1975 Legislative Session: Special Sitting, 30th Parliament
The following electronic version is for informational purposes
The printed version remains the official version.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 1975
Collective Bargaining Continuation Act (Bill 146). Hon. Mr. King
Introduction and first reading — 1
Hon. Mr. King — 1
Mr. L.A. Williams — 7
Mr. Gibson — 10
Mr. Wallace — 14
Hon. Mr. Macdonald — 19
Mr. Gabelmann — 20
Mr. Steves — 24
Mr. Smith — 26
Hon. Mr. Cocke — 27
Mr. Schroeder — 28
Mr. G.H. Anderson — 30
Mr. Fraser — 31
Mr. Rolston — 32
Mr. Gardom — 34
Hon. Mr. Barrett — 36
Mr. Bennett — 38
Hon. Mr. King — 40
Division on second reading — 46
On section 1.
Mr. L.A. Williams — 46
Hon. Mr. King — 46
Mr. L.A. Williams — 46
Hon. Mr. King — 47
Mr. Gibson — 47
Hon. Mr. King — 47
Mr. Phillips — 47
Hon. Mr. King — 47
Mr. Phillips — 47
Hon. Mr. King — 48
On section 2.
Mr. Gardom — 48
Hon. Mr. King — 48
Mrs. Jordan — 48
Hon. Mr. King — 48
Mr. Phillips — 49
Hon. Mr. King — 49
Mr. L.A. Williams — 49
Hon. Mr. King — 50
On section 3.
Mr. Gibson — 50
Hon. Mr. King — 50
Mr. Gibson — 50
On section 5.
Mr. L.A. Williams — 50
Hon. Mr. King — 50
On section 6.
Mr. Gardom — 50
Hon. Mr. King — 50
Mr. Gardom — 51
Hon. Mr. King — 51
Mr. Gardom — 52
Mr. Wallace — 52
Hon. Mr. King — 53
Mr. Gibson — 54
Mr. Gardom — 54
Mr. Wallace — 55
Amendment to section 6.
Mr. Wallace — 55
Division on amendment to section 6 — 55
On section 6.
Mr. Gibson — 55
Hon. Mr. King — 55
Mr. Gibson — 56
Mr. Gardom — 56
Mr. Cummings — 56
Mr. Gardom — 56
On section 7.
Mr. Gardom — 56
On section 10
Mr. L.A. Williams — 56
Hon. Mr. King— 56
Amendment to section 1.
Hon. Mr. King — 57
Report and third reading — 57
Royal assent to Bill 146 — 57
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The House met at 10 a.m.
Introduction of bills.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING CONTINUATION ACT
Hon. Mr. King presents a message from His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor: a bill intituled Collective Bargaining Continuation Act.
Bill 146 introduced and read a first time.
HON. W.S. KING (Minister of Labour): Mr. Speaker, I ask leave to make a brief statement. In so doing, I would like to notify the House that a recess will be called immediately following so that the Members of the opposition will have an opportunity to study the contents of the bill.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, this bill is introduced in response to what the government believes is a serious situation facing the province at the moment. We have a wide variety of industrial disputes in the province that are, in fact, affecting the public interest.
The supply of natural gas to Vancouver Island has been interrupted for a period of weeks to the jeopardy of a number of senior citizens' homes and a wide variety of private dwellings, both with respect to heating and the provision of energy for cooking facilities in many of these institutions.
We similarly have a great deal of hardship in other areas of the province affected by industrial disputes. This bill seeks to come to grips with those problems and provide a mechanism for relieving the impact and the hardship to the citizens of the province while continuing the collective bargaining process to ensure that settlements are found without further disruption and without further hardship to many of the citizens throughout the province.
The details of the bill can be studied by the opposition Members, who, I am sure, are as concerned as the government is with respect to getting things going in these central industries again, and I think it would be premature for me to make any detailed comments until the Members across the way have had the opportunity to study the bill. I simply indicate what the government's intention is and what its motivation is in introducing the bill at this time. I will look forward to making a full and detailed, complete statement following the adjournment.
HON. E.E. DAILLY (Minister of Education): Mr. Speaker, I would now like to ask leave of the House that there be a recess for 30 minutes.
MR. SPEAKER: Would that be agreeable to the House, a 30-minute recess to study the bill?
MR. W.R. BENNETT (Leader of the Opposition): Mr. Speaker, do we not have the traditional right to respond to a Ministerial statement?
MR. SPEAKER: Well, I must say, with respect, that if the Hon. Member has any response to make to a statement, it might be advisable after studying the bill — in fairness to him, it would not defer any statement he wishes to make more than 30 minutes on that — without embarking on what I would hope would not be a debate.
I suggest that we proceed with the adjournment for 30 minutes — a recess, I should call it properly. If the Hon. Member at that time wishes to make some statement that bears on the statement of the Minister, perhaps we can consider it then. Would that be acceptable?
MR. BENNETT: Yes.
The House took recess at 10:10 a.m.
The House resumed at 10:40 a.m.
Orders of the day.
HON. W.S. KING (Minister of Labour): I move, pursuant to standing order 81, that Bill 146 be permitted to be advanced to all stages this day.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, in introducing this bill for second reading I will try to sketch for the Members the progress that has been made and the attempts that have been made to find solutions to the disputes in the forest industry (which includes pulp as well as the wood side of the industry), the natural gas industry, the propane and butane industry and the food industry, as well as outlining for the House the developments on the British Columbia Railway which convinced the government that the railway and its unions should be included in the bill.
We have stated at the outset — at least I stated on introducing this bill, Mr. Speaker — that the government is concerned that the rights of private citizens in this province are being unduly harmed and damaged by the industrial disputes that I have referred to. We are convinced, not only from the
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letters, the telegrams and the phone calls that I and other cabinet Ministers have received but also from responsible people in the communities and local MLAs that there is indeed a great amount of hardship which flows to members of the trade unions who have been on strike in some instances for over three months as well as to related industries and businesses that depend upon primary resource producers in their localities for the substance of their livelihood.
I mentioned earlier that, particularly in the pulp dispute, we have many hundreds of strikers applying for social assistance, and this is a dilemma in terms of trade union-management disputes in the province. The rules that are applied before social assistance can be granted in labour disputes are extremely stringent, because the government follows the policy of the previous Minister of welfare, Mr. Gaglardi, in ensuring that the public is not going to subsidize either party to a labour dispute. On the other hand, the government takes the view, as our predecessors did, that we cannot, as a responsible government, allow children and wives of those parties engaged in a collective dispute to go hungry.
The reality is that literally hundreds of people who have been on strike for months are applying for social assistance. Many of them, indeed, meet the criteria and have been granted assistance. That is an indication that these people are almost on the starvation border. That, in my view, is unnecessary in this province; that, in my view, is an indictment of the responsibility of both management and labour when they fail to conclude a collective agreement and are prepared to stand idly by and see their employees and the members of their unions affected in such an extreme and adverse way.
It is more difficult to measure precisely the impact and the hardship that is visited upon people not directly involved. Nevertheless, this government has said consistently that we believe in a free collective bargaining system.
We have, indeed, provided through the Labour Code of British Columbia a system of free collective bargaining, which places the responsibility on the parties, in good faith and sensitive to the rights they hold, to make the system work. That responsibility is squarely on their shoulders.
I have said on many occasions publicly to the trade union movement and management groups that no right is absolute, that every right that a citizen holds in this province must be tempered and weighed against the consequences of its exercise to the ultimate on innocent parties and on people directly involved.
We have never stated, although we adhere to collective bargaining principles, that there is an absolute right to indulge in economic warfare which, in many cases, threatens and jeopardizes the basic safety, comfort and health of citizens of this province.
What we have said is that government, rather than instituting legislative prohibitions that stand on the books and diminish or minimize the responsibility of those parties, is elected to represent the interests of all citizens of this province, and that we must make day-to-day judgments on the effectiveness of the collective bargaining system and on the effectiveness of any other device that governs and regulates the conduct of society. That's true of the criminal and civil laws; it's equally true of the laws regulating labour-management relations in the province. We are not prepared to stand idly by and watch disputes of this nature wreak unjustified hardship on those directly involved as well as those indirectly involved.
I want to give you a brief background of the activities of the Department of Labour, in terms of each of these disputes, to demonstrate to the House that there has been a sincere effort made by every resource available to the Department of Labour to assist the parties in arriving at their own voluntary agreement.
Talks with the forest industry have been underway for in the area of three months. As early as last June 24 I met separately with representatives of the unions and management — the following day I met with management, on June 25 — to discuss how an agreement might be consummated in the forest industry this year without the inevitability of strike action, which affects such a substantial part of the economy of this province and so many thousands of workers. On June 27 I met with a representative of the PPWC. On July 2 I met with representatives of both the CPU and the PPWC — the pulp unions — to discuss what assistance the Department of Labour could give in terms of finding a resolution to their negotiations this year which would not produce a work stoppage, with all of the consequent implications of that kind of conflict.
Bargaining continued and a critical point arrived on July 12 when it appeared, despite the involvement of mediation officers, despite my private consultation with the labour and management groups involved, that there could be no reconciliation of the position of the two parties. Accordingly, on July 12, I summoned all of the parties to Victoria. I believe it was at that point that we had a general discussion regarding a third-party appraisal of the dispute.
Again, on July 23, I met with representatives of the IWA in Vancouver. On July 15 I met with representatives of FIR and the Pulp Bureau: Mr. Don Lanskail and Keith Bennett, the chief negotiators for those two bargaining instruments. Nothing was acceptable to the parties in terms of a third-party mechanism to provide a recommendation that would be accepted as binding or, indeed, to accept a third-party intervention that would be welcomed and
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co-operated with by all of the parties involved. As I have stated in this House on many occasions, to simply impose a third party into a dispute when the good will and the co-operation of both the parties is not available would be a futile and useless gesture. But on August 20 I again summoned all the parties to Victoria. After the mediation award of the special mediator was received, the parties were summoned and their reactions sought.
I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. I should say that it came to a point where neither party would co-operate with a third party. They did not want an industrial inquiry commission. I eventually appointed an eminent judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Mr. Justice Hank Hutcheon, as a special mediator to go in and meet with the parties in hope of mediating a settlement of the dispute. Unfortunately, despite that appointment, some of the parties took strike action, and at that point the strike commenced. That's three months ago.
Again, the parties were eventually summoned to Victoria and spent seven days occupying rooms in the legislative precinct where two mediation officers — the two most senior mediation officers in the department's branch — where personal discussions between me and the parties, with the assistance of my Deputy Ministers, failed to this point to provide a resolution. Indeed, after seven days of discussion the pulp unions left Victoria, after the government had initiated those talks, and returned to Vancouver.
At this point I must confess that I see no reasonable indication that there will be a solution to the dispute in the pulp side of the industry within the foreseeable future. I can say, however, that the IWA and FIR continued to meet in Victoria and indeed they are still meeting at this point in time.
I understand there is some progress being made and as you will note in the bill there is a 48-hour breathing spell, you might say, to grant an opportunity for any parties that are close to settlement to conclude their agreement before being affected by the 90-day freeze which we are imposing.
I've given you a fairly rough and somewhat sketchy resume of the developments that surrounded the forest industry negotiations to indicate to you that the department and our resources have offered every assistance. We have engaged in every effort to influence and persuade the parties that they should agree to some third-party mechanism to bring a final resolution to this dispute. Unfortunately, for one reason or another this kind of approach has not been accepted.
It's not my purpose, Mr. Speaker, to make judgments on the conduct of the parties. I do not believe in that in a public way. I think that can only create controversy and inflame a climate which creates a more difficult climate in which to obtain a settlement.
I believe that both parties bear equal responsibility to make the collective bargaining system work. Accordingly, I think both parties must share equal responsibility in terms of the dispute having continued this long, and the hardship that it has wrought upon the citizens of the province.
Now, in the forest industry and the pulp industry I can't tell you precisely how many employees are affected directly. On the woods side there are some 30,000 workers idle. On the pulp I'm not precisely sure of what it is. I haven't the figure at hand at the moment but I would estimate that there are well over 40,000 workers idle in the total forest industry of British Columbia.
With respect to the propane and butane dispute I can indicate to you that we have had a mediation officer involved in this dispute for some considerable period of time. Last Thursday, when the efforts of the department's normal services were unsuccessful in bringing about a resolution, I called the parties to Victoria for a meeting.
I met with TLRA — the management group — and the Teamsters local union's bargaining committee for nine hours that day. I pointed out to them the severe impact and the severe consequences of a continuation of that work stoppage on innocent third parties who were in no way involved in the dispute.
I indicated to them that the government could not continue to sit idly by and allow that kind of hardship to accrue to citizens of the province.
I offered to appoint an industrial inquiry commission. The union accepted. The management group said: "No we do not want an industrial inquiry commission."
I should point out that my policy has been consistent in this regard. I do not appoint unless I have the agreement of both parties. TLRA — Transport Labour Relations Association, the chief bargaining group for the employers — did say, however, that they would accept a recommendation from the mediation officer under section 69(4) of the Labour Code. But they would not accept it as binding.
I contacted Senator Lawson, the president of the Teamsters joint council, and indicated to him that the dispute had reached an impasse that the government considered serious and sought his co-operation in finding some alternative. Senator Lawson indicated his concern and his appreciation that the government was in a position where they had to take action.
I read with interest some quotes that were attributed to Senator Lawson in the Vancouver Province October 6, where he is allegedly quoted as saying that I have the authority under the Labour Code to end that dispute. I'm sure he was misquoted because no such authority obtains for the Minister of Labour to force an accredited management organization to sign a collective agreement with one
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element or one local of the union group they are bargaining with. There is no such power in the Labour Code of British Columbia. The employers' group is accredited and bargains as a unit.
He is stated to have said that he questions the Minister of Labour's motives. Well, I certainly don't question his. I know that Senator Lawson has been a responsible trade unionist in this province for many, many years. I know that he has been sensitive to the public interest and I trust he was misquoted in that regard.
I believe he said that it would have been possible, because four locals had agreed to a contract proposal, to get the industry going again. The fact of the matter is that votes were taken on a contract proposal which was developed the day following the general meetings in Victoria. They were held last Thursday. The following day, on Friday, meetings resumed in Vancouver with the assistance of a mediation officer. A contract proposal was developed and was submitted to the Teamsters locals for a vote. The Vancouver local voted and rejected the contract proposal.
At that point I was notified by the local president of that Teamsters local that he assumed the government would now take action and therefore he did not intend to proceed with the vote in the other locals. I suggested to him that he was duty bound, in fairness to the integrity and the independence of each autonomous local, to continue with the vote, and that the government would make its own decision regarding any action we felt bound and constrained to take. That resulted in a vote being taken of the locals in Nanaimo in the Vancouver Island area. I was notified that one local had accepted; the local Teamsters union, employees of Northwest Propane, accepted the contract proposal. Cigas employees rejected, Vancouver Island Gas rejected. As I understand it, Vancouver Island Gas is the distributor that controls the grid system in that area, and without services being reinstated there, any other agreement was, in effect, meaningless.
MR. G.F. GIBSON (North Vancouver-Capilano): Were you given the vote totals?
HON. MR. KING: No, I was not given the vote totals, I was given an indication of the percentage votes. At the time I was talking to the local president, Mr. Doug McLeod, the general meeting of the Teamsters locals was underway at the Tally-Ho Travelodge in Nanaimo, and he simply indicated that they had rejected, I understand, by between 70 and 75 per cent.
So that was the dilemma facing the government. We had tried; we had initiated every effort in terms of finding a settlement to that dispute. I have outlined the public interest; I have outlined the consequences to citizens of the province, and that is what moves us to introduce this bill today.
I might say that in the food industry, which is included in this dispute, we have a somewhat different set of circumstances. There has been a dispute underway there for many, many weeks. This file represents only part of the thousands of letters, telegrams and requests — pleas that I have had from citizens affected by the closure of the major retail suppliers of groceries in the Vancouver-lower mainland area. It is true that in that dispute there are alternative sources available in many areas. Indeed, some say, Mr. Speaker, that it's been a boon to the small corner grocer, that finally he has an opportunity to get business and compete in an area that was largely controlled by the chains in the past. However, there are areas, particularly those areas where senior citizens are located, that do not have ready, reasonable access to alternative supply sources that are in close proximity to their dwellings or to their institutions.
I might say that a substantial number of workers are involved in that dispute also. I have received many representations from the workers actually on strike requesting the government to take action to get things going again.
I could trace the history of the food industry dispute. Again, in this dispute, I met at an early stage with members of the bargaining group for the employers and indeed with representatives of the unions involved: in the first instance to try to avert a strike; in the second instance to appoint an industrial inquiry commission to make an appraisal of the positions of the parties and recommend resolution.
In this case an industrial inquiry commissioner was appointed in the person of Mr. Clive McKee. I think it would be worthwhile to just read to you some of the comments that were contained in Mr. McKee's report on this dispute: in the first instance, perhaps, to help clarify precisely what the role and the obligation of an industrial inquiry commissioner is in a labour dispute. I think Mr. McKee makes some comments that are instructive to the House and to the public in terms of understanding the function.
