April 9, 1974

LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laniel):

This is hardly a point of order. The hon. member may suggest that the hon. member's remarks do not correspond with what might have been said in the House, but the Chair cannot go so far as to ask him to withdraw.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
Permalink
LIB

Bryce Stuart Mackasey

Liberal

Mr. Mackasey:

Mr. Speaker, I have no objection to withdrawing my remark. The hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Fraser) made it clear that he did not endorse an illegal strike, but he did not tell me that he was the official spokesman for his party; and the other hon. gentleman had another view.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
Permalink
LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laniel):

Order, please. Does the hon. member wish to ask a question?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
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PC

John Allen Fraser

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fraser:

Mr. Speaker, would the hon. member permit a question? I do not ask this question in any antagonistic sense, but what is the difference between the minister sending two of his officials out to settle this strike and going out himself?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
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LIB

Bryce Stuart Mackasey

Liberal

Mr. Mackasey:

Mr. Speaker, there is a very fundamental difference. The minister did not send two officials out to settle the strike; he sent two officials out to reason with the men, to get them back to work and then settle in a perfectly legal manner. That is the difference. The proper way is to settle around the bargaining table and to obey the law of the land as it is written at the moment. If that law is wrong, we can amend it; but the law says: You cannot strike legally. Like it or not, that is the law of the land.

April 9, 1974

Airline Firefighters Strike

Simply because it is your own community, or province, or city you cannot endorse or even condone an illegal strike because it happens to be in Vancouver but be appalled by similar action in Montreal. Are we advanced to the point that we are now saying, "Let us have one region for British Columbia, let us have a region for the prairies, one for Ontario, one for Quebec and one for the Atlantic provinces"? I do not think hon. members really want that. What we should endorse is the national bargaining unit concept. That exists, and it is the Public Service Alliance. To deviate around the Public Service Alliance and deal with 200 well-meaning people who are part of it is to undermine the trade union movement. That is hardly in the best interests of those same firemen when two or three years hence they come back to the bargaining table.

The whole concept of unionism is unity. It is a voluntary movement. If you are going to have two or three firemen saying that they have no faith in their negotiators, the Public Service Alliance, and that they want to negotiate directly with the Minister of Transport themselves, they are really saying that they have no faith in the organization to which they belong. That is more important even than the monetary question in the final analysis. As the Minister of Transport has said, if the complaint is injustice as far as salaries are concerned, surely the arbitrator or conciliator or representative of the government and of the Public Service Alliance should be able to reconcile matters. Public opinion would demand it.

That is the purpose of our democratic system. The people of Vancouver and the people of Canada Would certainly tell the government in no uncertain terms if these people were being unjustly treated, if we the government were taking advantage of their inability to strike long enough for economic reasons. On the one hand the hon. gentleman is saying that these men have a grievance, and because they have a grievance they are entitled to use their bargaining power and walk off the job-

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
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PC

John Allen Fraser

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fraser:

I did not say that.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
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LIB

Bryce Stuart Mackasey

Liberal

Mr. Mackasey:

On the one hand he is saying, "Run out there and put them back to work because of the inconvenience." You cannot have it both ways in a democracy. The law is the law, and the law says this is the way it must be done. You cannot walk off the job, no matter how just or unjust your case may be.

It is the same thing with nurses in the maritime provinces. Why should they be paid less than those in Ontario and British Columbia? I never accepted the regional rate principle. Speaking as an individual member, I have always felt that if you want to have national bargaining and wage rates, go toward the top. It costs just as much to live in the maritimes as in British Columbia. That is my opinion, for what it is worth. Having said this, Mr. Speaker, I cannot condone an illegal method of settling this type of injustice.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
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LIB

Gérald Laniel (Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Liberal

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Laniel):

Order, please. I regret having to interrupt the hon. member, but the time allotted to him has expired. I did allow him an extra minute and a half because of the questioning.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
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NDP

David Lewis

New Democratic Party

Mr. David Lewis (York South):

Mr. Speaker, I want to make the following points to members of the government. No one in his senses can justify or condone a group of Canadians breaking their bargaining pattern, breaking the law, if you like, although that sometimes does happen in these things. But I do not think that anyone, including the Minister of Transport (Mr. Marchand)-whose sincerity I do not for a moment question-has really got to the point which gives rise to this kind of situation. If you are going to have national rates, and I am personally totally in favour of it, I regret those areas in the public service that now have regional rates.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

Hear, hear!

