House of Commons photo

Track Rodger

Your Say


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is workers.

Liberal MP for Cape Breton—Canso (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 74% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Cannabis Act November 1st, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I have the utmost respect for my friend and colleague across the way, but I must have run in a different election in 2015, because I do not think that there was one issue that made a clearer definition of positions than the marijuana issue. The government's position at the time was very clear: legalize it.

I remember the former Conservative minister of justice at the time, Peter MacKay, saying that marijuana was the currency of organized crime. I thought to myself that he was right, and so we should take it out of their hands and make sure that we know what is in the marijuana on the market.

However, in an article in Maclean's that laid out the positions, it was clear that the NDP had crafted a position between the main rivals and called for decriminalization but not for legalization. Therefore, when the member across says that NDP members have been proponents for legalization, I think he is gilding the lily a little on that. Both the late Jack Layton and former leader, Thomas Mulcair, spoke in favour of decriminalization, but nowhere did they support legalization.

There are other issues around this, yes, but will the member support the bill for legalization?

Employment October 20th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore for his strong advocacy on this particular issue. He deserves a round of applause.

As part of the targeted employment strategy for newcomers, we have launched a call for proposals for the foreign credential recognition program. This program will offer loans to help with the recognition process. Helping newcomers get their foreign credentials recognized faster will allow them to join the Canadian workforce faster. This is critical to growing our economy and strengthening our middle class.

Canada Labour Code September 27th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to the opposition bill, Bill C-345. I am pleased the bill was put forward by my colleague for Abitibi—Témiscamingue. The bill is very similar to one that was tabled in the House back in the last Parliament.

I think all members in the House share the opinion, the will, and the want of ensuring that pregnant and nursing employees are safe and supported in the workforce, as they should be.

The bill proposes to allow the Government of Canada to enter into an agreement with provinces that provide for the application of provincial preventative withdrawal provisions that are at least as favourable to the employee as those in federal legislation. It would create uneven treatment of federally regulated workers across Canada. The bill would add a new section to part II of the Canada Labour Code to allow a pregnant or nursing employee under the federal jurisdiction to access certain provisions of provincial occupational health and safety legislation.

Right off the bat, I would like to emphasize three things. The bill would not improve safety for workers. It would have unintended consequences of employers absolving their duty to keep their pregnant and nursing employees in the workforce through reassignment or modification. Of particular note, currently no other province has such a wage replacement program.

How we make changes to the Canada Labour Code is an important consideration in this debate.

Our government believes in a fair and balanced labour law, and fair and balanced labour laws are created through a tripartite process when it comes to amending the Canada Labour Code. This process has served stakeholders in the federal jurisdiction well over the decades, including employers, labour, and government.

Although I applaud the member for wanting to improve protections for pregnant and nursing workers, those workers, and all workers, in the federal jurisdiction would be better served to support the process that has helped create the Canada Labour Code, which provides some of the best protections for workers in our country.

Members of the House know provisions already exist in the Canada Labour Code to protect the health and safety of all federally regulated workers, including pregnant and nursing employees. At the moment, employees under this federal jurisdiction, no matter where they live, may request from an employer a reassignment or modification of a job function based on medical advice.

My second point focuses on the fact that the federal legislation emphasizes work modifications and job reassignments so employees can continue the work in a safe environment. This is important. I would like to stress that employers have a responsibility in ensuring that their workplaces accommodate pregnant and nursing employees. The employer's role is a key part of the discussion, which has been absent from this debate.

Work modifications and job reassignments ensure that women can continue to participate in the labour force throughout their pregnancy. This should always be a priority. If, however, a reassignment or modification of a job function is in no way possible, employees may take a leave of absence, as a last resort, for the duration of the risk and benefit from the existing job protections under the code.

I would like to highlight that the current system under the Canada Labour Code is working. There are very few complaints associated with the current federal approach to preventative withdrawal. Over the past 10 years, only 14 complaints have been received, with only three of those judged to be founded following investigation.

The province of Quebec offers a similar provision for pregnant or nursing workers, providing them with the right to request reassignment to other duties or, if that is not possible, to take leave if their working conditions may be physically dangerous to their health or that of their fetus or nursing child.

Canada is a federation of 14 different jurisdictions. It is important that all workers who are regulated by the federal Canada Labour Code are treated fairly and equally, regardless of the province in which they work. Providing access to salary replacement benefits only to certain federal employees is unfair to employees working in other provinces and territories.

For example, an airline pilot or flight attendant working for a company like WestJet or Air Canada in Alberta should have the same rights as a pilot or attendant working for the same company in Quebec. These considerations should be taken into account as we examine this bill's implications more closely.

