moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
She said: Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure for me to be standing here today. This is my first opportunity to really give my maiden speech in the House, and I am thankful for the opportunity. I am pleased to be part of a government that is taking steps to restore the balance that is so important for positive working relationships between employees and employers. I also want to thank department officials, the hard-working team of public servants, who have supported the quick tabling of this important bill.
The legislation we are discussing today reflects a commitment made several times by the and this government, the commitment to restore a fair and balanced approach to labour relations in this country.
We believe that both employers and unions play critical roles in ensuring that workers receive decent wages and are treated fairly in safe, healthy work environments.
Among other things, our labour laws help ensure that there is balance between the rights of unions and the rights of employers. The government respects unions and understands that they have been a positive force for the workers in Canada through collective bargaining.
Unions have improved the lives of not only their own members but all Canadians. They have negotiated several items that most workers take for granted, such as the five-day work week, and maternity and parental leave.
When the system works, Canadians benefit and great things happen. That is why unions must be on an equal footing in critical negotiations over wages, safety, pensions, and other workplace issues.
Two bills adopted during the last session of Parliament, Bill and Bill , upset that balance. We believe they must be repealed, and we are here today to do just that. We have tabled Bill . If passed, this bill will repeal the legislative changes made by Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. This would be a key first step toward restoring a fair and balanced approach to labour relations, and ultimately build a strong, robust economy, because unfortunately this balance was significantly upset by the political agenda of the previous government.
Bill and Bill have serious ramifications for workers and unions in Canada. Both of these were private members' bills. We do not doubt that the members presenting them intended to improve labour relationships. Unfortunately, the outcomes put unions at a clear disadvantage.
Let me start with Bill . This bill amended the Income Tax Act to require labour organizations and labour trusts, including all unions in provincial and federal jurisdictions, to file detailed financial and other information, including information on non-labour relations activities, with the Canada Revenue Agency. The information contained in these returns would then be made available on CRA's website thereby publicly revealing these organizations' assets, liabilities, income, and expenditures, including the salaries paid to their officers, directors, and other specified employees.
The bill also required labour organizations and labour trusts to provide details on the time spent by certain members of their staff on political lobbying and non-labour relation activities. If organizations do not comply with these measures, they would face possible fines of $1,000 for each day of non-compliance, up to a maximum of $25,000 per year. This information would then be made publicly available on the CRA's website.
If the bill were left in place, employers would have access to the union's financial information, without requiring employers to make the same information available to unions. This would clearly put unions at a disadvantage during the collective bargaining process.
In addition, the financial reporting provisions of Bill were directed solely at labour organizations and labour trusts, not at other organizations, such as professional organizations that benefit from similar treatment under the Income Tax Act.
This kind of treatment is clearly discriminatory against trade unions. Why would they be subject to the onerous reporting obligations imposed by Bill ?
As hon. colleagues may recall, a number of other serious concerns were raised when the bill was brought forward.
The bill creates unnecessary extra red tape for unions. The fact is that there is already legislation in place to ensure that unions are accountable to their members. The Canada Labour Code already requires unions to provide their financial statements to their members on request, and free of charge.
It should be noted that many provinces have similar requirements in their labour statutes.
I would also like to remind the members of the House that Bill poses a potential breach of individual privacy.
In addition to raising privacy concerns, Bill creates unnecessary red tape for unions. Bill C-377 duplicates the accountability measures put in place by almost every province, which have similar requirements in their labour laws. Section 110 of Canada Labour Code already requires unions, as well as employer organizations, to provide financial statements to their members upon request and free of charge.
The bill also puts unions at a disadvantage during collective bargaining by giving employers access to key information about unions, without being required to reciprocate.
Bill has tilted the playing field in favour of employers. For example, employers would know how much money the union had in its strike fund for a possible work stoppage and how long employees would stay out if it came to a strike. The union's most important negotiating lever is undermined by the bill.
There have also been concerns raised about the constitutionality of Bill . The bill presents a potential constitutional challenge because the objective of the bill could be seen not as taxation but as a regulation of unions, which is, in large part, a matter of provincial jurisdiction.
There have been also concerns over the constitutionality of the bill. The provinces of Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island have all stated their opposition to the bill for exactly those reasons.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees has launched a constitutional challenge to Bill before the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench.
The bill is also problematic because it could apply to non-union organizations, such as some of the investment funds and others.
Clearly, some serious legal issues lie within Bill .
Let us not forget the colossal administrative burden the new reporting requirements would have on unions, particularly the smaller ones, and on government itself.
To meet the requirements of Bill , the Canada Revenue Agency would have to develop the necessary IT systems and other administrative systems. This, of course, comes at a hefty price, at least $2 million.
The , knowing that we would be introducing legislation to repeal Bill , has waived its reporting requirements for 2016. This will save labour organizations and trusts the time and money it would have cost to collect and file the information. However, this waiver is only a short-term solution.
Bill was loudly condemned by many labour organizations across the country. In fact, the president of the Quebec Union of Public Employees, SPGQ, Richard Perron referred to it as a “contemptible attack on our democratic values”.
I believe most employers appreciate that a level playing field in collective bargaining is essential to creating safe and productive workplaces. By the same token, an unbalanced approach such as this one can lead to unnecessary tensions and other problems in the workplace.
In fact, when the standing committee on legal and constitutional affairs held its deliberations on Bill , the Hon. Erna Braun, MLA, who is the minister of labour and immigration of my home province of Manitoba, gave evidence. She expressed what she called serious concerns. She said:
Our view is that this bill is unnecessary and that it infringes on provincial jurisdiction....Under 10 per cent of workers in Canada work in federally regulated workplaces. Otherwise, the provincial governments throughout the country can and do independently set their own legislative priorities in the area of labour.
She went on to say that the provinces had been working with employers and employees for decades, and were already doing a good job of regulating labour relations. Our government agrees with that statement.
Bill is problematic for many reasons, but it is inconsistent with the constitution. That alone should be reason enough to repeal the legislative changes it made.
This brings me to Bill , which was also a private member's bill. It actually came into force last June. This bill, which modified the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act, changed the union certification and de-certification systems. The bill also replaced the existing card check system with a mandatory voting system.
Bill makes it harder for unions to be certified as collective bargaining agents, and makes it easier for a bargaining agent to be decertified.
When we asked stakeholders what they thought of the new certification rules, many were displeased. Many said that the previous card check system was not only faster and more efficient, but it was also more likely to be free of employer interference. Overall, as many union spokespersons have pointed out, the card check model is faster, more efficient, and more likely to be free of employer interference than the new method.
Furthermore, repealing this bill will also alleviate pressure on the resources of the Canada Industrial Relations Board and the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board since these boards would need to hold fewer certification votes.
Despite the opposing views on the merits of the new and old systems, both labour and employer representatives were highly critical of how these changes were brought about. Changing our fundamental labour laws with a private member's bill, without conducting consultation through the traditional tripartite process, is not only wrong but potentially very problematic.
As Mr. John Farrell, the executive director of Federally Regulated Employers—Transportation and Communications, told the parliamentary committee in February 2014:
This critical consultation process is completely bypassed when changes to the labour relations regime are proposed through the mechanism of one-off private members' bills. It provides no meaningful way for pre-legislative consultation to take place in an open and transparent manner, and it seeks changes without the required engagement of practitioners, recognized third-party neutrals, and the resources of government agencies charged with the responsibility to implement, adjudicate, and monitor the industrial relations system in the federal jurisdiction.