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
Permalink
NDP

David Lewis

New Democratic Party

Mr. Lewis:

I regret that there are registered nurses working for the federal government in Halifax receiving about $1,800 a year less than registered nurses working for the federal government in Victoria, or Vancouver, or Toronto. I regret that a dockyard worker in Halifax is making $100 or $150 or $200 per month less than a dockyard worker in Victoria. I am in favour of national rates. But if you are going to have national rates in a way which will avoid the kind of grievance that has arisen in British Columbia, those rates must be close to the top rates and not close to the bottom rates, otherwise you are going to have trouble.

I agree entirely with the hon. member for Verdun (Mr. Mackasey) that the objective has to be to raise the rates of the people of Newfoundland to those of the people of British Columbia. You cannot have a national rate that will be at the top of the regional rate, I agree, but it should be so close to the top that the people who have to accept that rate do not feel aggrieved, do not feel that an injustice has been done to them. They are ready to take something smaller in British Columbia for the sake of having the people in the Atlantic provinces or Quebec or Saskatoon or Regina get a higher rate than they would otherwise get. When you permit- this is where Treasury Board is so at fault-a national rate to place the people in the higher wage are in a position of real disadvantage, they would be angels if they did not react, Mr. Speaker; and we are not any more angels than they are.

The federal government ought to be a model employer, but in many circumstances Treasury Board acts like the most reactionary employer in this country. That creates the problem. One of the things that always creates problems is delay. If it were possible to get these negotiations going so that it looked as if they were coming to a successful end prior to the end of the contract, that is, April 1 or March 31, so that the people knew that their wages would be raised $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000 per year, or whatever the settlement might be, and we cannot settle it here, then we would be in a different situation. But when nothing happens, when the municipal firefighters get an increase on January 1 of this year and the airport firefighters lag behind to a point where they feel really disadvantaged, then trouble arises.

As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I think the firefighters in British Columbia are mistaken in what they are doing is that in my reading of the situation Treasury Board would like nothing better than to have regional bargaining right across the country in every com-

April 9, 1974

ponent of the public service. That is what the minister wants, and that is what these strikers in British Columbia may be forcing, against the interests and rights of many working people in this country. Treasury Board would love to have regional bargaining for public service rates. It makes it easier for them. They can go to a place like Halifax, ascertain the wage rate in surrounding industries, then enforce it on the public servants and that is it. No one can kick. They would have a much easier time. Whether it would cost less, or more, I do not know. I have never made that kind of calculation. I know that the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Drury) and Treasury Board officials prefer regional bargaining. When the employer prefers something, employees ought to suspect that it cannot be on their side. That is where I think the firefighters are making a mistake. They are going to open the door and let Treasury Board get exactly what it has wanted for many years, as any spokesman of the Public Service Alliance or the Professional Institute of Public Servants will tell you, Mr. Speaker.

My final point is this, and I may not agree with what my colleague said, which shows that we are not monolithic in thought. I can appreciate the problem of the Minister of Transport in going out there and giving these 200 strikers, or whatever the number may be, the status and improvements they want in order to break the national bargaining situation. I know the Minister of Labour (Mr. Munro) will experience the same kind of difficulty. But it would not be difficult for the President of the Treasury Board and his officials to settle with this component of the public service and right away increase the rates of firefighters across Canada and reduce substantially the injustices from which firefighters in British Columbia are suffering. That could be done in one week.

If the President of the Treasury Board, who really has the duty to act in this situation, were to say, "I am meeting with the bargaining committee tomorrow and we are going to make a settlement as fast as humanly possible which will remove most of the disadvantages from which these men suffer now," I am certain that those reasonable men would go back to work tomorrow. The responsibility, sir, is not that of the Minister of Labour or of other ministers; the responsibility is that of the President of the Treasury Board. He should have been here tonight to assure this House, the firefighters, the president of the Public Service Alliance and the other officials who are in the gallery that the negotiations which are now going on will be speeded up so that the problem in British Columbia will be, if not solved at least alleviated to the point where the strikers will go back to work.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
Permalink
LIB

Jean Marchand (Minister of Transport)

Liberal

Mr. Marchand (Langelier):

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, may I inform the hon. gentleman that the President of the Treasury Board is not here because he replaced me at a ceremony. I preferred to be here. He should be here later.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
Permalink
NDP

David Lewis

New Democratic Party

Mr. Lewis:

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to accept that and I withdraw my condemnation of the President of the Treasury Board for not being here. But I do not withdraw my criticism of him for the policy which he pursues.

