Article content

OTTAWA — Cheers erupted in the House of Commons on Monday after MPs of all stripes, including Conservatives, unanimously voted in favour of legislation to ban replacement workers used during strikes and lock-outs in federally regulated workplaces.

Speaking after the vote, Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan said he was “very relieved, happy and delighted” that all MPs voted in favour of his bill, and said it sends a “real message” to workers across the country that “they are valued and that parliamentarians have heard them.”

Article content

“This is a big moment for workers in this country. It’s a big moment for labour, and we’re thrilled that it passed unanimously,” said O’Regan.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh took the credit for the legislation going through, thanks to his party’s supply-and-confidence deal with the government. The Liberal Party had also promised to ban replacement workers as part of its election platform in 2021.

“I want to be clear, this would not have happened but for New Democrats forcing the government to do this,” Singh said.

The legislation will now be sent to the Senate, where it will be studied and eventually adopted. The changes will come into effect one year after the bill becomes law.

The initial bill proposed 18 months to make the changes come to effect, but it was amended in committee hearings to 12 months instead.

The Bloc Quebecois criticized the delays, saying the ban on replacement workers at the federal level should come into effect immediately once the bill receives royal assent.

“Why wait a year before its implementation?” asked Bloc House leader Alain Therrien.

“Twelve months is much too long. We’ve had this law in Quebec for the past 47 years.”

Article content

Therrien however said that he hopes the Senate does not decide to amend the legislation once more, as he fears a legislative game of “ping pong” that could delay the bill even more.

The Conservatives made it clear last February at second reading that they would support a ban on replacement workers as they seek to court the blue collar vote.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said in a speech last month that his party supported the legislation because “working people have the right to bargain and fight for wage increases that they need in order to keep up with the galloping inflation that has ripped them off.”

Singh said he does not buy Poilievre’s new position on replacement workers, arguing that he has voted against similar legislation multiple times in the past.

“When Conservatives are in power, they attack the strength of unions, they attack the strength of workers, so I have concerns … based on facts, based on Pierre Poilievre’s record,” he said.

Recommended from Editorial

Article content

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has been critical of the legislation, which it said will harm the economy in federally regulated sectors like telecommunications and transportation.

“Replacement workers allow organizations in rail, ports, telecom and air to sustain a basic level of ‘lights on’ continuity that preserves critical services for Canadians,” Robin Guy, vice president and deputy leader of government relations for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, wrote in an op-ed in the Financial Post.

“There are serious ramifications for all Canadians if we prohibit these workers from keeping those lights on,” he added.

O’Regan pushed back on the assertion that the new legislation would harm the economy, arguing that banning replacement workers in fact speeds up the negotiation process.

“You would not believe how disruptive it is … how much time and energy that takes away from what we need their time and energy spent at, which is at the table finding solutions, providing more stability, more certainty for our economy,” he said.

National Post

Get more deep-dive National Post political coverage and analysis in your inbox with the Political Hack newsletter, where Ottawa bureau chief Stuart Thomson and political analyst Tasha Kheiriddin get at what’s really going on behind the scenes on Parliament Hill every Wednesday and Friday, exclusively for subscribers. Sign up here.

Our website is the place for the latest breaking news, exclusive scoops, longreads and provocative commentary. Please bookmark and sign up for our politics newsletter, First Reading, here.

Share this article in your social network

Source link