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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was students.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as Progressive Conservative MP for St. John's West (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Won his last election, in 1997, with 44% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canadian Human Rights Act March 25th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the hon. member for Shefford who sponsored Bill S-11, asked me to convey to the House her deep regret at not being able to take part in today's debate. The member for Shefford who has become a leader in our caucus, a leader in the House and a leader in the country on all issues relating to poverty, was called away at the last moment.

I am therefore speaking for her when I thank all hon. members who have spoken to this private member's bill. Honoured as I am to speak on my colleague's behalf, I am equally proud to speak for myself about Bill S-11, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act in order to add social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

As its title indicates, the purpose of the bill is to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act so that no one can be discriminated against simply because they are poor and to offer genuine recourse when such discrimination occurs, for example, when a landlord refuses to rent to someone on social assistance or a bank refuses to open an account for them.

In light of all the contributions to the debate on the bill, it seems that reservations about it are centred mainly on the following two points. One is the wording which has been criticized as too vague to achieve the desired results. The other is the need for wider consultation or an indepth review of the whole issue leading to a complete revision of the Canadian Human Rights Act. I would like to take a few moments to respond to these two objections before wrapping up the debate.

Many speakers have voiced concern about the wording. The term social condition is considered too general. Questions have been raised about the possible impact of too broad an interpretation of the term and the legal implications that could result.

While social condition may seem a vague expression to some, I want to point out that specialists in the area of human rights and the Canadian anti-poverty movement prefer it to all others. It allows for an individual situation to be interpreted on the basis of a whole range of social economic factors, unlike the word poverty which is deemed to be too narrow because it focuses exclusively on economic factors.

Professor Jackman of the faculty of law at the University of Ottawa said when she appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs:

To entrench a prohibition against discrimination based on poverty does not really encapsulate all dimensions of the type of discrimination which people experience. That discrimination relates not only to their economic circumstances, but to all the social and political sterotypes that emanate from being poor. Again, the advantage of talking about social condition rather than poverty is that, within social conditions, we encapsulate notions like source of income, receipt of social assistance, perhaps even the status of being unemployed. These are all conditions that tend to go together, but are not necessarily always together.

Even Canada's chief commissioner of human rights, Ms. Falardeau-Ramsay, the very person who would have to manage the legal repercussions of this addition to the Canadian Human Rights Act, has come out firmly in favour of the term social condition.

Incidentally in March 1998 Ms. Falardeau-Ramsay stressed with respect to this whole issue that human rights were indivisible, affirming that economic and social rights could not be separated from political and legal rights or equality rights.

Finally, those who have expressed concern about this choice of terminology should bear in mind that social condition has been used in Quebec's charter of human rights and freedoms for almost three years and was approved for more than a year by the British Columbia Human Rights Commission.

Moving on to the second point of objection to Bill S-11, we find it is primarily based on a perceived need to carry out an expanded consultation with more stakeholders before this addition is made to the act. We are told that it would be better to wait for the next comprehensive review of the act announced by the Minister of Justice several months ago.

I remind the House that the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs held wide-ranging consultations before the bill was passed by the Senate. It is possible that some points of view were not heard during the process, but there is no reason whatsoever to delay or prevent the passage of Bill S-11.

Interested parties who did not participate in the Senate's consultations will still have the opportunity to propose any amendments they consider helpful during the comprehensive review of the act.

By supporting this bill we can both correct a legislative omission that for many years has been the target of criticism from national anti-poverty organizations and at the same time bring Canada into compliance with the recommendations made in December 1998 and in 1993 by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In so doing we will, among other things, be sending a strong message across Canada that in this country discrimination against poor people will not be tolerated. It is high time in my opinion that fundamental human rights should be respected in a country like Canada, especially the right to equal opportunity in life.

I would like to remind the House however, in the words of my colleague, the hon. member for Laval Centre:

Entrenching Bill S-11 in the charter should amount to more than wishful thinking. The best way to fight discrimination against social condition is to improve the living conditions of our fellow citizens who find themselves in difficult economic straits incompatible with human dignity.

This government thus has an urgent responsibility to take concrete action to ensure that justice is done to the most disadvantaged members of our society.

Regrettably, as my colleague, the hon. member for Shefford said in her original remarks to the House on Bill S-11, the general obsession with deficit reduction often impels our political leaders to take measures that add to the proliferation of laws and regulations, making it more difficult for the poor and blocking any possibility of their improving their situation.