Airline Firefighters Strike

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
Permalink
PC

Elmer MacIntosh MacKay

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Elmer M. MacKay (Central Nova):

Mr. Speaker, most of the salient points have already been presented to the House in a way much better than I could put them. Nonetheless, I wish to comment about some of the issues raised by my colleagues this evening in all parts of the House. In fairness to the hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Fraser)-and here I direct my remarks to the hon. member for Verdun (Mr. Mackasey)-I suggest that what he was proposing was that the Minister of Transport (Mr. Marchand) and other responsible cabinet officials should involve the Public Service Alliance and other appropriate representatives in the process of conciliation-not "deviate around them."

Although we do not endorse this strike which is, rightly, termed illegal, we recognize that in the public interest something must be done. As the hon. member for Verdun and the Minister of Transport have emphasized, there are certain laws in this country which ought to be obeyed. Nevertheless, they are not immutable like the laws of the Medes and Persians; and one should remember that the law is an ass, if it is administered by asses.

I suggest, in all seriousness, that the problems we are discussing tonight go much deeper than they first appear. This point was made by the leader of the New Democratic Party (Mr. Lewis) and by others. The strikes at Vancouver airport and Esquimalt have been called illegal, rightly so, but their root causes are disturbing. Many factors have brought about this situation. The Minister of Transport is concerned about this apparent breakdown in the orderly process of collective bargaining. But he should be encouraged, as well, by the responsibility that the Public Service Alliance of Canada in general, and other firefighters across the nation in particular are showing. Their courage and responsibility in the face of the very shortsighted and poorly conceived pay policies are to be commended. Those policies, as the leader of the NDP pointed out, are being administered by the head of Treasury Board.

As I have mentioned in this House on other occasions, the intransigence and unyielding attitude of the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Drury) is responsible for a great many difficulties and needless complications in many government departments, including not only the Department of Transport but other departments as well. Last year we witnessed the striking example involving federal nurses. Their representative, the Professional Institute of the Public Service, tried valiantly to get a fair deal for them right across the country. Those efforts were stymied by the unyielding attitude of the President of the Treasury Board. One could point to other examples. As the hon. member for Fraser Valley West (Mr. Rose) said half in jest when repeating a point I had raised earlier, if the government is to follow regional pay policies across the board, members of parliament ought to be paid different rates according to the regions they represent. That shows what would happen if you took the policy to its logical conclusion.

What we are discussing tonight is serious, because what could happen could bring serious consequences with regard to the jurisdiction of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. I do not profess to be an expert in labour matters. Let me say this, however. If the government means to

April 9, 1974

Airline Firefighters Strike

perpetuate the philosophy expressed on previous occasions by the President of the Treasury Board and other spokesmen, does it not realize that its actions will affect significantly the fabric of the Public Service Alliance? Why should we divide the public service into compartments? Why should the government pay less to some people who happen to live in the poorer regions than to compatriots or companions who live in the so-called prosperous regions of Canada? Such policy can only weaken the fabric of the Public Service Alliance. The entire membership of the various associated unions will become more restive if such policies are pursued. They will be open to blandishments and raids from other unions. The situation will have a disrupting effect on the entire labour movement. It cannot be called a constructive situation. We cannot afford to disrupt the workings of the public service by reimbursing employees in one part of the country more than in another part for the same type of work.

In a letter dated September 25, 1973, the President of the Treasury Board calculated how much it would cost to pay public service employees on an equal basis right across the country. He said in part:

An estimate of the cost today of converting federal public servants who are paid on a local or zonal basis to national rates would be about $54,000,000. This figure represents only the increased cost of the wage bill and not indirect costs of such things as fringe benefits.

I say to the hon. and venerable President of the Treasury Board, so what? I know $54 million is not peanuts; neither is the $750 million the government has budgeted to pay outside consultants in the present fiscal year. I know that Treasury Board may not be able to make the commitment to end regional wage disparities in one fell swoop. Yet surely the time has come for a firm commitment which will remove these disparities.

