HANSARD: Speak and Debate on Anti-scab Legislation

House of Commons Hansard #256 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session
Canada Labour Code
Government Orders
November 27th, 2023 / 1:40 p.m.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to enter into debate on this anti-scab legislation.

This legislation is so important because we know that workers are struggling out there. We know that, when we have the union supporting us and fighting for us for better working conditions, better treatment and better wages, we are elevating the workforce not only for union members but also for all workers across the country.

I have been working ever since I was in grade 4, but years ago, I was a student trying to make ends meet through the course of the summer and to pay for my university tuition. I started working as a dishwasher, and later on that summer, I landed a job as the mail girl, which was the actual title at that company. Unfortunately, there was a strike, and for that entire summer, I did not make any money. I walked the pickets though, and I learned a lot about the labour movement and the importance and history of it.

I learned what the labour movement was fighting for and what it meant for the family members of those in that fight. I had a choice as a student to just say, “Hey, I don't have time for this” and find myself another summer job, but I did not do that. I stayed on the picket line to support those families and learn about that history. For me, it was such an important lesson. In fact, I learned so much, it was much more than I could have learned otherwise in any other scenario. Since then, I have been converted to believe in the labour movement, its history and what it means for current day workers.

We are talking about anti-scab legislation today. What does it really mean when we refer to “anti-scab” legislation? It is the importance of respecting and protecting the value of the workers in a particular union in a particular workforce. It means bringing balance to the whole equation of the imbalance of power for employers. All too often, employers will leverage different powers against the workers, and an example of that would be to bring in workers from outside to cross the picket line and undermine the position of existing workers. There are times when workers are even locked out while the employer brings in outside workers to do the work of the existing workers. This is to undermine them, drive them out and, really, dismantle labour and the voices of the workers.

The NDP, as members know, was founded by the CCF, by the labour movement. We strongly believe in the rights of workers. However, this is not the first time that the NDP has brought forward anti-scab legislation. We have done this at least eight times over the last number of years, most recently in 2016. However, both Liberals and Conservatives voted against the NDP's legislation on anti-scab workers. Fast-forward to today, and 25 New Democrats were able to force the Liberal government to take action in a minority government. We are now seeing anti-scab legislation tabled and debated in the House.

Our leader had a press event on the morning before the legislation was moved, which was held just outside of this chamber, with labour leaders. The media asked: “How is this relevant today? Are there any examples of where this is happening today?”

Well, as it happens, in my own riding of Vancouver East, at the Rogers site, workers were being locked out and Rogers was bringing in scab workers, and not from just within the local community. When I visited the picket line, the workers were telling me that the company was bringing in workers from outside of the country. It was bringing in workers from Toronto, and paying for them to come to Vancouver to do the work of the members there. I was at the picket line late afternoon on a Friday and then again on the Saturday. On the Friday afternoon, scab workers were driving in and out of the site, and the workers who were picketing there were being undermined by those scab workers.

That means the workers will not be able to get the wages they need to support their own families, especially at a time when the cost of living and housing costs are so high. People need to be respected.

However, they were not necessarily fighting about wages. They were fighting for job protection. I met workers at that picket line who have been there for 30 plus years. They told me that they are not in this fight for themselves but are in this fight for future generations. They are close to retirement and want to make sure future workers coming in will not be undermined by the employer and that they will have the ability to fight for their working conditions and their rights.

They were there to bring balance to the equation of the power imbalance between the worker and the employer. They want to make this mark, not just for themselves, but for future generations. They also know, when they make this mark in this fight, they will impact other workers outside of Rogers. They want to move the entire labour force forward for workers. This is what the labour union movement has been about. That is what this anti-scab legislation is also about for these workers at Rogers.

I understand they have come to a tentative agreement, so fingers crossed that things will go through smoothly. However, it did not have to be this way. If this legislation had been in place, this would not have happened to those workers. This is what we are talking about, which is the need to protect workers.

The Conservatives claim they support workers. Talk is cheap. They need to show it in action. The Conservatives and their leader have a choice right now on what they are going to do with this bill. Are they going to support this bill, or are they going to play silly buggers, with games, in delaying the passage of this bill?

Marilyn Gladu Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, there have been lots of discussions on how we need to treat one another civilly. We should not be referring to one another with unparliamentary names. I would suggest that that is what that was, and I would ask the member to withdraw the comment.

The Deputy Speaker Chris d’Entremont

I tend to agree that we should not be calling each other names.

The hon. member for Vancouver East could maybe retract that and then we could move on.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are sensitive. I will retract the words “silly buggers”, but will they stop playing games with this bill and stop undermining the rights of workers? Will they end the debates in the House for what has already being studied, for example at committee, to delay the passage of bills, as they have done on the GST exemption bill for housing?

We have seen them play this game over and over again, so will they do what is right by the workers? Will they show their support in voting for this bill, or will they continue to distract from the work that is so necessary for the rights of workers? Time will tell, and the votes will come up. I urge the Conservatives to move forward in doing what is right.

In addition, I urge the government to move the timeline. Instead of 18 months for this bill to come into effect, I urge the government to bring it forward now to protect the workers.

Kevin Lamoureux Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there are many things the member said that I agreed with this afternoon. When we speak of Bill C-58, we often talk about labour in the form of unions. One of the things I want to emphasize and ask her thoughts on relates to unions and negotiations and how non-union workers have benefited because of union workers. We have seen this through generations. There are many social causes at the forefront today, even going all the way back, and social programs that came out of pressures and advocacy of unions.

