|Bill C-257 Vote lost in House of Commons
|Labour lost their battle to establish a ban on the use of replacement workers during strikes and lockouts in the federal sector. Third and final reading on Bill C-
257 was held Wednesday evening (March 21st) in the House of Commons. The final vote tally was 122 in favour and 177 opposed. The results were
As was the case of second reading, the Bill, which was introduced as a Private Members Bill by the Bloc Québécqois, was fully supported by the Bloc and NDP
in third reading. Twenty-one Conservatives supported Bill C-257 in second reading - whereas only one stood in support at final reading - Essex MP Jeff
The Liberals, who overwhelming supported the Bill last time, flip-flopped on third reading. Notable Liberals including Leader Stéphan Dion, Bill Graham,
Michael Ignatieff, Ken Dryden, Joe Volpe, Ralph Goodale, Judy Sgro, Scott Brisson, Karen Redmond, Carolyn Bennett, Anita Neville and Liberal Labour Critic
Mario Silva all stood opposing the Bill at final reading - when it really counted - despite their voting in favor of the legislation in October.
In responding to the hundreds of emails’, faxes and phone calls that plugged Silva’s offices leading up to the final vote (workers upset with the Liberal flip-flop),
Silva replied that the Liberal Party is fully committed to a ban on replacement workers in federally regulated workplaces. “The best labour laws we have seen in
Canada have been introduced as government bills,” Silva said in e-mail responses.
Silva said that Bill C-257, while perhaps well intentioned, simply did not sufficiently address a significant number of issues raised during the committee
process and that the very fact that there were a multitude of amendments put forward by all political parties clearly demonstrated that there were serious issues
of concern. The Liberals expressed concerns on “essential services” as justification for their change of mind.
The CLC’s enormous Bill C-257 lobby, which included CAW members, to a large degree, targeted Liberals’ that latched on to the idea that essential services
would be adversely affected by passing Bill C-257. The lobby groups reminded both Liberals and Conservatives that essential services are already protected
by both the Canada Labour Code (section 87.4) and other statutes dealing specifically with federal public services. Passing Bill C-257 would not diminish
these established protections. Liberal MPs and Senators were all reminded that now is as good as time as any to introduce this important legislation on
behalf of working Canadians and not keep labour waiting any longer.
Many felt leading up to the vote that the Liberals, particularly Quebec Liberals, did not want to back a Private Members Bill introduced by the Bloc.
Many also felt the Liberals in general were playing politics. These views seem accurate when you consider more of Silva’s responses to the Liberal flip-flop:
“We in the Liberal Party are committed to including in our Party's election platform a ban on replacement workers should we form a government. We are the
first major political party in Canada to commit to such a policy.” Clearly, by these statements, it appears that Party politics were at play and the Liberals planned
on delaying any support for anti-strike breaker laws only as an election platform and where they can take full credit.
There is absolutely no consolation to these statements for the labour movement. What happens if the Conservatives form a majority government – heaven for
bid – if they call a spring election? March 21st was the time. The Liberals needed to act then - not later this year. They turned their back on workers.
A day following the defeat of Bill C-257, Mr. Silva introduced a new Bill (Bill C-415) in the House on March 22nd that is similar to C-257, but makes specific
reference to maintaining essential services.
The many lobbyists who converged on Parliament Hill were, in some cases, able to satisfy MPs concerns on essential services. Some, after having it
explained in detail, changed their mind and supported Bill C-257. This included Kitchener-Waterloo Liberal MP Andrew Telegdi and Vancouver Centre Liberal
MP, the Hon. Hedy Fry - who appeared undecided and ready to follow the Party-line until the last moment, when she voted in favour.
Barry Kennedy, Regional Representative for CAW National Council 4000, who represents railway workers in Alberta and British Columbia and participated in
the Ottawa-lobby, sent letters to all MPs in ridings where federally regulated railway workers work or reside [Click here to read these letters and responses].
Kennedy said that he is going to distribute communiqués to the Council 4000 membership outlining which MPs supported Bill C-257 and those who opposed
it. “Our membership will remember back to our strike in 2004 when CN brought in replacement workers. Not only did it lengthen the duration of our strike, it
caused intimidation, animosity and hostilities on our picket lines. And if that wasn’t bad enough, CN also used American replacement workers! I am going to
give full credit to those MPs in our region who supported us. It’s about integrity and I appreciate those who maintained their position and supported us on this
important Bill for working Canadians and their families,” Kennedy said.
Besides the NDP MPs, strong Liberal supporters of the Bill included North Vancouver MP Don Bell, Newton-North Delta MP Suhk Dhaliwal, Vancouver Quadra
MP Stephen Owen, and Richmond MP Raymond Chan.
The CLC and affiliates have committed to holding those MPs who turned their back on workers accountable come election time. Many were told that labour
activists, supporters and union members were watching them and will report back to their constituents.
Some, such as St. Catharines Conservative MP Rick Dykstra, one of the 21-Conservatives who supported the bill at second reading, voted against it at third
reading despite assuring local unions and leadership in the St. Catharines-Niagara area that he would be supporting the bill. They will not forget his flip-flop.
Having won the St. Catharines seat by only a couple hundred votes in 2006, labour will look to campaign hard to replace Dykstra the next time an election is
Related: CAW joining CLC and its affiliates to lobby MPs to support Bill C-257