February 16, 2004 (37th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Dale Johnston

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Dale Johnston (Wetaskiwin, CPC)

Madam Speaker, I listened to my colleagues talk about the bill. It is too bad they did not read it through and listen to what I and my colleague from Kootenay--Boundary--Okanagan had to say about it.
The fact of the matter is the bill is very specific to the west coast ports, and in my opinion it is something that would expedite the settlement of disputes. It is a dispute settlement mechanism, just like collective bargaining is. When used to its utmost and finality, the final offer selection actually causes both parties to put their final offer on the table, which may in some cases even overlap. They may discover that they can arrive at a settlement, and the job of the arbitrator is very simple. The arbitrator simply looks at it and awards both positions.
It has been alleged that this creates winners and losers. I do not think so. A strike situation is far more likely to create a win or lose situation than final offer selection. As well, a lockout is a traumatic thing for all people involved. Not only does it lock the workers out and they have to go on minimal pay and worry about how they will make their payments and so forth, but it also shuts down the industry's ability to do business. Besides all of that, the person who is left out of this whole equation, or seems to be forgotten in the debate today, is the western Canadian farmer.
I disagree with my friend from Palliser who says that this would be a very low priority for western Canadian farmers. A lot of areas of the prairies did not dry out. Large areas in central Alberta and Saskatchewan certainly dried out, but other areas had pretty reasonable crops, the Peace River country being one of them. Southern Alberta had half decent crops as well. Now it is necessary to get that grain to market
Cattle prices are also affecting the movement of grain. It is not profitable to feed cattle now, so farmers and feedlot owners are finding different methods to feed cattle other than giving them barley. Barley is a little more expensive so we would like to see it shipped to the west coast ports.
With what I have heard today, I am afraid that the House will vote against the bill, and in my opinion that is a vote against the western Canadian grain farmer. At a time when they already have all kinds of problems with the weather and with their markets, they do not need any more interference by the House of Commons.
I think we are passing up a great opportunity to put in place another bargaining tool that is going to reach an amicable settlement without the need for stopping the work or services.
I am pleased to present the bill to the House today and I would urge all members to consider supporting it. Even though I have heard from all parties that they do not intend to support this, I do hope, since this is a free vote, that there will be individuals in the parties who will support it.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Final Offer Arbitration in Respect of West Coast Ports Operations Act
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