MASSE IN THE HOUSE: Speech on Bill C-4, Labour Relations Act

An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act

    Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Madam Speaker, it is hard to follow up with the reference to Donald Trump in this chamber. I will leave it at that.

    I would like to refer to Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. The Conservatives often attached names to their bills. Basically these were known as bills to create two straw men. It was really an attempt to create an issue that really had not existed and was seeking a solution to a problem that did not exist.

     I say that because the reality is that unions and corporations are barred from political donations in this country. That is something that former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien brought into this House, one that I supported and my colleagues supported. It has been a good way going forward, and has been replicated by NDP provincial governments, to make sure that ordinary voters and ordinary citizens could have as much an impact on the voting process, in terms of donations, as larger corporations, medium-sized corporations, big unions, and small unions. That is out the window.

    Another good change I saw in this chamber was the limitations put on some of the lobbying activity that took place related to those donations. I often saw, through TPP grants, a former program, the government of the day, either the Conservatives or the Liberals, would have large grant donations going to companies under the TPP program, and then those companies would spend hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to the party. The company would make donations back to the party. That was a bad practice.

    Another bad practice was related to the funds that members of Parliament were allowed to keep in secrecy, different from the riding association. In the past a number of different MPs were able to accumulate funds independently. That has changed as well.

     That makes those contributions, be it political donations, union donations, or corporate donations gone. Those were good, credible movements made by former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. I give him credit for that, because I think this is a better place and more reflective of the people.

    With regard to the tone we heard from union bosses, this is nothing more than passive aggressive attacks on their institutions and individual Canadians who are democratically elected to their positions through their membership, and the membership reviews. In fact, what happens in the union, it could go to the point where if the union collectively bargains for an agreement and the membership turns it down, it could then remove the leadership for the collective bargaining.

    Sometimes it is even done voluntarily, when the leadership recognizes it has missed the point from the workers. Most recently, we saw this take place in Ontario with public servants related to correctional facilities. An agreement was turned down, and the message to the union negotiators, including the executive, was that greater accountability was needed and not enough was being done to win their support.

    There are processes in place for accountability. Union members can get annual reports.

    I would like to talk a little about some big union bosses, Rob from CUPE Local 82 and Dino from UNIFOR Local 444. We had a skate and donate program. CUPE Local 82, with Rob, their members took Family Day off and volunteered to help raise money for a local women's shelter and our downtown mission. I was fortunate to get two children's bicycles from UNIFOR Local 444. There were no complaints whatsoever. There were non-union, union, and other people from the not-for-profit sector there. We tripled our donations to raise money for those organizations and food banks. We also brought in triple the amount of food. Those are big union bosses.

They contribute so much on a regular basis to social justice causes; everything from refugees to a number of different programs including food banks, and I think we are out of that context. It is very public. They will hold press conferences. Local 200 donates to eight children's groups. This is in the Windsor Star. It is in the public. All the membership from local 200 are Ford workers. They are very good. They have had a struggle with this economy, and because of their quality of work we have not lost more jobs because we have seen the failed practice of the current government in the past and the former government on the Conservative side with regard to the auto industry. It shrank from number two in the world in assembly to number eight.

    Despite that, we have investment taking place because the unions are good workers and they run health and safety programs, a series of programs to ensure injury reduction occurs in the workplace. The unions bargained for those rights to increase the productivity of the workers. Because of that, without any government investment at all, Fiat has invested in the Windsor Chrysler assembly plan and it is now hiring 1,000 workers to increase production for the new minivan that is now known as the Pacifica. It is a different model.

    Despite the economic conditions, this plant is the number-one manufacturing facility since World War II. It has been operating now for over 10 years on three shifts, and has been making money for the company, rescuing it at different times, and also the unions have been donating money on a regular basis. That is local 200. The members know this because it is in the paper and is publicized. It gave to the autism society of Windsor and Essex, the Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association, the Windsor-Essex Children's Aid Child Abuse Prevention Portal, Computers for Kids, Childhood Leukemia Foundation, Canadian Mental Health Association, Griefworks children's program, Jumpstart, and Sunshine Foundation Dreams for Kids.