This bill would only benefit federally regulated workers in Quebec, since it is the only province that specifically offers preventative withdrawal job protection with wage replacement for those impacted. In Quebec, if a pregnant or nursing employee must stop working because of a health risk to her, her fetus, or her child, and if the employer is not able to reassign her, this employee is entitled to preventative withdrawal leave with a wage replacement equivalent to 90% of insurable earnings.

Our government takes the physical and mental health safety of all workers extremely seriously. In budget 2017, we announced new compliance and enforcement measures for occupational health and safety and labour standards. These measures include monetary penalties and administrative fees for employers who routinely violate legislation, the authority to publicly name violators, strengthened powers for inspectors, new recourse against reprisal, and improvements to the wage recovery process. The budget also proposed amendments to the Canada Labour Code to give federally regulated workers the right to request flexible work arrangements.

These and other budget 2017 measures will help workers to better balance professional and personal responsibilities, such as caring for a spouse going through medical treatment or for an aging family member. This will benefit workers and their families.

We know that new and growing families across this country need support to help balance work and the needs of their families. One of the first actions we took as a government was introducing the Canada child benefit, which puts more money in the pockets of nine out of 10 families, helping lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.

Through budget 2017, we are improving the employment insurance program to help working parents face the challenges that come with a growing family. Parents will have two options: receiving El parental benefits over a period of 12 months at the existing rate of 55%, or receiving them over an extended period of up to 18 months at a lower benefit rate of 33% of average weekly earnings. Additionally, if they choose, pregnant women will be allowed to claim El maternity benefits up to 12 weeks before their due date, up from the previous eight weeks.

Our government also amended the Canada Labour Code to ensure that workers in federally regulated sectors have the job protection they need while receiving caregiving, parental, or maternity benefits.

Let me be clear. This government is working to ensure that women across this country are supported in the workforce. Women from coast to coast to coast can depend on this government to fight for their rights and inclusion. We are taking concrete action to support women in Canadian workplaces. We introduced union training innovations, which support and recruit women in trades. We are working hard on building a proactive pay equity regime. The legislation will be tabled in 2018. We are supporting female students in STEM and business through work placements.

In conclusion, trying to improve one aspect of the Canada Labour Code for workers should not lead to inequitable treatment for others. If the central goal of this bill is to improve the protections and supports for pregnant and nursing employees working in the federal jurisdiction, those protections and supports should be the same for every mother across this country, irrespective of the province in which they live.

Labour laws are very complicated, and making changes to them can lead to unintended consequences. That is why we, as a government, are very supportive of the tripartite process. When changes in the code are made, that is what should be exercised. That is why we are unable to support this legislation.

Post-Secondary Education September 22nd, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I think most Canadians, and certainly Canadian students, know the actions undertaken by this government to help them get that very necessary education they need to provide them jobs of today for the future.

Last year, we increased the amount of support for Canadian students by 50% to help those in low and middle-income families. We have helped persons with disabilities and indigenous Canadians by increasing the number of grants they receive.

This government is absolutely committed to helping students get that opportunity.

Allan J. MacEachen September 19th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, it is my profound honour today to rise and pay tribute to a true giant in Canadian politics. The hon. Allan J. MacEachen dedicated his life to the equality of citizenship, both under the law and with opportunity. He used his peerless parliamentary skills to turn the dreams of a progressive few into a reality to benefit all. A national health care program, old age security, the guaranteed income supplement, and a national labour code are aspects of life in Canada that Allan J. helped to build.

As our Prime Minister said on Sunday, this Canada existed only in the hopes of Canadians when Allan entered politics in 1953. “By the time he left in 1996, it was a fact of life”.

Although he shaped this country at the cabinet table, make no mistake that his view of this world was very much shaped back home at the kitchen table.

I am confident that he is looking down on us here today in this place encouraging us all to be better and to do better for all Canadians.

Questions on the Order Paper June 16th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, there are three types of loan forgiveness provided through the Canada student loans program, the CSLP. They are the severe permanent disability benefit, Canada student loan forgiveness for family doctors and nurses, and forgiveness in cases of death.

In the case of the severe permanent disability benefit, a borrower may be eligible for the severe permanent disability benefit, the SPDB, if they have a physical or mental impairment that prevents them from ever being able to study at a post-secondary level and take part in the labour force; and the disability is expected to remain with them for life. The borrower must submit an application for SPDB, along with medical documents to support the application. From November 4, 2015, to March 31, 2017, 969 Canada student loan borrowers were approved for loan forgiveness through SPDB.

In the case of the Canada student loan forgiveness for family doctors and nurses, family doctors, residents in family medicine, nurse practitioners, and nurses who practise in designated rural or remote communities may be eligible to have a portion of their Canada student loans forgiven.

To be eligible for Canada student loan forgiveness, borrowers must have started their current employment--full-time, part-time, or casual, including self-employment for family doctors with a private family practice--as an eligible medical professional in a designated rural or remote community on or after July 1, 2011; completed a full 12-month loan forgiveness period, during which time they worked in a in an under-served rural or remote community; and submitted a Canada student loan forgiveness for family doctors and nurses application form.