In the past, labour reforms of this sort were the subject of lengthy discussions between unions, employers, and the government. It was vital to have everyone at the table. This consultation process is essential to maintaining a fair and workable labour-management balance. It is a process that this government is strongly committed to. Therefore, we are also repealing this bill, because it upsets the balance that is so necessary for successful collective bargaining in this country.
That delicate balance is essential to sound labour relations, and the employer-employee relationship is vital to our economy. Why? Because sound labour relations provide stability and predictability in the labour force. These elements underpin a strong economy.
Unions play a critical role in the employer-employee relationships. Unions advocate for good wages and safe working environments. These are things that we can easily take for granted. Unfortunately, Bill and Bill were designed to “weaken the labour movement, period”. Those words came from Jerry Dias, president of Unifor. He also said that it did not have a stitch of common sense to it.
By repealing Bill and Bill , our government will restore a fair and balanced approach to labour relations in Canada.
I am proud of the work we are doing to help restore this balance to the labour landscape of Canada. To put it simply, good labour relations are good for all of us.
The issue at hand here is very simple. These bills diminish and weaken Canada's labour movement. Bill will support and strengthen it.
Madam Speaker, I would like to greet all the members of the House once again. I have the great honour and pleasure to rise on behalf of my party. Before broaching the more political aspect of this issue, I would like to salute my hon. colleague the minister, who is introducing her first bill. This is an important moment for her.
I really want to thank her for what she is doing, but I hope she will understand that she is wrong on that project.
I have respect for her, because we share the same experience. I have been a member of the National Assembly, which is the provincial legislature in Quebec. She has also been a member of a provincial legislature, in Manitoba. However, the point is that the hon. minister was a member of the provincial legislature under what party? It was the NDP. It is real proof, when we read the bill, that the roots are there, and it is all wrong for the people of Canada.
It is a sad day for some of the fundamental principles that we share in the House of Commons. This bill attacks the principles of democracy, accountability, and transparency. Those are fundamental principles of democracy that were intrinsic in our two bills and, unfortunately, are being trampled on by Bill introduced by the Liberal government.
It is clear that this bill is the Liberal Party of Canada's way of thanking the union bosses for spending millions of dollars, without consulting their members, to fight the Conservative Party before the election campaign, when they were not subject to the restrictions on election expenses. Thus, this is a way of thanking the union leaders, but not Canadians.
Let us also remember that all of this is due to the work of the previous government. Our government introduced two private members' bills, which shows that it was open to letting its caucus participate in the democratic process. I am talking about Bill , which has to do with accountability, and Bill , which has to do with the democratic process and which became law. Bill directly attacks these two fundamental pillars, and we are going to demonstrate why it is a bad bill.
First, let us talk about the issue of democracy. Bill allowed for and even required a secret ballot for union certification. If ever the union members wanted to terminate their union certification, that also had to be done by secret ballot.
All members of this House were elected by secret ballot. Throughout our history, thousands of Canadians across the country have been elected and sat in the House because of the principle of the secret ballot. How can members of the House be against secret ballots? There is no better way to give unions even more authority than to give them the support of members through a secret ballot.
Here is what currently happens. Someone knocks on the worker's door, accompanied by three or four friends, and asks the worker if he wants to sign the sheet. The three or four friends may remember the brave man who chose not to sign the sheet. Is it not better to proceed by secret ballot? This calls for a much more extensive democratic process.
Yesterday, during question period, we questioned the about the union bosses who illegally financed the Liberal Party, which was recognized by Elections Canada. The Prime Minister replied that this was a response to our opposition to unions in Bill , which was undemocratic. I have a lot of respect for the office of prime minister, but I still do not understand how a Canadian prime minister elected by secret ballot can find this undemocratic. I am sorry, but this is a fundamental principle that we must respect.
How can the say it is undemocratic when we vote by secret vote, when this guy was elected through a secret vote? How come?
What the minister is saying does not make sense, because she said there were no consultations. Stop right there. We held consultations. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance examined this issue, as did the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce and the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
How many parliamentary consultations did the government hold about this bill? None. They have a lot of nerve telling us something is undemocratic when they did not consult. For one thing, that is not true, and for another, they themselves did not do it.
Another disturbing thing about the bill is that the secret ballot principle exists in provincial legislatures in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. I see some folks over there who will probably say that I am a Quebec MP and that Quebec does not have it. They are right. However, in my previous life, when I was a provincial MNA, I introduced a bill about that. My idea never became a reality, unfortunately. We were not in power. I just want people to know that I am seeing things logically.
I also want to point out that when we look at all of this, the motivation behind it is that they want to protect union bosses' benefits. Those same union leaders are elected by secret ballot. Why should union leaders be elected by secret ballot if secret ballots are not allowed for union certification votes? According to the , that is undemocratic. This is illogical.
In fact, people spoke in favour of our bill. For instance, Dan Kelly of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business had this to say:
As secret ballot votes are a cornerstone of our democracy, if the process is good enough to elect our politicians, it should be good enough to form a union.
If I understood correctly what the minister said earlier, she definitely did not consult Canadians. The 22,000 people she mentioned were all directly linked to the union movement. Speaking of the union movement, here is what Robyn Benson of the Public Service Alliance of Canada said on February 11, 2013:
...PSAC has no issue with voting by secret ballot. We do it regularly to elect our officers, ratify collective agreements, and vote for strike action.
What, then, is the problem with voting by secret ballot? Why does the Liberal Party have a problem with secret ballots? I look forward to hearing that. This debate has just begun, and dozens of people will be speaking on this. I would like the Liberals to explain to me why they are against secret ballots. It does not make sense, especially since we were elected to the House of Commons by secret ballot.
They also talk about the need for maintaining balance when it comes to labour relations. A union is formed and dissolved in exactly the same way. A secret ballot is the perfect balance. How can we and the NDP be against that? I know that the members across the way are democrats as well. That is why I say it is never too late to do the right thing and that they can fix this.
Fundamentally, a secret ballot makes the process a lot more credible. We have all heard horror stories about three or four bullies who knock on the door at 10 o'clock on a Sunday night and say sign here or else.
If people are able to vote their conscience in a voting booth and mark an “X” next to the yes or the no and then place their ballot in a box, as they do for so many things, such as electing us for example, then the problem is solved. I cannot wait to hear them explain why a secret ballot is undemocratic.
The other point concerns the issue of transparency. Bill is driven by this fundamental principle: transparency and accountability. All public bodies have rules requiring transparency and accountability. We MPs have them; departments have them; crown corporations have them; municipalities have them; the provincial and federal governments have them; and so do municipalities. Everyone has to be accountable, even charitable organizations. Then why impede the transparency and accountability of a union, which, need I remind members, is the only organization that taxes people without having the power to tax that belongs to the government?
I will explain. The Rand formula requires union members to accept a deduction from their wages in order to pay the union. We are not challenging this principle. Don't get me wrong on that. I do not want to be misquoted. We agree with this principle. We do not have a problem with that. However, the reality is that these people are accountable because the dues are mandatory.
Youri Chassin, of the Montreal Economic Institute, said that unions had a power to tax, which calls for much more transparency. All Canadians are affected by this, not just working Canadians, not just those who belong to unions, and not just those who are unionized.