The Minister of Transport has the expertise, credentials and knowledge of the labour movement to bring in new policies for his department as he promised and on which he is publicly working at present. He should take the lead, together with some of his more enlightened colleagues such as the hon. member for Verdun and, presumably, the Minister of Labour (Mr. Munro) in trying to convince the President of the Treasury Board and some of his colleagues who are taking a reactionary stand in terms of regional pay disparities that it is time to make a commitment to stop perpetuating this philosophy. As a former minister of regional economic expansion, he must surely realize the paradox which is inherent-as some of my hon. friends have mentioned-in, on the one hand, spending hundreds of millions in the name of increasing regional economic opportunities in this country, and on the other hand going along with a philosophy which continues to pay people, who in many cases live in areas of the country where not only is the pay lower but the cost of living is higher, on a lower wage scale than those more prosperous areas of the country.

I do not think the Minister of Transport really subscribes to this philosophy. It does not make sense to allow such a situation to continue. The President of the Treasury Board, however, has been quoted in no unequivocal terms on the subject. As reported at page 7121 of Hansard

for last fall, his parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for St. Boniface (Mr. Guay) put it this way:

As the President of the Treasury Board has said on more than one occasion the government as employer is committed to paying rates which are equitable and competitive with those paid outside the public service for similar occupations.

He doesn't honour the commitment, since this definitely does not apply in the case of the firefighters in Vancouver. It is certainly not true in the case of the nurses under federal jurisdiction, where the Professional Institute of the Public Service sought in vain to get them a fair deal. The disruption which took place in the Department of Veterans Affairs was disturbing to many members of this House and particularly disturbing to the veterans who suffered as a result.

The situation is very clear. Just as it has interfered in this case with the portfolio of the Minister of Transport, just as it interfered in the recent past with the portfolio of the Minister of Veterans Affairs (Mr. MacDonald), Treasury Board pay policy will continue to be a thorn in the side of other ministers on the treasury benches.

So I plead once more with the Minister of Transport not only to bring in a policy clearing up the present difficulties in transport, but to try to convince the antedeluvian head of Treasury Board to take a more enlightened attitude toward the question of regional pay scales for public servants.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
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PC

Allan Bruce McKinnon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Allan B. McKinnon (Victoria):

Mr. Speaker, once again air transport in British Columbia has been brought to a standstill, this week because of an illegal strike. Travel between Vancouver Island and the mainland by air is limited to small sea planes. To those of us who come from the island, it appears that the mainland is isolated. That could be a headline in the Daily Colonist tomorrow if that paper were not also tied up by a strike.

I am not prepared to put the blame for Canada's industrial troubles entirely on stupidity or prejudice on the part of either employers or employees. The main causes of Canada's accelerating labour troubles appear to me to be, first, a considerable increase in people's expectations, largely the result of improved advertising, inflation, and the functioning of the mass communications media-it is sometimes referred to as the inflation psychology-and, second, a lack of competent leadership. The government shows no confidence in its own actions. It passes legislation but is either unable or unwilling to make certain that the law is respected. This is particularly evident when working conditions in government service are in dispute. The government issues edicts. They are ignored. The government threatens. The threats are ignored. It is like the pusillanimous schoolboy drawing lines in the dust and daring an opponent to step over them, which the opponent immediately does. This is the case of an illegal strike followed by disobedience of a court injunction. The minister regaled us with his tale of inflexible law but he is the one person who can institute change.

What has brought our industrial relations to this sorry state? There was a time not so long ago when the labour movement was dedicated to improving the lot of all working men and women. This seems to have been replaced gradually by a "devil take the hindmost" scramble to stay on top of less powerful fellow men. A desire for social

April 9, 1974

justice seems now to have been replaced by a desire for social revenge. Every man's hand is turned against his neighbour.

I received a telephone call yesterday from a young man in Victoria, an employee of Pacific Western Airlines. The staff has been warned that in the next day or so 500 employees of the airline company are to be laid off. Who was protecting this young employee? Certainly not the government, certainly not the unions, certainly not the dissident workers. This young man was a booking agent. He told me he had just seen three months' work go down the drain. He had booked flights from Victoria to Vancouver, to California and the Hawaiian Islands, to England and to Sweden. Then suddenly, through the actions of another group, his winter's work was wasted. At the end of the conversation he said, "I wish to hell I was getting $9,000, which I am not."