His observations are in the letter to me attached to his report. He states:
"The emotion in this dispute is high among the general public, and it is the first time as an industrial inquiry commissioner that I have received communication from the general public both by letter and telephone. I am concerned that the role of an industrial inquiry commission is misunderstood. I have had to repeatedly explain that I am appointed by you, under the provisions of the B.C. Labour Code, in an endeavour to resolve a labour dispute, and not to hold an inquiry into the supermarket industry, profit margins, the price of meat, the
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actions of the Egg Marketing Board and the price of bread, et cetera, et cetera.
"I take the liberty of suggesting, therefore, that on some appropriate occasions it may be beneficial to educate the public to the duties and responsibilities of an industrial inquiry commissioner and the relationship to you.
"It should be noted that it is also considered by some that an industrial inquiry commission should become the social conscience of the community, make judgments as to who is right and wrong and, rather than concentrate on resolving the labour dispute at hand, attempt, by writing a report, to right the world's economic and other ills."
And I say that that point is well taken.
Now Mr. McKee made some interesting findings in that dispute. He observed in the body of his report:
"Subsequent to my appointment I have attempted, as usual, to guide the parties towards self-settlement of their problems. I have investigated the outstanding matters at considerable length and the parties have made written presentations for my information.
"No resolution of the many problems has been achieved and, as a professional in dispute resolution, in my judgment no useful purpose will be achieved at this time by extension of my appointment.
"The parties throughout the investigation have basically maintained the positions taken prior to my appointment, and both appear sincerely convinced of the correctness of their position.
"As an industrial inquiry commissioner I feel it necessary to bring the following to your attention:
1. No third-party intervention can be successful unless the parties to the dispute need, and therefore welcome, help, and that the timing of the intervention is right.
2. In this dispute I found that both parties believed that my appointment had been made because of the imminent capitulation of the other.
3. The short-term problems now facing the parties are a direct result of a lengthy history and pattern of negotiations. They must be resolved by the parties at this time via an immediate reappraisal of their positions and the options and alternatives available to them before any attempt can be made at a new type of relationship in the food industry.
"As stated in previous reports to you, the responsibility of an industrial inquiry commissioner, and/or any other third party entering a dispute, is to ensure that no damage is done to a continuing relationship; to recommend, if possible, some method of solution to the problems between the parties, that by stretching, albeit reluctantly, they can reach a resolution that can be intellectually and practically accepted by both.
"In the function of an industrial inquiry commission, one must be ever conscious of what I shall call the realities of resolution — that is, to recognize a situation where the making of any recommendation will be unacceptable, a recommendation that will not only not have resolved the problem, but may have created another plateau, another settlement position that can only do further damage to the situation."
I read that to you for two reasons. One, to demonstrate that by the assessment of a person of the stature of Clive McKee — whom I have used extensively in third-party positions in labour disputes, a man with over 30 years' experience in industrial relations, a man who has been well accepted by both labour and management in terms of his professional expertise — he is saying loudly and clearly that unless the parties are prepared to move to negotiate their positions, to be flexible, the collective bargaining system cannot work and the third party cannot reconcile the differences. There has to be the spirit of negotiation in both parties at the table in order to obtain the settlement.
His assessment at that time was that no such spirit of give-and-take existed.
During this dispute we have had other intervention. We have had intervention from none other than Mrs. Beryl Plumptre, the chairman of the Food Prices Review Board in Ottawa. She has sent a number of telegrams to the Premier (Hon. Mr. Barrett) and to me. She sent her personal representative out here, purportedly to protect the public interest and the consumer's interest in a labour dispute.
I pointed out that that involves and implies the making of judgments regarding the position of one of the parties. It involves making a decision as to whether or not the union asked for too much or whether, in fact, management offered too much.
I ask you to contrast that approach with the approach taken by and the assessment made by a professional such as Mr. Clive McKee who points out that a third party intervention, to be helpful, must not attempt to make judgments but it must attempt to find a resolution.
I have been notified by Mr. McKee — who has continued to meet with the parties, and whose expenses are being met by the Department of Labour in his private function since his term as an industrial inquiry commissioner expired — that he has now received a telegram from Mrs. Plumptre asking all of the parties involved in that dispute to travel to
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Ottawa for a meeting with the Food Prices Review Board.
I don't know whether Mrs. Plumptre has been reappointed as the chief mediator for the federal government, and it is a case of the federal government moving into the provincial jurisdiction for industrial relations. I do understand that the Food Prices Review Board's appointment expires this year, so there is more than one contract renewal that she could perhaps be interested in.
HON. A. B. MACDONALD (Attorney-General): She's going for leader.
HON. MR. KING: Well, I hadn't really noticed her at all until this point in time. I certainly didn't notice her when the chartered banks announced their increase in loan borrowings. I didn't notice her intervention and her outcry at that time on behalf of the consumers of the province. I didn't notice her intervention and her concern when the grain handlers and the longshoremen disputes existing under the federal jurisdiction severely and profoundly affected the economy of this province and this nation. So I don't know whether this is some big brother device that has been developed by the federal government to intrude into the sphere of provincial jurisdiction in this regard.
I must say that aside from some frivolity and some humour in the situation and some irony, it is serious. It is serious to this extent: Clive McKee has been acting in that dispute, as I say, his expenses being borne by the Department of Labour, in an effort to bring about a resolution.
While he is conducting those sensitive negotiations — a man of his experience, a man respected and accepted by the parties — his undertaking and his initiatives are being interrupted and interfered with by a call from the Food Prices Review Board which pulls the parties away from their deliberations and discussions and removes them to Ottawa.
I say that that is unwarranted and unacceptable interference from an agency that has no understanding, no expertise and no business in the industrial relations disputes, responsibility and jurisdiction of this province.
Now I've dealt with the forest industry. I have dealt with the propane and butane gas delivery dispute in some detail. I hope the House will pardon me if I do not attempt to recite every detail because it's difficult even to recall all of the conversations, all of the meetings, all of the initiatives that were taken. Unfortunately, I'm not the most meticulous man in the world and at times I fail to make notations of meetings that were held and significant activities that were initiated by the department. I have attempted, in good conscience, to give you as precise and as thorough a draft of our activities and the circumstances leading up to these disputes, the people affected by them, the duration of the disputes, and the prospects for the future. In fairness to the House, I think I have an obligation to try to outline for you precisely what has taken place and the dilemma we are faced with today.
There is one other area that I must comment on and that involves the British Columbia Railway. Some people may ask why, since there is no general and widespread work stoppage on the railroad at the moment, we have included the railway and the two unions now involved in bargaining and, incidentally, in a legal strike position — the United Transportation Union and CUTE which now represents the engineers on that property.
I must say that we have had work stoppages, we have had rotating strikes on that railway, and when we look at the history of the negotiations on the railway over the last number of years we have to be concerned that the distinct possibility of a further and prolonged work stoppage does exist.
I had, just a few days ago, appointed an industrial inquiry commission to investigate into and make recommendations regarding a collective agreement between the United Transportation Union and the B.C. Railway. Yesterday, I received a telegram from the chairman of the bargaining committee for the UTU, Mr. Glenn Bowes, requesting that I withdraw the appointment of Mr. Sherlock and attacking the manner in which Mr. Sherlock had initiated his investigation.
I can say that I am saddened and upset by this turn of events. I can say that this is the first time since I have been Minister of Labour in this province that the integrity or the approach of any third party that I have ever appointed has been attacked. Certainly their findings and their recommendations have been attacked. Certainly their findings and their recommendations have been attacked on occasion but never their integrity, their impartiality, and their good conduct of the task to which they were assigned. It is the more regrettable because Jack Sherlock is a man for whom I have the highest respect. Jack Sherlock was a man of long, distinguished and faithful service to the Government of the Province of British Columbia under a variety of governments and retired a few years ago as chairman of the old human rights branch of the Department of Labour. Before that, he had acted as a conciliation officer under the old administration. I knew Jack in those days, in fact, was involved with him and found him of good character and good conscience.
I have used Mr. Sherlock extensively in the last three years acting as a third party in dispute settlements. I have yet to hear, up until this complaint from the UTU, one stated concern as to his
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It's interesting that the IWA — the largest union in the Province of British Columbia — has used Mr. Sherlock as a permanent arbitrator during the life of their collective agreement. Yet here we are with a telegram suggesting to me that Mr. Sherlock has improperly conducted his assignment into the investigation of the dispute between the United Transportation Union and the British Columbia Railway. That is a difficult problem to deal with.
In light of the past history, in light of these developments, I have little confidence, quite frankly, that unless this dispute were included in the bill that is before this House, I may not be back here within a short time asking for remedies to a vital link with the northern part of British Columbia, the railway, which provides needed supplies and needed commerce to isolated areas of the province.
This is the dilemma, and I think that the proposal that is before you in terms of the bill is a reasonable, responsible and hopefully — and I'm sure it will be — acceptable resolution to the dilemma with which we are faced, and I do not say the government alone. The opposition is, I'm sure, as concerned as the government is. I'm sure the opposition is as concerned with finding some remedy, some relief, for the people who are suffering under the present state of affairs.
I know that you have now had a chance to study the bill, and I will comment very briefly on it at this stage to say that basically what it is is a cooling-off period of 90 days, in which we instruct the industries that I have discussed and their employees to return to full operation and return to work, the criterion being that all of those people involved and employed by those industries at the time that the dispute took effect should be reinstated.
We have provided an inducement that collective bargaining continue, because the strike action and lockout action is part of the dynamic process of collective bargaining. Notwithstanding the fact that in some cases, in my view, it is abused and over-used, it is a dynamic element of it. Recognizing that aspect, we have introduced a provision that any wage increase which is negotiated subsequent to this Act coming into force will provide for complete retroactivity to the date that their last collective agreement expired. So that management will know that there is no benefit in them delaying negotiations to save money, we're providing the right of the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council to consider an interest payment on retroactive wages, if it's so indicated. That's an option that's left open in light of the conduct of the parties.
We have provided a 48-hour period, which hopefully might precipitate agreement between some parties before they are affected by this bill. We have basically continued the last collective agreement until a new one is consummated, but that is to ensure that no group is left without a collective agreement and the rights and the benefits that are carried with a collective agreement. But we have ensured at the same time that collective bargaining must be undertaken in good faith to achieve a renewal.
We are basically saying to the parties: "Look, you have a good system. You have a system of free collective bargaining, quite frankly, which is the envy of many areas in this nation." That is the responsibility of government. We are saying: "We have delivered that to you. You now have the responsibility to make it work. It rests squarely on your shoulders. The people of the Province of British Columbia have had enough of your childishness." We are saying to them: "Get back to the table, and in the interests of your members and in the interests of the citizens of this province and the total good which must be put before narrow, selfish interests, get back and solve these disputes through the collective bargaining process."
Mr. Speaker, on that note, I move second reading of this bill and commend it to the House.
MR. SPEAKER: I recognize the Member for West Vancouver–Howe Sound. For the benefit of my staff, particularly, I would like to know if the Hon. Member would be the designated speaker, so we know whether we have a time limit.
MR. L. A. WILLIAMS (West Vancouver–Howe Sound): Yes, Mr. Speaker.
In rising to speak in second reading, of Bill 146, I wish the Minister of Labour and Members of the Treasury benches to recognize that the official opposition shares the same concern that was voiced by the Minister of Labour about the current situation which we face in British Columbia so far as labour and management relations are concerned. We thank the Minister for his exhaustive recitation of the steps which he and his department have taken in attempting to prevent this situation which we face today, a situation which provides for British Columbia for the first time its own Taft-Hartley law of limited effect and of very limited duration.
I only wish that the Minister could have assured this House what success he expected to achieve by this particular and very special remedy, and the extent to which he and his government would concern themselves with the much-needed rearrangement of labour-management legislation in this province. I think the absence of any such suggestion to the House at this time would indicate that the government has not fully perceived the seriousness of the situation which faces the province today and will face the province following the passage of this legislation.
I would like to deal briefly with some of the
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comments of the Minister in the areas of dispute that he mentioned.
First of all in the matter of the forest industry, it is true we had a distinguished jurist in this province sitting as the industrial inquiry commissioner, and I think that it must be borne in mind as we look at this legislation that that industrial inquiry commissioner did not hesitate, when making his report, to make a recommendation. I think that the judge is to be commended for including in his report a recommendation, and I draw particular attention to that because of the failure of the industrial inquiry commissioner in the case of the food products dispute to follow that course of action which is clearly spelled out in the legislation which we passed in this House just a few short months ago.
The industrial inquiry commissioner is obliged to make a report and his recommendations. The reason it is so important, Mr. Speaker, that he make recommendations is that the parties, having received his report, are in the position to adopt that report in arriving at a settlement of the dispute. Therefore I say, Mr. Speaker, that for an industrial inquiry commissioner — as was the case in the food industry — to report back to the Minister without recommendations…. He left the parties in the position of having sat down with a third party, independent and skilled in the resolution of disputes, but without the opportunity of determining whether or not they could accept such recommendations as he would propose to resolve the dispute.
Now returning to the forest industry, they had a recommendation, and it startles me that this industry is included in this legislation because ever since that industrial inquiry commission report has been available meetings have been going on in this very city between the participants in that dispute. They are still going on, although I must say with this legislation coming in this morning at 10 o'clock there would seem to be every reason to wonder whether or not there wouldn't be a pause, at least for 48 hours — not a pause to take a breath, as the Minister said, but probably a pause to gasp in shocked disbelief that the government would interfere in that particular dispute in this particular way at this particularly sensitive time.
As far as the food products dispute is concerned, I think the Minister should have directed his industrial inquiry commissioner, having met with the parties and having received his first report, to come back with a recommendation which he (the Minister), the employers and the employees' representatives could then consider and which the general public in this province could read and understand as that skilled professional's recommended resolution. For the public to understand the difficulties which are presented by such negotiations, they are entitled to have such a report from such a skilled negotiator with such long experience in the resolution of disputes.
I urge the Minister right now to direct Mr. McKee to fulfil his responsibilities under the legislation.
[Mr. Dent in the chair.]
Now the propane dispute. There is no question about the hardship which the lack of this commodity can create for those people who depend upon it to cook their food, to heat their water and to heat their homes. It is not limited only to the City of Nanaimo. In many other areas of the province residences and commercial establishments depend upon the existence and the regular delivery of this fuel commodity. I understand that Squamish, in my constituency, is imminently on the verge of having its supply terminated. So it is not only Nanaimo that is the problem. It is not only the senior citizens in Nanaimo that are the problem. It is all the 1,400 homeowners and commercial establishments who use this particular fuel, and the employees in those commercial establishments whose jobs are in jeopardy because that fuel is not available.
But, Mr. Speaker, this is not a situation which has arisen in just the last few days. The contract between the employer group and the local unions terminated on April 30. There has been a mediation officer in since early July. The Minister cannot help but know the very narrow area of dispute that has existed between employer and employee — very narrow. But did the Minister use the authority he has under legislation to appoint an industrial inquiry commissioner to determine specifically the range of items which were in dispute? He has the authority but he didn't utilize the authority given to him by this Legislature because it has been his policy only to appoint industrial inquiry commissioners when both parties agree, even though we are now being confronted with a situation where a crisis has developed because that Minister has not employed all of the authority given to him by this Legislature for the very purpose of preventing such crises and resolving labour disputes from which the crises might flow.
It's interesting. We had a delightful September in British Columbia — certainly in the lower mainland — with record high temperatures. I wonder, Mr. Speaker, what would have been the result if September had been cool and wet. Would this Legislature have been assembled not on October 7 but perhaps on September 7 to resolve this particular dispute in the propane industry? I have to think that that would be the case, because the MLA for Nanaimo, which is affected, the Hon. Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Stupich), who carries very heavy burdens, was reported in the Nanaimo Daily Free Press on September 24 as saying that there isn't much the
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government can do. I quote the remarks attributed to the Hon. Minister: "The matter is not critical enough to call the Legislature into session."
It wasn't critical enough on September 24, but now, Mr. Speaker, it is critical enough to be included in this legislation — this mini Taft-Hartley bill that the government has today presented to this assembly. It leads me to believe that in labour-management matters, like in so many of the other responsibilities of this cabinet and this government, their decisions are based upon the whim of the weather. They're about as accurate as the weatherman's predictions. As a matter of fact, with the facilities available to weathermen I would suspect that the predictability of weather decisions is probably superior to that of this government.
There has been a sad lack of responsible concern and leadership shown by this government in these particular matters. As this bill is presented to this House today, I can only conclude that it is an admission by this Minister of Labour of the complete and utter failure of the labour relations policies of this government, this government which took office and, under the leadership of that Minister of Labour, saw fit to dismantle the labour-management legislation and procedures available in this province under former administrations. We were promised that the new Labour Code was going to bring a new new of industrial peace — free collective bargaining carried on in good faith.
AN HON. MEMBER: Ho, hum!
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: Today we have an admission by this Minister that the problem is that as a result of all the efforts of that Minister and of his department we still do not have free collective bargaining in this province being carried on in good faith. We don't have it, Mr. Speaker, because the people who were involved in those essential processes are not receiving guidance, direction and leadership from this government or that Minister of Labour.
The problem isn't only that of the Minister of Labour, Mr. Speaker. The situation we have today is confounded by the inability of those Members of the Treasury bench to recognize that the actions taken by one Minister and one department have a serious effect upon many other Ministers and their departments and the people who depend upon the authority of those departments for leadership and guidance.