This affects all Canadians because there is a tax credit for this. What kind of money are we talking about? We are not just talking about three or four dollars. We are talking about $500 million, half a billion dollars. Do my colleagues not think that unions should therefore be accountable to all Canadians? That is precisely the question.
Earlier, the minister said that everything was fine and that they are already accountable. That is not true. This affects all Canadians, and since they are paying $500 million for this tax credit, it makes sense that unions should be accountable to them. That is a fundamental principle. My colleagues agree with this.
I see some members starting to smile. You never know, we might end up convincing them.
The other important thing to remember in all this is that we are not alone. Canada is not an island. This is being done in other places, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, and even France. Yes, even socialist France is doing it.
I am not talking about the Americans under George W. Bush. I am talking about socialist France requiring its unions to have transparency rules. The current minister, a former NDP MLA, cannot disagree with that. We shall see.
I spoke briefly about the requirements for charities. We are MPs and we spend our weekends working with charities. I am very proud of the fact that there are dozens of charitable organizations in my riding of Louis—Saint-Laurent that help the most vulnerable members of our society, whether it be the Knights of Columbus, Optimist Clubs, support groups, or La Luciole, which I spoke about here in the House last week to great applause from 335 members, including the . I am very proud of that.
Under the principles of transparency and accountability, these organizations must be held to account. Why flout that principle when it comes to unions? That does not make any sense.
As Air Canada flight attendant Marc Roumy said, the union would be stronger and more legitimate and would receive more support if it was more accountable.
Earlier the minister mentioned the theoretical possibility that Bill and Bill could face court challenges. Has this been challenged? No, it has not been challenged. She was talking as though it would be the end of the world or things would not end well, but it has not been challenged.
We, however, consulted people, and even a former Supreme Court justice, the Hon. Michel Bastarache, gave evidence. What did he say? He said that this fell under federal jurisdiction because it was a taxation law, that it did not encroach on federal or provincial powers, and that it posed no problems with respect to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The person who said all that was not just anyone; it was a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. I do hope that the current government respects our right honourable justices of the Supreme Court of Canada. This former justice said that the bill was fine, that it passed the test.
I also have to wonder what the urgency is in all this. The bill was introduced and it passed. It was implemented for a few months. Were there any challenges? Did anyone take this matter to court? I will answer that myself, and the answer is no.
It is clear that the Liberal Party, with the support and assistance of the Bloc Québécois and the NDP, rushed to pass this undemocratic law that is against transparency and accountability solely for partisan reasons and to thank the unions for spending millions of dollars fighting the Conservative Party. That makes no sense in a democracy.
Let us not forget that the biggest losers in all of this are ordinary workers, ordinary union members. The ones who work hard, who have families and who mind their own business and do not want to get involved in union issues and all that. They are the ones hurt by this bill because they will have a harder time getting access to information and there will be no democracy in their system, which we think should include secret ballots.
The government is doing this to thank big union bosses, and it has no respect for ordinary workers.
I am a guy from Quebec. I was a member of the National Assembly, and I can say that the infamous Charbonneau commission showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that unfortunately, unions bent the rules in some highly improper ways.
More transparency and more accountability is always good for democracy, and it is especially good for ordinary workers who pay their union dues.
Let me just say a few words in response to the address by the minister. She said it is quite important to have a real balance on this issue. She said that our government did not have balance on that. That is not true. We share the same balance on that in exactly the same way, to create a union and to dissemble a union in exactly the same way. That is really balanced. Now we are talking about balancing the subject, and we were for that.
The minister is talking about building a strong and robust economy with Bill . We will see. I am not quite sure about this kind of activity, but what is good for the economy of Canada is to support good projects like the pipelines project. Now they should be good for the economy of Canada, not with this bill, but real projects for the private sector that are good for Canada, good for the economy, and good for Canadians.
The minister is talking about obligation and saying that the unions already have an obligation. So what is the deal? They already have an obligation to duplicate it, so what? Paste and copy, it is quite easy. If there is an obligation now, why is she against what we propose, because we share the same principles?
On Bill C-525, she said that it would be more difficult to dissemble a union. If the people, the workers, are happy with their union they will not want to dissemble it, but if they are against their bosses and think they will not be well defended by their leaders, this is an opportunity to do so by secret ballot.
She said that the former government was pro-business. What is the problem? Who creates jobs in this society? Is it the government? No. Is it the municipalities? No. Is it the provincial government? No. Who creates the real jobs? Business. Yes, we are proud to share the same principles.
However, more than that, who works in business? The workers. Men and women work hard. They rise up in the morning, work hard, get their wages, working hard for that, and we thank them for that.
We think of them when we read this bill. We think about the people who get up in the morning, work hard, and see their wages being used to finance unions. They want their money's worth.
We think of them because we think that wealth is created by private businesses, but we also believe that private business exists thanks to the support, assistance, and work of experienced Canadians who get up in the morning and earn their daily bread. We owe them our respect, but the legislation the government is proposing does not respect these workers.
In our opinion, it is clear that this bill cannot stand in its current form. I therefore move, seconded by the hon. member for :
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “that” and substituting the following therefor: “this House decline to give second reading to Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act, because the bill violates a fundamental principle of democracy by abolishing the provision whereby the certification and decertification of a bargaining agent must be achieved by a secret ballot vote-based majority”.
This bill makes no sense. Let us hope that the government drops it.
Madam Speaker, that will be a hard act to follow, but I think I will be able to provide the House with some more content, and perhaps clarification on some facts.
I would like to thank the hard-working Canadians in Saskatoon West who voted me to be their voice in the House of Commons. Today especially, I feel it is important that I acknowledge their support, because it is important to remind me of who I am here to serve and why. It is also important that all of us here remember exactly who is affected, positively or negatively, by the decisions we make each and every day. This is a responsibility I do not take lightly.
Many of the individuals in my riding work part-time or in contract positions. The majority of them work in the retail and hospitality sector. Quite a few of my constituents work in unionized workplaces. Others have been impacted by the slowdown in the resource sector. Some own businesses and have employees of their own. A great number of my constituents are new Canadians, immigrants or refugees, working two or three casual or part-time jobs, trying to balance a family, a new country, a new language, and an unfamiliar culture. Every one of these workers deserves to be protected.
With this in mind, Bill is beyond partisan politics. It is about the individuals who brought us here and about making things better for the people we all represent. That is why I support the bill. I support it as a person who cares about the rights and well-being of my constituents and my fellow Canadians.
Bill C-4 is a small step forward toward a return to recognizing and respecting the rights of the hard-working individuals, men and women, who make up our country. It is not hard for me as a member of the NDP caucus to acknowledge the support for Bill C-4. I guess it will not come as a surprise to anyone that our party supports the bill.
However, it should come as a surprise to all Canadians that the government is having to, with no small amount of shame I hope, return to the people of Canada their hard-earned rights, their constitutional rights, their right to privacy, their rights of freedom of association, and freedom of speech, rights that took decades to achieve. As such, today is a day of mixed emotions.
On one hand, we are happy to see critical rights restored to hard-working Canadians. On the other hand, we worry about the erosion of workers' rights that took place under the previous government. Today, we ask the current government to be vigilant in restoring each and every one of the rights stolen from the Canadian people. We also ask that it update parts of the Canada Labour Code that are about 60 years out of date.
