moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
She said: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to be here once again to speak to the House about this legislative package, which would help all Canadians, businesses, and workers. That is really the ultimate purpose of the bill, to reduce conflict and ensure that our economy will be working as harmoniously as possible so that we can create jobs and have a healthy, strong economy, which is what every single member of the House is working toward.
This is the final reading of Bill C-4.
Our relations with the labour movement are not based on conflict, and should not be. Rather, the solution and the best approach is collaboration. We believe in co-operation with the labour movement because it benefits all Canadians. This was a promise that our leader made last year during the election campaign and introduced through the legislation known as Bill C-4. We believe that our system of open negotiations serves in the interests of both the employer and the employee, as was clearly evident in the recent negotiations between Canada Post and CUPW.
The bill not only is a significant step forward, it also has a strong symbolic value. It sends the message that a partnership, rather than adversity, is now the basis of our relationship. Our government takes an approach to labour relations that is based on collaboration, respect, and engagement, not the Conservative approach. We believe in fairness and justice for Canadians.
Truth be told, the labour movement has been an essential building block for a stable and strong economy, which we have now in our country, as well as a fair and inclusive society. The labour movement provides a collective voice for workers in their negotiations with employers. Unions have had a historical concern for the interests of the middle class, whether they are members or not, and strive for fair wages for all workers. They have been instrumental, in fact they have been central, in the movement to achieve fairness for women in the workplace, for indigenous workers, for workers with disabilities, and for all workers across this land.
This is in harmony with our values and our thinking as a government. This is also in harmony with our values and thinking as Canadians. This is why we believe our labour laws should be balanced and fair. Why have we put so much effort into this piece of legislation? Simply stated, we wanted to restore fairness and balance in labour relations because it has been missing for the previous 10 years.
The objective of Bill C-4 is to repeal the legislative changes brought in by Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 and supported by the previous government and delivered via a backdoor, sneaky approach to governing. The situation is very straightforward. These two bills upset the balance that has been carefully maintained for years. They upset a balance that ensured fair treatment for employers and workers, and that served as a solid foundation for collective bargaining and for our economy.
I do not mind calling this what it is. Those bills were anti-union legislation, and we would now correct the state of affairs.
During the committee hearings, we heard from a number of key stakeholders who provided specifics about the serious flaws in Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. For example, we consider the fact that Bill C-377 forces labour organizations and labour trusts to provide very detailed financial information such as expenses, assets, debts, salaries of certain individuals, and other information to CRA. This private information would then be publicly available on that website.
They would also have to provide details on the time spent on political and lobbying activities, as well as any activities not directly related to labour relations. Thankfully, the Minister of National Revenue has already taken steps to suspend these obligations in 2016, while Parliament has been examining Bill C-4.
We must all understand that if this key financial information, including strike funds, were made public, these measures would put unions at a huge disadvantage, because employers are not required to publicly disclose similar financial information. It is totally unfair and unbalanced.
As well, Bill C-377 imposes a large financial and administrative burden on labour organizations and labour trusts, information that is not required from others. Why would unions be the only ones forced to comply with these requirements while other organizations, including professional organizations, would be exempt? Frankly, it is difficult to see how that legislation could actually benefit hard-working Canadians.
Some think that Bill C-377 was necessary to improve fiscal transparency. They say that it was necessary to guarantee public access to information. I fail to see the link between Bill C-377 and transparency. The rules contained in Bill C-377 are one-sided and discriminate against unions, and they upset the balance in labour relations. They add nothing to the current regime.
We already have legislation in place to ensure that unions are financially accountable to their members at both the federal and provincial levels. For example, section 110 of the Canada Labour Code requires unions and employer organizations to provide financial statements to their members upon request and free of charge. This is more than sufficient to ensure that both parties can negotiate in balanced conditions.
We knew from the onset that Bill C-377 was unnecessary and redundant. Not only does it disadvantage unions during collective bargaining, it is also an impediment to the bargaining process itself.