I am wondering if the member could provide her thoughts on this being great legislation and that we should be getting it passed. We can look at the possibility of amendments at the committee stage, which would be wonderful. Could she just add her thoughts to the many contributions unions have made to our communities over many decades?

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that the labour movement has paved the way for better working conditions and wages for all workers, not just for people with a union. They are also working hard to make sure that those without unions have a chance to unionize.

We call on the Liberal government to make efforts to facilitate that process instead of impeding it.

Daniel Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it has been a theme of this debate on anti-scab legislation that the Conservatives have tried to change the topic and talk about something else. They have talked a lot about temporary foreign workers in the context of this debate.

I wonder if my colleague from Vancouver East would like to comment on the fact that, in the oil and gas industry, we see a lot of public subsidies. We also see the use of a lot of temporary foreign workers. One company, the Horizon Oil Sands project, was singled out for terrible abuses of temporary foreign workers. They were stealing their paycheques. Two fatalities happened on that job. We did not hear at that time about Conservatives wanting to take away public funds, even though perhaps that should have been the conversation. They were in government at the time. The use of temporary foreign workers between 2006, the first year of the Harper government, and 2011, just mid-term, escalated by 69%, and there were more people coming to Canada under the TFW program than there were through the normal immigration streams.

I wonder if the member for Vancouver East would like to take some time to enlighten Canadians on the Conservative track record when it comes to TFWs.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, indeed, the Conservatives have relied heavily on temporary foreign workers for the oil and gas sector and for many sectors. In that process, what are they doing? They are allowing for the exploitation of workers because they do not have permanent resident status. They are absolutely relying on the employer, and they face abuses and exploitation that are out of the ordinary. That needs to stop.

The Liberals, though, also continue to rely on temporary foreign workers. That needs to stop, too. That is why New Democrats have called for landed status on arrival now. We have also called on the government to regularize existing workers who are here in Canada, so they can have their rights protected.

Will the Conservatives show up for workers, and for the immigrant community, particularly?

Mike Morrice Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I am sure the member knows, Greens support this legislation, but we are concerned that, once again, the coming into force date is 18 months away. It is the same thing we saw in play with the Canada disability benefit, where members of the governing party have this rush in their rhetoric, but then, once the bill passes, it waits for far too long.

She mentioned at the end of her speech her concern with how long we would have to wait and whether an amendment could be brought forward to address this.

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, absolutely, the government could move this forward. It is the NDP's intention to amend the 18-month timeline. There is no reason to wait that long for it to come into force and effect. In fact, when I was on the picket line with Rogers workers, one of the first questions to me was: Why 18 months? Why so long? It is not reasonable. Workers said that six to 12 months could be accepted, but 18 months is out of touch with reality.

We want to see that amendment go through. We want the government to do what is right and to actually follow up with real action to move that timeline up from 18 months.

Marilyn Gladu Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned that the government's legislation only covers federally regulated private organizations. If we want to make sure that replacement workers are not brought in, then why does it not apply to the public sector employees the federal government is in charge of, as well as the contracts they are signing with companies such as Stellantis, which is going to bring in 1,600 foreign workers?

Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the Conservatives were really concerned about workers and getting anti-scab legislation, first, they would actually vote for this and not play games with it. Second, I would like to hear them say they are against scabs and that they are against scab workers crossing picket lines. I have not heard them say that in this entire debate.

The other thing I would like to see them do would be to call on the provincial governments, call on their buddy from Alberta, Danielle Smith, to bring in anti-scab legislation for Albertans. That would go a long way. Next, they should go to Ontario and call on Doug Ford to do exactly that as well.

Latest posts

HANSARD: Foreign Interference and Alleged Reputational Harm to Members of Parliament

Outside this chamber, just yesterday, there were individuals shouting, questioning and jeering about who the traitors may be. Members of Parliament had to walk past these individuals on the members' way to the House to do their work. I believe we must find a way to disclose which MPs are knowingly, intentionally, wittingly or semi-wittingly engaging with foreign states or their proxies to undermine Canada's democratic processes and institutions. I believe this can be done in a way that does not compromise national security.

If there are no consequences for MPs who knowingly help foreign governments act against Canadian interests, we will continue to be an easy target. This will further erode the trust and faith Canadians have in our democratic processes. If allowed to continue, it will further impugn the integrity of the House. Revealing any member of Parliament, former or present, who is a willing participant in foreign interference activities would have the effect of deterring this kind of behaviour. Moreover, it would send a clear message to those foreign states that this cannot continue and that they will not be able to continue to use parliamentarians in this way. This will further reassure the public of the integrity of the House.

I strongly believe that the House should refer the matter to the procedure and House affairs committee. A possible way to deal with the issue would be for committee members to undergo the necessary security screening to examine the unredacted report and look into the allegations about parliamentarians who were “‘witting or semi-witting’ participants in the efforts of foreign states to interfere in our politics.” We could allow the named parliamentarians to be informed and to come before the committee as witnesses; we could then explore options on how to disclose the named parliamentarians without compromising national security or police investigations of the matter.

Are you ready to take action?

Constituent Resources
Mobile Offices
Contact Jenny

Sign up for updates