A great way to help rectify that problem would be to immediately act on the recommendations of the final report of the 2006 review of the labour code. It is long overdue. Many of these recommendations and much-needed updates would benefit the many hard-working Canadians working two or three part-time jobs, trying to support a family and purchase or maintain a home, a home whose affordability is increasingly out of reach of most middle-class Canadians in Canada, let alone for those individuals working multiple jobs at minimum wage.
It is a simple and perhaps obvious truth that it is easier to destroy things than to build them. For anyone who has wrestled with a blank page, a canvas, a drafting table, or a freshly surveyed drilling site knows, creating something new is hard work. It takes time, persistence, and patience, and is not for the faint of heart. Destruction, on the other hand, is something we have been able to accomplish with ease since we were all very young. At the age of one, a child will happily smash, in a matter of seconds, a birthday cake that took his or her parents an hour and a half to create. Over the past decade, we have witnessed more than our fair share of destruction, a destruction far less playful and humorous than the smashing of the cake.
In a few short years, we have seen the dismantling of the rights for each and every individual across the nation, rights that have taken decades to create, nurture, and grow, rights that protect each one of us, but also, and more important, rights that protect the most vulnerable among us.
The previous government, in a few short years, trampled on and set fire to those rights most dear to individual Canadians, and certainly to those individuals who care about the environment, social services, workers' rights, women's rights, the poor and every other marginalized individual and community in this great land; also to those individuals who care about good, honest fiscal management and the economy, and children's education and futures; and especially to those who care about indigenous communities, their languages, cultures and people. These are not and should not be seen as mutually exclusive things. They work together. Each of us is better off by including the other.
Thankfully, today is a new day, and Bill is a great first step. However, we must do better, be better, and dream much bigger, because we have a lot of ground to make up.
I implore the governing party to be bold, to take the time to recognize respect, and provide rights to individuals who brought them here, because these are individuals who make up our great country. Each of them is a hard-working Canadian.
Today we also know that many Canadians are hurting. Many have lost their jobs and are in danger of, or have already, losing their homes. Many regularly use food banks and emergency shelter that, in some cases, is becoming their everyday shelter. This is unacceptable in a country as great as Canada. We can and must do better.
Bill was an unnecessary, discriminatory law designed to impose onerous and absurdly detailed reporting requirements on a particular segment, on unions. The bill was pushed through Parliament by the previous government, despite widespread opposition from a wide variety of interests, not just unions. Why? Because the negative effects of the bill would harshly impact each and every Canadian.
Each of these groups and associations represent individuals whose rights they consider important, whether one belongs to a union or not. Some of those individuals and groups were constitutional and privacy experts, for example, the NHL Players Association, provincial governments, Conservative and Liberal senators, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the Canadian Bar Association, and the insurance and mutual fund industry.
Likewise, along with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, we believe this bill goes against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If not repealed, this bill will be defeated by the courts.
The New Democrats opposed the bill at every stage, because the legislation was as unnecessary as it was irresponsible. It corrupted the very idea of fairness and balance in negotiations between parties and undermined the fundamental right of free collective bargaining. It was a partisan assault on the men and women who went to work every day to provide for their families.
Canada needs a strong and healthy trade union movement. Historically speaking, unions in Canada have done much, not only for their members, but for Canadian society as a whole. When unions are weakened, all working people feel it. Why? Because, contrary to the rhetoric of those threatened by workers' associations, namely the wealthy 1% and a few misguided Conservatives, attacks on collective bargaining do not promote economic growth. Attacks like these promote inequality, not a healthy economy.
In 2002, documents based on more than 1,000 studies of the impact of unions on domestic economies, the World Bank found that a high rate of unionization led to greater income equality, lower unemployment and inflation, higher productivity, and a quicker response to economic downturns. A quick response to an economic downturn seems like it might be a positive thing right about now.
The previous government claimed at the time that it was acting in the name of transparency, but the Conservatives failed to mention that unions were already required to make their financial information available to their members. The bill is an unnecessary redundancy solving a non-existent problem.
Something we have not heard yet is that the bill would cost taxpayers a great deal of money to achieve absolutely nothing.
The parliamentary budget officer estimated that it would cost much more than the $2.4 million allocated by the CRA to do this level of monitoring. In fact, it was estimated that Bill would cost the Canada Revenue Agency approximately $21 million to establish the electronic database over the first two years, and approximately $2.1 million per year for subsequent years. Many estimates were even much higher than that. I am being conservative.
As such, implementing the requirements in this bill will be ridiculously expensive for what is clearly redundant and unnecessary harassment. Repealing Bill would save millions of dollars annually, both for government and for unions, money that could be much better spent creating jobs rather than stifling them. In short, this bill should never have seen the light of day, and repealing it is just common sense.
Similarly, Bill was a private member's bill supported by the previous government. The bill was designed to make it harder for workers to unionize, and easier for unions to be decertified. Once again, the previous government was solving a non-existent problem.
Bill C-525 attacks the fundamental right of association by making certification of new worker associations or unions much more difficult and the decertification of existing unions much easier. The labour law changes were made despite there being zero evidence of a problem with the previous system of union certification.
A union, like any other type of association, such as the Association of Information Technology Professionals or the Canadian Society for Civil Engineers, exists to provide support and a voice for its members. What right does a government have to meddle in the daily management of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, for example? None. Therefore, why should the government meddle in daily management of a worker association or union? On the surface, it just seems silly.
It seems a government should have much more important things to accomplish with its time, its budget, and its efforts. However, the efforts of such destructive meddling are much more nefarious than a bizarrely childish obsessiveness with union busting, and these effects have a negative impact on all Canadians. Whether a person supports unions or not, the fact is unions have been a driving force in ensuring all hard-working Canadians, whether unionized or not, receive a basic level of rights, freedoms, and protections.
The health of Canadian unions is at the heart of the health of Canadian workers' rights for each and every working Canadian. Moreover, as mentioned previously, the organized association of working people is important to Canadians and the economy. Higher wages negotiated by unions improve the lives of everyday Canadians and inject an additional $786 million into the Canadian economy each week. Standing in the way of the well-being of hard-working Canadians is bad policy, bad governance, bad fiscal management, and bad for the economy.
As such, the NDP and Canadian unions are pleased that the federal government has tabled legislation to repeal the controversial bills, Bill and Bill .
The CLC president, Hassan Yussuff said:
...these bills were nothing more than an attempt to undermine unions’ ability to do important work like protecting jobs, promoting health and safety in the workplace, and advocating on behalf of all Canadian workers.
Mark Hancock, the national president of CUPE, confirmed, saying:
This is good news for all Canadian workers. These bills were nothing more than political attacks on unions and we are happy that the new government is moving quickly to correct these wrongs...This is a good step in re-establishing a sense of respect for unions, the democratic voice of working people.
Likewise, Paul Meinema, the national president of UFCW, said:
UFCW is pleased to see the government tabling Bill C-4. Our union campaigned vigorously against the Conservative Government`s Bill C-377 in the last parliament. The bill was undemocratic, and part of the Conservative government`s campaign against workers and workplace democracy. It was also a major invasion of the privacy of individual union members and it infringed on provincial jurisdiction over labour issues. Repealing Bill C-377 is positive for all Canadians as this bill would have been expensive for the government to implement and monitor.
