Mr. Brian L. Gardiner (Prince George-Bulkley Valley):
Mr. Speaker, I will be veiy brief speaking on the motion before us.
For the record, I would like to compliment the member of our caucus from Mission-Coquitlam who has done an excellent job as our labour critic. As that definition implies, she has worked closely with all parties in the House, from time to time with the minister, with members of the trade union movement and with the government, particularly during disputes. The hon. member is a credit to this House for the work she has done helping the trade union movement and understanding what the duties and obligations of Parliament are as well. I think that is important to say at the start of my comments on Bill C-101, the act to amend the Canada Labour Code.
We have no dispute with some parts of the bill that the government is amending today. There have been consultations for some time now with the trade union movement and others in the public on changes to this legislation which we can support. However what has become an unfortunate trend with this government and maybe all governments is that often the good will is taken a good distance further than expected.
The particular amendment we have been discussing allows the minister when he or she deems it in the public interest to force a vote at anytime, perhaps during a dispute, on what has often been called the employer's last offer. This is an example of the government, having sought advice and having received some input, proposing some positive changes. Then it takes it a step further to
really lose a lot of the support and good will it might have had in trying to pass this legislation.
My concern focuses on a couple of points in this bill. I agree with one of the previous comments about how the public interest is defined, keeping in mind that often it is a very nebulous thing in the affairs of public life, the government, business and labour. It is often very difficult to pin down.
In this bill the government has virtually left that entirely at the discretion of the minister to determine what that public interest is. We could speculate on what a minister of the day might determine to be in the public interest in terms of imposing such a vote. I think it would be wise for this House to be able to consider a definition of the public interest so that we do have a sense of the framework for when the government might impose such a vote.
I am also thinking on this particular point that timeframes are very important in any management and labour dispute. Timeframes are important because often at the last minute a resolution can be reached and then some time may pass before resolution of a dispute is met.
It is without some indication from the minister and the government in the legislation as to just when a particular motion or effort by the minister can be used to impose a vote that needs to be clarified. It is not in this particular amendment which has been seen to be odious and that is a concern as well.
As a final point I have a concern about these final offers. We all know how many final offers there can be. There can be one in the morning, one in the afternoon and then maybe one late at night. Abetter clarification is needed in terms of what that final offer might be.
Assuming the government will be supporting this legislation and putting it through the House, I do not know necessarily how the government will determine when that final offer is. Must it be registered with the minister to determine officially whether that is the final offer? What about the timeframe I referred to earlier? The timeframe imposing the vote on a final offer may go stale by the time a particular vote is held on a contract proposal.
It is important to seek further clarification from the government. If it chooses not to and proceeds as is, that is unfortunate. As I mentioned earlier this government takes the good will too far and loses the opportunity to
June 1, 1993
gain the support it might have been able to get for this legislation.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: MEASURE TO AMEND