Applicants must meet the necessary licensing requirements for that profession under an appropriate authority, such as the College of Family Physicians of Canada or provincial nursing associations, and must be practising in Canada in one of the following professions: family doctor; family medicine resident in training with an accredited medical school in Canada, who would be exempt from the licensing requirement; registered nurse; registered psychiatric nurse; registered practical nurse; licensed practical nurse; or nurse practitioner.

Family doctors and family medicine residents in training with an accredited medical school in Canada may receive up to $8,000 per period in Canada student loan forgiveness, to a maximum of $40,000.

Nurse practitioners and nurses may receive up to $4,000 per year in Canada student loan forgiveness, to a maximum of $20,000 over five years.

From November 4, 2015, to March 31, 2017, there were 4,922 recipients of doctors and nurses loan forgiveness.

In the case of loan forgiveness for reasons of death, in the event that a borrower dies, all repayment obligations are terminated regardless of the loan regime.

From November 4, 2015, to March 31, 2017, 2,014 Canada student loan borrowers had their loans forgiven due to death. The data includes figures related to a processing backlog and does not necessarily reflect the number of borrowers who died from November 4, 2015, to March 31, 2017.

Chief of Protocol June 16th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, later this summer, the parliamentary community will bid farewell to one of its own, Elizabeth Rody, chief of protocol for the Parliament of Canada. For more than 30 years, and may I note, 14 of them as only the third chief of protocol of Parliament, Ms. Rody has placed her talents and expertise at the service of several Speakers of the Senate and of the House of Commons, coordinating a vast array of parliamentary events in Ottawa and across Canada.

She has welcomed dignitaries from all over the world, from Margaret Thatcher, to former President of the United States Barack Obama, who during his visit told her admiringly, “You run a tight ship.”

Ms. Rody will cap her remarkable parliamentary career with the upcoming visit of the President of Italy, and then embark on the next chapter in her life. On behalf of all members in this chamber, I would like to thank her for her exemplary service and wish her all the best.

Status of Women June 15th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, she asked a hundred times, “When will someone do something?” We are the someone and we are doing something. We are fixing this. Things have changed since 2004 in Canada. She might want to refresh those stats. She might want to refresh that data. I think Alexa McDonough might have been the leader of the NDP at the time.

We are consulting with experts in the field. We are consulting with the people on the ground who have dealt with this issue before. We do not want just any pay equity strategy. We want a pay equity strategy that is right for Canadian women. We will get it done.

Status of Women June 15th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I know my NDP colleague is very committed to this issue. She asked, back on March 8, when the government intended to pass a law on pay equity and whether it was in the near future.

Our government is committed to a whole-of-government approach to providing opportunities for women in our country: more women in skilled trades, more women in work integrated learning opportunities. Science, technology, engineering, math, we are committed to providing support for women in those fields. Getting more women on boards, and young women and girls taking up coding. Those are the types of initiatives we are supporting across government to make sure that women and their contributions to society are recognized.

Specifically with pay equity, we are currently undertaking meaningful consultations with all stakeholders. As my colleague indicated, there are a number of provincial models. Quebec and Ontario both have pay equity models that we are discussing with them and trying to draw best practices from.

In the response when she asked the question in March, we said we would undertake consultations through the spring, and those consultations are taking place with PSAC, the CLC, and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. With these consultations, we are where we said we would be.

What we are seeing is the New Democrats scrambling to try to get ahead of progressive issues again because we know in the last election they had that big shift to the centre, and they were going to balance the budget. They went more Tory than the Tories, so all they can do now in the House is ask, “When is the government going to do it?”

They asked, “When is the government going to fix CPP?” We developed a supplemental CPP. They asked, “When is the government going to do something for women on the guaranteed income supplement?” We fixed it with an additional $1,000 a year for the most vulnerable seniors in our country. They asked, “When is the government going to do something about asbestos?” We banned asbestos.

They are scrambling, trying to get back on the progressive side of the political continuum in this country. This is another sign. It may change under new leadership, but all we have seen so far is a battered and bruised party trying its best to get on the best side of progressive issues. The NDP members get up and ask, “When is someone going to do something?” Our government is the someone. We are doing something, and we are going to deliver on pay equity for the women of this country.

Labour Relations June 15th, 2017

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Vaughan—Woodbridge for his work on behalf of Canadian unions. This week was a great week for Canadian labour and Canadian workers.

Yesterday, the Senate passed Bill C-4, which is an act that repeals two Conservative bills that were both egregious, and deliberate attacks on organized labour. As well, our minister ratified ILO Convention 98, which is an act that guarantees workers' right to organize and bargain collectively. This government ran on a platform of fair and balanced labour laws, and we will deliver that to Canadian workers.