The NDP will continue to push the government to restore and enhance collective bargaining rights as well as fair working conditions for all Canadians. The NDP will continue to pressure the government to reinstate a federal minimum wage and to enact anti-scab and proactive pay equity legislation. Likewise, the NDP will push the government to repeal the previous government's dangerous legislation, just to confuse things also called Bill C-4. Larry Rousseau, in a 2013 article published by The Huffington Post, called the previous Bill C-4 explosive, claiming the bill turned back the clock almost 50 years. A bill this backward, overtly ideological and explosive needs to be repealed, not just reviewed.
What value does a bill limiting a person's right to refuse unsafe work bring to the table? What exactly needs to be reviewed in a bill that does away with independent health and safety officers and that prevents federal public service workers from accessing the Canadian Human Rights Commission and tribunal over workplace discrimination and complaints? A review legitimizes this offensive legislation. It is time to just repeal it.
Having fought hard against these unnecessary and irresponsible bills, the NDP welcomes the changes tabled by the current government. The rights of working people have been under attack for far too long and the repeal of these bills is a good first step, but there is so much more to do for workers' rights and working conditions for Canadian men and women.
The NDP will push the government to restore good faith bargaining with our public sector workers. We will push the government to reinstate a federal minimum wage and ensure that workers have fair and independent health and safety protections. We will push the government to adopt anti-scab and pay equity legislation, because all Canadian workers deserve fairness and respect.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to stand here in my place to speak to Bill . Before I do that, I just want to say that I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I want to start off by talking a little about my background, because I think it is important for the members to know that I am one of those union bosses the members opposite are talking about. I am one of those people who was high up in the union movement in the 1980s, and the 1970s for that matter, before I became a member of Parliament. I must be the one they are targeting who was not accountable and not transparent and had something to hide and that they were trying to fix in the pieces of legislation we are speaking to.
I wanted to come clean right off the bat that I have a particular bias. I am a labour unionist and am very proud of it. This country has a long history with the organized labour movement. It has done well in making those kinds of changes.
Let us talk a little about the history of the labour movement. It is pretty clear that the labour movement has had huge impacts on blue-collar workers and workers in Canada. Part of that is obviously better wages, better working hours, and better health and safety, which is one of the main reasons unions started in the first place. Workers were under very severe pressure to work in unsafe conditions in the early part of our history. The labour movement was started because of the lack of protection for the everyday man and woman working in Canada.
I want to share with members the race to the bottom the Conservative Party, and the Reform Party before it, have been bringing to the House for the last 20 years I have been involved. It scares me. I will use the example of the Canada pension plan and pensions in general.
The labour movement had a huge role to play in bringing pensions, good pensions, to men and women all across the country to supplement their retirement incomes, because obviously, we know that the Government of Canada cannot look after all our seniors after retirement. The pension plans, the funding put in by employers and employees, are very important in our economy today.
We not only need to talk about the collective bargaining structure but about the social aspects of what collective bargaining and organized labour can do.
I just want to talk a little about a 2012 study, by the Boston Consulting Group, I have been reading about. Here is what I found out. On average, 14 cents of every dollar of income in Ontario communities comes from pensions. That means that in Ontario, 7% of all income in our towns and cities, or $27 billion, is derived from defined benefit pensions.
Instead of trying to diminish labour, we should in fact be trying to strengthen our relationship with employers and employees so that there are more pensions in the workplace so that pensioners, the people we represent in the House, have a good retirement.
I am proud to represent retired railroaders, mill workers, and miners, all these people in the Kenora—Rainy River district, and now the Kenora riding, that I have been a member of Parliament for the past 16 years. These people have good pensions. Those workers were represented by organized labour. They had huge benefits because of good collective bargaining.
That does not mean that the employers did not make money. I was a railroader. I represented the railway unions. Those railways made money in the days when I was there negotiating collective bargaining agreements with them.
The fact that the previous government felt that it was in its best interest to try to diminish organized labour makes me wonder what the motive really was. In fact, it does more harm to Canada than it does good. We should be strengthening the opportunity for organized labour to work with the government and with employers, instead of the reverse.
The previous government set a very dangerous precedent. The balance between labour and employers has always been hard to arrive at. We have spent, I would bet, 100 years trying to get the balance right provincially, federally, and even municipally. Then we had a private member's bill foisted on us, without any discussion among the key players—labour, government, and employers—through the tripartite process that has been ongoing at the department of labour federally for as long as I can remember. That is a very dangerous precedent by any government.
Even Brian Mulroney's government would not have done something like that. I was involved in those days in opposition when Brian Mulroney's government wanted to bring some changes to the Canada Labour Code. It used the tripartite process.
The Conservative Party, and I think there are too many Reformers in there still, really needs to start thinking about what exactly its intent was in getting involved in provincial jurisdiction, which has nothing to do with the federal government, and using the Income Tax Act to do so.
That is exactly why the current government is repealing those pieces of legislation. First, this is not our jurisdiction. Second, they are unconstitutional. We all know that, and we know that if we do not do anything, the courts will throw them out, like it did many pieces of legislation the Conservative government brought it.
We are doing the right thing. We are putting in place the balance. The balance is always difficult to achieve. Yes, sometimes workers go on strike. They have to have the ability to do that. They have to have the ability to certify. They have to be able to do it without everyone in the world knowing their strategy and their plan. It is pretty hard to negotiate with both hands tied behind one's back. What the Conservative government proposed to do under that legislation was to have the union tell the employer, on the other side, all its financial resources, who it was speaking to, and what it was proposing to do.
If a union is putting money into social issues or into campaigns, that is its prerogative. I can say this because I was there at the top end of the union: union members know where their money is spent. It is ridiculous for any party to be suggesting to the average Canadian that somehow workers do not know where their dues go. We all know that this is just a fabrication to make it sound like it has to be done.
These two pieces of legislation destabilized that very careful balance that we in Canada, as legislators, tried for many years to make sure stayed intact. The legislation we are proposing to repeal will be repealed because we want to make sure that the relationship between labour and the government and employers is respected and that collective bargaining will be done in the way it has always been done, between the employer and the unions. They will work it out. That is what the legislation is intended to do for Canadian workers and their employers.
I want to speak a little about the importance of our new government's relationship not just with labour but with the Canadian people. Over the next couple of months in this place, we are going to see the government probably remove a number of pieces of legislation the other side brought in that we think are counterproductive to building a good society. I hope that we on this side of the House never feel that we have to find an excuse for not be doing that. We ran on a platform of not allowing those kinds of things to happen anymore. We are going to have respect for the labour movement. We are going to have respect for Canadians. That is what we are going to do.
Madam Speaker, I will follow the wonderful example of the hon. member for and start by giving members a bit about my background and some context.
I first want to mention that before I became an MP, I was privileged to work as a director of a large corporation. I worked for big business and was very proud to do so.
I also come from a family where my father worked for Canada Post for almost 30 years and was part of the union there. The only reason my mother does not live in poverty at the moment is that we very much benefit from his ongoing pension. The reason I mention this is that I believe we should treat all of our partners in the economy in a fair and balanced way, whether big business or unions. This is very much the principle that is behind the bill that I will be speaking to today, Bill .
I am the very proud member of Parliament for Davenport, which is a riding in downtown west Toronto. We have a number of union members there, whether in the construction and labour trades, such as LiUNA painters, carpenters, or from the public sector or Canada Post. There are many other unions that I have not mentioned. However, the point I want to make is that Davenport has a lot of union members who want a fair and balanced federal labour policy, as do all Canadians. That is what we are trying to do with Bill .
