Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I appreciate your intervention.
Professor Doorey weighed in on this highly interventionist federal legislation restricting collective bargaining and the right to strike and lockout in this country. Really, he directed his comments more so at the minister:
[The minister] always tells the media that the government wants a voluntary deal reached by all parties themselves. However, most everyone who knows anything about collective bargaining argues that she is in fact discouraging this from happening by promising employers that the government will step in with back to work legislation designed to prioritize the employers' interests.
We have seen that time and time again.
There has been reference made through the course of the debate here today on legislation that a Liberal government put forward in 1995. I would like to set the record straight on this because several Conservatives have made that point here today and, certainly, the circumstances were completely different. In that case, not just CP but CN and VIA Rail were all involved in various stages of work stoppages.
Rolling strikes had started at CP on March 8, CP locked out employees on March 13, CN employees went on strike on March 18, and VIA got pulled in there, making any kind of rail traffic in this country grind to a halt. Rail service ceased to exist in this country.
So, the minister at the time, Lucienne Robillard, did not tip her hand prior to that. She put together back-to-work legislation, for March 21. The Liberals were in a majority government, but she brought that legislation to the Reform Party--the Bloc was the official opposition at the time--and the Reform Party supported it.
The NDP, at the time, only had nine members in the House. It was not an official party. However, she went to the NDP. Bill Blaikie, who is a respected parliamentarian, I think we can agree on that, came forward with amendments and put forward two reasoned amendments that Madam Robillard agreed to.
Now, that was a majority government that knew that in this place, in order to be successful and in order to serve Canadians, there was an opportunity if parties worked together. Again, this is foreign to the current government.
Bill Blaikie and the NDP supported this back-to-work legislation. Negotiations had gone on late Wednesday. Let me just read a couple of quotes. “Blaikie won from Robillard two concessions” and would end all strikes, not just the CN strike, and “the arbitrators appointed to settle all the issues at nine different bargaining tables would be chosen from the judiciary”.
So, there were two reasoned amendments that Mr. Blaikie put forward and they were accepted.
Mr. Blaikie also recognized that the country-wide dispute certainly had an impact on the economy at that time, and he offered his support, so we saw all-party support on the back-to-work legislation, with the exception of the Bloc.
An hon. member: Then what happened?
Mr. Rodger Cuzner: Then what happened was the Liberal government balanced the books and recorded surpluses, and these guys came in and blew it all. That is what happened, only after they added $100 billion to the national debt.
My colleague from Vancouver East talked about this being the 25th time these guys have used closure with their legislation. I want to share another statistic. In the last 62 years, back-to-work legislation has been used 37 times. In the last 62 years, back-to-work legislation has come to the chamber 37 times. These guys have brought it forward five times in the last year. I am not sure what the prize is for that, but they should be hanging their heads. They will get their prize from organized labour when the next election comes.
The government's record has been one of intervention and favouritism. Instead of being neutral and fair, the government has been just the opposite. It prepares back-to-work legislation even before a strike is due or a lockout occurs. It appoints inappropriate arbitrators and enacts back-to-work legislation that imposes even worse conditions than the parties themselves had agreed to. We saw that with the Canada Post situation. It came forward with legislation that offered a lower wage increase than Canada Post had already agreed upon. It is amazing.
It uses the Canada Industrial Relations Board as a pawn. It throws everything into the Canada Industrial Relations Board. We have seen the government's interference and interventionist actions in labour relations in the past. It has done nothing but poison the well of relations between companies and employees instead of cooling parties off. It is like consecutive episodes of Hell's Kitchen. With every preparation, it has one temperature over there for cooking, and that is burn and scorch. That is what it has done to relations between management and organized labour in this country. It has scorched relations.
George Smith is former director of labour relations at Air Canada and vice-president of human resources at CP Rail. He has been on the other side of the table, on the management side. He stated:
This has all the appearances of the federal government doing what’s best for the country but really it’s a disaster... If you are negotiating a difficult labour contract, the process is being taken out of your hands and the government will do it for you. The “showdown” element which hurts in the short run but results in a fair settlement is gone.
We would not dare believe that the government would listen to experts. It has not shown any kind of respect at all for the Parliamentary Budget Officer or any of those people. The minister does not even listen to her own officials. I asked her about that in an earlier exchange. On the legislation on the first Air Canada lockout, her officials advised against it. The officials stated:
This is an option to be used only in very extreme circumstances where there is a serious impact on the national economy – in this instance it would appear to be more of an inconvenience to travellers who would have to rely on other modes of transportation.
I questioned the minister about the advice she was getting from her senior officials this time around. Since she ignored the advice in the past, I asked if she was getting similar advice this time and ignoring it as well. Is this a crisis? The Conservatives have been in government six and a half years and had a crisis in the skills gap, a crisis in the fishery, a crisis in the environment. They should have a department of crises because they seem to manufacture crises. That is one thing they are good at: manufacturing crises.
Let us look back at the Canada Post dispute. The government legislated a lower wage rate. It forced an arbitrator to look at the financial considerations of the company and not the workers. That is another example of legislation undertaken by the government which benefits management and corporations as opposed to workers.
The minister was taken to the woodshed over the back-to-work legislation with Canada Post. She received a scathing rebuke from Federal Court Justice Martineau, who ripped the minister for her involvement. The minister wasted no time in sticking her nose into the collective bargaining process in the cases of Canada Post and Air Canada and used the threat of back-to-work legislation that hurt the process. Everyone knew that this would be the case this time as well, and therein lies the problem. The union and the company both knew the minister would not miss an occasion to try to grab the spotlight and introduce back-to-work legislation immediately.
The tabling of the legislation was one thing but the signalling of the tabling of the legislation last week is another. I am sure that the execs at CP were out golfing this past weekend because they knew what was going to happen. They knew what was inevitable this week so they probably had the weekend off. They probably managed to get in 18 or 36 holes.
When this happens it becomes a problem because the government becomes the centre of the dispute and both parties stop negotiating. It is bad for the union, it is bad for the company, it is bad for government and it is bad for the country. Yet this is a new labour relations model for the government. It is one that every expert on both sides of the issue believes is wrong.
I am going to quote George Smith again because ironically, as a former labour relations director for both Air Canada and CP, his opinion should mean something to the government. He has been unique in his perspective on how the government has dealt with both of these disputes. He said repeatedly that the government is worsening employee relations at federal employers by its constant interventions. He wisely said, “You can't legislate peace” and that the government's intervention brings long-term instability and distrust between the employees and employers that are ultimately unpredictable and unproductive.
The mess the government has created in one year of labour relations will take years to undo.
Canadians are reasonable and fair people. We can start to see that Canadians are losing trust in the government. From the F-35 fiasco to the robocall scandal, Canadians are seeing the true colours of the government. The majority reform government is taking off the sheep's clothing. I have a feeling however there are still a few progressive Conservative MPs who are feeling quite uneasy about how the government is abusing its power, whether it is against the poor and vulnerable in our society, against seniors or against the enshrined rights afforded to workers.
With the way the government has treated workers over the last year and the incompetence it has shown in handling labour relations at Canada Post and CP Rail, I cannot with good conscience support the government's legislation. Back-to-work legislation should never be seen as a success. If it represents anything, it represents failure. The action of the government has time and time again been a failure.
If the government even dreams that it is legislating peace and harmony at CP, it had better wake up and apologize to organized labour in our country.
We have seen the results. We have seen two charter challenges. We have seen two court cases. Time after time, the government has made a mess of labour relations.
We will stand with the union on this particular bill. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with the teamsters on the bill and we will vote against this back-to-work legislation.