We have had this government involving itself in settlements within the public sector, going back as early as the days of the settlement of the B.C. Ferries dispute when the then Minister of Transport and Communications (Mr. Strachan) said there was a gun to his head, and that's the way that dispute was resolved. And dispute after dispute after dispute through the government service, now with offers from B.C. Hydro, indicate quite clearly to the labour people in the Province of British Columbia that so far as this government is concerned, anything goes — anything goes. And the private citizen, the taxpayer who has to foot the bill, is continually assured by the former Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Barrett) that everything is okay so far as the economy of this province is concerned, that we're balancing our budget, that we can afford the things that this government says we can do. We can supply every need and we can still pay these increasing wages, provide these better, improved working conditions for all the people in the government service.
Can you blame the employees in the private sector for expecting the same? I certainly don't blame the members of the IWA for demanding equality with what the government is prepared to pay people who aren't involved in such dangerous occupations.
AN HON. MEMBER: Are you saying that the demands are unreasonable?
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: No, I didn't say they were unreasonable. I said that I don't blame them a bit. With what this government has done, the logger in the woods who has to have experience and skill, and who works in a dangerous occupation under very, very difficult conditions, is entitled to say: "I want exactly the same."
But you see, Mr. Speaker, the problem is that the Minister of Labour doesn't seem to recognize that when the Hon. Minister of Finance makes these glowing predictions about the present and future prospects for British Columbia, the Minister of Human Resources (Hon. Mr. Levi), the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Hon. Mr. Lorimer), the Minister of Health (Hon. Mr. Cocke), the people listen to what the government says and they create the problems that the Minister of Labour is discussing with us today.
MR. D.E. LEWIS (Shuswap): I hope the lawyers are going to hold the line.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I listen to the farmer in the back and I hope the lawyers hold the line too, and I ask the Hon. Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Macdonald) to take some action to make sure that the lawyers within his departmental control hold the line.
HON. MR. MACDONALD: They're holding the lifeline. (Laughter.)
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: That's the problem. You've been giving it away, Mr. Attorney-General, to people who have a preferential position in this province, without limit.
[ Page 10 ]
AN HON. MEMBER: If he doesn't pay enough, he can't hire anybody.
HON. MR. MACDONALD: That's Ed's job, Allan.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: He doesn't pay enough? Mr. Speaker, all of these failures in leadership on the part of government come together to create the situation we have today.
There's one thing about the bill that concerns me. It's limited to the forest and pulp industries, propane-butane industry, food industries, and the railway. I hoped that the Hon. Minister of Labour might have indicated what he would do in respect of other essential services which might be presented with — and I'm sorry the Minister of Labour's gone — a labour dispute requiring resolution and settlement during this 104-day period, 90 plus 14, which the Lieutenant-Governor can use at his discretion.
What if we have a dispute in the hospitals? What if we have a dispute in Hydro? What if we have a dispute in any other area which even the legislation admits is an essential service — hospitals, police, firemen? Bus drivers, electrical workers — they're not included. Is the government prepared to indicate that it will make this 104-day mini Taft-Hartley law applicable to all disputes which may arise 48 hours after the institution of this legislation?
HON. MR. MACDONALD: What's your position?
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, if not, why not? Why single out these groups for special action? Because I can assure you that the statements of fact, as recalled by the Minister of Labour, clearly do not prove that these groups should be given this very special treatment. All labour disputes create hardship for the general public in this province. All labour disputes are of serious consequence to the employers and the employees, and all disputes, therefore, should be in legislation of this kind.
I hope, in closing this debate, that the Minister of Labour will assure this House that in the 104-day breathing period which has been given to employers and employees this government will also use that same breathing space to take this Labour Code of British Columbia, scrap it, and bring back a system whereby we can have for once and for all in this province industrial peace which will ensure that collective bargaining will take place.
MR. G.S. WALLACE (Oak Bay): What would you do, Al?
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, what this bill has done is to drive one more nail into the coffin of free collective bargaining in British Columbia. This government talks about free collective bargaining, but this government does nothing to engender it, and this legislation is going to further impede the realization of free collective bargaining in British Columbia.
The Hon. Premier has gone around the province preaching love. Well, the challenge, Mr. Speaker, is for this government to take what the Hon. Premier has been preaching and put that into the Labour Code, because this Labour Code does not engender love, it engenders hate. It needs to be changed.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Speaker, I start out by recognizing the fact that the Minister of Labour has a new seat in this House, for which I congratulate him in recognition of the stature of his department and the problems which it has to face. I would at the same time congratulate all the new Ministers and pay tribute to the former Member for Cowichan-Malahat (Mr. Strachan) who, after a lifetime of distinguished service to the public of British Columbia, has gone on to service in yet another capacity in London.
Mr. Speaker, I had never been aware until this morning, in listening to this debate with some interest and at times astonishment, that the road to Damascus passes through the B.C. Legislature.
The distinguished and learned Member for West Vancouver–Howe Sound (Mr. L.A. Williams) appears to have had a bit of a conversion and caught some of the old-time religion. (Laughter.) I heard him speaking with more than faint approval of the former labour legislation in this province. I'm surprised at that.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: Your party supported it. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBSON: I heard him call today's legislation a "mini Taft-Hartley" — when of course it is not a Taft-Hartley at all, but a one-time limited application — and then seem to ask for a real Taft-Hartley. I don't think we want that in the Province of British Columbia.
HON. D. BARRETT (Premier): Are you being fair?
MR. GIBSON: Well, I'll try and be fair, Mr. Premier, because there was another conversion this morning, and that's the conversion of the Minister of Labour, who has found that the philosophy of the NDP in dealing with labour-management problems in this province has not been 100 per cent successful — in trying times, I admit — who has found that the right to strike is now not an unqualified right, as he has been told from this side of the House for some years now, and who has found that third-party injury is an important factor to be considered in the responsibility of government. I ask: what next from the NDP on that?
[ Page 11 ]
Mr. Speaker, before talking about the specifics of the bill I want to talk about the context in which we find it, because the necessity of this bill is generated by an underlying malaise which is all across Canada, in many parts of North America, and that is the response to an inflationary situation of unprecedented proportions in this country.
British Columbia unfortunately seems to be about the highest in Canada. A recent survey showed that our food prices were the highest in North America. That's the kind of economic climate in which our labour-management negotiations have to be conducted.
MRS. P.J. JORDAN (North Okanagan): Are you for or against Beryl?
MR. GIBSON: I'll tell you about that in a minute, Madam Member.
Let me say first of all that in this kind of situation what has been happening is that the rewards in terms of who gets how much out of the barrel in our society have been going to those with power to harm — those with power to do injury — rather than those with power to do good. The ability to carve out a larger share has been directly proportional to the kind of injury that a particular group, be it employer or be it employee, is able to inflict upon third parties. That is not a good enough situation. That is a situation which works against the unorganized. It works against the powerless and it works in favour of the powerful. That is something that I know must concern the Minister of Labour. It's a philosophical point but one to which I hope he will briefly address his remarks in closing second reading.
I would ask him to recognize that the government has some kind of role in expressing a view on how shares should be taken out of our society. I would ask him to recognize that whether it relates to organized labour, unorganized labour, the professions or private businessmen or indeed the public sector, you can't have settlements that are running ahead of the increase of the cost of living overall or you are going to feed inflation. That applies to every single sector. It just becomes like a dog chasing its tail if everyone tries to get greater and greater slices.
I would ask him to recognize as well that we can't do without productive investment in this province of ours. I saw an article in The Financial Times of Canada the other day which gave a comparison of the 10 provinces of Canada and the economic growth they have each had in the last 10 years — economic growth per capita, per person. Mr. Speaker, British Columbia stands 10th out of 10 — right at the bottom of that list in The Financial Times, September 14. Obviously I am not just blaming this government, because there was another government in power most of that time. It shows that we have had problems in this province, problems of a productive nature. Unless you have productivity — this is my point — you can't take the extra shares out.
Why is the situation worse in British Columbia than in most parts of Canada? The Minister spoke of hardship in all of the areas covered by this bill. But who is responsible for that hardship? I put it to the government that it is a direct consequence of the climate they have created that we have this situation in British Columbia today. The government has not had the guts of an Ed Schreyer in Manitoba, who has gone around his province — maybe losing votes in doing it, I don't know — saying that government must exercise some leadership in dealing with inflation. The government has not had the guts to say that there have to be some guidelines in this province and that in areas where we can make them stick we'll make them stick, mainly the public service and Crown agencies and any other place where we have some influence. We'll make them stick. In other areas — that includes all sectors in business and the professions as well — we say there are at least moral guidelines to be observed in the bargaining process.
You can have different kinds of guidelines. I propose a very simple one for the time we have right now: cost-of-living protection plus productivity, period, until we sort ourselves out of this terrible inflationary spiral.
Within that context, what is the climate of the negotiations that have been going on in the four industries covered by this legislation? First of all, the context is in the settlement early on this year with the public service unions averaging out to 17-point-some per cent and averaged up at the bottom end of the scale. The next context was in the ICBC settlement reached after a strike of some length that I think provided for 39 per cent over a couple of years. The next context was in the B.C. Hydro settlement that has been in the papers in the last 10 days of 40 per cent over two years. Mr. Speaker, I can only sympathize with the Minister of Labour as I recite these figures, because they aren't making his job any easier. It's the rest of the government making his job a lot tougher.
Let's add into that labour climate the supermarket dispute and then the forest dispute. That brings us to where we are today.
Each of these illustrates some principle. Each one — I agree with the Minister on this point — should be included in this legislation before us today. The British Columbia Railway, which is mentioned first — and in passing I agree that because of its history it should be included.
The supermarket situation: the supermarket strike, Mr. Speaker, illustrates what happens when you have a balance of power which is not a true balance, and when the third party in the situation is not represented at the bargaining table.
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First of all, I'll speak of the balance of power. The situation there is one in which the food industry has a substantial excess capacity in terms of delivery of food to the consumers. Therefore, if the major supermarkets are closed down, there is still capacity to get the food out. It's not as convenient, but the capacity is still there.
What happens is that the companies see the business going to the small stores, which the small stores enjoy for a while, and they see their profit margins eaten up very quickly. They have an incentive to settle very quickly.
They have another incentive to settle, and that's because there's no economic power on the other side. There's a pressure on one side, and that's the loss of profits. But there's no pressure on the other side — which is the refusal of people to buy — because they know that they can just add prices on top. People are going to still continue to buy food. So there's a lack of a balance of power there in the sense that the people who are going to have to pay the price of the settlement are in no way represented at the bargaining table.
It is on that issue that I must take some serious difference with what the Minister of Labour told the House earlier on. He cited with approval several paragraphs of the report of Clive McKee, and in particular the portions relating to the not making of recommendations when the parties aren't agreeable, and the necessity of staying away from judgments by third parties.
I agree with that for the Department of Labour, because a Department of Labour has an intermediary role. It has to make the system work. It's not its job to make judgments. But I don't agree that the government should stay out of the process of making judgments because sometimes the government is the only representative of the third party that's not at table, the only representative that the consumer has to advance their case.
In that context — and I return now to the question of the Hon. Member for North Okanagan (Mrs. Jordan), who perhaps will stand up and talk about Mrs. Plumptre later on herself — I am in favour here of the Food Prices Review Board of Canada taking some kind of an interest in a dispute which might raise the cost of food by such a considerable extent. In fact, if the original demands were met, it might raise it by some 7 per cent. According to my own calculations, and they are admittedly rough, if the offer of the supermarkets had been accepted, it would have raised it by some 3 per cent. The settlement presumably will be somewhere in between.
I think it's only right that the Food Prices Review Board should take some concern and interest in that, Mr. Speaker, and I think the Government of British Columbia should take some interest in that, because there's nobody else to speak on behalf of our citizens at that bargaining table. The consumer is not allowed at that bargaining table.
The next strike is the propane strike, which illustrates another point relating to balance of power. That's the importance of a termination date. That's what a great deal of the dispute has been over, whether the termination date should be April, which it currently is, or whether it should be in the fall, which is the time when consumers will suffer the most as a result of an industrial dispute.
The other issue raised there, is the issue of some of the internal procedures for the holding of votes. It's for that reason that I asked the Minister if he had the exact numbers of the persons voting. Without going any further, because I haven't been able to substantiate my facts from both sides, I would encourage him to make his own private inquiry into how many people voted both in August and last week, and what were the criteria for that ability.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: That's internal management.
MR. GIBSON: It is, as the Hon. Member for West Vancouver–Howe Sound says, internal management. But it's also a matter, I believe, of some public interest.
The forest strike illustrates a couple of other principles. The first principle is the historic place of the forest industry employees in the economic order of the Province of British Columbia. The forest workers have been used to being at or near the top of the heap because it is their labour which pays all of our salaries in the end, or 50 cents on the dollar of our salaries.
It is their labour that makes it possible for British Columbia to live in this world at a reasonably good standard of living. It is their time spent out in the woods, where it is at times uncomfortable, and in the mills where it is at times dangerous — as it can be in both areas — it is their work that holds this economy together. For employees in that industry to be asked to accept settlements which are only running about half the settlements in the public sector that I described earlier on is obviously a matter of intense concern for forestry employees and intense political problems for forestry union leaders.
We had a special mediator, Mr. Justice Hutcheon, who went through the submissions of both parties as carefully as he could and came up with a recommendation. His recommendation he thought to be economically a little bit out of line, a little bit on the high side, but he said that he made it because he accepted the arguments of the union submissions that the economy was going to turn up. Even so, Mr. Speaker, the recommendations he made were only about half the settlements being given in the public sector, be it to B.C. Hydro bus drivers or be it to
[ Page 13 ]
The forestry industry is unable to pass it on the way the government can. If the government wants to pay higher wages to its employees, it raises taxes for everybody else in the province. That's easy enough. The forest industry cannot do that, nor can the mining industry, nor other exporting industries; the wages they can pay are directly related to the world market. So you have the case of an irresistible force up against an immovable object and you have the scene set for a very lengthy and bitter dispute, which is what we have had here, and a large part of the cause of this has been the manifest injustice of the comparison between the settlements given and dictated by the government and the settlements available in the export sector. This unfairness rankles forest employees and it is the proximate cause of what we are dealing with today.
With all of this, we have some legislation which the Minister hopes will cool things off — a 90-day cooling-off period, as he said.
He made a comment that puzzled me a great deal, and I hope again in closing second reading he will return to this. I think I have his words down reasonably correctly. He said that he could foresee no reasonable possibility of a solution on the pulp side. It sounded like he was talking about the future, but I take it he was talking about current conditions and not speculating that it wouldn't come about during the currency of this legislation, during this 90-day period.
The hope we all have is that this 90 days will give the necessary time. But what if it doesn't? First of all, we still have the question of essential services if it doesn't work. If my counting of days is correct, what happens on January 21, after the 14-day extension, if the propane strike is not then settled? We're into the middle of winter. Some inventories will have been built up. There may be some tank cars of propane along the sidings that will be usable, but we're still into January 21, in the middle of winter, and it is going to run out soon if the strike isn't settled at that point.
Is the Minister proposing to call the House again? Or will he not finally make some provision in law for machinery to settle disputes in essential services — essential services narrowly defined, but nevertheless the machinery there? The Minister might make his definition thus: any situation where he would find it necessary to call the House because of health and public safety reasons might well be defined as an essential service.
The legislation we have before us provides no machinery for settlement of any kind in the event that the 90 days is not enough. That's fair enough in the non-essential area, but it doesn't provide any guidelines either. The negotiators, the industries concerned and this House are still left with the dilemma of how to resolve that moral conflict, that injustice, which shows people in one industry, the supermarket industry, having turned down, having refused to accept over less than one year an award which was just about the total of the Hutcheon recommendation for the forest industry for two years. How is that hurdle to be overcome?
There is no guideline suggested, and there should be a guideline. The government should say: "From here on, this is the way it is going to be." That's the guideline I referred to earlier. It's going to be cost of living protection plus productivity until inflation in this country or in this province gets down below some kind of agreed index.
MR. LEWIS: That's federal jurisdiction.
MR. GIBSON: The Hon. Member for Shuswap just said: "That's federal jurisdiction." So, indeed, inflation is federal jurisdiction. But it is not beyond the competence — and, indeed, it is the duty — of our provincial government to take some leadership in that area in areas under provincial jurisdiction.
Mr. Speaker, what we have here, then, is a bill which is incomplete and which is not entirely clear as to its scope, I'll be asking, for example, during the discussion of the clause-by-clause stage what the words "food merchandising" mean. Does this include such firms as B.C. Sugar, Seagram's, Park and Tilford or does it refer purely to the supermarket industry? That's an important clarification on which I see the Minister shaking his head. But the schedule is not exhaustive, Mr. Minister, at least it says so in the Act — just to clarify that.
So we have here a bill which is a temporary expedient. It is lacking some machinery, but above all what we are lacking is leadership from the government in terms of what this economy can afford in this time of crisis for all British Columbians in economic terms.
We're in a situation where the social services that we in this House all want to see have to be paid for, and they have to be paid for somehow out of the productive work of British Columbians. We have had the major industry in our province shut down for just about seven days short of three months. It's not entirely shut down, and the markets aren't entirely solid so you can't take the full range. If it was entirely shut down and the markets were all solid then I'd say we're losing about $9 million a day. In existing circumstances I'd say we're probably losing $5 million a day just from the shutdown of the forest industry. The urgency of the propane strike, the supermarket strike and the BCR are all evident.