I think it is up to us in parliament to realize there is something basically wrong with our labour legislation. What causes people to go constantly on strike? A lot of us who enjoy higher incomes say they should do this or that because of their fellowmen or for their country, for patriotic reasons or the good of the economy. That is not the way the workingman sees it. Most workers are mainly concerned with money. Let hon. members not look down their noses at that. Money is very important, particularly to those who do not have it. They do not readily understand the need to save and invest as well as consume, or accept the need for national sacrifices. Every gardener and farmer knows that you cannot consume the seed corn. This fact is not understood about the need for investment. Many people fondly believe that they can consume the entire product of a particular industry. With inflation running at what seems likely to be a rate of 15 per cent, we are bordering on a catastrophic situation and only tremendous sacrifices on the part of everyone will save us from the fate of the Weimar Republic.

I should like to quote a few remarks by what I consider to be one of the most responsible labour leaders in the world today, Mr. Frank Chappie of Great Britain. He had this to say a few weeks ago, and I would draw it particularly to the attention of our friends in the socialist party to our left:

I certainly do not believe that free collective bargaining has achieved better results than the application of a prices and incomes policy. If there is a criticism that can be made of the present wages structure it is that it stems directly from the effects of a free collective bargaining system and not from the successful application of a prices and incomes policy-

Then he went on to add, in what I consider to be a very good way of putting it:

I am always suspicious of people who have all the answers to a problem, but there is a very great need for those with the responsibility of managing the industry to involve those who have worked in the industry in a meaningful dialogue about objectives and expectations.

I should like to point out that the situation in Canada in regard to labour unrest is nothing short of disastrous when compared with a country such as Sweden. Over a period of time, Canada lost 3V$ million man-days per year at the same time as Sweden lost 75,000 man-days per year. This is in a country roughly one-third the size of Canada.

Airline Firefighters Strike

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
Permalink
NDP

Elias (Eli) Nesdoly

New Democratic Party

Mr. Nesdoly:

What difference does that make?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
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PC

Allan Bruce McKinnon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McKinnon:

Let me just read to my friend from Meadow Lake (Mr. Nesdoly) a few things about Sweden. Compared to many other west European countries, state-owned undertakings in Sweden account for a relatively small part of the whole economy-6 per cent-Swedish industry being still overwhelmingly in private ownership.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
Permalink
NDP

Elias (Eli) Nesdoly

New Democratic Party

Mr. Nesdoly:

They have a socialist government.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
Permalink
PC

Allan Bruce McKinnon

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McKinnon:

They may have a socialist government but they do not have a socialist state. Their industry is largely in private hands, but they do have trust in each other. The workers trust their leaders. I think the leader of the NDP served his country ill tonight when he said that when the employer wants something, the worker should oppose it. He was speaking of the government of Canada as the employer. It is this attitude of turning one Canadian against another, telling them to be suspicious of everything that the other side does, that leaves us in the position where you cannot sit down and get opposing sides to talk to each other. They have been so indoctrinated with this kind of demagogic outburst that their rationality in bargaining has left them.

I can only say to the minister that I enjoy his eloquence very much. I always enjoy his speeches in the House. If there is a reshuffle of the cabinet I should like him to be a minister without portfolio so that I can enjoy his speeches without suffering what he does to various departments.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
Permalink
NDP

Thomas Speakman Barnett

New Democratic Party

Mr. Thomas S. Barnett (Comox-Alberni):

Mr. Speaker, 1 have been listening with some attention to this debate tonight. Let me say at once that if the fact that we are having it indicates that the members of the House from various parts of Canada are concerned about the situation in British Columbia, then perhaps it will have had some value. It may indicate that in our minds there is real concern that we arrive quickly at a fair settlement of the negotiations regarding this particular situation in British Columbia.

Having just listened to my colleague from southern Vancouver Island, I think we should not put this matter out of perspective. It is not as if we are faced with a national disaster in any sense of that word. It is quite true that a large number of people in British Columbia are seriously inconvenienced, and one cannot discount that. But the fact remains that if we are going to have what some of us like to consider a free society in which working people are not serfs under the lash of the employer, then we must continue the bargaining process. If grievances reach the point where they have to be strongly expressed, that is part and parcel of that process. Certainly this particular situation does not mean the end of the world for people on Vancouver Island, in Vancouver or in Prince George.