I welcome the opportunity to speak in support of Bill , which aims to repeal the legislative changes made by Bill and Bill . I would also invite all members of the House to support this important bill.
As mentioned in my introduction, in the broadest of strokes, Bill aims to restore a fair and balanced approach to labour relations in Canada. Because this government has promised Canadians that we will do things differently from the start, the words “fairness" and “balance” resonate with me. We believe that how we do things is just as important as what we do. The laws that throw a wrench into positive working relationships between government and unions, between employers and employees, and between different levels of government do not help anyone. Negative and contentious labour relations are destructive. They gnaw away at the foundation of a structure until it can no longer stand. However, it is that structure that supports workers, employers, and our economy as a whole. Therefore, we need that structure to be strong.
My colleague the has taken members through some of the finer points of Bill and Bill . I would like to use my time today to explain the impact these bills have on unions and workers and how they and in turn all Canadians would benefit from the repeal of the legislative changes made by Bill and Bill .
I will begin by commenting on Bill . Members should consider the fact that this bill forces labour organizations and labour trusts to provide very detailed financial and other information to the Canada Revenue Agency, such as salaries and time spent working on political or lobbying activities.
The bill also requires disclosure of all disbursements greater than $5,000 by unions, including names and addresses of anyone whose goods or services are purchased. There are a lot of other data requirements, which I will not go into. However, the key point is that the bill requires information that no other organization is required to provide, be it a public, private, non-profit, or charitable organization, or even a political party. To some this may not seem entirely unreasonable at first glance. However, if we dig a little deeper we would find that it could have serious and substantial ramifications.
First, it creates an extra level of unnecessary red tape, which could be particularly problematic for smaller organizations with fewer resources at their disposal. The Canada Revenue Agency would share that burden. It would have to develop new and expensive IT systems and other administrative systems to implement the bill. That is an unnecessary cost that would fall to Canadians. It is unnecessary because we already have legislation in place to ensure that unions are financially accountable to their members, as we heard today during the earlier debate. All of this is referred to in the Canada Labour Code.
Furthermore, similar accountability measures have been put in place by almost every province. Bill would impose a large financial and administrative burden on labour organizations, labour trusts, and government bodies, among others, for information that is not required from other organizations. As though that were not enough, if these organizations do not report on time, they must pay a fine of $1,000 for every day they are late, up to a maximum of $25,000.
Fortunately, my colleague, the , took all the necessary steps to waive reporting for the time being. However, we know that this is a temporary solution since the waiver only applies to the 2016 fiscal period. In addition to the administrative burden being significant and unjust overall, the effect that the reporting requirements would have on the collective bargaining process would also give an unfair advantage to employers at the bargaining table. For example, detailed information about union strike funds would be available to employers, which means that employers would be able to calculate how long union members might be able to stay off the job in a labour dispute. If that is not uneven footing, I do not know what is.
It is clear that Bill is unnecessary and discriminatory. It clearly disadvantages unions during the collective bargaining process. At the root of it, I believe it is an attempt to make things harder for unions and to drive a wedge between employer and employee relations in Canada.
This brings me to Bill . This bill made changes to the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, and the Public Service Labour Relations Act that affect how unions are certified and decertified. It makes it harder for unions to be certified as collective bargaining agents and easier for a bargaining agent to be decertified. The changes mean the process is more susceptible to employer interference and makes unionization more difficult.
Bill is not just problematic for unions but imposes some serious burdens on others as well. For example, there are real implications for bodies such as the Canada Industrial Relations Board, as well as the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board. Both boards are responsible for the full cost and logistical responsibilities involved in holding representation votes. Under these changes, the Canada Industrial Relations Board would be required to hold a vote to certify a union not just when less than a majority of workers have signed union cards, but would need to do so in all cases. This would mean a fivefold increase in the board's workload.
These bills do not represent a positive contribution to labour relations in Canada. In fact, they cause real harm. It is no surprise that when policies are developed without proper consultation, as was the case with both of these bills, they often end up causing more harm than good. Liberals believe in reforming labour policies through meaningful engagement with unions, employers, stakeholders, provinces and territories, and the Canadian public. It is the only way to ensure a fair and balanced approach to labour relations in Canada. As we have said before, sound labour relations are essential for protecting the rights of Canadian workers and helping the middle class grow and prosper. It is also the necessary foundation of a system where both employers and unions play valuable roles in ensuring that workers receive decent wages and are treated fairly.
I urge all of my colleagues in the House to support Bill and bring back the fair and balanced labour relations approach all Canadians want and deserve.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in my place to speak to this today. I will be splitting my time with the member for .
First, I want to thank everyone in the previous Parliament who passed my private member's Bill . I am very disappointed at how this debate has been framed by members in the Liberal Party, the NDP, and others.
My bill is not an anti-union bill. It has been long established that unions have the right to exist and that Canadians have a charter right to associate and affiliate with one another. That is not what is in question here.
My bill is not anti-union. My bill is pro-democracy, and it worked in part with Bill , which is pro-transparency. Those were the issues.
My bill came about as a result of consultations with my constituents. Every time we hear a Liberal MP or an NDP MP talk about consultations, the only people they are talking to are union leaders, or big business.
The Conservative Party actually talks to everyday ordinary Canadians. We know we are on the right side on this issue. We know we are right because polling information clearly indicates where Canadians are and where workers are, in particular where union workers are on this issue.
I already have had a number of calls from constituents and card carrying union members who are disappointed that it is a priority of the Liberal government to undo what we were able to do in the last Parliament, which was bestow a mandatory secret ballot in the process of certifying or decertifying a union.
How can it be called democracy if we take away the right to a secret ballot? It has been established long ago that the hallmark of any modern democracy is a secret ballot vote. Would members of Parliament feel that they were here legitimately if they were able to go door knocking and stand on people's doorsteps, make their pitch and say that they happened to have a ballot in their hands, and a couple of their friends with them, and encourage people to sign those ballots and vote for them? That is exactly what the card check process is.
I have been a member of a union, and my union served me well in times when I needed it. However, I was also in the hall where I heard my union representatives use these kinds of tactics, tactics that we hear of all the time, threats and intimidation, boisterousness, the louder they spoke, the more forceful their point was. It does not matter how right they were, it just mattered how loud they were. It was not necessary. I did not need to be convinced. I was going to support whatever we decided to do as a group. I did not need to be intimidated or beat into line on these issues.
I have also sat across the table as a municipal councillor negotiating on behalf of taxpayers for a public union. I saw through those secret negotiations, much like the ones the NDP always claimed, when we were doing trade negotiations. Every negotiation was done this way. I never heard an NDP member of Parliament say that union negotiations should be done in front of the entire world for everybody to see. Those members think TPP should be done that way, but they do not think a union negotiation should be done that way.
Notwithstanding that hypocrisy, I have been there. I have seen who was looking after who in these negotiations. I saw union leaders ensure that whatever the contract was, if it started to go bad for the union people, the people at the very top, the people with the seniority, not the new people, not the new workers, not the most vulnerable workers in the union, the ones who had the least seniority, but the ones who had the most seniority, the people with the most seniority looked after themselves. They were the ones who rose up to the top of the union leadership. The ones with the least seniority were vulnerable. Whatever negotiations happened, the people at the top made sure they took care of themselves first.