In summary, Mr. Speaker, I can see no question as to the necessity of a bill of this kind. It is a temporary expedient; I devoutly hope it works. I wish the Minister well in his efforts to make it work
[ Page 14 ]
over the next three months. But I say again before I sit down, particularly to his government colleagues who have to, as the Minister of Labour should not, make judgment on what the magnitude of settlements should be.… ask them to exercise some leadership in this field and to say to the people of British Columbia — to all of them — that we are in a time of trouble, that we are in a time when we have the capacity of hurting each other if power is used irresponsibly, that now is the time for responsible union leadership — the kind I believe has been shown by and large by the IWA in the forest strike to date — to accept realities, to accept what is possible in 1975 or early 1976, whenever the settlement is made under this legislation, and to say: "Another year we'll be back and get more. But for the time being let us recognize what is possible." Let us bring this province back to its senses.
MR. WALLACE: Mr. Speaker, in this bill it is quite clear that we are dealing with a symptom in a very serious situation. What really afflicts British Columbia and Canada is a disease. It is a disease of selfishness and greed.
While we are not here to moralize or preach, I think it would be very wrong if we didn't put it clearly on the record, at least in my opinion, that under the present situation the economy of B.C. Is going fast to hell on a handcart, and the specific reason we're here to delegate withdrawal of services by various employees is just the tip of a very large iceberg. In fact, if one travels this province and talks to many people in every walk of life the frightening expression of opinion you hear so often is that the system is out of control. There seems to be no leadership in this province and each sector of the labour force seems to be saying in blunt language: "I must get the biggest share of the pie and the devil take the hindmost."
I find it a little ironic, too, as I travel the province, that so many of these same people mock the politician because he lives in a dog-eat-dog world, and they laugh and sneer at some of the recent political manoeuvres in this province, as they have every right to do. But I can't think of a more blatant example of the dog-eat-dog world we live in than the present climate of labour-management negotiations. The atmosphere of self-interest and selfishness as obviously the primary goal of many people in the field, I think, has to be the most frightening aspect of the problem. If anyone thinks that governments can solve that problem, they are dreaming.
We live in one of the finest parts of the world. We have natural resources that other countries drool over, We have the potential to set examples in human affairs and social conscience such as few countries, and perhaps few provinces in Canada, possess. Instead of that, in what I think is an enlightened province, and instead of showing our enlightenment, we seem to be embarked on a disastrous, headlong path that suggests, in fact, that we're all very ignorant.
The specific problem in the propane dispute, for example, to me is the simplest example of the malignancy that's affecting this nation and the industrialized countries of the world. I sometimes wonder if some of the individuals who make public comment from either side of the fence in this whole area of serious public concern have taken leave of their senses. When we have people in the food industry asking for an increase of 76.2 per cent, regardless of the inflation or the economy of this province or Canada but simply as their role in the marketplace as employees, I think that we have a right to ask if they haven't taken leave of their senses. This isn't to overlook the fact — although, I think many people are overlooking the fact — that we've reached a point where various other aspects of employment have to be taken into consideration, other than absolute dollars or percentage values.
When I was in Alberni not too long ago, a man came up to me in a very pointed way and recited his conditions of work. He's a chokerman, and he also told me that he was earning something just over $6 an hour. I think we have to look at the kind of return this man is receiving from his work in comparison with the kind of figures I think should go on the record as being demanded in the food industry. In the food industry clerks and cashiers presently get $10,920 a year, and they're asking $16,500. The meat-wrappers…. If these figures are incorrect, they're the figures that have been quoted to some extent in the newspapers — the wage figures from the Vancouver Sun of August 25. The meat-cutters have a present ….
MR. WALLACE: Well, are you arguing with the 76 per cent increase in those interjections from the other side of the House? The 76 per cent increase is the figure that can be calculated from the statements that have been made public.
But let's not zero in on any specific figure. The principle I think has to be looked at is that it is no longer adequate just to take average percentage increases and consider that they can be applied across the board to this group or that group. With the conditions of labour and the conditions under which the person works in our society, when, basically speaking, people are working under better conditions and shorter hours, with a larger range of fringe benefits, it is no small wonder that we have reached this dog-eat-dog attitude when, in fact, certain sectors of the community are certainly falling far behind others in their return for their labour.
I don't want to belabour the point that's been
[ Page 15 ]
made by both speakers from the other opposition parties, but one has to say that in the question of each sector looking to do better than the other, we have not had a good example set by governments themselves. I'm talking about governments at all levels; I'm not just talking about this provincial government. When you speak to the man in the street today, particularly the senior citizen or the pensioner or the student, the person who really has no power to bargain for any substantial increase in their income, the cry is a plaintive one of: "Where will it all end?"
I would just like to dwell for a moment on the subject of essential services. I was very pleased to read a statement made by the Minister of Labour in the press the other day, and which he has repeated in his comments this morning, that no rights are absolute, that in a civilized society no one has the right so to look after his own self-interest that he ignores the consequences to others in society.
Now that we have the transcript of the Blues, I think it is very useful to read back the exact comment the Minister made. He said: "We have never stated, although we adhere to collective bargaining principles, that there is an absolute right to indulge in economic warfare which, in many cases, threatens and jeopardizes the basic safety, comfort and health of citizens of this province." That certainly has to be the most encouraging statement I have heard from the Minister in a long time, because we have debated this whole question of essential services in this House when the Minister introduced the Labour Code and during subsequent amendments.
I just say this: in the light of the Minister's very clear statement that there can be no absolute right to strike if it is to inflict hardship of this degree on others, and we have to have an emergency session to deal with the current problems, why is it not very obvious to the Minister that some amendment on essential services must be written into the Labour Code itself?
Now we have had an honest difference of opinion across this floor as to what essential services might be, and I'm not arguing or disputing the fact that it could be difficult to define precisely what essential services are.
I think the propane dispute is very interesting in one respect: essential services obviously can't be constantly defined, because the propane problem in the middle of summer, in terms of safety and health of the community, is not an essential service, but it certainly becomes an essential service when we have the conditions that the Minister described, particularly in relation to senior citizens.
But the point I am suggesting is that if this kind of legislation is justified, as the Minister says it is, because of the fact that nobody has an absolute right to inflict suffering on others, if it is justified in this emergency bill, surely some amendment to the Labour Code is justified to define essential services and remove the right to strike from essential services. You know, this is one of the most interesting points, as I see it, in this whole debate: that when we from this side of the House have previously talked about removing the right to strike from certain employees in essential services, we so often get the retort that of course you can't compel people to work and you can't make that kind of legislation stick. I would just have to ask: what are we proposing to do with this bill? We're putting back to work every single striker who is on strike in this province right now. When we talked about essential services and removing the right to strike, the argument we got back from that side of the House is that you can't make it work and you can't compel people to work if they don't want to.
Well, I don't know what all the strikes are about. We've got 40,000 people in the forest industry who don't want to work, or who believe that they are not being treated fairly in the economic sense. So I just say that there is one amazing contradiction in the position of the government in this emergency bill. Either that, or there has been a shift of about 180 degrees by that government in its basic philosophy and policy towards essential services. Now it is one or the other.
I don't have specific quotations from Hansard, but I know they are there because I've taken a very close interest in this whole matter of essential services, and the Minister knows that we have debated it on many previous occasions. I am simply saying that if this kind of legislation is good for an emergency, surely it should be good as a stable and basic part of the framework the Minister should continue to modify and construct in the Labour Code.
I hope that when the Minister winds up second reading he would care to comment on that particular point, because it should also be repeated that while a great deal of lip service by this government (and by many governments of all political stripes) is paid to the right to strike, let's not fool ourselves that in the crunch it is very much a phony right.
Here we are, because of the propane dispute, holding a special session at great expense to the taxpayer, or at considerable expense to the taxpayer. We were here in the summer of 1974 when we scrambled in from all corners of the province to put the firefighters back to work. The fact that we could put them back to work does show that you can deal with essential service strikes or disputes by legislation. You can remove the right to strike, and you can make it stick.
I would go further and say: "God help us if you can't," because it means we've reached a state of anarchy in this province; and I don't believe we have. It's obvious from the Minister's bill before us that he doesn't think that either. He believes that the people in
[ Page 16 ]
this province, management and employees, will accept the spirit in which this bill is written and that the overall good and welfare, physically and economically, of this province is what is at stake.
I think the problems that have developed to this point are certainly due in no small measure to the swing of the pendulum in the labour-management field. It is very clear that today many of the unions in this province and in this country have obtained by various means through legislation an amount of power which has seriously shifted the balance that has to exist between the two sides if we are to have any kind of harmony and productive results from negotiations.
I would go further and almost say that power is defined today as the union that can do the greatest damage to society. I think that the challenge for us as legislators — I think it applies to both sides of this House — is to listen to what the people in the streets are saying and to quote them as they so frequently state in letters to the press, in letters to MLAs and in other public ways. Their cry is loud and clear that "enough is enough."
We've often mentioned in this House that there was a day when it was desperately important for the employees in society to become organized in order to redress some of the balance which was in favour of the employers. I think if we go far enough back and think about Lord Shaftesbury and his legislation to protect child workers, you're sort of beginning at the other end of the spectrum many years ago. Since that time, there has been a great deal of progressive and highly motivated humane legislation in many different countries, including Canada.
That balance of power has been seriously changed. When we used to consider a strike as being merely a battle between two sides over economic circumstances which largely affected only the two sides, then I think that situation could be left to find its own solution. But it has become clearer than ever before that the innocent involvement of third parties is becoming a much more almost customary part of most strikes or labour-management disputes, whether they are strikes or lockouts. I feel that we have to sound the warning loud and clear that our whole society is in real trouble if some minority group can be allowed to continue to exert some of the tremendous power over the innocent majority.
I think that what the province requires is a great deal of political leadership, in the light of these events, and a willingness by this Minister and by this government to spell it out loud and clear that no group in society, either management or labour, should be in a position to hold the people of B.C. up to ransom.
Mr. Speaker, my concern today is not employers or employees, but all the people of the province. At the same time, we do strongly support collective bargaining as the most attractive and most reasonable way — and it should be the most suitable way — of solving labour-managment problems. But I am delighted, as I said earlier, to hear the Minister say that free collective bargaining is not some sacrosanct rule that must be followed regardless of its consequences to thousands of innocent citizens of British Columbia.
[Mr. Speaker in the chair.]
It seems particularly ridiculous that the one particular strike which has finally persuaded this government to move is one where perhaps a relatively small amount of money is still being argued around the table. The employers, I understand, have offered $2 an hour on the base rate and the employees are wanting $2.50 an hour on the base rate. Again, these are the figures quoted in the press. It seems to me that when there are some very large figures being debated in other disputes, such as the supermarket dispute, it's rather interesting that the one impasse that has been reached causing greatest danger to the community at large is one where a relatively small amount of money is still being argued about.
In regard to the bill itself, Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the Minister would consider one or two points. I gathered from his comments that one of the difficulties in the propane dispute — and I gather it occurs in other disputes — is that proposals are not always put to all the employees concerned, that in fact the proposals may not be put to employees at all, and that there is likewise no mandatory provision for holding a vote other than the strike vote. I feel that this is probably a gap in the legislation whereby some of these disputes might not be pursued to the point that they are and require this kind of intervention in the ultimate solution.
I wonder if the Minister would care to comment in winding up debate as to that particular factor. He stated that Senator Lawson was misinformed in his suggestion that at least those small sub-groups in the propane dispute could settle and could have carried out a limited distribution of supplies. The Minister in his comments said that Senator Lawson was misinformed, and I wonder if he could also enlarge on the question of the degree to which proposals are put to all employees — if a vote is held and if it is not only open to the picketers but also to all the members of the force considered.
The other point that this bill suggests to me is that while we are all in favour of limiting strikes in essential services, I wonder if we couldn't look at this bill as being very much a matter of overkill.
For some considerable time this Minister and the government have followed a policy of non-intervention. This Minister, I could say, has gone overboard in attempting to remain neutral, in
[ Page 17 ]
attempting to avoid judgments and in providing all the arms of assistance through his department to bring about peaceable solutions to these disputes and to try and avoid serious disruptions to the consumer and the community. But having taken that position over three years, in this bill we see a tremendous change of position. It seems to be that for three years the policy of non-intervention has proven to be so limited in its effectiveness that now the Minister, again, has shifted about 180 degrees and now that he's decided to intervene…. Brother, what an intervention, particularly in the light of the Minister's former comments that you cannot legislate or make strikes illegal in essential services because you cannot impose upon the worker the very kind of settlement that is in this bill.
I hope that when the Minister winds up second reading he will tell us whether this is just a temporary emergency shift of position to deal with a combination of disputes or whether this shows, as I think it does, a very basic shift in policy by this government and that we can anticipate, perhaps in the spring session, amendments to the Labour Code itself which will make these provisions permanent in the code — such as the provision for a 90-day cooling-off period in essential industry.
If this is the interpretation one can take from the Minister's bill, it would seem to me that instead of having perhaps regular emergency sessions every year or less it would make a great deal more sense to write the kind of provisions that are in this bill into the Labour Code per se and give the Minister the flexibility to impose a 90-day cooling-off period without bringing the House back into session. That just seems to me a very practical conclusion to come to, first of all, in light of the Minister's previous stand and in light of his current stand in this bill.
I'd like to welcome the Liberal leader (Mr. Gibson) to the House in that capacity. I regret that I was out of the House when he stood up to speak, but he made the interesting suggestion about guidelines and the fact that so much of the labour-management strife is related to frantic efforts by different sectors of society to try and keep up with inflation. I think that's a valid observation. What really puzzled me, however, was that I thought the last federal election was fought on that very issue and that the Liberals were all against the guidelines and the Conservatives were all for it. So I find it very puzzling that there could be a switch also in regard to such a fundamental approach to what is the No. 1 problem of this country and of this province.
I hasten to add that somewhere along the line I was quoted as saying that only the federal government could fight inflation. Of course that's absolutely ridiculous. What I said was that in relation to wage and price control, the leadership would have to come from the national level and that I, personally, still believe that however unpalatable these guidelines might be, as imposed from the national level, our economic circumstances in Canada today are a little bit like somebody with a bad illness who doesn't like the medicine which the doctor is proposing to prescribe, but if he doesn't take the medicine, the illness, first of all, will get worse and, in the long run, the patient might die. I think that's about the way our economy in Canada is situated right now.
I think, despite all the protestations by John Turner that he just wanted a little holiday in private and to go back into law practice, that there's little doubt in my mind that John Turner, being a clever man, has come around to the point of seeing that wage and price controls, which these same Liberals mocked right through the federal election of 1974…. He has come around to realizing that however difficult it is to impose and however unpalatable, it now seems to be the one remaining option, as he talks about, that we face in the economic field.
I wonder also, then, whether the Minister would care to comment…. I realize that this is a little beyond the precise responsibilities of his department, but if the Minister recognizes that inflation is so basic as the root cause to many of these extravagant wage demands, would he not care to comment on the responsibility this government has? Or maybe the Premier would care to get into the debate, or the Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Stupich), who at this time I would like to congratulate also on his promotion.
Perhaps later in the debate we should hear from the government, particularly the Premier and the Minister of Finance, as to what they are prepared to do in supporting a policy at the national level of wage and price and profits control. If we had some reasonable guidelines within which all sectors of the employment force tried to live, then it would seem to me that we would not be here today on this kind of very serious situation to pass this bill.
Some of the figures that have been quoted are quite amazing. But two of the basic figures that I think should be read into the record today are — despite all the pleas by various sectors that they're catching up with inflation — that the cost of living in the last 12 months went up by 11.1 per cent, and the average wage increase was 13.4 per cent.
The figures that were produced regarding comparison with the United States, on whom we depend so greatly for trading, showed that the United States companies can obtain labour at approximately 12 per cent less than the cost to British Columbia companies. I'm sure we would like to pay our workers the highest possible wage the economy can afford. But that is exactly the point: what can the economy afford? There are economists and experts
[ Page 18 ]
from one coast to the other in this country that are trying to warn us that the workers and the employees in this country are demanding more out of the economy than can be justified in terms of its productivity, and that if the cost of producing goods continues to rise so much faster than the cost, let us say, in the United States, then indeed we are headed for even more serious economic problems than we now face.
So, Mr. Speaker, I find myself in a dilemma on this bill. There's no doubt in my mind that because of the propane dispute, per se, there must be government action to protect the citizens of Nanaimo. And the Member for Nanaimo (Hon. Mr. Stupich) likes that last remark.
As I stated yesterday to the media, I certainly appreciate the opportunity to debate these other disputes, such as the dispute in the forest industry and the dispute in the supermarket industry, but I do have to wonder whether this bill is not really an exaggerated response to a legitimate need for action.
In my view, because of the scope of the bill and the number of sectors which are on strike, where in some measure there is minimal suffering, I'm amazed that a government that has so consistently talked about non-intervention should bring in a bill with such wide powers applicable to so many sectors where indeed the strike in these other sectors is not of great danger to the health or life of citizens in the province.
I believe this is overkill in the Minister's attempt to solve a very obvious and legitimate problem. As I stated earlier, I believe that the balance of power, so-called, has shifted seriously in our society today, giving the unions excessive powers. I just wonder what the reaction will be in those sectors of the labour movement affected by this bill who do not in fact provide essential services.
You may argue that the economic impact of the forest industry dispute is very serious; but, again, it is an economic dispute, not a dispute which affects to any great measure the life and health of citizens of the province, and certainly not the life and health of third-party, innocent people.