This state of affairs confirms the popular belief that the people with the power to change things, i.e., the people who make the laws, often just do not realize the scale of the oppression and discrimination suffered by their fellow low income Canadians.

As my colleague the hon. member for Vancouver East so justly remarked, “The greatest challenge for us is to get governments, not just the Liberal government but all governments, to examine their record and acknowledge their policies which have quite deliberately and consciously created increased poverty within Canada”.

We have an opportunity today as parliamentarians to do what needs to be done by uniting our efforts as we did in 1989 with the resolution on eliminating poverty. We can recognize social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination and include it as such in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

At the present time the act is neither clear nor consistent. While it aims at promoting equity for all Canadians, in effect it perpetuates the discrimination it seeks to eliminate by protecting only certain vulnerable groups.

The fact that the Canadian Human Rights Act does not include social condition among prohibited grounds of discrimination is an indication of the social and economic alienation of the poor and of their lack of influence in the Canadian political system. To correct this unacceptable situation, we must change our approach and look at poverty from the human rights perspective.

It cannot be said often enough. The prejudices the poor have to face in Canada are similar to those faced by the marginalized groups who are listed in the Canadian Human Rights Act. Yet poverty is still not recognized in law as a direct and dominant cause of inequality and disadvantage in Canadian society.

In conclusion, I call on all my hon. colleagues in this House to join me in rectifying this deplorable legislative omission by voting for this bill.

Also I, like others, would like to wish all members, our pages and our support staff an excellent and safe Easter break.

Coastal Fisheries Protection Act March 25th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back on these Group No. 3 amendments to section 7, enforcement and the heart of the act.

If this act will be an enforcement act rather than a diplomatic act then section 7 seriously needs to be amended. I will read it again as it stands now. It talks about a foreign vessel in Canadian waters committing an apparent offence: “The enforcement officer may, with the consent of that foreign state, take any enforcement action that is consistent with this act”.

I amended that to say that the officer “shall take any enforcement action that is consistent with this act”. It actually gives some power to the enforcement officer. I am very disappointed that the government seems unwilling to listen to logic in this section.

I will give an example. What other enforcement agency in the Canadian system has to ask permission of the foreign state of citizenship of a person who has committed a crime? If a Panamanian citizen kills a Canadian citizen, does the RCMP have to call the president of Panama, the minister of external affairs from Panama and ask them if it can lay a charge of first degree murder against the person? Obviously it is too silly to talk about. I do not mind picking on Panama because it really is in fisheries the pirate country in the world.

If a person from Panama came to Newfoundland and took up partridge hunting, which I dearly love in the fall, and he wanted to shoot partridge in February or March, does the Newfoundland wildlife officer actually have to call and say he cannot lay a charge against this person from Panama until he gets permission from somebody?

If a customs officer finds a person from Panama with a trunk full of cocaine, does he have to call the minister of international trade from Panama to get permission to lay a charge? Obviously not. It is too silly to talk about.

The amendment our caucus is suggesting in section 7(1) is to provide for the enforcement.

The parliamentary secretary might say he does not agree with this but it is funny that he did unanimously agree with it when he was a member of the fisheries committee, when it had some leadership under the member for Gander—Grand Falls. The fisheries committee agreed to change that section of the act to put in that the enforcement officer shall take whatever action is consistent.

Of course we also know the parliamentary secretary came in the House and would not concur or agree with the fisheries committee report which he had also agreed with at committee. That is how Liberals do things.

The parliamentary secretary and all the Liberals and everybody on the fisheries committee realized that section of the act was very weak and a change was required. They made in the committee exactly the same recommendation I am making, that the enforcement officer shall take any action consistent with the act.

I would like the parliamentary secretary to tell his caucus that this is not a diplomatic act we are talking about here. We are talking about an enforcement and conservation act that is crucial to the way of life of many persons in Atlantic Canada, especially Newfoundlanders.

I ask the parliamentary secretary to reconsider the Liberal position on this and to really put some teeth in this so it really does become an enforcement act rather than a diplomatic act.

Coastal Fisheries Protection Act March 25th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, this bill is a good one. It is good for the Canadian people. It is good for the Canadian fishing industry. It will be an enforceable act and an act that can do exactly what it chooses. If we remove or change the amendment I just mentioned, it will be more similar to acts that have been passed in other parts of the world to agree with the United Nations agreement on fisheries and oceans. It is a good suggestion that will make the act stronger and better for all Canadians.

