Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise in this House to speak in support of Bill C-4, and with it the repeal of Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. Bill C-4 is an important step forward and yet another example of this government following through on our promises.
Before I begin, I want to acknowledge that this is my first time rising in the House to speak in debate since being elected by the great people of Newmarket—Aurora. I want to thank the voters who placed their trust in me to represent them here in Ottawa.
I also want to thank the hundreds of volunteers who supported our campaign during the election. As a long-time resident of my community, I am truly honoured by this. I particularly want to thank my wife Andrea, and our two sons, without whom the success of the campaign would not have been possible.
I look forward to working with all members in this House in an effort to accomplish great things for our great country.
There is an important topic in front of us today, and that is Bill C-4. This government recognizes the important role that unions play in protecting the rights of Canadian workers and in helping to ensure a strong and prosperous middle class. Bill C-4 is an integral step to ensuring Canada's labour laws best foster positive and productive working relationships between employees and employers, an approach that strives for balance. If we look to Bills C-377 and C-525, the Employees’ Voting Rights Act, it is clear that balance was not the objective.
What is also clear is that a number of legitimate concerns were raised by stakeholders, which were ultimately ignored by the previous government. While it rushed to pass these bills just before the election for partisan gain and as a tool to punish unions, Bill C-4 would go a long way to restoring the fairness and balance that was lost under the previous bills. Not only did the legislation diminish and weaken Canada's labour movement, it was also counterproductive to ensuring a positive work environment. The bills were political gimmicks used for partisan gain and nothing more. They addressed no pressing problem, no great evil, and merely duplicated much of the legislation found in the Canada Labour Code and provincial regulations. We campaigned, and rightfully so, on repealing these hyperpartisan acts, and today we are closer to doing so.
It was clear from the beginning that Bill C-377 would create an unnecessary advantage for unions during collective bargaining, while Bill C-525 would make it more challenging to unionize and much easier for bargaining agents to be decertified. This meant that union members already facing challenging conditions when going through the collective bargaining process would have to tackle even more red tape and more uncertainty. This government wants to eliminate the unnecessary red tape and allow Canadians access to the kind of productive, positive working relationship between employees and employers that unions strive for and Canadians deserve. We will accomplish this through Bill C-4.
After the introduction of Bill C-377 by the last government, a number of high profile organizations were vocal about their opposition to it, including the Canadian Bar Association, the association representing police unions, and the federal Privacy Commissioner, to name a few. These organizations argued that Bill C-377 is ultimately an invasion of privacy for the significant number of people falling under its broad reporting requirements. Through several well-crafted and thoughtful, albeit ignored submissions, the Canadian Bar Association warned that this bill interferes with the internal administration and operations of a union, which is likely prohibited under the constitutional protection of freedom of association. Many provincial governments and employees agree, and the Alberta union of public employees launched a constitutional challenge against the legislation.
Beyond the likely unconstitutionality of Bill C-377, it would also be impractical to administer, including the high cost this would place on the Canada Revenue Agency to process the increased volume of disclosure. Though it is always easy to increase regulation or create more red tape, the costs, whether to the organization, or in this case to the government agency, can be significant and should not be overlooked. This is yet another reason to repeal this bill.
While the Conservatives wanted to increase the number of hoops for unions and their members to jump through, this government is committed to eliminating them.
To say that these bills were not a highly partisan move by the previous government would be false. All we need to do is look back over two years ago, when on June 26, 2013, a Friday afternoon just days before the summer recess, 16 Conservative senators broke ranks and voted to gut Bill C-377 and send the amended legislation back to this place. Parliament was prorogued before members of the House could deal with it, sending it back to the Senate without any changes. It took another two years before the long reach of the former PMO finally managed to accomplish what it set out to do in the first place and the law came into force.
Aside from the large number of organizations that were quite vocal in their condemnation of Bill C-377, a number of provinces, seven to be exact, also stood in opposition to it. These provinces already implement strong and important requirements for financial disclosure among the unions. Duplicating these measures not only encroaches on the jurisdiction of these provinces but also creates undue adversity for unions. Above and beyond these duplications, Bill C-377 also goes a step further and requires labour organizations to disclose more information than required of any other organization. This unfair treatment would ultimately have severe consequences on how unions operate in serving their members. Our government wants to protect the role of the union on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who rely on them. Unions are a legitimate part of the Canadian economy and its social fabric.
Bill C-4 recognizes the concerns that were raised months and in some cases years ago, and addresses them by allowing the provinces to continue their work in their jurisdiction. Bill C-4 would also ensure that labour issues are free of the potential breaches of individual privacy rights that were so obviously threatened by Bill C-377. The provinces play an important role in securing the transparency and accountability of unions, and through the imposition of Bill C-377, labour units are thrust into unfair circumstances that make it challenging and sometimes impossible to be compliant.
Bill C-4 would clean up the mess that Bill C-377 left behind. It would restore balance to existing relations between unions and employers. It would get rid of the duplication of reporting requirements. It would remove the discriminatory nature of Bill C-377, and it would uphold the privacy of all parties.
This government has also been steadfast in its position on how best to rebalance the rights of workers and employers in Canada. Bill C-4 will be a welcome relief to the past government's back-door nature, exemplified by Bill C-525, a private member's bill that had no stakeholder consultation whatsoever yet will wield significant impact.
Bill C-525's impact spreads deep, from the way unions can form to how they operate, and ultimately whether or not they can decertify. Bill C-525 put in place a requirement for a majority secret ballot vote by employees before any bargaining unit can be certified or decertified, a clear and obvious attack on unions by the previous government. By changing these thresholds under Bill C-525, not only did the previous government make it harder for bargaining agents to be certified, it made it easier for a bargaining agent to be decertified. Bill C-4 will go a long way to re-establishing a positive working relationship between employees and employers to allow for a more efficient, quicker process. Through the repeal of Bill C-525, I am proud to say that the certification process will be more efficient and more likely to be free of employer interference.
This government will work hard for the rights of workers and employers across Canada, and Bill C-4 is the first step in rectifying the partisan attacks on hard-working Canadians by the past government.
I am pleased that I have had the opportunity to discuss such an important bill, which affects over 18,000 labour entities in Canada, including locals found in my riding of Newmarket—Aurora. This government stood before Canadians last October and made a commitment to voters that if the Liberal Party formed government, Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 would be repealed. Well here we are, a little over 100 days later, doing exactly that. This is a government that believes in bargaining in good faith and that unions play an important and legitimate role in the success of our economy. I am proud to have this opportunity in the House to defend those rights and look forward to a productive and respectful working relationship with labour unions moving forward. I urge all members to do the right thing and support Bill C-4.