The Minister mentioned that the children of strikers should not go hungry. With that statement I completely and totally agree. I know that if we were to be government tomorrow our first motivation in any field of government endeavour would be to look after the immediate and urgent human needs of any individual in this province regardless of the circumstances under which they fall into this kind of distress.
I do believe, because the underlying problem has been tackled in such a blunderbuss fashion, that we can wonder whether the 90-day cooling-off period will really be of great success in those disputes other than the ones which are essential-services disputes — particularly the propane one.
I have to wonder what the reaction of the labour movement will be, particularly when I have already read the comments of Senator Lawson. I'm not just referring to the incorrect ones which the Minister corrected in his comments. I suppose that on that point we at least have to give credit to this government for the guts it has finally shown in coming to grips with the very serious labour-management situation in this province. It's a government that is so frequently accused of being in the back pockets of labour. But if we have done nothing else by this bill, the government certainly showed that if that ever was the case, the honeymoon is very definitely over.
I think that that should be of some encouragement to all of us because, rightly or wrongly, this government carries the brand of being a union government and the official opposition carries the brand of being the big-business party. When you get this kind of either/or polarized situation in a democratic society, where other choices appear to go out the window, I think that the long-term consequence of that kind of thinking and that kind of situation is bad for British Columbia.
On the other hand, I do feel that in making this move the government has acted in excess. In my view, one could almost say that it has lost its cool in trying to grapple with the labour-management problems, and, having decided to intervene, they've certainly intervened in a massive way.
While it is important that this government not be in the pockets of unions, the only hope for this province, regardless of which government is sitting over there, is the co-operation of all the groups involved in trying to maintain a stable economy and to provide a continuation of essential services in every aspect.
That co-operation involves the government, management, labour; it involves the consumer; it involves the professions. It involves all of us. By over-reacting in this bill I wonder to what degree the government has reached the point of further antagonizing the labour movement at a time when perhaps the intervention could have been reasonably restrained to only those sectors providing essential services.
If there is one thing that is very, very clear it is that we are only here today because inflation is causing panic by many employees in this country and in this province. In their panic they seek to try and protect themselves, and that's a very natural human instinct. So any purely labour legislation such as this, in the absence of some basic approach by the government to inflation, will solve very little.
I would hope that in winding up this debate we don't just have from the Minister the sincere expression of his hope that this will solve the problem
[ Page 19 ]
in these particular industries and strikes, but that either he or other Members on the Treasury bench can tell us of the more widespread and more basic approach to the problem which the government is ready to put forward: some definite, realistic and hopefully productive proposals whereby inflation itself at the provincial level can be maintained.
HON. MR. MACDONALD: I'd like to say just a few words about the bill. It is an even-handed bill, notwithstanding what has just been said by the leader of the Conservative Party. It does not come down against labour and it does not come down against corporations. It is a resumption-of-work bill for a period of 90-days — a cooling-off period for the province to begin to regather its forces. During that period the collective bargaining process goes on.
The beginning of the bill, of course, orders the companies to cease any lockouts in the Province of British Columbia and to resume the production they were undergoing at the beginning of July. So there is even-handed justice meted out to the companies. I don't say this about all of them, but there is no doubt that among some of the companies the lockout game was being played to the detriment of the workers of the province of B.C. There was no doubt that some of them were letting their inventories go down to fill a market need at the expense of their workers — planning their marketing policies at the expense of layoff of their workers who were drawing neither UIC or very limited strike pay in many cases. Some of the multinational corporations that harvest the resources of the Province of British Columbia were certainly playing games to the detriment of the working people of the Province of British Columbia. If you read section 1 of this bill you will see that in no uncertain measure this Legislature is being asked to order that that kind of game-playing cease.
MR. G.B. GARDOM (Vancouver-Point Grey): That's right from David Lewis.
HON. MR. MACDONALD: Oh, where are your principles, eh? You're like the politician who said: "You don't like my principles? I've got lots of others." (Laughter.) At a time when this Province of British Columbia is crying out for leadership what do we see over there? We have political renegades getting right in around the leader, sitting on his right-hand side, being the spokesmen on an important bill. I think the ordinary rank-and-file Members and supporters of the Social Credit movement ought to have good reason to wonder whether or not they have been sold out.
I can't make head or tail of the position of the opposition on this bill.
HON. MR. BARRETT: The mouse that swallowed the cat.
HON. MR. MACDONALD: I don't know whether they are for or against it. I listened carefully to the Hon. Member for West Vancouver–Howe Sound (Mr. L.A. Williams) — it should have been the Member for Columbia River (Mr. Chabot), who was the traditional labour spokesman — and it was flip-flop and wiffle-waffle. I haven't the faintest idea whether he is for the bill or what he is for.
Let me say this: if there was ever a time in this Province of British Columbia when leadership was required, then there was absolutely no evidence of leadership vouchsafed to the people of British Columbia by the official opposition this morning. The people of British Columbia can be proud that the Premier of British Columbia and the Minister of Labour of British Columbia have no intention of abdicating the responsibilities of leadership in a difficult period for this province.
The bill is kind of obvious, in a sense. I said it stops the game-playing of the companies. On the other hand, it asks that the employees return to work for a period of 90 days. During that period you will notice that there are sanctions upon the companies and the unions for not bargaining in good faith. There are penalties for those who will not pay what should be the rightful amount of wages to employees so that if the employer does not put his last best offer on the table to the employees while collective bargaining is still proceeding, then there can be interest assessed against that employer and will be assessed against that employer for not bargaining in good faith and not paying the fair going wage during the cooling-off period. There is provision for full retroactivity of any benefits that may be gained.
But I think, Mr. Speaker, that apart from this necessary bill, it is a cooling-off period also for the people of the Province of British Columbia to remember how fragile a social democracy is…
HON. G.R. LEA (Minister of Highways): Does this mean Chabot has to play squash? (Laughter.)
HON. MR. MACDONALD: …to remember that in many parts of the world democracy in the last short while has gone down the drain. In vast areas of Africa, in Asia, not in Europe at this stage except for eastern Europe, democracy is becoming a threatened, vanishing species unless we, as democratic legislatures, show the necessary leadership and courage and begin to remember some of the truths upon which democracy is founded.
So there is a 90-day cooling off period in which perhaps all of us — lawyers, doctors, the big establishments, business, labour — can give some thought not only to what we owe to ourselves as groups and individuals, but also what we owe to
[ Page 20 ]
society as a whole. Because there is no doubt that democracy, in a difficult period of inflation and unemployment and some fear and some grasping self-interest, is beginning to lose its sense of the common good and descend into a fractional frame of mind with interests fighting interests to the detriment of the common good.
We have to remember that our rights are founded upon duties; that the exercise of power without responsibility is tyranny; that the cost we must pay for our freedom in a social democracy is a certain measure of social discipline and respect for the rights of the other person.
We have to remember that the provincial wealth of the province is like an apple that can only be divided up so many ways. There are obligations toward the old, the infirm, the people without bargaining power, those in the hospitals and those who require roads for access. All these many other demands are upon one source of total provincial wealth, and that can only be divvied up in so many ways. We can grow a bigger apple through co-operative endeavour, but there is only so much to divide up.
AN HON. MEMBER: It's a Delicious.
MR. J. R. CHABOT (Columbia River): It's a crabapple. (Laughter.)
HON. MR. MACDONALD: We must also remember in the industrial field that there are always three parties, not two, to an industrial dispute, and we have to consider those who, as I say, are the forgotten people when industrial strife goes too far. Out there we have the infirm and the neglected and those without bargaining power who suffer.
So in this bill the Government of British Columbia has, I think, asserted the necessary leadership. We have called for a period of cooling off and sanity, an appeal to the people of the Province of British Columbia to roll up our sleeves again, get going, resume the process of collective bargaining. Under what is one of the — and I have no hesitation in saying this — best Ministers of Labour that this province has ever had, labour and trade unions have no fear whatsoever of their rights, their basic democratic rights, as long as that Hon. Member is the Minister of Labour — none whatsoever.
This bill is correctly titled the Collective Bargaining Continuation Act because the process of collective bargaining will be continued during that period of time. I have no hesitation in supporting second reading of this measure, and I am quite sure that the people of British Columbia have been waiting for this measure and will support in full measure this particular bill.
MR. C.S. GABELMANN (North Vancouver-Seymour): I have one advantage over the opposition Members as a result of being a Member of the government caucus, and that is that I have had one hour longer than they have to assess the legislation, to make some sense of it, to understand its implications, to sort out my own thoughts and feelings, and to spend some time thinking if I had that time to determine what kind of posture, if any, I would take in the debate.
The time for me as a legislator is not sufficient, obviously, and I very much regret that there isn't that tradition that has been long established in the British parliamentary system, the tradition that says one reading each day in order to give some time and some careful thought to legislation so as not to implement it all in one day. I think it's a fine tradition and one that I wish we were able to maintain.
I think it is also unfortunate, not just for those of us in this Legislature but for those many people in British Columbia who will be affected by this legislation both immediately and for many, many years to come, that they don't have the opportunity, as a result of the haste that we have decided upon here today, to come over to this city to sit down with us, to talk to us about the implications of the legislation, to perhaps point out areas in it that may not be satisfactory to any of us. We're not giving them the time that I think we should be giving them to come over and tell us that that legislation should be amended drastically, or in fact possibly withdrawn.
Now it may be that having heard the comments of the affected parties and of the public relating to the legislation, the government and the government caucus would continue to disagree with particular recommendations and particular viewpoints. That would be fine in my view, but I think the opportunity for that time and for that discussion should be granted to citizens affected by legislation.
As I said in the beginning, I very much regret that we find it necessary to march through this legislation in all stages in one day. I just suspect that if the Teamster vote the other day had been a day or two later, this session would have been called a day or two later. If in fact that's the case, as I believe it to be, then I think we could probably take a day or two to think about this legislation.
I'm well aware that public opinion will be massively in support of the proposal — a misnamed proposal, I might add. I have no doubt that when I go back to my constituency tonight, tomorrow and the next day members of my party and members of the public, particularly, will tell me that I was wrong in what I'm doing. I have no doubt about that. Many of my colleagues today have told me that what I intend to do is wrong. They may well be right. I'm prepared to accept that and if and when that day comes, I'll accept that verdict.
[ Page 21 ]
I believe, however, we're making a mistake. I don't really care very much, quite frankly, if the public is overwhelmingly in favour of this bill; I cannot support it. I will not stand up in this Legislature performing my responsibility based on what the public wants us to do. We have to provide leadership and I don't believe we should be responsive, because quite often the public is wrong.
I believe the public to be wrong in the capital punishment issue. The public obviously believes that capital punishment is a good thing. I believe it to be absolutely wrong and I believe that those legislators who agree with my position should say so, and if possible should prevent the re-implementation of capital punishment. It doesn't matter whether 90 per cent of my constituents would favour it, I would continue to oppose it and if that meant my defeat in the next election, so be it. That's the name of the game.
I believe that in 1970 in Ottawa there was a climate much more
dramatic, much more serious than the current climate in British
Columbia, but a climate that enabled the federal government to
implement legislation that received massive support, only opposed by a
majority of the NDP caucus and I think one Conservative Member from the
Maritimes. Even many members of our caucus in Ottawa supported, at that
time, the War Measures Act. I remember talking to some of the Members
about it, and their comments were that the public was in favour of it.
There was no question about that at that time, but history, if it
hasn't already judged it, will judge that that War Measures Act was
wrong, both morally and strategically.
I just feel that it is wrong to allow ourselves to be stampeded by public opinion when we have a gut feeling or an intellectual response that says the public is wrong. I think allowing ourselves to be governed by that public feeling is morally wrong, and I will not be part of that. Even though I may not have any friends any longer in this Legislature, nor so many perhaps in my party, and probably fewer in my constituency, that's the name of the game and if I'm defeated in the next election as a result of taking an unpopular position on labour matters, then I will accept my defeat quite graciously.
I wondered this morning when I saw this legislation why it was that other disputes were not included in the legislation. There has been a dispute in New Westminster that has bothered me for some time now. It involves 150 or 170 employees at Seagram's. That company decided that rather than continuing to bargain collectively, rather than trying to reach a collective agreement with its employees, rather than trying to maintain an industry in New Westminster that was sorely needed, they would close down and reopen in some other place in Canada. If we had included on this list on the back page of this bill the Seagram's dispute, we would have very clearly come down on the side of the employees, because the company does not wish to continue in operation, but the employees do wish to continue working. For us to include them in this legislation would have in fact said to the company: "You're out of luck, buddies — you're going to have to keep producing in this province." We didn't do that. Now perhaps the reason we didn't do it is because it's not an "essential service," but it's just as much an essential service to those 150 or 170 families as any other service ever could be in this province.
If we are going to begin to argue essential service, then there are very few jobs — very few situations — in this province that in some way or other don't include some essential service to some people. We're getting in very, very dangerous water when we talk about essential service. The new leader of the Liberal Party (Mr. Gibson) disagrees with me. I respect his disagreement — we just simply have a difference of opinion about that.
We didn't do that with Seagram's; we did it with four other disputes that have a much greater effect on the economy of the province. I suspect that in some cases in effect the companies will be hurt worse than the employees. I suspect that's probably true in the forest industry, where I am quite convinced the companies would prefer not to resume production for some time to come. I think in the food dispute the stores may now be able to do all their Christmas ordering, which they weren't sure whether they should do or not. They probably benefit from that.
I'm not sure that it really matters for us in this Legislature to debate who wins a little or who loses a little. I think there is a more important issue at stake. It's an issue that I think relates to democracy, to the rule of law and to many of the arguments that the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party (Mr. Wallace) was raising this morning. I took down one of his comments early in his speech. I hope, Hon. Member, that I am quoting you accurately. "The system is out of control," I believe, were your words. This is clearly the case — the system is out of control.
We have an economic system that tells people: "Get what you can." We have a system that says to companies: "Maximize your profit." We have a system that says to a worker: "Get whatever you can because we want you to buy the old red convertible," to use that three-year-old cliche. I hate to use the jargon; I don't generally use jargon in my political life, but that system is the capitalist, the free enterprise or the private enterprise system, the system that says: "Make what you can, the devil take the hindmost and if we're a little bit progressive we'll try and worry about those poor people who are left behind by the system." Capitalism basically does not allow for fair distribution of the wealth that it can well produce. Capitalism is well designed to produce
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wealth, but it is very poorly designed to distribute that wealth.
We as a government have been accused of being socialist. That's one of the biggest jokes that I have heard in this province in years. We are no more socialist as a government than any other government could be in a North American context. We are very progressive social democrats — very progressive liberals, when you really examine the philosophy. That's all we can be in the context of the North American society. British Columbia is still run by private capital determining where it's going to invest its capital. Those decisions aren't made by this Legislature. The decision about whether to open a pulp mill in a particular mine or whatever is by and large made by capital, usually outside the province, not by this Legislature. That's something that we should remember. I am just saying that to give you a perspective of where I come at this question from or the political perspective that I bring to it.
I believe that in this legislation what we're doing is saying that it's very popular to deal with strikes or lockouts or labour disputes. We have an opportunity, because it's under provincial jurisdiction generally, to be able to do something. It makes it look like we're providing great leadership, but we're only doing it on one side of the coin — that's what bothers me. We haven't said to the food industry over the last years when they have been raising the price of goods on the shelves time after time almost weekly: "That's enough. No more price increases."
MR. GIBSON: That's what we're opposed to.
MR. GABELMANN: I'll take a minute or two to chuckle about Beryl Plumptre. She…. Never mind.
MR. WALLACE: Go ahead. Say it.
MR. GABELMANN: No. I don't think that Beryl Plumptre's efforts or ability deserve comment in this Legislature.
AN HON. MEMBER: She means well.
MR. GABELMANN: She means well — sure she does. She's got a good job, too. She's asking us all to keep our wages down while she takes in 40 grand.
I'm just wanting to make the point that if we are going to have some kind of controls in a society then those controls have to be fair, they have to be across the board and they have to apply in a way that is equal and that seems to be equal. We have made some moves in terms of controlling prices. We have certainly done it in terms of rental accommodation; we've done it to a limited extent in terms of gasoline, although price at the pump can still fluctuate, and it does widely. But we really haven't grasped that problem as a government and I don't think we can grasp that problem. We don't have the ability as a province to get hold of the levers of power in this country. That could be done at the federal level — very difficult to do, but it could be done at the federal level. We can't do it at the provincial level.
I'm concerned that what we continually do in this province is to say: "Well, we'll do what we can." It always ends up that the principles and the policies of working people as reflected through their organizations are the ones that come under attack.
I could go on a lot longer about that, but I feel I'm probably taking too much of the time this afternoon. On to the next point. I've talked many times in the Legislature about third-party intervention in labour-management disputes, and it is well known that I'm not particularly keen on third-party intervention. In fact, if I had my way and I were involved in day-to-day trade union bargaining, I would be very hesitant to accept mediation officers in the thing until the very last moment, because I suspect that parties who don't have to rely on their own devices, and who don't have to sit down and hammer it out and hammer each other over the head together, don't reach conclusions as quickly as they do when they have some third party to kind of shift the responsibility to.
I think that this legislation, together with our intervention in the firefighters' dispute, together with the general drift of the Labour Code, is creating a greater climate for intervention by government in British Columbia.