This brings me to Bill C-525. This bill has made changes to the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, and the Public Service Labour Relations Act, and affects how unions are certified and decertified. It replaces the previous card check system with a mandatory vote system, despite the fact that the traditional system worked well for decades and there was little pressure to change it. In fact, the Conservatives hide the evidence in a labour department report that showed the success of the card check approach. It is shameful.
Bill C-525 makes it harder for unions to be certified as collective bargaining agents and makes it easier for bargaining agents to be decertified. However, it is not just a problem for unions. Consider the implications to the Canada Industrial Relations Board and the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board. These boards are responsible for the full cost and logistic responsibilities involved in holding representation votes.
Under these changes, the Canada Industrial Relations Board is required to hold a vote to certify a union, not just in roughly 20% of the cases where less than a majority of workers have signed union cards but in all cases. That translates into roughly five times the board's current workload. Unions now have to obtain support from 40% of workers before a mandatory secret ballot vote can be held. That is a great way to ensure that the unionization process is as complicated as possible.
Perhaps more alarmingly, the changes would also mean that the process is more susceptible to employer interference. During our committee hearings, Dr. Sara Slinn, associate professor at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School, agreed.
Employees require greater protection from employer interference under a vote system. These include access to expedited unfair labour practice procedures and more substantial interim remedies, but such necessary protections were not provided by Bill C-525.
It is evident that Bill C-525 does not represent a positive contribution to labour relations in Canada, not to mention that it is simply not necessary. The card check certification process that had been in place in the federal jurisdiction for decades worked well. We see no need to change that.
Bill C-4 represents the kind of positive contribution we want to see and that Canadians deserve. This action to repeal Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 is part of a larger effort to repair damaged relationships with those who are producing prosperity and quality of life for Canadians.
Our premise is simple on this side: we know that working people are not the enemy. We also know that a backdrop of conflict and mistrust cannot be productive for either side when it comes to reaching agreements.
I am not implying that all is perfectly smooth and that there are not points of contention between us and the labour movement. The point is that discussions must take place on a level playing field and in a setting of respect and transparency.
Canada watched as recent negotiations stalled between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. We were asked if we would get involved and introduce back-to-work legislation. However, we did not go there. We respected the process, and alone, together, Canada Post and CUPW came to a tentative agreement.
We are also seeing this in provincial jurisdictions. Earlier this week, General Motors Canada and Unifor came to their own tentative agreement without any work stoppage.
Our conviction in the collective bargaining process is not misplaced. We are seeing real problems turn into real results through respect at all levels. When we give a little, we get a little.
We know that the labour movement deserves fairness from the federal government, and we have delivered in Bill C-4. This is only one of a number of initiatives we are undertaking to improve the workplace in this country, and we are just getting started.
Not only do we have a focus on fairness, but the fact is that in many respects, we have to get with the times. In this respect, we have pledged to amend the Canada Labour Code to allow workers the right to formally request flex work arrangements from their employers. This will help federally regulated workers balance their professional and personal responsibilities.
We are also working on reforms to facilitate flex parental leave, which will allow parents to create a plan that makes sense for their unique families and workplace circumstances as they expand their families. Both those initiatives are good for the middle class and good for our economy.
We are also putting forward many other measures that will benefit hard-working Canadians and their families. I hope that in both our actions and our words members can see that our government is committed to achieving real results for Canadians.
When it comes to dealings with the labour movement, I am the first to admit that we might not always agree on everything, but it is essential that our larger relationship be based on trust. Our rapport is built on the bedrock of common goals, goals like helping the middle class and those working hard to join it and creating good jobs for hard-working Canadians.
However, there is more to do on many other fronts, including ensuring fair and equitable conditions for workers and building a sustainable economy. Let me remind my hon. colleagues that we can only achieve these goals by having frank and honest discussions about the things that matter, by sticking to our values, and by never forgetting just who we are here to represent.
As I have said before, sound labour relations are essential for protecting the rights of Canadian workers and for helping the middle class grow and prosper.
I thank members for their time and attention and for the ability to put these comments on the record.