Coastal Fisheries Protection Act March 25th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Nova Scotia who always speaks with such great sense and passion about the fishing industry.

It is a pleasure to rise today to speak to this good piece of legislation which all my caucus colleagues and I will be supporting. I am especially delighted to be speaking on behalf of our fisheries critic, the member for Burin—St. George's, who has become a leader on both the fisheries committee and in the House of Commons on all matters relating to fisheries, especially on conservation and protection.

The member for Burin—St. George's cannot be with us today because his father is in the hospital having some surgery. On behalf of all members, we offer our good wishes to Mr. Matthews, Senior, who is in the hospital today. Hopefully he is doing well.

This act is obviously an act that gets a lot of support from all people in Newfoundland and Labrador. It has extensive industry support from all sectors. It is a piece of legislation primarily designed to add to our enforcement capabilities, to add to our abilities to protect conservation, to protect the fish off the coast of Newfoundland and to protect the jobs of many Atlantic Canadians who depend on the fishery.

The act is not perfect, and probably no piece of legislation ever is, but it is certainly an improvement. Even though it is not perfect we will be supporting it because we know of the tremendous pressures that have been placed on the fish stocks off the coast of Atlantic Canada. They are badly in need of some protection and certainly in need of enforcement of our present laws.

The fish we are talking about in particular are the migratory species especially on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks. They include cod, flounder, turbot, tuna and swordfish. Those are the fish we protect, but the people who depend on the fishery are the people we are really trying to protect in this regard. They are mainly Atlantic Canadians, especially Newfoundlanders, who depend upon the fishery. All Canadians are also well served by protecting this tremendous resource which feeds many of the world's people.

Bill C-27 will have the support of our caucus. However, I want to move an amendment. There is a problem with the act. Yes, it is an improvement over the old act, but there is one very serious gaping fault with the act. The amendment I will propose would change that problem. The act has to be made stronger. I will give a very quick history lesson.

In 1966 in Newfoundland waters there were 266,000 metric tons of cod taken. Although my math may not be great, to me that is well in excess of 532 million pounds or more than a half billion pounds of fish in fishing year 1966. In 1977 through an act of the House of Commons we brought in the 200 mile limit. There was euphoria in Newfoundland; there was joy and bliss. We were finally to have within Canada control of our resource. Everyone thought that there would be more jobs in Newfoundland, that there would be more fish resources and that we would have a very vibrant economy based on that fishery.

In a real short history lesson we went from 532 million pounds of cod in 1966 to zero pounds in a little less than 25 years, in 1992, even with a new fisheries management regime in Canada and even with the 200 mile limit.

Very often during the 25 year period from 1966 to 1990 or so we lost a lot of fish because the fishery was not managed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Often the fisheries industry was managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs for trade purposes, the department of external affairs or foreign trade, and a lot of our fish were bargained away and given away.

In particular, with the few short moments I have today I want to move an amendment to subsection 7.01(1). This is the most important part of the act. It gives strength to our enforcement officers.

It reads, as the previous member mentioned:

If a protection officer believes on reasonable grounds that a fishing vessel of a participating state...has engaged in unauthorized fishing in Canadian fisheries waters and the officer finds the vessel in an area of the sea designated...the officer may, with the consent of the state, take any enforcement action that is consistent with this act.

In other words, when the enforcement officer finds something that he thinks is seriously wrong, a new set of laws takes place for that and only that act within Canada.

Basically what it says is that if the enforcement officer thinks this person, this vessel or this captain has committed a crime in Canadian waters, the officer must call the home country and get permission to lay a charge. Maybe then the officer will be allowed to lay the charge. Therefore I move:

That section 7.01(1) be amended by removing the words “may with the consent of that state” and “any” and inserting the word “shall” before the word “take”.

In effect I am saying that the enforcement officer, not that he may, not that he might, not that there might be some minister of fisheries as proposed by the member from British Columbia, shall take action consistent with the act.

That will give the enforcement officer at sea exactly the same provisions as RCMP officers and wildlife officers and in effect the same provisions that enforcement officer has in our offshore to lay a charge against a Canadian vessel. He does not have to call the minister of external affairs, the Prime Minister of Canada or the Minister of Justice of Canada to lay a charge against a Canadian vessel. If it is a foreign vessel in Canadian waters, why in the name of God would we want the enforcement officer to somehow call some foreign country to get permission?