It may be argued in this House that intervention is a good thing, that intervention is required to protect the public interest. I may well be wrong, but I'm prepared to stand here and predict that some years down the road many people will agree with me when I say that creating that easy climate for intervention was the greatest mistake this government ever made, because years down the road we are going to have more and more disputes rather than fewer as a result of the feeling on the part of various parties to disputes that they will get bailed out. If they just wait long enough, the government will bail them out.
Now you may come back at me and say: "Well, we are not bailing them out here. They still have to go through the collective bargaining process." That's not the point. The point is that in fact they have this kind of intervention that is not compulsory arbitration at this time.
The public is very confused about what labour relations really are, or how they work, or what it is, what it means, and the public will not understand the subtleties of the legislation. They will see that the government has acted, and the public will say: "And they should have acted." Then as each dispute comes down the road in years to come, the cry for the government to act will come sooner and will come
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stronger, and we will have the government eventually acting in all major disputes. That, in my view, is the beginning of the end of a free society.
I know it sounds melodramatic and all of those things, but I really honestly believe that. We are going, if not in this instance — because I can't predict that — but we are going to see workers disobeying government orders to work, disobeying legislative orders to work. As I say, it may not happen in this dispute. I have no idea. I have only known about the bill for four-and-a-half hours, and I have no idea what my own response would be were I in that situation, nor have I any idea what the response of the trade union movement will be.
But I will predict that the more often we do this, the easier it will be for working people to say: "To heck with the Legislature, we're staying out." When that happens, the rule of law is endangered. Once the rule of law is endangered in a parliamentary democracy, that's the beginning of that long, slippery slope. I am worried about that.
MR. WALLACE: You're not supporting that, are you — that they disobey the law?
MR. GABELMANN: I didn't say that. I'm just telling you what I see happens out there. I believe that people should obey the law. I don't know whether I would obey the law were I in that position….
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. GABELMANN: I've said that before.
MR. GABELMANN: I'm well aware of the implications of that comment, and I was very careful. I've thought it through. It's one of the stronger things that can be said in this Legislature. I admit that.
But if I didn't say it, I would be betraying what many people think. I would be betraying what I think myself. There were times when, if the mediation commission had forced settlements on workers a few years ago, there were times I know then that I would have agreed with those people who said they weren't going along with it.
I am more interested….
MR. GABELMANN: I know the opposition doesn't seem to see the point, but I am more interested in preserving British parliamentary democracy than I am in anything else. I believe that if governments create the opportunity or create the climate for the possible feeling by some section of society that they should disobey the law, then governments are, in that respect, being irresponsible and are creating the seeds for the destruction of the rule of law.
I happen to believe in the rule of law very, very strongly. I think it is imperative that if that kind of thing is being said in society, that it be reflected in this Legislature. If this Legislature cannot reflect, or if Members in this Legislature cannot reflect the views that are openly expressed in the community, then we are shirking our responsibility. If that is being said, if that is being contemplated, then it needs to be reflected in this Legislature so that we can properly determine how we are going to govern our actions.
MR. GABELMANN: I care about parliament. I care about the rule of law. I care about the British parliamentary system.
MR. D.M. PHILLIPS (South Peace River): You don't care about it if you're not going to obey the laws that parliament makes. And you're part of it.
MR. GABELMANN: Anyone who says that there is no possibility that people in this province will disobey the laws of this Legislature hasn't read the history of this province, isn't aware of the bitter feelings that exist between labour and management that grew out of the coal disputes on Vancouver Island and in many disputes — the mining disputes in Rossland. The history is replete with examples. Anybody who hasn't read that history, studied that history and understood the implications of that history, and anybody who doesn't understand that that history is still living today, is not, in my view, considering enough of the realities of the situation to make the proper kind of judgment.
The fact is that there is a hatred between labour and management in this province that does not exist anywhere else in North America, with the possible exception of some areas in Quebec. It does not exist elsewhere. That grew out of the history of this province. That grew out of the repressive actions of the capitalists in this province — going back into the mining days in the 1800s.
That must be remembered when we consider how working people are going to behave these days toward laws that we design and implement. I want to deal with this for one more moment. If I am wrong in talking about that in this Legislature, then I'm not sure that I want to talk about anything in this Legislature. If it is wrong for me to say that some people out there may disobey laws, then it's probably wrong for me to bother coming to this place.
If I were to say during a debate on the highway speeds that we should….
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MR. GABELMANN: Let me make an analogy that may not be entirely accurate. If the government were to say that in order to prevent automobile accidents in the freeway we are going to limit the speed limit to 20 miles an hour, and I came into this Legislature and said that people would disobey that law, would you consider that anarchic?
AN HON. MEMBER: You would. You said you would.
MR. GABELMANN: I said that if I were in that situation I would seriously consider it, yes. I admit that.
MRS. JORDAN: What country is your family in?
MR. GABELMANN: Mr. Speaker, I intend to draw to a close now. As is obvious by my comments and as is obvious by my emotionalism in the debate, I'm very unhappy about the legislation. I do not intend to support it. I am very unhappy about the fact that I have to do that. I found myself in a different position when we had a similar emergency a year ago August. In fact, I supported the firefighters legislation because I felt at that time that there was some possible threat to life. That's where I draw the line when it comes to legislative or cabinet intervention in labour-management relations. I draw the line when there's some threat to life. I don't believe there to be a threat to life at this time in any of these current disputes. I believe there is an obvious threat to the economy of the province and there is an obvious threat to many pocketbooks in the province, but that's not good enough for us to take this action, in my view.
MR. H. STEVES (Richmond): Mr. Sneaker, I, too, have been placed in the unfortunate circumstance of being somewhat critical of this legislation. I have not taken lightly the decision to be critical because, as the previous Member has mentioned, the stand I am taking and the stand he is taking could cost us our re-election. There is no doubt that the move will be very popular in the community, in my community and throughout the province among people who are tired of the labour-company disputes. I use "labour-company" because normally people talk about labour disputes, but it's a company dispute too.
The people are very tired of the disputes that have been going on in the last while and will be happy to see them come to an end. Even a lot of the workers that are involved in these strikes and lockouts — particularly the ones in the lockouts who are just pawns in the game — will be very, very happy, a lot of them, to get back to work. A lot of them are actually in very dire need. They are having financial hardships, hardships in getting food to eat for their families, and so on.
Saying that, I have to say that at times you have to leave some of the emotion aside and try to look at things rationally. I've tried to do this. The opposition and everyone may say that I am wrong, but this is what I'm trying to do.
I find this legislation disappointing because, in my opinion, it shows a bias — the same bias that I discussed in discussing the labour legislation last spring about setting up labour courts. In this case it's the bias of who is being sanctioned and who isn't in the legislation.
It has been suggested that the legislation is fair. I would suggest that actually the legislation is not fair. It may be firm, as somebody has said. I think firm legislation was required by the government to resolve this settlement. But I'm not convinced that the solution we have arrived at was the fair solution.
On the one hand we have sanctions against the workers involved in the industries that are covered in the bill. These sanctions require that they lose their right to withdraw services for 90 to 104 days. This, in effect, is removing the only weapon they really have to try to get the companies to agree to their demands. Now the companies, of course, are trying to get them to agree to their demands. So this is why we have a bias in the legislation. It is the workers that are going to have to go back, and their one weapon is being removed for that 90- to 104-day period.
There's little I can see in the legislation which applies sanctions to the companies. When you consider the companies involved, particularly in the forest industry, the big multinationals — Rayonier, IT&T, MacMillan, Tahsis and various other companies there — the sanctions that we're putting against them are very, very small by comparison.
To be sure, they're asked to make retroactive settlements in the bill, but this is something that is standard in most negotiated settlements. Generally, settlements are retroactive to the day when the collective agreement has expired. It is stated in here that while being retroactive, the cabinet may ask the companies to pay interest on the retroactive pay to the workers. I would suggest that as far as IT&T and these big companies are concerned, that interest isn't going to amount to very much as an enhancement for them to get down and really bargain and try to resolve disputes in this province. At the most it can only amount to about $100 per worker on the backpay they will get, depending on what the settlement is. So that's not very much for IT&T to give up, not much of a sanction.
It's also been suggested that it's a sanction against the companies to end their lockouts. I would like to suggest something which hasn't been mentioned in
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this debate today. Actually the lockouts are a little bit different situation than what we see in normal strike situations in this province. The lockouts are normally used by companies who use the workers locked out as pawns to force a settlement on the workers that are on strike. In this case they have been doing this in the forest industries, but they've also been using this for other means as well, which I will get to later.
I'm pleased that under the legislation we are able to help the workers that are locked out, and, as I say, they are unfortunate pawns in this dispute. Many of them are very hard up and really need their jobs back. But basically, by ending the lockout, it does not really resolve the overall situation.
The leader of the Conservatives (Mr. Wallace) — and it seems that both of us are referring to remarks made by the Member for Oak Bay — referred to minority groups exerting a tremendous influence in the province, and he talked mostly about people after higher wage increases, as other opposition Members did. The leader of the Conservatives said, and I hope I've got the quotation correct: "No group in society, management or labour should be able to hold the province up for ransom." Well, most opposition Members here today probably would agree with that statement, and I think most of the government Members would as well. But the references the opposition Members were giving, as far as the ransom was concerned, were in opposition to high wage demands that they consider the workers were asking for. I didn't hear a single Member of the opposition referring to the high profits that some of these companies have made over the past few years. And we don't know what their profit situation is this year. We won't see that until next spring sometime when they release their annual reports. But most of them have done pretty good.
MR. WALLACE: Wasn't it MacMillan Bloedel that didn't declare a dividend?
MR. STEVES: They've had some ups and downs some years. He's talking about MacMillan Bloedel, who didn't declare a dividend. Last year some of them had millions of dollars of profit. I haven't had time in the short time we've had to consider this legislation to get the actual profits out and go over them, but I think a good case could be made that the forest industry and other industries involved have been pretty profitable over the last few years.
On the positive side of this legislation — and I don't know if it was considered in bringing the legislation in or not — is that the legislation will force these companies to go back to work. This really has no bearing on the strike from the point of view of the reasons the companies were withdrawing their services. In — my opinion, Rayonier, the IT&T company and all these other companies were really withdrawing their services and using their own workers as pawns. The reason to withdraw their services was to try to bring this economy down to affect the government situation in this province. Like the mining companies, who have tried to influence the coming election in this province by withdrawing their capital from the province, the forest companies have been able to use the strike situation to shut the economy down. And, of course, the economy of this province is highly dependent upon the forest industry. So one of the positive things is that we will reopen the forest industry and get the economy rolling and force them to open their operations, when they would really like to keep them shut down to try and defeat this government.
That I see as one of the positive aspects of the bill. However, even saying that, I think that there had to be alternatives to forcing the men on the job back to work. There had to be other alternatives than taking the action we are taking today.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I have one question regarding the major corporations and their operations. The question I have is: what is going to happen after 90 or 104 days expire? What is going to happen if the big corporations, who have multi-billion dollar empires around the world and really aren't too worried about the $100 interest they will have to pay to the workers, and various things like that happen here in this province, do not bargain and do not try to reach a settlement? What happens if they continue to try to disrupt the economy of British Columbia after that 90- to 104-day period? I only hope that the government will act just as decisively then in bringing the companies to heel as they are in bringing in this work-continuation legislation which tells the men that they have to go back to work with few guarantees. If that happens then, then I would be happy to support any legislation that would bring the companies back and put them in the same position that we are putting labour today, and I would be willing to reconsider the criticisms that I am making today.
My disappointment in this legislation is that we are trying to avoid what may be an inevitable confrontation. I don't know. I hope there won't be any confrontation with the forest industry and the other industries we are dealing with here, but it may be inevitable if they have set their minds to it.
We have not found in this legislation a way to deal with the situation vis-a-vis the big corporations, without legislating the workers back to work. We have not considered other alternatives and surely there must be alternatives.
I haven't had time in the half hour that was afforded me to discuss this legislation this morning, after I had first seen it when it was tabled in the House, or in the time when the debate was going on,
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because I was trying to hear what people had to say about it, to really come up with alternatives. I have a number in mind that I would like to explore and look at, but I can't really say anything about them right now until I have really studied them thoroughly. So my second major criticism of this legislation is the time allowed for people like myself to consider it.
In discussing whether the legislation is fair or not, I would like to say that I was totally unaware, in fact quite surprised, when I found today what kind of legislation we were bringing in. I'm not sure whether my biggest disappointment is what we have done in the legislation or the fact that we have not really had time to consider it and carry on that rational thought to come to a conclusion as to how best the situation should be resolved in British Columbia.
I said earlier that legislation should be fair, and I suggest that this legislation is neither fair to the workers involved nor fair to those of us who have been given such a short time to consider the implications of the legislation before voting on it today.
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, if that puts me at odds with my own party, with the government, and probably with the majority of the people in my riding and in our own party, but I feel very strongly that there are some principles here involved that we have not considered carefully enough, and for this reason I have had to speak in opposition to this legislation.
MR. D.E. SMITH (North Peace River): I would like to address myself to the matter that is before us, a bill that I think is wrongly intituled the Collective Bargaining Continuation Act. I don't see it as that, particularly.
Before I start I want to address myself for a moment to some of the remarks that we listened to a little earlier this afternoon by the Member for North Vancouver-Seymour (Mr. Gabelmann).
I was sorry to hear the Member stand on the floor of this House and indicate that at times he would encourage people to obey the law and he would be prepared to do that himself, but that at other times he would step outside of the law of the land, the law that is part and parcel of the parliamentary process and the system of justice that we operate under in Canada today.
This borders on anarchy, Mr. Speaker, and it would seem that that is the type of attitude that probably gets us into more problems, not only in the field of labour-management relations but in all human relations, than anything else. It is that attitude that the law is good enough to obey when you agree with it but not necessarily to be obeyed when you disagree.
I would hope that in looking at this bill and the ramifications of it both labour and management will appreciate the fact that many small people who are either presently involved in discussions of a contract or may be involved in discussions of a new contract in a short period of time must feel a little relieved that at least temporarily they will return to work.
Now in looking at the bill that is before us, I can't help but reflect upon what I consider to be some of the real ramifications of the problems that we face today in British Columbia, many of which we must lay on the doorstep of the government. After all, it is the government of today that has set an example — not a good example in some cases, but an example at least — for those people within the labour movement to look upon as the benchmark to aim at in salary negotiations. It is the government of this province which seems to pull figures literally out of the air when considering the type of increases they are prepared to offer to some of the people they have put into positions of relative importance — appointments to commissions, to study groups, to departments — the creation of which was their responsibility because they created them within the last three years. You cannot blame a person within the labour movement today for looking at some of the settlements and saying: "If it's good enough for some of the newly-hired servants of the public, it's certainly good enough for me."
I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that in looking at the bill before us, the government really has created a great deal of the problem itself. I think both labour and management perhaps feel that if things drag on long enough the government will, in effect, step in and solve the problem for them.
While we look at this bill and we realize that it is a cooling-off process for a period of 90 days, I don't think we can sit in this House or stand in our place and forget the thousands of people who are not directly involved in this bill and who need jobs today in the Province of British Columbia. The figures I have before me indicate that there are around 37,000 people employed in forestry, but we have another 103,000 unemployed and approximately another 120,000 on welfare. So this doesn't really solve the problem of a great many people in the province.
I think that the lackadaisical attitude of the departments of government towards their responsibility has contributed to that problem — the failure to recognize that business and commerce must continue if they are to provide jobs for the people in this province and that much legislation has been aimed directly at stifling what would otherwise be opportunities for new job creation in the Province of British Columbia; that a great deal of money has passed through the hands of government in the past few years and through mismanagement and waste and extravagance that money has not really reflected down to the people who today need jobs. They've got very little benefit from it. We must ask ourselves what has happened and what programmes we have looked
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at in the past three years that have created new industries or provided new jobs or helped to alleviate the worst unemployment problem in all of Canada. I'd say it is a sorry record the government has to view in that respect.
We have before us a bill which won't solve that problem. It's Band-aid treatment at best. Probably what it is saying more than anything else is while it may relieve the pressure of the moment, it will not indefinitely solve the problems of unemployment in this province. It also says to us that the collective bargaining process in the Province of British Columbia is not working properly. While the Minister of Labour, in introducing a new Labour Code to this province, had such high hopes for it — and I don't intend to take the time of this assembly this afternoon to read back to him his own words — I do feel that he'd better take a hard look at it. It's due for a major overhaul. Obviously it is not working, and we still have more labour problems in B.C. than in any other part of Canada.
This is not going to solve the problem that is most pressing, and that is that even though this bill will legislate a segment of society in this province back to work, there is a still larger segment to be considered who today do not have jobs. I think we should be applying ourselves to that particular problem if we are to justify our existence as Members of this assembly.
HON. D.G. COCKE (Minister of Health): Mr. Speaker, I'm sure no one in this House today is all smiles and feeling that a great thing has happened. However, something had to give, something had to happen in our economy, among our workers and in our work places in this province, and that something, I'm convinced, had to be what was done this morning at 10 o'clock.
The bill introduced is a bill more likely to have resulted from economic conditions that prevail throughout North America and, for that matter, througout the western world.
Naturally, when management isn't in particularly dire straits about opening up their work places, then it makes the collective bargaining process, no matter how avant garde, very difficult for producing the kind of results we all feel are necessary.
