Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, BQ)
Mr. Speaker, as I indicated yesterday, I have more information to add to the arguments that I presented on Bill C-257 and the admissibility of the amendments that affect this bill.
During the meeting of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities on Thursday, February 15, the chair ruled on the admissibility of two amendments, and despite contrary opinions from the witnesses and the committee clerk, he nonetheless ruled the proposed amendment inadmissible because it was beyond the scope of the bill.
The purpose of the amendments is essentially to include in the anti-scab legislation the concept of essential services for the maintenance of activities in labour disputes in clauses 2.3 and 2.4 of the bill to amend section 94 of the Canada Labour Code.
The committee chair's ruling was overturned since three of the opposition parties, forming the majority in committee, felt that this concept was not beyond the scope of the bill.
Yesterday, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons brought this up again in a point of order and went a step further in his argument than the chair of the committee did. He said that the three amendments proposed in committee were inadmissible.
Our current situation is rather unusual. Precedents concerning the admissibility of amendments proposed in committee are rare in this House. However, we note that, in 1992, Mr. Speaker Fraser faced a similar situation. The context was this: during a committee review of Bill C-54 concerning farm products marketing agencies, the committee chair ruled that three amendments were inadmissible, because two of them sought to amend the incorporating act, and the third amendment went beyond the scope of the bill. As in the current situation, the committee chair's ruling was reversed. Regarding the constraints imposed on the amendment process in committee, Mr. Speaker Fraser said:
It cannot infringe on the financial initiative of the Crown, it cannot go beyond the scope of the bill as passed at second reading, and it cannot reach back to the parent act to make further amendments not contemplated in the bill no matter how tempting this may be.
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker Fraser gave a clear example:
In some cases, this last cardinal rule is graphically clear. For instance, if a committee is examining a Criminal Code bill dealing with lotteries, a member cannot reach back to the parent act to propose amendments to those sections dealing with firearms. In certain other cases, this principle is more difficult to explain.
Based on this ruling by Mr. Speaker Fraser, it is quite simple to demonstrate to the House that the amendments proposed to Bill C-257 concerning the provision of essential services in the event of a labour dispute do not go beyond the scope of Bill C-257.
Moreover, during this session, you yourself ruled on the admissibility of committee amendments to Bill C-14. These amendments sought to include an appeal process in the Citizenship Act (adoption). At that time, you reversed the decision of the committee chair. Your ruling was completely justified, because including an appeal process in a bill designed to allow for a grant of citizenship to foreign adopted children without first requiring that they be permanent residents was quite logical and, as in the case before us today, did not go beyond the scope of the bill. I want to quote your decision, which was very wise:
Having reviewed the bill as reported to the House, I cannot conclude that an amendment which provides for an appeal of a decision by the minister is contrary to the principle of the bill. As I see it, such an amendment places a condition on how decisions of the minister are exercised, but the principle of the bill remains intact. In the view of the Chair then, the amendment is admissible in that respect.
The purpose of Bill C-257 is to prohibit employers under the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out.
The bill also provides for the imposition of a fine for an offence. In this particular case and in the original version of clause 2.3, which set out some exceptions for protection of property, specifically in cases of labour disputes, I do not see how stipulating situations where the new conditions should be relaxed could be considered going beyond the scope of the bill. These are additional clarifications, exactly as you ruled in the case I mentioned previously.
The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons initially said that we could not amend Bill C-257 by making reference to section 87.4, claiming that this section was not in the original bill. This is not true. In the original bill, we referred to section 87.4 in clause 2.1. I suggest that he reread the original bill. The argument by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons therefore simply does not hold up, because it is based on a falsehood.
In fact, this first amendment clarifies how section 87.4 is affected. Since the initial bill mentions subsection 94(2.1) and section 87.4 of the Code, this amendment merely clarifies how these two provisions relate to one another. It is very easy to understand.
Let us now move on to the clauses that posed problems in committee.
Bill C-257 amends certain sections of the Canada Labour Code, including section 87.6, subsection 94(2) and section 100. A reference to section 87.4 also appears in clause 2.1, as I was saying earlier.
Bill C-257 amends subsection 94(2.1) of the Canada Labour Code to include additional prohibitions against employers using replacement workers during labour disputes.
By adding a reference to section 87.4 of the Code—the section that covers the maintenance of activities during a strike or lockout—we are specifying that maintaining certain activities is sometimes essential to public health and safety, even during serious labour conflicts.
Section 87.4 of the Canada Labour Code is known as the essential services section. Integrating this concept illustrates that we recognize the risks a labour conflict may entail.
In fact, as I was saying yesterday, the amendments introduced in committee do not go beyond the scope of the bill. On the contrary, they reduce its impact and have the same effect on the replacement workers bill as the board of referees has on the Immigration Act, a situation you considered acceptable.
This provides further clarification. To say that it is impossible to introduce amendments that limit the application of a bill, that define and clarify it, would be to say that all committee work is totally useless because it cannot change the application of any bill being studied anyway.
The main argument is, I repeat: how can anyone claim that these amendments go beyond the scope of a bill when the purpose of these amendments is, in fact, to limit its scope? These amendments fall within the framework of the bill; they do not allow the boundaries of the bill to be overstepped. All these amendments do is limit the application of this law.
In my opinion, given these additional arguments and the wisdom you showed in the decision I quoted earlier, Bill C-14, if you apply the same principles and the same logic, which is always unshakeable in your case, Mr. Speaker, you will find you must tell the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to redo his homework.
Topic: Routine Proceedings
Subtopic: Points of Order