Just imagine if it were the other way around. Imagine if this law were in place in Greenland and a Canadian vessel was found overfishing or was suspected of overfishing in Greenland waters. Greenland's external affairs department would call external affairs in Canada who would get in touch with the minister of fisheries. A cabinet meeting would probably have to be called in Canada to get the permission of the minister. If it involved a Newfoundland vessel, the premier of Newfoundland would talk to the federal minister of fisheries and ask the minister not to lay this charge. How in the name of God even in a country as organized, disciplined and democratic as Canada, would you get permission of the state government of the vessel committing the crime?

If we look at it in the absurd, most of these pirate fishing vessels are registered in Panama. Imagine some poor fisheries officer off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland who comes upon a Panamanian vessel. This is what happened with the Estai and others. They are probably from Spain, Portugal or some other country but are registered in Panama. That would be the state we would have to deal with.

Imagine the poor old fisheries officer trying to get hold of Foreign Affairs Canada to get permission from the Minister of Foreign Affairs to call Panama's minister of foreign affairs to get permission to lay a charge off the coast of Newfoundland. It simply would never happen. It could not happen. It would take so long the evidence would be all gone. As a result we would never get a charge laid.

My amendment, which I hope will be supported by all members of this House of Commons, simply says that if a foreigner commits a crime or is suspected of committing a crime in Canadian fishing waters, then he will be treated like any other foreigner who commits any other crime in Canadian jurisdiction. He lives by Canadian law, that a charge be laid by the enforcement officer.

This is so absurd. It reminds me of a police officer in Canada finding a juvenile delinquent breaking into a shopping mall and having to call the delinquent's mom first to see if he can lay a charge.

These fishing vessels off the coast of Newfoundland have devastated our stocks. They have taken us from 532 million pounds of fish in 1966 to no pounds in 1992. We have gradually been bringing it up in the last few years. That protection and enforcement is crucial to the fishing industry and its people in Newfoundland and all of Atlantic Canada.

This amendment is very simple. It gives the enforcement officer the right to enforce a law that is consistent whether you are a Canadian or a foreigner. We are talking about foreigners breaking the law in Canadian waters. From the point of view of Newfoundland and on behalf of my colleague from Burin—St. George's I want to say that if we are going to have a successful fishery in Newfoundland that employs a lot of people, then we certainly need this law changed.

Bank Act March 24th, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I would like the ask the hon. member a brief question.

I was probably one of the few members in the House who were open minded on the bank mergers. I said to the banks and to all who would listen that as long as bank mergers did not reduce competition and did not reduce the rights of Canadians to have access to free and competitive business in the banking circles, I was willing to support them.

I look at other things that have happened with mergers since then, like the consolidation of the grocery business in eastern Canada. In Newfoundland and all through Atlantic Canada all the reports show that through the merger of a couple of large grocery retail outlets, grocery costs for every family in Atlantic Canada will go up by an average of 7% a year. We allow mergers in one sector when we will not allow mergers in another sector.

Now that we are allowing foreign banks to come into Canada and increase the competition, maybe they will just come into the big cities. Maybe they will come in and take the cream of the crop and just open branches in bigger places, in the places that are more profitable.

Equally now that we will have a more competitive banking system in Canada which will give better access to all Canadians, should we not reassess the bank mergers which were rejected primarily upon the basis that we would have a less competitive banking system?

Chad Blundon And Lisa Robichaud March 23rd, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I know that all of my colleagues in the House are aware and appreciative of the efficient service performed in the Chamber by the young men and women in the House of Commons page program.

Today I draw attention to two of these young Canadians who have further distinguished themselves by competing in the Canada Winter Games. One of our pages, Lisa Robichaud, represented her home province of Prince Edward Island at the Corner Brook Games. Lisa, who hails from Cavendish, attends the University of Ottawa and works here as a page, was a member of the P.E.I. cross-country ski team that competed in the 1999 games.

Also competing at the games was page Chad Blundon, a young man I know personally from the athletic riding of St. John's West. Chad participated as a page in Team Newfoundland and Labrador. Before an audience in Corner Brook that included his family and friends, Chad and his team delivered Newfoundland's strongest showing ever in squash.

I ask all members of the House to join me today in extending our heartiest congratulations to these outstanding pages, Chad Blundon and Lisa Robichaud.