What this government saw were men and women and children in B.C. hard-pressed, people put in a position where they had to sell their worldly goods in order to survive, in order to buy their children the necessary food to provide nutrition. As the Minister of Health, I naturally have to concern myself in that particular area. I have to concern myself with the health of the people in this province. I know perfectly well that a protracted situation such as we have certainly is not a preventive health measure in any way, shape or form. It is one that we as a government felt was necessary to provide this kind of alternative for.
I was interested in listening to the Member from the opposition talking in terms of us setting examples, talking in terms of the government leading the way. I think this is leadership. I think this government has set many examples over the last three years. We have worked with a very difficult climate, a climate largely created by an opposition that criticized unmercifully, with no particular intent other than trying to wrest power which they felt was theirs — by birth or by some other strange….
HON. MR. COCKE: But, Mr. Speaker, when this government brought in measures to provide employment, what did that group do? What did they do about the Can-Cel organization? Just to refresh our memories, Can-Cel were closing it down. They had a customer for the southern division, the profitable division, but those 5,000 workers in the north were just as clearly out of a job as one could see if that paper mill closed down in the north. The government provided the alternative, and what did the opposition do? They criticized, voted against it, did everything in their power to try to turn that ship around. They would have been responsible for a lot more people being unemployed had they been given their way.
What did they do about Ocean Falls? The same thing. They didn't realize the social consequence of what they were doing, or their criticism. As I said, their criticism has been totally irresponsible in these regards.
A similar situation occurred out of trying to keep the economic viability of Victoria in shape through the tourist season by providing the Marguerite, by keeping it in service — jobs, Mr. Speaker. Yes, jobs, and not only jobs for those people working on the Marguerite, but also jobs for people working in tourist-related industries in Victoria.
Those are the kinds of things that have been done to provide leadership. Those are the ways that this government — and so many other ways — has provided leadership. We have put on new programmes in the Health department, hired maybe 1,200 or 1,400 ambulance drivers throughout this province, and what did we get from the opposition? We got criticism because of an increased civil service. How do you deliver benefits without an increased civil service? So that kind of criticism falls on relatively deaf ears if we're talking to this particular person standing on his feet in this Legislature.
What this legislation is doing — the legislation we have before us — is not stifling free collective bargaining, which is stifled not for any good reason other than the economic reasons that we see in our
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province and elsewhere. That's what's stifling the kinds of contractual arrangements we would all like to see made.
Mr. Speaker, something had to be done. That something, I think, works both ways. There are those who say it's management-oriented; there are those who say it's worker-oriented. I suggest to you it's oriented towards the people of the Province of British Columbia.
It's important that we remember, if we think that it's management-oriented, the fact that there are those in management who are not in any way motivated towards opening up at this time. Therefore, I think that it aims itself in that direction. It also aims itself in the other direction where people might be holding off, hoping for a turn or something magical to happen. The magical thing I want to see happen in B.C. is the magical thing where we continue to support the free collective bargaining system. This is not the Taft-Hartley law. This is a measure — a cooling-off period — for a specific period in time which will end in 90 days, plus the 14 if necessary. What it is aimed at is to provide for the people in B.C. a little bit of daylight ahead, to provide for those that are negotiating an opportunity to negotiate in a climate and under time constraints they can live with.
I'm sure that thoughtful people in B.C. are going to be most supportive of this bill, a bill that is important for all of us and for our future as an economically viable province.
MR. H.W. SCHROEDER (Chilliwack): Mr. Speaker, I think that the major points in the debate have been canvassed, with perhaps the exception of a couple. I'd like to add a couple of new thoughts to the debate.
In all honesty, I think that the government has taken a step through one of the very few doors that were open to them, and I in all sincerity hope that the step they have taken will end in a resolve of the dispute.
I sincerely trust that the entire cooling-off period of 90 days plus its extension will not be needed and that cooler heads will prevail and that law-abiding citizens will come to a resolve in this issue.
There are a few areas I'd like to discuss. One of them is the area of consultation. Another one is the area of timeliness. Thirdly, I'd like to discuss briefly the effect on the bargaining process, or what progress will be made in the free bargaining process as a result of this bill.
First of all, consultation. I think there has been a rather severe change in position on the part of the government from back in the days of 1971 when this government sat in opposition. The then Leader of the Opposition (Hon. Mr. Barrett) spoke in terms of consultation, and he defended the position of consultation. This is in what looks to me like a Hansard. I think that the people of British Columbia believe that there was no record of it, that there was no Hansard at the time.
MR. SCHROEDER: Nonetheless, I think that the public….
HON. MR. BARRETT: Was it in estimates?
MR. SCHROEDER: No this is on a motion. Nonetheless, I think that the people would like to know that it is here on the record in 1971.
I'd like to just remind the then Leader of the Opposition, both of them, sir. He says on page 585 — he's talking to the then Attorney-General:
I challenge him, Mr. Speaker, to state why not one of these options was offered publicly to the disputes last Friday. If these options are indeed available, why weren't they offered on Friday? Why wasn't your department put to work over the weekend to test every single one of these options he listed to the two responsible parties? That wasn't offered at all.
That was, I think, an admirable position. It certainly was the position that was subscribed to by the Minister of Education (Hon. Mrs. Dailly) in the dispute last year. I took my hat off to the Minister and said: "All right, at least both parties are knowledgeable. They have been made aware of the fact of what the end result is going to be. The Minister has done them the favour of consulting with both; both know the end from the beginning."
At least in the beginning of the dispute of the schools — the strike — the Minister of Education subscribed to this position. Yet today I was amazed to learn that in the press conference that was convened during the recess there was no discussion with the forest industry regarding the introduction of this bill. There hadn't been a hint given to them that they were even to be included. There was no previous advice given to them as to what their options were. Bang! The first word that they knew about being included was the press release. As a matter of fact, the Premier said to the press at the time: "You are the first people with whom we are discussing this bill."
I think that consultation certainly should have taken place. I see a drastic move — a conversion, in the words of the leader of the Liberal Party (Mr. Gibson), a severe conversion here — on the question of consultation.
Not only in one reference did the then Leader of the Opposition suggest that consultation take place, but over on the very next page again he said:
It is difficult at the best of times, Mr. Speaker, to make responsible decisions in this House. Many, many
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times we must do that on bills when we don't even know all the facts of those bills. Time is so compressed in this Legislature that we make decisions here as Members without fully knowing all the facts.
Yet you see a Member of the back bench just as surprised as the forest industry when he said he "had no knowledge of what the bill involved" — no consultation. I think that to invite even the back bench to debate knowledgeably the full import of this bill without consultation and without previous knowledge is to expect too much.
I notice the Member for North Vancouver-Seymour (Mr. Gabelmann) was privy to a message bill for at least a full hour before it was introduced to the House. There was some consultation there.
Secondly, timeliness. I think that there has been a change in the policy position of this government from when they were in opposition as regards intervention in mid-negotiation. I notice that the same Leader of the Opposition in 1971 says: "You would not accept that kind of arbitrary decision." He was baiting the Speaker at the time, asking how the Speaker would like to have somebody walk into the chamber and lay down the regulations which the Speaker was going to follow. He said: "You would not accept that kind of arbitrary decision." That in its own way is exactly what has happened here, but happened too early. It happened not only wrongfully but too early.
As of last Friday one-third of the union members concerned had signed with nearly 40 per cent of the companies concerned. He took exception to that at that time. Yet in the dispute for which we were called to this House, exactly the same conditions exist: four out of five locals had reached agreement — not signed agreement — and this intervention takes place in mid-negotiation. I'm not saying it's right or it's wrong; I'm just saying it's a shift in policy. Another conversion has taken place in the policy position — first of all on the consultation and secondly on the timeliness.
Thirdly, and just briefly, I'd like to talk about the effect the bill has on the bargaining process. Does this bill guarantee that there will be a settlement? It doesn't guarantee that there will be a settlement. It's exactly what the then Leader of the Opposition said in speaking to a similar dispute involving similar unions. He said: "Undoubtedly, with this kind of an approach, an intervention approach, the dispute will continue." I trust that that is not the case here. But the question still exists and is a valid question: does the bill guarantee settlement? The answer is no.
What the bill really does is the same thing that was done in the firefighters bill, the same thing that was done in the school trustees' and school teachers' dispute, and that is that it extends the period of negotiation — the cooling-off of 90 days in this case. In the case of the schools it was 14 days; in the case of the firefighters it was 21 days. I think that the government must have taken some encouragement from the fact that in both the instance of the schools disagreement and the firefighters' dispute, the extended time was sufficient.
I will have to admit that the schools dispute did have more teeth in it, in that if they did not reach agreement by the end of the dispute — the former agreement became the existing agreement, and this did add some teeth to settlement. But in the firefighters' dispute the 21 days was sufficient.
The cooling-off period is seemingly becoming a policy position of this government in dealing with disputes, but what is happening to the free collective bargaining process in the ensuing time? What does the free collective bargaining process mean from here on in?
"There's no valid basis," said the Leader of the Opposition in 1971, "for the unwarranted government intervention in this dispute that threatens the end of free collective bargaining." The government itself believes that intervention is a threat to the free collective bargaining. As a matter of fact, the present Attorney-General, then the Member only listed as "Mr. Macdonald" — I wish they'd tell us what area he did represent — said: "I think it spells what we're doing here today, Mr. Speaker, as the death knell of free collective bargaining in the Province of British Columbia." So this party, now in government, then in opposition, really believed that intervention was a threat to free collective bargaining. Mr. Macdonald at that time had a sort of a cute way with words, as he still does, Mr. Speaker: "Speaking to the main motion, this is a very significant debate for the people of British Columbia — a watershed debate, really." But nonetheless he suggested that it sounded the death knell for free collective bargaining. My question to the government is this: is it the intention to dilute free collective bargaining by this kind of intervention?
Then there's a third effect on the bargaining process, and that is that I see a danger in lumping in one bill essential and less essential services together under one umbrella solution, particularly when the reason for the bill was cited in advance as being the essential services to senior citizens and others in the Nanaimo district who were not being delivered with essential services. The government has used that particular flagship to place all of the disputants under one umbrella, and I'm wondering whether or not that can and should be done, particularly when in the Nanaimo dispute there were fewer than 200 workers involved. That number is shrinking day by day, so that perhaps by the time we get to the end of this debate, there will be little in excess of 150 members actually still disputing. That dispute was cited as the reason for this emergency debate, when actually some 37,000 employees — the Minister estimated 40,000,
[ Page 30 ]
but our figures say 37,000 — are affected by the forestry dispute. I don't believe that you are serving the process of individual free bargaining by lumping units together which do not naturally fall together, particularly when some of them affect essential services and some of them less essential services.
The last point I want to make is that I don't believe we are serving the purposes of free collective bargaining well by resorting to this chamber for a final decision. I have to agree with points that have already been made, that it is not wise for this to become the last forum of negotiations. I don't think we would be serving the public well in this building by deciding here whether or not the increase shall be $2.50 or $2.75. I don't think it should be decided in this room whether or not the expiry date of an agreement should be in April or whether it should be in November, and yet I would have to express a fear, together with those who have already spoken, that as we practically come to this chamber for the final resort, it will increasingly become the forum of last resort, and eventually, I fear, this could become the labour negotiations forum rather than the Legislature of British Columbia.
I'm wondering what really triggered the call for this emergency debate, and I'm thinking that perhaps it is the economic state of the province itself and the diminishing revenues which the government itself is experiencing, particularly when forestry is down, mining is down, tourism is down. I'm wondering whether it isn't the economic pressure, Mr. Speaker, which was referred to by the Minister of Health (Hon. Mr. Cocke) that was the real trigger for this emergency debate. Nonetheless, I do believe that the government has taken the step which is necessary. They have taken, as I said at the beginning, the step through one of very few doors open to them, and I really sincerely hope that the Minister of Labour, without having to exert too much energy at the late night hour, will see a conclusion to not only the disputes mentioned here but will set an example for the rest who likely are still in dispute, some of them already mentioned, or who are anticipating negotiations in the future.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
MR. G.H. ANDERSON (Kamloops): I don't wish to prolong the debate, but with the large amount of woodworking in the Kamloops riding, and a pulpmill, I feel that the position of the MLA for that area should be known.
I was particularly interested in some of the speeches that have been given today in this very important matter, particularly the speech of the new labour critic of the official opposition (Mr. L.A. Williams) — the ex-Independent, ex-Liberal, now Social Credit labour critic who may have changed his label but hasn't changed his basic ideas at all. He didn't come out in favour of the bill; he didn't come out against the bill. He came out in the middle somewhere, and we still don't know where he stands, and this is the same way it was when he was with the Liberal Party.
We had some very interesting comments from the Hon. Member for North Vancouver–Seymour (Mr. Gabelmann) and the Member for Richmond (Mr. Steves). I think a lot of us are in the same position that they find themselves in now, where there is quite an attack on conscience, especially when you have been connected with the labour movement for about 20 years, as I have — I'm still a member of my local and still a delegate to the Kamloops Labour Council.
I would suggest to those Members and to the other Members of the House that no two, three or four Members of this House or any other House have the monopoly on principles and never will have. I have very many concerns about this bill and the final result that will happen sometime in the future, which none of us are too good at predicting. I, too, feel very upset to think that labour and management in this province will get to the position where neither will take an effective position with each other to resolve their disputes, and begin, as a matter of habit, to rely on this Legislature to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. But I intend to support the bill. I think it was an essential action. I think it was extremely necessary.
While we may be concerned about the basic principles of labour-management relations which have been of such great concern in this province for so long, I am concerned about 60 men, women and children coming down from the North Thompson Valley and occupying the unemployment insurance office in Kamloops without having $3 among the 60 to carry on into the indefinite future if these disputes were not settled.
I am concerned about the ones that continually were besieging the Human Resources office in Kamloops because everything was gone, and this was from the IWA interior who voted in support of the Hutcheon report and could not go to work because the mills were owned by the same company, the Weyerhaeuser Corp., as the pulpmill in Kamloops, which was on a strike or lockout, depending upon who you talk to.
The problem in my own office in Kamloops over the past month is that day after day after day more and more of these workers were phoning, were coming in to visit, were hitch-hiking 60 miles down the North Thompson River to say the government should do something in this legislation. As the build-up continued I felt it my responsibility to get in touch with the Labour Minister on the matter and convey my impressions to him, which I did.
In working with both the PPWC and the IWA in Kamloops we did once come to an understanding that all pulp pickets would be withdrawn from the
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sawmills, only to have the personnel manager from Weyerhaeuser go on the open-line show. What he said on that open-line show blew the whole agreement, and we were back to where 600 sawmill workers were in a position where they couldn't go back to work, when an agreement had been made between the two unions that they could go back to work.
MR. G H. ANDERSON: Mr. Member, I have a news release here from the IWA quoting what he said, if you want to read it afterwards. What he did, in their opinion, was encourage the pulp workers to cross their own picket lines and petition the company to come back to work. This, of course, would destroy any agreement made between two responsible labour bodies such as we had there when it comes to this agreement.
I have been in contact with Kamloops this morning. Local 10 president of the Pulp and Paper Workers of Canada has gone on the air and said that if he understands the bill correctly, as it has been reported to him, he is in support of it.
The president of the interior local in that area of the IWA has publicly commended the Premier and the Minister of Labour and this government for their actions in resolving this dispute, and I am quite sure that there are going to be many hundreds of pulpmill workers in that Kamloops area and up and down the North Thompson River valley that are going to feel a lot better when they go to bed tonight knowing that in the very near future they are going to be receiving their pay cheques again and not in the situation they have been in for the last month — down to absolutely nothing.
Of course, with the remarks we've been hearing from the official opposition about what our government created, it seems that there are no limits to what anyone will say in the absolute naked lust for power to run this government by the divine right of Social Credit.
MR. R.T. CUMMINGS (Vancouver–Little Mountain): Plus three Liberals.
MR. G.H. ANDERSON: Plus three Liberals — they probably are still Liberals.
But I thought I should report to the House the attitude of the workers themselves up there. There will be no suggestion in that interior area of anyone disobeying this law and not going back to work. They will be going back to work and will be glad to go back to work, especially now that they've got a 90-day period to continue their negotiations to come up with a better agreement. I personally commend the Minister of Labour and, frankly, as it has been said by the Attorney-General (Hon. Mr. Macdonald), the best Labour Minister this province has ever had. I agree, and I would say that at least 90 per cent of the people in the woodworking industry will agree with us.
MR. A.V. FRASER (Cariboo): It seems that several Members of the government don't know where some of our party stand on this bill and I just want to say that I stand in support of this bill.
The Attorney-General made a discourse a few minutes ago and said he didn't understand where we stood. I'm just making it clear where I stand on the bill and I'm sure our party stands — that it's about time something happened.
I think, Mr. Speaker, and to Members of the government, that it's indicative to me that the Labour Code we supported in this Legislature, I believe in 1973, has now proven to be a failure, because we wouldn't be here today if it hadn't been for that. It certainly shows that to me. I would say that in that case it is the government's responsibility to come up with something else other than the Labour Code which has really had its first test this year. It is now proven, by the lack of work going on and opportunities in this province, that some other approach has got to be taken. That is this government's responsibility.
The Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Stupich) is back, and while on the television, thinking of this bill, last night told us that the only thing as far as he was concerned that would be discussed would be the propane dispute. I saw him myself and then we find today just what is actually in it. I think the new Minister of Finance owes an apology — probably to all of us. A lot of people saw him say that. He said maybe the opposition would have something other than the propane, but I think maybe we should hear a comment or two from him in view of what has happened here today.