    This goes not only into the Windsor Star, but it also goes out to the general media through TV and radio so union members know exactly what is taking place because they are tuned in with their membership. We have had long-standing representation from their executives but they have had to win their workers over. That is done mostly through the confidence in their collective-bargaining agreement and again through their actions out in the public.

    There are hundreds of thousands of dollars locally in my community, and I am proud to say I have a union town. The hypocrisy that I find about this is the talk about the secret votes. Let us set the record straight here. They are not allowed secret votes, but it is okay for members of Parliament here to have a secret vote to elect a Speaker. That is okay. There is no problem with that. We can actually have a committee, called the “Board of Internal Economy”, where we hunker down behind closed doors and nothing gets out in the public and that is okay. We have different rules.

    When I was a city councillor—that was a while ago—we could only go in camera, meaning behind closed doors and throw everybody out including the public and the media, for issues related to property, personnel, and conflict of interest. There were very specific rules. However, what I have seen in my years here is that if somebody sneezes we can go in camera. It is a ridiculous process that has taken place that actually shuts the doors to accountability, and the taping that continues cannot actually be accessed to go public later on; they can access it to listen to themselves but they cannot talk about it. It is outrageous that we have this hypocrisy taking place.

    I want to end with a notation with regard to the enforcement of Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, which trampled a number of different rights, often looked at by experts as constitutionally unacceptable. Most important, they would also cost Canadian taxpayers over $20 million just to instate a program and an additional $5 million for one bill alone. That is a cost that should not be accepted. I support Bill C-4 and so do my colleagues.

Questions and Comments

Mr. Brian Masse: Madam Speaker, the bikes that we had donated for our food banks and our skate and family day was a free event for the constituents. Receiving $200 for a child's bike and a girl's bike and then having CUPE Local 82 members volunteer their free time off are not very influential matters; they are actually greatly supported.

     I encourage more members to actually partner to make these things happen, because the union involvement with the charities is significant across this country and it is very much an opportunity--and the member knows, as we just talked about, that they have an opportunity to change their dues. It was asked by the previous member with a question. I, perhaps, do not think he was listening.

Mr. Brian Masse: It is, Madam Speaker, and that is what takes place. Those are opportunities to do those types of double-checks within their own system and determine what they feel is appropriate, as members, to participate in the activity that the unions choose.

    I can tell members that nobody likes to have money taken off their paycheque, but the reality is a lot of union members, for a long time, have known this practice and have participated in this practice, and have ensured that the money is spent in accountable ways. The membership, again, has the opportunity to get the books whenever they want. That is an open, accountable system. They also get a chance to vote on their actual leadership, they also get a chance to vote on collective bargaining agreements to decide whether or not it is appropriate, and they have plenty of opportunities in those elements.

Mr. Brian Masse: Madam Speaker, no, I do not, but I do consult, just like I consult with industry, on a regular basis, when an issue comes up that is related to them.

    I would remind the member that Ryan Cleary ran as a Conservative candidate in the last election and failed.

    Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP): Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. However, I would like to know why it is okay for members of Parliament to basically have a secret ballot for the Speaker, but the member suggested that the Liberals were elected on a secret ballot. I do not know if that is an inference to have voters declare their political choice when they go to the ballot box, or for that to be known. All of us have that privilege in terms of the secret ballot, and people do not feel intimidated or have to disclose their political choice at the end of the day, but we do that here. However, one of the member's colleagues passed a resolution in the House of Commons that we have a secret vote for the Speaker.

    I would also ask why the Conservatives are opposed to making public the Board of Internal Economy? It hides in a shroud of secrecy, and the public should know. Why is it not proper to have minutes or the recording of those deliberations open to the public?