Where would that union member's right be to hold his or her union leaders to account if they were not actually representing even a junior member of the union to the best of their ability? There was no way because there was no mandatory secret ballot vote to determine who would represent those people at the collective bargaining table. This is absolutely fundamental.
We hear the other side complaining about a number of these issues, that Bill is anti-union, that it is creating disparity. Bill actually created the same process for creating a union as decertifying a union. Yet, the minister right now claims that they are going back to a more balanced approach. In her opinion, a more balanced approach would make it far easier for a union to be created and far harder for a union to be decertified. If it is the same way going in as it is going out, I do not understand how that tips the scales. That makes the scales level.
As a union leader, would a person not want to have his or her presence as a collective bargaining agent on behalf of the employees ratified by a secret ballot vote? Would he or she not like to carry that forward in confidence, knowing full well that he or she has 50% plus one of the membership of the union supporting him or her to negotiate a deal that is in their best interests?
The way it worked before my bill was passed was with a card check system. That is fine. A card check system is still used. It is just used to determine the threshold for when a vote should be called. That is fine. We must have some way of gauging interest.
However, we can do a card check under any guise. We can take a card to someone who is neither fluent in English nor French and tell them that they needed to sign this card to receive their pay and benefits. So, they sign a card. They do not know what they are signing. All of a sudden, there is 50% plus one of the members of the union. It was automatic. It is 50% plus one. It was automatic.
Is this not problematic? Does anyone not see an issue with this? It was open to abuse. It was open to intimidation.
What is wrong with a secret ballot?
I do not know whom the members in the Liberal Party consulted. They had closed-door meetings shortly after the election, but every union leader who came before the human resources committee during the deliberations on Bill had nothing but good things to say about the secret ballot.
The Christian Labour Association of Canada said that “CLAC supports efforts to...strengthen the democratic rights of workers” and stated that it looked forward to further speaking to the legislation when the Senate dealt with it. The CLAC representative repeated, “Yes, we are in favour of secret ballots.” That is a union leader who said that.
Robyn Benson of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the largest public service union in Canada, said:
Contrary to what you may have heard, PSAC has no issue with voting by secret ballot. We do it regularly to elect our officers, ratify collective agreements, and vote for strike actions, as examples.
Really? Robyn Benson said that in front of the committee. What is the problem? What is the issue? They want to be legitimized. They want to have that process legitimized.
FETCO also agreed with it. Mr. Farrell from FETCO said:
I believe the major disadvantage is that there's no clear evidence that all of the potential union members have had an opportunity to seriously consider the question of a unionization and to express their opinion behind the screen of a ballot box in a secret ballot vote.
What Mr. Farrell was actually saying and responding to there was a question that is very fundamental. If they do a card check system they actually would not even have to check with all the members of the bargaining unit. They could just go until they got 50% plus one, wipe their hands, call it a day. They did not even check with everyone. People can show up the next day at work never knowing that a union drive had even taken place and be an automatic member of the union.
How is that fair? How is that a democratic process? People do not even have an opportunity to discuss it.
I have a lot more examples. There are numerous polls by Leger and Nanos and ask the question, “Should Canadians have the right to a secret ballot before they decide to join a union or not? What is their best interest?” In every case, as confirmed by the testimony of union leaders themselves, Canadians overwhelmingly, over 70%, and sometimes over 80%, say, “Yes, this is true”. And when they asked an actual union member of someone who was in a union, that number even got higher, sometimes up into the high 80s percentages.
It makes absolutely no sense. There is not a problem here that needs to be undone, contrary to what these folks over there want Canadians to believe.
We on this side of the House, the Conservative Party, and only the Conservative Party, stand up for transparency and for accountability for workers.
If anyone in Canada has any doubts who is on the side of the everyday working man and woman in this country, it is Conservative members of Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on , as I find it proposes some deeply troubling measures.
I will get directly to the point. Last night, I took the time to research the history of the right to a private ballot in a democracy. It will likely come as no surprise to this House that prior to secret ballots, citizens were often subject to threats and intimidation, but of course that is the entire point here, is it not?
We know that big, powerful unions supported the Liberal government in the election, so this is, in essence, payback by the Liberal government to those big union leaders.
Let us be clear on that. The Liberal government is denying workers the right to a secret ballot, knowing full well what that really means. It is 2016, and the right to a private ballot is being denied by our new Liberal government. Let us think about that.
Now, of course, Bill does more than deprive workers of a democratic right to a private ballot on the subject of unionization. It also seeks to eliminate the transparency of requiring unions to publicly disclose how tax-deductible union dues are spent by big union bosses. Big wages, big expense accounts, and who knows what else?
I find it incredibly ironic that on the very day our Liberal government announces Bill , Elections Canada reveals that the Liberal Party of Canada is caught illegally taking union donations, union donations that come from mandatory union dues. Of course, the Liberal Party and the union say it was all just a mistake. Somehow the union knew where the leader of the Liberal Party would be in advance and was provided access so that paid individuals would attend a Liberal election event. Were there any other mistakes of this nature? With the repealing of union financial disclosure, we will never know.
On that same theme, we also know that once upon a time the Liberal leader took payments from unions to give speeches. Thousands of dollars of union dues were paid to the member who is now the leader of the Liberal Party. We know this because, to give credit to the Liberal leader, it was disclosed. Interestingly enough, had these thousands of dollars been provided in terms of gifts there would be a clear conflict.
However, paying an elected MP for speeches is in effect a loophole in the conflict act. Surprise, surprise: the unions pay the member thousands of dollars for speeches and the member of Parliament in question turns around and opposes bills that unions do not like.
I just want to point out that this is not the 1970s in a banana republic.
This is happening in Canada today, because it is 2016.
I am deeply troubled that a member of Parliament can be paid thousands of dollars by unions for speeches and then turn around and oppose changing bills that unions do not like. What bills do unions oppose? They are bills that provide workers with the democratic right of a private ballot and bills that create fiscal transparency and accountability of those same big union bosses.
We are facing challenging economic times. Tens of thousands of Albertans have lost their jobs and one of the first bills from the new Liberal government is a union payback bill. It would do nothing to help our economy. It would do nothing to create jobs. It would do nothing for workers' democratic rights. It would do nothing for public accountability and transparency.
Has there been wide consultation with the Liberal government and stakeholders on the bill? We know there has not been wide consultation. I find that interesting. When it comes to projects that create jobs that Liberals do not support, they delay, citing a need for more consultation. Yet when it comes to payback for Liberal friends, the need for consultation is suddenly a muted concern. That suggests to me that this legislation is seriously flawed. I submit the Liberals are not widely consulting on the bill, because removing a worker's right to a private ballot raises the question as to why they want to limit democratic rights.
However, I do understand why the Liberals want to act quickly on this. I suspect if unions were ever forced to publicly disclose where all of those mandatory tax-deductible union dues flow, it might further raise uncomfortable questions. Are there other elected officials being paid by unions for speeches and then carrying out union legislative wish lists? We will never know. I guess it is better just to sweep it under the rug.
I admit I have not enjoyed giving this speech. I would rather us focus on ways that we can strengthen our economy and create more jobs for our citizens. I would rather find ways that we can make our communities safer and create more transparency and accountability within our democratic institutions. I would rather focus on finding ways to help those who are less fortunate and supporting seniors in our communities. Yet here we are, protecting the interests of big union bosses. This is a thank you from the Liberal government. This is not sunny ways and in my view it is not how we build a better Canada.