Division No. 354 March 23rd, 1999

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague for Kings—Hants.

I agree with almost every thing the member for Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore said. What the government has done today in the House is absolutely unforgivable, unconscionable and should not be allowed to happen in a democracy.

It is a pleasure, in one way, to be here today to see the government acknowledge it has failed miserably on two fronts. It has failed in managing the House of Commons, the Parliament of Canada. The government House leader has come in today with a bill that basically shuts down the rights of all of us as parliamentarians. This does not give us the right to have adequate debate. It does not give us a chance to reasonably explain to each other and the people of Canada why we are for or against any given piece of legislation.

When the government brings in closure it is acknowledging that it cannot run this place properly, it has failed to manage the affairs of the House of Commons. As a result the government takes away the rights of individual members in order to ram through legislation which obviously is only favoured by the government, not by any of the opposition members and not by the majority of Canadians.

The other area in which the Liberal government has failed is how it manages public relations, relations with its employees and how it runs its collective agreements. In effect what the President of the Treasury Board is saying today is he has failed. He was not able to negotiate a reasonable and fair settlement with the lowest paid of the Canadian public servants. To have the minister come in here today and acknowledge that is at least something to say that the Liberals know when they have done something wrong.

Unfortunately what we are seeing here today is a government, its slim majority achieved with only 38% of Canadian public support, using its bullying power to pass legislation whether Canadians like it or not.

We should not be here today just to do the government's dirty business. We should be here to discuss the problems facing Canada. One of those is the PSAC strike. What we are really doing here is getting the government off the hook because it is incompetent, uncaring and unaware of how to reach a reasonable settlement with its employees.

We should take some brief moments today, with the small amount of time we are allocated under this closure motion, to talk about what collective bargaining is supposed to be in Canada. Government is not supposed to be in the House of Commons today changing a rule to suit itself. It is here for the good of the people.

When it suspends collective bargaining, which in effect is what Bill C-76 does, it says that people do not have a right to go on strike. This PSAC strike, as far as I understand it, is a legal strike. They as employees, part of a collective bargaining unit, have every right to strike. They pay their union dues. They use negotiating teams to negotiate a good agreement for themselves. If those things do not work then obviously they have the provision to strike.

The employer, on the other hand, has the provision to lock out any employee who does not have a collective agreement. In this case these workers, the lowest paid in the Canadian public service, who have not had a wage increase for seven years, have chosen to go on strike. To my way of thinking they have every legal right to do so. For us to be here today to vote to suspend that right, to take away their collective bargaining right, is simply not proper.

We are doing it for a reason, there supposedly being a real crisis in western Canada. My thought process is if we have employees who are deemed essential, the minute they go on strike everyone knows the collective bargaining process. Some respect it and some do not. Basically in a collective bargaining process employees will choose to go on strike at a time that is most opportune for them, where they can exert more influence, where they can put more pressure on the employer to reach an acceptable agreement. Obviously that has happened in western Canada.

If employees are so essential that we cannot possibly do without them, that their service must be performed at all cost and at all times, then we should change the process. We should do away with collective agreements for some employees and take away the right to strike. Because they are essential, because they are deemed absolutely crucial to the governance of our country, then we should not have collective agreements but a system of binding arbitration where workers give up the right to strike on one hand knowing that a binding arbitration clause or agreement will be struck on the other hand that gives them a fair shake.

Not all governments follow this process exactly. In Newfoundland we have a most unfortunate situation now where we have taken the right to strike away from our policemen and firemen. Why did we take the right to strike away from policemen and firemen? They are deemed to be essential to good governance. They are deemed to be crucial to how our communities handle the affairs that come up on any given day.

Police in Newfoundland went to binding arbitration, so they thought, except they found that the Liberal Government of Newfoundland, with the same heavy hand that the Liberal government in Ottawa uses, would not accept the binding arbitration and in effect put in place an agreement which nobody, including the arbitrators, agreed with. That is government for government sake. It is not government for the people.

This whole situation we are in with PSAC puts farmers on one hand against PSAC members on the other. I again believe that if these workers, the grain handlers in particular, are absolutely essential to the agriculture industry in Canada, they are absolutely essential for our foreign trade purposes, then they could be declared an essential service. Make them eligible for binding arbitration and send them back to work.

