Sheri's Speech in Response to Bill C-4

Repealing Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 is a great first step

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I would also 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’s important I acknowledge their support. Because it’s important to me to be reminded of who I serve and why.

But it’s 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 contract positions. A majority of them work in the retail & hospitality sectors.

Quite a few of my constituents work in a unionized workplace.

Others have been impacted by the slow-down 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 and trying to balance a family, a new country, new language and unfamiliar culture.

And every single one of these workers deserves to be protected.

With this in mind, Bill C-4 is beyond partisan politics.

It’s about the individuals who brought you here, and about making things better for the people you represent.

And that is why I support this Bill, Madam Speaker.

I support it as a person who cares about the rights and wellbeing of my constituents and my fellow Canadians.

Bill C 4 is a small step towards a return to recognizing and respecting the rights of the hard working individuals who make up this country.

It is not hard for me, as a member of the NDP Caucus, to acknowledge support for Bill C4.

And it will not come as a surprise to anyone that we, as a party, support the Bill.

But it should come as a surprise to all Canadians that we, as a government, are today having to - with no small amount of shame I hope - return to the people of Canada their hard earned rights.

Their constitutional rights and their right to privacy.

Their right to freedom of association and freedom of speech.

Rights that took decades to achieve.

As such, today is a day of mixed emotion.

On the one hand, we are happy to see critical rights restored to hard working Canadians.

But, on the other hand, we worry about the erosion of workers’ rights that took place under the previous government.

Madam Speaker, 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 they update the parts of the Canadian Labour Code that are about 60 years out of date.

Because a great way to help rectify that problem would be to immediately act on the recommendations from the final report of the 2006 review of the Labour Code.

It’s 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 families in Canada, let alone for those individuals working multiple jobs at minimum wage.

Madam Speaker, it is a simple and perhaps obvious truth that it’s easier to destroy things than it is to build them.

As anyone who’s wrestled with a blank page, canvas, drafting table or freshly surveyed drilling site knows, creating something new is hard.

It’s hard work.

It takes time, persistence and patience.

And it is not for the faint of heart.

Destruction, on the other hand, is something we have been able to accomplish since we were very young. With ease.

At a year, for example, a child will happily smash, in a matter of seconds, a birthday cake that took her parents an hour and a half to create.

For the past decade, we have witnessed more than our fair share of destruction, and a destruction far less playful and humorous than the smashing of a cake.

In a few short years, we’ve seen the dismantling of rights for each and every individual across this great nation.

Rights that have taken decades to create, nurture and grow.

Rights that protect each one of us, but also - and more importantly – rights that protect the most vulnerable amongst us.

The previous government, in a few short years, trampled on and set fire to those rights most dear to individual Canadians.

Certainly, to those individuals who care about the environment.

To those who care about social services.

To those who care about worker’s rights.

And to those who care about women’s rights. The poor. And every other marginalized individual and community in this great land.

But also to those individuals who care about good, honest fiscal management and the economy.

To those who care about their child’s health, education and future.

And, especially, to those who care about our Indigenous communities - their languages, cultures and peoples.

Because, you see, these are not - and should not be - mutually exclusive things.

They work together. And each of us is better off by including the other.

Thankfully, Madam Speaker, today is a new day.

And Bill C4 is a great first step.

But we must do better. Be better. And dream bigger.

Because we have a lot of ground to make up.

Today, Madam Speaker, I implore the governing party to be bold.

To take the time to recognize, respect and provide rights to the individuals who brought them here.

Because these are the individuals who make up this great country.

And each of one them is a hardworking Canadian.

Madam Speaker. Today, we also know many Canadians are hurting.

Many have lost their jobs, and are in danger of - or have already - lost their homes.

Many regularly use food banks and emergency shelter – 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.

Madam Speaker, Bill C-377 was an unnecessary, discriminatory law designed to impose onerous and absurdly detailed reporting and requirements 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 this Bill would harshly impact each and every Canadian.

And each of these groups and associations represent individuals whose rights they consider important – whether they belong to a union or not.

Examples of these individual interests include:

  •  constitutional and privacy experts,
  •  the NHL Players Association,
  •  provinces,
  •  Conservative and Liberal senators,
  •  Canada’s privacy commissioner,
  •  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.

And, if not repealed, this Bill will be defeated by the courts.

New democrats opposed the bill at every stage.

Because this 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 go 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 worker associations, namely the wealthy one percent and few misguided conservatives, attacks on collective bargaining do not promote economic growth.

Attacks like these promote inequality, not a healthy economy.

In a 2002 document 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.

Mr/Madam Speaker, the previous government claimed, at the time, they were acting in the name of transparency.

But, they failed to mention that unions are already required to make their financial information available to their members.

The Bill is an unnecessary redundancy solving a non-existent problem.

And the Bill would cost tax payers a great deal of money to achieve absolutely nothing.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that it will cost much more than the 2.4 million dollars allocated by the Canada Revenue Agency to do this unnecessary level of monitoring.

In fact, it was estimated that C-377 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. 

And, Mr/Madam Speaker, our own cost estimates were much higher.

As such, implementing the requirements in this Bill would be ridiculously expensive for what is clearly redundant, and an unnecessary harassment.

Repealing C-377 saves millions of dollars annually - both for the government and for unions.

Money that would be better spent creating jobs, rather than stifling them.

In short, Mr/Madam Speaker, this Bill should have never seen the light of day, and repealing it is simply common sense.

Similarly, Mr/Madam Speaker, Bill C-525 was a Private Members 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.

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 Association of Civil Engineers, exists to provide support and a voice to its members.

What right does a government have to meddle in the daily management of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, for example?

None. So why should the government meddle in the daily management of a worker association or union?

On the surface, it seems silly.

It seems a government should have more important things to accomplish with their time, budget and efforts.

But the effects of such destructive meddling is much more nefarious than a bizarrely childish obsessiveness with union busting, and these effects have a negative impact on all Canadians.

Because, 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 - a basic level of rights and protections.

The health of Canadian unions is at the heart of the health of Canadian worker rights for each and every working Canadian.

Moreover, as mentioned previously, the organized association of working people is important to Canadians and the Canadian 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 wellbeing 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 C-377 and C-525.

CLC president Hassan Yussuff says, “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, national president of CUPE confirms, 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.

He goes on to say, “This is a good step in re-establishing a sense of respect for unions, the democratic voice of working people.”

Likewise, Paul R. Meinema, National President of UFCW says, “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 fairer 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, Bill C-4.

Larry Rousseau, in a 2013 article published by the Huffington Post, called Bill C4 “explosive” – claiming the Bill turned back the clock 50 years.

Mr/Madam Speaker, a Bill this backwards, overtly ideological and “explosive” needs to be repealed, not “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 complaints?” (Rousseau, 2013).

A review legitimizes this offensive legislation.

It is time to repeal it. 

Mr/Madam Speaker, 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’s so much more to do for worker’s rights and conditions.

The NDP will push the government to restore good faith bargaining with our public service workers starting

We will push the government to reinstate a federal minimum wage and ensure that workers have fair and independent health and safety protections.

And we will also push the government to adopt anti-scab and pay equity legislation.  Because all Canadian workers deserve fairness and respect. 

 Thank you, Mr/Madam Speaker.

Rousseau, Larry. “Turning Back the Clock 50 Years: Bill C-4 and federal workers.” The Huffington Post, November 23, 2013 (updated January 25, 2014).