Let us also recognize that in today's global economic climate businesses often relocate to jurisdictions that have preferable regulatory or cost advantages. This also applies to labour laws. It is critically important that Canada have a competitive regulatory regime that does not place workers at an economic disadvantage. Labour laws absolutely need to be fair. They need to be balanced and ultimately provide workers with democratic rights that include the right to a private ballot.
Before I close, I just would like to say I am very proud to come from British Columbia. British Columbia was the first province in Canada to introduce secret ballot legislation in 1873, and here we are today in Ottawa saying private ballots for workers is somehow a bad idea. I guess it is because it is 2016.
I submit this legislation is misguided and flawed. It is disappointing to me that the Liberal government is using one of its very first bills to reward big union bosses instead of helping out middle-class Canadians that the Liberal government purports to support.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the great member for .
I am very pleased to participate in the debate on Bill , the proposed repeal of two labour bills passed by the previous government. This is an important piece of legislation, and I encourage my fellow members to support its passage in the House.
Some do not agree with our moving to repeal these bills, which is fair enough. However, suggesting the government has a hidden agenda goes too far. During the election campaign, the publicly made a commitment to repeal both these pieces of legislation. Canadians went to the polls and they expect us to keep our commitments. It was also clearly spelled out and made public in her mandate after the minister was sworn in as . This commitment was restated by the Prime Minister when he spoke to the Canadian Labour Congress in November. Far from being part of some hidden agenda, the government's intention to repeal these bills was made very clear, stated often, and its reasons for doing so were repeated frequently.
Let us start with the most important reason. Repealing these bills would help restore a fair and balanced approach to labour relations in Canada. While both of these bills pose a number of problems, today I am going to focus on the legislative amendments made by Bill . Bill C-525 changed the union certification and decertification processes under three federal labour relations statutes: the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, and the Public Service Labour Relations Act.
Prior to these amendments enacted through Bill , federally regulated unions could use what was called a “card check system” for certification. If a union demonstrated that a majority of workers had signed union cards, the union could be certified as the bargaining agent for these workers, although it was only required if less than a majority signed but enough to indicate a strong interest, 35% under the Canada Labour Code, for example.
Bill changed that to require that unions show at least 40% membership support before holding a secret ballot, and to require a vote even where more than 50% of voters had signed union member cards. It also made it easier for unions to be decertified by lowering the threshold to trigger a decertification vote to 40%, compared to majority support, which was previously required. Essentially, Bill C-525 made it more difficult for Canadian workers to unionize. This is not good for our economy and it is not good for Canadians. Unions help to address inequality by helping to ensure fair wages. They help protect worker safety and prevent discrimination in the workplace. They also help employers because a fair workplace is a more productive workplace, and more productive workplaces help to grow our economy and help strengthen our middle class.
What was presented in Bill was essentially a solution in search of a problem. There were no great rallies on Parliament Hill or even in the boardrooms demanding that we change a union certification system that had worked successfully for many years. The card check system, whereby a union is certified by demonstrating majority support through signed union cards, has been used successfully for many years in the federal jurisdiction and in several provinces. A number of unions, like Unifor and the Airline Pilots Association, argued that it is fast and efficient and much more likely to be free of employer interference than the mandatory secret ballot system brought in under Bill C-525. The card check system is not undemocratic. It required a majority support through signed cards. The Canada Industrial Relations Board has strong measures in place to ensure the process of signed cards is fair.
It should also be noted that representatives from both sides of the bargaining table were highly critical of how the previous government brought in these changes. Both bills were brought in as private members' bills, and without consultation with employers, unions, or other levels of government.
Many argue that it set a very dangerous precedent for future labour reform. They are right. We believe that fair and balanced labour policies developed through real and meaningful consultation with unions, employers, stakeholders, the provinces and territories, and the Canadian public are essential for harmonious labour relations.
Bill also presents problems that could have been averted with proper consultation. We have heard my colleagues talk about that in great detail. Among other things, it has the potential to seriously disrupt collective bargaining processes. For example, detailed information about unions, including information on union strike funds, would be available to employers. It seems like a blatant attempt to make things harder for unions. We recognize the essential role that unions play in protecting the rights of workers and helping the middle class to grow and prosper.
It is clear that the legislative amendments enacted through these bills must be repealed in order to restore fairness and balance in our approach to labour relations in Canada. To do less would be a disservice to workers, employers, and the economy.
Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to stand today in support of Bill . Bill C-4 removes many of the barriers and administrative burdens on labour groups that the Conservative government put in place.
I would like to begin by saying that unions have played an important role in Canada for a very long time. It is that partnership that has contributed to the success of this country and our economy. It is important to mention that it has also improved the fundamental rights of individuals in the workplace. That is essential and should be noted.
The contributions of unions have been very large, but I would like to share a few points with the House tonight.
Unions have played a major role in establishing an eight-hour workday, a five-day work week, parental benefits, which are essential as well, and health and safety standards. There are many areas where the unions have contributed to the success of those changes.
Labour unions have greatly contributed to the balance between the rights of workers and the ability of employers to run efficient operations and businesses.
In my past life, I spent 11 years as the superintendent of the French school board. During that time, I had many opportunities to work closely with unions, unions that were our partners and our workers. I can assure members that it was a successful experience with successful negotiations. The employees were able to benefit from many of the things we negotiated, but the school board was also able to gain from the negotiations. It was a partnership that was extremely important.
Unfortunately, Bill has tipped the scales in favour of management by forcing the public disclosure of information, which in most cases, is not required for private corporations.
It is important to mention that Bill is in no way intended to cut transparency.
Bill is redundant legislation.
If we look at the province of Nova Scotia, the Trade Union Act has provisions that allow all union members to access copies of any financial statement free of charge. The result of this transparency measure is that no complaints have been filed in Nova Scotia over the last five years on this type of issue.
I must also mention that the province of Nova Scotia has noticed the federal government's interference in this area, which is traditionally a provincial jurisdiction. At the May 7, 2015 meeting of the Senate committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, the Nova Scotia Minister of Labour and Advanced Education, Hon. Kelly Regan, stated:
governments all across Canada are doing what they can to eliminate regulatory duplication and red tape....It's hard to understand why the federal government would enter into this area of provincial jurisdiction.
I agree fully with the minister.
It is even more surprising to hear the opposition say that most people were in favour. B.C., Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, P.E.I., and of course, Nova Scotia all opposed Bill and Bill .
I would now like to talk a little bit about Bill . This Liberal government is proud to be able to undo the damage done by the Conservative government's Bill C-525. That bill is forcing workers who want to create a new union to obtain the signatures of 40% of its members and have a secret ballot on the issue. Obviously, the Conservative government's strategy was to add layers to the process for creating a new union.
Our government firmly believes that we should not discourage people from participating in a union. That is why we want to restore the former system under which workers only needed the signatures of 50% plus one.
As with so many of its initiatives, our government is working hard to collaborate with all regions of the country, with all sectors of the economy, to bring real change for all Canadians.
Our government has chosen to put its trust in this country's labour organizations and the workers they represent. We must ensure that they are not treated unfairly at the negotiating table. This represents a change of tone and attitude compared to that of the previous government. It is a tone where we treat not only unions and their workers with respect but also our indigenous communities, veterans, families, and democratic institutions.
I am proud to provide my full support to this bill and I congratulate the for her leadership in bringing this legislation to the House.