If we were here today to discuss legislation which would change the collective bargaining agreement to deem those persons as performing an essential service, to give them binding arbitration, I suspect most of those members in that union would be more than happy to go back to work and do that essential service for the good of Canada.

What we have now is a crisis in the grain handling in the agricultural industry in western Canada and in effect what this government is doing is using the farmers, the producers of the country, as a form of blackmail to force some of their low paid workers not back to the bargaining table but simply back to work. I think that is absolutely shameful of the government. It is shameful to think that we would use our hardworking farmers to force some other low paying Canadians back to work.

I know there is tremendous concern for our international trade reputation. There is the tremendous concern of money loss, of contracts in place, of delivery schedules not being met, but it is the government's fault. Farmers in western Canada may think the Government of Canada is doing them a favour by legislating workers back to their duties. Most farmers will say it is the fault of the Government of Canada and not the low paid PSAC workers who are at fault here.

If the Government of Canada thinks it will curry favour with all the farmers across the country, I certainly hope that does not happen because it does not deserve any credit from the farmers of Canada.

Certainly Treasury Board and the government have known for over two years that these negotiations had to take place. Why were there only 14 days of negotiations with a collective bargaining unit over a 2 year period? Is this good planning and good management by the government? Obviously it is not.

I agree that in certain cases people may have to be legislated back to work because they are essential. If the marine Atlantic ferry workers connecting Newfoundland to the rest of the country were to go on strike it might be that because it was destroying the fishing industry and completely disrupting the tourism industry those people might have to be legislated back to work.

My thought process is again the same as it is with these workers, that they are deemed essential. Give them binding arbitration. They lose their right to strike but it is known that in the end there will at least be a fair agreement and it will not have to be done by blackmailing some other part of society.

One of the very important issues for Atlantic Canada, in particular for Newfoundland, is the regional rates of pay. This is another Liberal policy that allows for a Newfoundlander doing exactly the same work as somebody from Calgary or Vancouver to get a different rate of pay. It is absolutely unconstitutional. It is unfair.

It is not allowed to discriminate based on race, creed or colour but there can be discrimination based on where one happens to live. It is absolutely, totally unfair and PSAC is fighting this battle. It is a battle that needs to be won. It is a policy that needs to be changed by the Government of Canada.

It is silliness to think that the Government of Canada is afraid to disrupt local labour markets because of paying a higher rate of pay in Newfoundland. In Newfoundland we lost 30,000 people in the last three years. We have a 20% unemployment rate and a 35% unemployment rate with young people.

I assure the President of the Treasury Board and the Prime Minister and all his ministers in cabinet that there would be no disruption of the labour market in Newfoundland if the government paid these people a fair wage.

I hope that somewhere in this whole process some of these PSAC members are able to fight this battle on regional rates of pay and come to a logical conclusion which is that everybody in Canada who does the same work for the Government of Canada should get the same rate of pay.

Division No. 360 March 23rd, 1999

Madam Speaker, I am not sure we have much left to give them. We have given them all our logic and all the benefit of our wisdom and the government members never seem to accept very much of it. I suspect it will not be any different this morning than it was last night, yesterday or last week.

We have a few points to make about what has happened here in the last 24 hours. Our caucus has a few things to say about how the government has handled this issue. Yesterday when I first spoke on this matter I said that the government was acknowledging by the way it did this that it had two fundamental failures.

One is its fundamental failure in how it runs this House. Whenever the government House leader has to bring in closure, an act that takes away the rights of the members of this House of Commons, he acknowledges a failure in managing this place properly. That is something all 301 members deserve and expect. All Canadians expect us to have the rights of this House of Commons every single day. If the government cannot manage its business any better, if it has to run from crisis to crisis, then maybe the government House leader should look at exactly how he does his job.

The other failure was the failure of the President of the Treasury Board, the minister responsible for collective agreements, the minister responsible for making sure we have in place a collective bargaining process that has an opportunity to work.

If there is a case where this pending strike has been ongoing and the collective agreement has been ongoing and needing to be negotiated for two years, why did we end up with 14 days of negotiation in two years? What happened to all the other days in those two years that were not used to solve this problem? That is why we have been here for the last 24 hours.

The third mistake, if there was a mistake to be made worse than the other two, is how the House was managed last night. Some people in the House had access before a crucial vote to very crucial information about a vote that we were taking about collective bargaining in Canada.

