own Alanis Morrisette took home the award for producer of the year.

Special congratulations also go out to Tom Cochrane and Terry McBride, for their induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

It is therefore with great pride that I congratulate on behalf of all my colleagues, all the nominees and winners of this year's Juno Awards.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003 March 28th, 2003

Madam Speaker, yesterday the hon. member at around 5:25 p.m. raised a question and did not have a chance to get an answer to it in response to a statement that I made indicating that 70% of our revenues went toward paying the interest on the deficit. The reality is 30% of the revenues go toward paying the interest on the deficit. He was quite right and I wanted to tell him that.

Having said all that, being an engineer, like all engineers around the world, I always have a tendency to go right to the point and I have done that. I wanted to just point it out for the record.

Auto Theft March 28th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, every three minutes a car is being stolen in Canada. In fact, in my own community here in Ottawa, in one year alone over 4,000 cars were stolen.

What is the minister doing to ensure that these cars will not continue to be stolen from Canadians?

Canadian Red Cross Society March 28th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House and all Canadians that March is Red Cross Month in Canada.

The Canadian Red Cross Society is a volunteer based humanitarian organization dedicated to preventing human suffering across Canada and around the world.

When disaster strikes, it is the quick response of the Red Cross that lessens the hardship suffered by survivors. In Canada alone there are approximately 65,000 Red Cross volunteers who provide for people's basic needs following a disaster, including food, clothing, shelter and first aid.

I want to take this opportunity to recognize this organization and urge all members to support the Canadian Red Cross Society. I urge all Canadians to volunteer their time and to financially support the Red Cross programs.

Budget Implementation Act, 2003 March 27th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to this extremely important bill. It is historic in the sense that it could be the last budget over which the Prime Minister of Canada will preside. As such, I want to tell all Canadians how fortunate we are to have a Prime Minister who has done what no other Prime Minister in the history of Canada has done in the period of time that he has presided over government affairs.

The budget would not have taken place if it had not been for the team effort of all the cabinet ministers collectively, as well as the excellent work of the administrations in the Department of Finance and in every other department across government. It also would not have taken place if it had not been for the total co-operation and support of the public across the country.

As my colleague from Etobicoke North stated a little earlier, we went through a very difficult time 10 years ago when we formed the government. The affairs of government were such that the vast majority of our revenues went to pay down the deficit and the debt to keep our house in order. We were in a situation where 70% of our revenues went to pay the deficit, which was quite unfortunate.

The government had to take some drastic measures to deal with that issue. As a result, a number of cuts took place. Nevertheless, we are in positive territory now. For the past few years the government has been able to turn a surplus. In fact, we have reduced the national debt by close to $45 billion.

I am quite happy with the budget for a lot of reasons. It not only addresses the sins of the past and past governments, but it also builds on and invests in the future.

A little earlier my colleague from the Canadian Alliance spoke about the CPP. That is one case in point where previous governments did not have the guts to stand up and take note of the fact that our pension plan was in deep trouble and that something needed to take place if we were to have the money in place for people, baby boomers today and young children in the future, to support their retirement.

The government, yes, through an increase in contributions, addressed that issue and managed it in such a way that we now have one of the most solid funds internationally in terms of pension funds for our people. That was a strong measure the government took in order to address the issue.

Another very important issue for which many of my colleagues may not be aware is that this government, for the first time ever in the history of Canada, introduced what perhaps no other government has introduced in terms of a system of management of government affairs, and that is the financial information system, for which I think we should all take note. For the first time ever we can easily access information from any government department. All we have to do is key in a program, key in some of the required information and we will be able to access it.

As a result of the tremendous work by Treasury Board, the persistence and tremendous amount of work by the Auditor General, as well as the administration of the government as a whole, we were able to introduce a management system that will improve not only the administration of government programs but also accountability and transparency.

As a result of that, the government, under the leadership of this Prime Minister, was able to address an issue that is very dear to Canadians, the issue of accountability and proper administration of government affairs.

There is a third thing that is worth taking note. For the first time in a long time there is an administration of transfer payments to the provinces in the area of health care. I wish my colleague had said it would have been extended to also include education. For the first time we can demand that our provincial governments be accountable for the amount of money given to them by the federal government in the area of health care.

As was stated earlier, the provinces can no longer take money that is dedicated for health care and spend it on roads, bridges or other things. The government has given the provinces the ability to plan ahead. Over and over again the provinces and territories have complained about the fact that we did not have in place a proper budgeting plan that would allow them to plan three or five years ahead. The government has now put a plan in place that will allow them to do this. We gave them the money. They know what will be coming down the pipes three or five years down the road. That was an extremely important measure. It is my hope that we will move into other areas such as post-secondary education and do exactly the same thing.

One issue which the Minister of Finance has spoken about and which the government has shown tremendous leadership and commitment to is investment in the area of infrastructure. Members know that for every dollar the government puts into the area of infrastructure, it generates $3 of investment in total. That is because the provincial government as well as municipalities are putting in matching funds. That money is going toward building bridges, roads and institutions in our communities. To that extent, it would also go toward creating jobs and generate economic activities in the country.

I am counting on the Minister of Finance to come through and make some federal commitments in the national capital region, particularly light rail and the Congress Centre which is a very important facility in our region. I know we will see some positive response from the government.

There are other important elements, such as investment in the lives of our children, families on low and middle incomes, cost reductions in terms of the government asking all departments to come up with close to $1 billion in savings, and the list goes on.

The government has been extremely creative in the area of housing. Previously, we put federal money into the area of housing for homeless people or individuals who needed housing, but it was conditional upon provincial governments and municipalities matching the funds. Now the federal government has come up with a creative way of cutting through the nonsense and bureaucracies. If an organization in my community or in any community has a creative proposal that addresses the issue of homelessness, it can apply for matching funds from the federal government. To that extent, we are taking the government back to the people.

Another issue that is very dear to the hearts of my constituents is primary health care. As part of the package that was signed off by the provincial ministers of health, there is one important thing for many constituents in my riding and that is primary health care. We will be able to see a cohesive plan in the area of health care. Now I can walk to a health facility in my riding and ask for a consult, nursing support or doctor's advice and assistance. I can get all of that under one roof.

That is another clear indication that the system works. The government has done a marvellous job on the budget, as on all of the previous budgets. I will be supporting the bill and I call on my colleagues to do the same.

Sports March 26th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre, it gives me great pleasure and pride to announce Carleton University's recent athletic achievements.

Within the past week, the Carleton University women's ski team won its first national title, the men's ski team won its second national title, and the men's basketball team won the university's first Canadian interuniversity sports national title in 60 years of competition.

These achievements mark a great success not only for the teams' players and fans, but also for Carleton University's administration's strategy for excellence.

I am very proud of Carleton University's achievements. I invite my colleagues to join me in congratulating the athletes on a job very well done.