The hon. member for Prince George-Peace River (Mr. Oberle) suggested that he would be prepared to stay here all next week-I thought I understood him to say-to debate this issue. My only comment would be that if we were to stay here all next week and listen to the kind of inflammatory speech that was made by my colleague for Prince George-Peace River, there would probably be a strike at all airports in Canada.

April 9, 1974

Airline Firefighters Strike

I do not believe that this House of Commons, in the kind of debate we are having here tonight, is indeed the proper forum in which to arrive at a settlement of a collective bargaining dispute. I certainly agree with what was said by the hon. member for York South (Mr. Lewis), that this dispute is not the responsibility of the Minister of Transport (Mr. Marchand). He is not the employer. His job, for better or for worse, is to operate the airport system in Canada. The only person in this House who has any ministerial responsibility to whom we can address ourselves is the President of the Treasury Board (Mr. Drury). He, in effect, is our agent in this situation, and when I say "our agent" I mean in the sense that the government of the day is responsible to this House for its action or lack of action. In this instance the proper member to whom we should address our remarks is the President of the Treasury Board.

In the days before collective bargaining in the public service had been introduced-days when the only kind of business agent people in the public service had was their member of parliament-I remember putting forward the proposition advanced tonight by the hon. member for Verdun (Mr. Mackasey), namely, that rates of pay of people in the public service in St. John's, Newfoundland, should be roughly the equivalent of rates in Vancouver. I must say that all efforts I made in this direction were not apparent as far as producing results is concerned, but it is heartening to find someone on the government side of the House advancing that thesis. It is only unfortunate that the hon. member for Verdun, in advancing the thesis, is not speaking as a member of the ministry. Perhaps one of the reasons he is not in the ministry is that he has not been able to convince the President of the Treasury Board of the equity of that kind of position.

One hon. member mentioned that the President of the Treasury Board said it would cost $64 million to equalize rates. We hear a lot of debate about equalization payments, and quite frankly I cannot think of any more economically sound form of equalization payments that might flow from the federal treasury of Canada than reasonably equalized rates that are uniform across the country within reasonable limits. Those rates, just as the equalization payments, have to be based on some calculation of the highest average rather than on some calculation either of the median or lowest average. I hope the hon. member for Verdun will continue to pursue his line of argument with his colleagues in the Liberal caucus, and in particular with the President of the Treasury Board.

That is the real solution to this situation and that would bail the Minister of Transport out of his present dilemma. That and that alone is the kind of approach I feel this House of Commons should suggest to the government tonight. I do not believe that much more can be achieved by the House of Commons at this point in time. When we reach eleven o'clock tonight we will not have passed any motion except that the House adjourn. Unless the President of the Treasury Board is in a position and willing to rise some time before eleven o'clock and make a real announcement, we will have to endure the collective bargaining behind the scenes in which he is involved and

await the outcome of that process. Otherwise, I see little advantage in prolonging this debate.

We have made our views clear and we have tried to say what should happen. That having been done, the matter should go back to the collective bargaining forum with the realization that sooner or later something has to be settled. I think even the President of the Treasury Board would be prepared to make that admission. I know that he likes to take the hard-fisted approach on occasion, particularly in reference to money matters, and in part at least that is his responsibility.

However, I suggest that if he wants to do a real service toward resolving the kind of dilemma which keeps recurring, the dilemma which some of us from areas such as Vancouver Island have to wrestle with from time to time as a real and proper grievance, he will be prepared to rise tonight and announce that he accepts the principle of the federal service of Canada being paid on a national rate at a level which is reasonably equivalent to the average of perhaps the two highest salaried provinces in Canada, or some such formula. Then perhaps hon. members such as the hon. member from southern Vancouver Island will be able to go home for a comfortable sleep in the knowledge that Canada is not falling to pieces quite as badly as he suggested.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MOTION TO ADJOURN UNDER S.O. 26 AIR TRANSPORT STRIKE BY FIREFIGHTERS AT BRITISH COLUMBIA AIRPORTS
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April 9, 1974