Why did the President of the Treasury Board and the government House leader not acknowledge that they knew an hour or so before any of us voted that there was a tentative agreement? It is absolutely unfair and unacceptable. It may not be illegal but it certainly is immoral and unfair to all of us as members of the House of Commons to allow some persons to have knowledge before they vote and some persons to have that knowledge 40 or 50 minutes later, after the vote was taken.

That is one of the reasons we spent most of the night here. The government did not give the opposition the facts. It did not give us the truth as to what was really happening. As long as those kind of things happen in this place, the opposition will fight for its rights. We will fight for the rights of Canadians who did not get a fair shake in this collective bargaining process.

Another strange thing happened last night that none of them seem to understand. The President of the Treasury Board should have come in last night and made a wonderful announcement that there was a tentative agreement as a result of the collective bargaining process, which is what everyone wants to see happen. He should allowed it to be the end of the evening. Instead he had to come in and rub the faces of the people in the PSAC union in the mud and say they were given a collective agreement, which might not be really what was wanted. In case it is not accepted it took away the right to strike anyway. What kind of logic is that?

If a collective agreement is negotiated in good faith and is accepted by members of PSAC, why are we taking away the right to strike from people who are not now on strike? Why was it not part of the negotiating process for the President of Treasury Board to simply ask the member of PSAC to give up their right to go on strike during the ratification process? Any agreeable, acceptable union would be happy to do that provided the government was fair enough to take away its right to rush in here and pass back to work legislation.

My suspicion is that the government was not willing to give the union any assurance that it would not come in and pass back to work legislation. As a result, the union quite probably said that if the government would not relent on its back to work legislation it would not relent on its right to go on strike during the ratification process.

It was all done very wrongly. The whole collective bargaining process is now wrong for all public servants of Canada. How can the issues they want to negotiate through the collective bargaining process be done? There cannot be binding arbitration and there can only be strikes if it suits the employer. That is a no-brainer. Who will go on strike? Who can go on strike? The minute they do it is taken away through the process we have before us in the House of Commons.

I will repeat today what I said yesterday. If workers are deemed essential, whether they are grain handlers, transportation workers or workers in prisons, and their services must be available for good governance in the country, they should be made essential workers and given binding arbitration. Then most persons would accept as a fair and reasonable way to govern the taking away of their right to strike. In this case the workers have given up everything and the government very little. As a result we will continue to have a series of union and employer problems for many years to come.

Certainly from our point of view not only salary issues are involved. There is a terrible unconstitutional law that has been implemented by Treasury Board. A person in St. John's, Newfoundland, who does clerical work for the Government of Canada gets paid an entirely different wage from a person who does the same work in Calgary. How can there be discrimination in the country based upon where one happens to live?

I do not care about the business of disrupting labour markets. The minister thinks that if he pays an equivalent wage or a slightly higher wage to a person in St. John's, Newfoundland, than he pays to a person in Calgary he will disrupt the labour market in Newfoundland and will not be able to find employees for the private sector.

The government does not know yet that there is a 35% unemployment rate for young people in Newfoundland. It does not know that there is a 20% unemployment rate for all adults in Newfoundland. There are no jobs. In the last three years we have lost 30,000 Newfoundlanders. Is that labour market disruption? Is that affected by the Government of Canada paying lower wages in Newfoundland than in other places? Those are the kinds of things that have to be negotiated through collective agreements.

All I can say about this process is that there does not seem to be a collective bargaining process any more. It is intimidation by the majority. It is bullying by government that forces people to accept certain things which are not acceptable to them in a normal, negotiating process.

From the point of view of this caucus we are very disappointed that the Government of Canada tries to pit farmers against workers in Newfoundland. Sometimes it picks on, in this case the poorest paid in the public service. They are bullied by a government which tries to use farmers to intimidate them. It is a totally wrong process. It is a disgusting process.

The way members of the House of Commons were treated last night in the vote was disgusting. This party and this caucus do not vote for those kinds of shenanigans in the House, not now and not ever.

Division No. 359 March 23rd, 1999

Mr. Chairman, when I asked the minister if PSAC negotiators were willing to give up job action during the ratification period in return for the government giving up its back to work legislation, the minister answered that the union was not willing to give up its strike option. Was this position forced on the union because the government would not relent and give up its right to back to work legislation?

Division No. 359 March 23rd, 1999

Mr. Chairman, how long does the minister expect this ratification or rejection process to take?