HON. G.V. LAUK (Minister of Economic Development): He changed
his mind. (Laughter.)
MR. FRASER: Regarding finances and how they are related to this bill, I would like to hear from the Minister of Finance if our Mincome programmes are in jeopardy in view of the lack of revenue because of the work stoppages that have gone on in this province. I would point out to you, Mr. Speaker, one example.
During the fiscal year 1974, ending March 31, 1975, some $190 million was obtained by the Treasury from stumpage and royalties. I would say here today, in view of all the stoppages in this industry, that that will be a very maximum of $50 million. This is bound to affect the Treasury and, in turn, I would like to hear from the new Minister of Finance what programmes are going to be cut further, because we have lots of programmes already cut and
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it's obvious to me that what we budgeted for the year 1975-76 is not being carried out.
While we are on this subject related to this bill, we would like to know where they are going to cut the programmes. We already know that highways have been cut back. The forestry projects have been cut back. I have information that Mincome is being cut back due to a means test, and I would suggest — I'm glad the Minister just came in — that at least when they get a cheque for less than they have been receiving, why don't you have the courtesy to write them a letter and tell them why?
We have 37,000 unemployed in the forest industry and hopefully they will go back to work. I'm sure that in most cases they will.
The other chaos that has been going on in the forest industry which affects the Treasury is that they're actually burning chips in the interior of the province because they have no place to store them. It's an utter waste of money and hopefully this will be corrected.
One other thing in this bill is the B.C. Railway. I can't say that I'm unhappy it's in there. I would like to relate to you what has been going on in that railroad, which nobody has today. It is the lifeline to the central and northern part of the province, and as of today there are at least 1,000 of those people out of work because of the lack of traffic on the railroad. When the forest industry is going full blast, this railroad runs six freight trains a day each way from North Vancouver to Prince George. Mr. Speaker, I know you will be surprised to hear that today, and for the last 30 days, that railroad is running one freight train a day each way. So you can again see the reduction in revenues to the provincial Treasury.
Last year after this government had cooked the books for the British Columbia Railway, they showed a loss of $32 million. I say to them that this year, if they don't cook the books, the loss will be $60 million for that railroad. I want to lay the blame fairly and squarely…. There are lots of problems in the operation of that railroad. I lay them where they belong, on the board of directors, who couldn't care less about what's been going on with that railroad.
We had a debate about this. The president of the railroad is the Premier. He fired the Minister of Labour and replaced him with the Minister of Economic Development (Hon. Mr. Lauk). And there has been no improvement whatsoever in direction from the board of directors.
Then, of course, the last and not the least Minister responsible for the operation of that is the Minister Without Portfolio (Hon. Mr. Nunweiler). We really didn't expect very much from there. But until the board of directors get a hold on and get an interest in that line, we're going to continually have trouble with that railroad.
As I say, I just wanted to put a few words in. But I would just like to know from some in the Treasury benches how many more programmes are going to be cut that haven't already been cut because of the lack of revenues to Treasury based on the budget that was passed here earlier in the year.
I might tell you, Mr. Speaker, that I think, for instance, a community like Mackenzie is practically vacated and gone to Alberta. I want to tell you that in my home town of Quesnel there are 700 people who have left that community and gone again to Alberta. Furniture trucks are all loaded, going east, and they are coming back empty. It's about time this government took action, even if it is too little and too late.
MR. P.C. ROLSTON (Dewdney): Mr. Speaker, it has been said by some people that MLAs are the critical nerve endings of the people in their constituencies. I think that is becoming very apparent today. I think there is kind of an accounting here and that MLAs are very anxious about what is happening in their communities. My community is a wood-producing — cedar especially — riding with about 20 mills, with the world's largest cedar mill in Hammond. Ordinarily there are about 1,700 people working in the wood industry; right now only about 400 of those are still working. I think, as we deal with this kind of accounting — if not collective confession — this morning and this afternoon, it is well to remember that the chap who said the prayers or led us in the family prayer…. We said together: "Give us our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses." I think that that's quite appropriate in the family prayer — the Lord's prayer — as we look at a very difficult problem which, as the Member for Oak Bay (Mr. Wallace), I think, quite rightly says is only symptomatic of a general problem not localized just in British Columbia but in the western world.
Mr. Speaker, as one who is fairly new at working in the labour-management field, I get the impression at times that organized labour isn't that much different than large business. It is a reflection of large business, large corporations, and often operates in a very similar way.
It's been very tempting for MLAs and, indeed, people in my constituency and in other constituencies to single out organized labour, which I gather is about 44 per cent of the hourly work force actually organized in a union. It seems a little ironic, though, that they are often singled out as being the people we should go after who are supposed to be greedy — especially greedy. I can only speak for Dewdney. People who probably average $10,000, $11,000 or $12,000 a year are the people who many people single out — maybe because it is the only group they can get a handle on — as being greedy, that are taking an undue share of the resources of this province.
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I think every MLA, if he is very aware, is aware that we're not faring very well on international markets. I am lucky in the riding of Dewdney that the cedar products are selling. We had a cedar mill burn down a month and a half ago in Mission, and it was tragic because the cedar shake and shingle business is doing a roaring business down in the southern United States. But I can't say that for many other products. I haven't heard really anybody here describe the pretty sad sales picture of the Forest Industrial Relations' sales sheets which some of us get, and which I asked for, which show a pretty gloomy picture of sales. I have the fear that that has just got to improve. Lumber sent from my riding by Whonnock Lumber on consignment to the eastern United States has been sitting in a warehouse for a month and a half. Of six million feet only 100,000 lineal feet have been sold to date.
So we have this problem of "give us our daily bread; give us a more equitable share in that pie" — the resources from the forestry and other industries. Surely that's understandable.
Many Members, including the leader of the Liberal Party (Mr. Gibson), have shown great respect for the leadership of the IWA, and I certainly publicly say that the restraint and the leadership…. I remind this House that they are not on strike, that in a sense this is somewhat redundant, this particular legislation, when you think of the IWA, but it's certainly not redundant for other groups.
So there is this problem that we are not doing well on the international market, that the president of the United States tells us that the indicators look very good, that they claim to be getting out of their recession except for housing starts, except for building and that hits us as pretty grim.
It certainly hits my riding when I think of some of the large mills. I just illustrate by Whonnock who incidentally is not on strike, who would have a second shift if they could sell their product. But the fear is that we are not getting rid of the product, and it's the fear I think that many people have in the whole province. Certainly I as an MLA remain anxious that we do a better job, that we do everything we can to encourage the marketing of our products so that therefore we can have the kind of return we need to have to see that the delivery of the excellent services is maintained. That's my concern.
I haven't heard much of this other side of the coin from many in this House. I want to assure this House that I feel responsible to keep certainly weekly in touch with the major people in both labour and in management, including marketing.
Mr. Speaker, just before I pass, one thing was said and I think maybe the Member for Chilliwack (Mr. Schroeder) was wrong or just misunderstood the situation. Last summer when we came here, the firemen were really forced into a joint council. The firemen of Richmond, for instance, were forced into a council that really was using the Vancouver contract of firefighters, and this contract was used for the suburban firefighters. It's not really quite the same situation as we have today.
I think that there's a general concern by many people in the whole province about the fact that certain groups seem to get better off and others seem to fall behind. I think there is a concern by this Legislature sitting today and in this kind of accounting. Many of us are very concerned about the fact that we speak to people who are on Mincome, like one chap who drove locomotives in the Rocky Mountains and got in one day the same price as somebody who's simply the person who fills the baskets at the checkout counter in a large store.
The kind of anguish of this fellow who had, I think, a much more responsible job of driving 100-ton locomotives through the Rockies in his day. Really, his daily wage was equal to the hourly wage of somebody at a checkout counter.
That's pretty hard to rationalize, Mr. Speaker. That fellow is paying for housing costs. Bacon costs a frightening $2.30 a pound to him — he probably can't afford it, of course — as it does to somebody that's getting $20,000 a year. He has to pay the same price for milk, for bread, for margarine and for housing. So there is that kind of fear about the future, about unwarranted expectations of what certain people are worth.
I think that that either can lead us into the despair of nihilism, of just no direction, of greed, and also a lot of other very dark things. I think it's appropriate at this sitting, at this time of Thanksgiving, and next Sunday is Thanksgiving, that we're pretty conscious that a lot of people are fearful. We're very afraid. There is this kind of blindness.
I hate to see the simplistic misinformation that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bennett) gives, and he gave it on a Tuesday night in Mission — misinformation about what is happening in the economy and what the government is not doing. The kind of fear, the blind fear and despair that he is leaving many people, I think is tragic.
But nevertheless, I think that there can be an honesty on both sides of this House as we face the fact that we cannot price ourselves out of world markets. I want to see cedar and other products exported throughout the world. I want to see that all of us have some kind of accountability as to what we're worth.
I find it ironic that we don't talk about the young lawyers in my riding, Mr. Attorney-General, who I recently had lunch with, and who rationalize a gross pay of $50,000 a year and then try to tell me that well, it would be better because as a professional person of course they need that pay because they can't get the tax advantages of being a corporation
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and that they are in the higher tax bracket — this kind of nonsense. They can't use corporate structures to operate at a lower income tax rate.
We just can't talk that kind of language and I feel that this legislation faces the fact that everybody in British Columbia has to face the fact that there's been a 10.6 cost of living increase to last June. Incidentally, the House should pay respect to the fact that the cost of living index has been somewhat slower in relative terms in British Columbia than in the rest of the country. It's 173.9 in Vancouver, compared to 184 in Canada. Now again, that's relative. It's not absolute dollars, but in relative terms. If we're talking about increases, Mr. Minister of Labour, if we're talking about average yearly increases, I think it is relevant to quote the cost of living increases in relevant terms that have gone up 10.6, using your information.
So I think we are all looking at an accounting here. I think it is kind of good that we have all been brought out of our ridings to cope with a very frightening fact. I think all of us believe — certainly I believe, and I speak for myself — that collective bargaining is the best, that free collective bargaining is absolutely crucial. I believe in the Labour Code, which I think was supported by nearly everybody in the House — really unanimous. Yes. So let us not have this cynicism that we have had from some Members in the House.
I remember that if you go up to the month of April, I understand that the man-days lost in British Columbia were the best in Canada — if I understand that right. I am saying 25,800 man-days were lost until July 1975. That was the best in Canada.
Let's not quibble with Canadian statistics. Let's just simply deal with the urgency of getting this legislation passed, and with being positive, Mr. Speaker. After all, the legislation speaks of continuing the free collective bargaining process. Let's say that these excellent vehicles are still used, and I think part of the answer to my seat-mate next door, the Member for Oak Bay (Mr. Wallace), is that not all of these groups — the food groups for instance — have used all the services, and we want to make sure that there is an incentive to use all of the services of the Department of Labour.
I think we, in a sense, just cannot fall into the chasm of despair of nihilism. If I can again quote the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bennett), I guess we part company on his idea of freedom which is certainly not the freedom to simply make unlimited amounts of money, to create a climate of affluence and the freedom to be affluent.
Mr. Speaker, in closing, I think the problem today is affluence. The problem I think we face is that we don't live in Nigeria, we don't live live in India, where they are eating one-sixth of the grain we will eat today. That is our problem, the problem of affluence, and I think that this cooling-off period of 90 days is necessary as we, in a sense, I think, in corporate confession, if you will, look at just what we are worth — all of us.
You know, my lawyer friends in Mission, the professional groups, the strong and the weak, as we look at encouraging the collective bargaining process, the continuation of it… and I think, Mr. Speaker, continuing the good, low-keyed, responsible, sincere efforts of our Minister of Labour. Thank you.
MR. GARDOM: Mr. Speaker, in considering this bill there has been a lot of social and philosophical statements made by all sides of the House. I think they have been most informative. I think they have been most useful, even though they differ greatly. I think they are all spoken with a great degree of genuineness and in the interests of the people of this province.
We do have philosophical differences, make no mistake of that fact. This is something that I think both sides of the House are equally proud of, and equally believe in.
I would like to put one question to the socialists in this province as to whether or not they really believe themselves in their hearts that it is not the result of individual enterprise that has produced the best standard of living anywhere in the world and the benefits that flow from them. The system that you are enjoying is not the system that you are espousing, and I find you very contradictory in that.
I would like to refer to the bill, and in considering the bill I think we are really essentially dealing in one isolated aspect with an ill that is continuing to beset every functioning democratic society in the world today. The question that has to be put is this: can two protagonists in a contemporary interdependent society continue to enjoy the luxury of exercising the right that perhaps exists between them, but to the harm and the physical and economic detriment of their neighbours, and without their neighbour having any redress at all?
I think surely it is completely irresponsible for anyone to answer that question in the affirmative. The rights of the third party have to be heeded. He cannot be expected to assume the total disability without even any of the benefits that may flow to the protagonists, labour-management, from the successful compromise or settlement of this dispute in question.
But today, Mr. Speaker, in so many cases the third party is not only being hammered during the course of the dispute, but after it, too, because the increased costs and charges that result from the end of the conflict are passed on to him. It's a double whammy, if I ever heard one, and people right across the democratic world are becoming fed up with this kind of abuse of freedom.
Freedom of action between two sets of people is
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not a permit for absolute sanctity, nor a mandate for them to inflict harm upon others. If the contrary is going to be considered as an acceptable contempore mores then either we're going to find that society's going to become ground to a halt or the bystander party will have to be forced to seek a continuing position in a role which essentially should exist between two parties and not three. Or the bystander third party will have to call upon his governmental representatives to act to curtail and lessen the harm and consequential damage that he unwillingly has to continuously encounter.
The Minister skirted around this topic today and for the first time. But I was delighted to see the light. I can remember over the many years of debate I've had in this House with the Hon. Minister that he used to treat this subject pretty lightly. Today he is finally appreciating that this is the crunch society is facing. If society is not able to overcome, Mr. Minister, society will fail, and make no mistake of that fact.
He talked a little bit about civil rights and I still think the analogy that I mentioned to this House before is a very valid one to apply to the labour-management situation. That is the analogy of a doctor-hospital relationship. If there is a dispute between the hospital and the doctor, that does not give the doctor the right to walk off from the operating table and leave the patient on it. He can face a civil claim for damages, for breach of contract; a civil claim of damages for negligence; he can face criminal liability under the Criminal Code; and he certainly can face censure from his professional body.
But isn't this government with this bill avoiding the main issue? In fact, is not this government moving away from their advocated understanding and concept of fair play by only responding to crisis.
"Ad hockery" some people have advocated in this House and "ad hockery" some people today have indicated they are prepared to practice — the Member for North Vancouver-Seymour (Mr. Gabelmann) and to a lesser extent the Member for Richmond (Mr. Steves). They both before often articulated within these walls that in their view the only route is the ad hoc route — piling ad hockery on ad hockery ad infinitum. If they had their way I doubt very much that the third party would ever be protected. But the general public want more than that and they are entitled to more than that. They are entitled to the rule of law without which the only course is anarchy.
Apart from that, Mr. Speaker, are not other mechanisms and other procedures worthy of an in-depth and considered decision — worthy at least of a try? Is not the final-offer concept worthy of additional consideration? Does it not have some merit? There, when deadlock arises each side would have the right to nominate a selection committee much like the procedures under, the Arbitration Act, and those two would have the right to name a third or if they couldn't agree, the court or a board — call it what you will — would appoint a chairman. This selection committee would have the power not to change offers but to accept what it deemed to be the final best offer without alteration.
Surely, I think, this would provide the necessary enthusiasm and efforts for each side to be reasonable and practical in their stance because in all likelihood a position that was an extreme one would not make its way through that selection committee.
Is it not also, Mr. Speaker, continued value to my request over the years for an independent fact-finding council — one that would be neutral to the parties in the dispute, and which would essentially be a public microscope to look into all facets of the labour stoppage and furnish the general public with a set of impartial facts — impartial statistics — instead of the heavily subjectively-weighted material that gushes forth every time labour and management have prolonged stoppages at the present time?
The general public are always asking what are the true facts and it tries to sort out some validity from highly inflammatory and contradictory material or it's not furnished with really too much of anything vis-a-vis, let alone the general public, the backbench of the New Democratic Party of this province today insofar as this bill is concerned.
The public are entitled to the independence and impartiality of fact presentation. Since they are so very heavily involved at the present time in these stoppages which affect everyone, surely to goodness it's not too much to ask that this kind of a body be formed, these kinds of facts and this kind of material become available.
The economics of work stoppages have become disastrous. It's put Britain on its knees. Surely to goodness we're at least able to learn from their sufferings without having to undergo them completely ourselves.
It seems to me that productivity is the ultimate summons. It's not the wages and the prices that produce the ultimate tilt, but productivity. I'd say certainly for Canada. We rely on export for 25 per cent of our gross national product and we've got to be competitive or sink, but our competitive position is being eroded every day. It is estimated that this year Canada's productivity will drop by over 3 per cent, but it is estimated that for this year the United States' productivity will increase by 2.5 per cent. Those are startling opposites. If the wage increases cannot be effectively related to increased productivity — prices, too — we are straight hide-bound onto a spiral to economic disaster. They have just got to relate one to another.
The government led the people of this province to believe, prior to the introduction of this legislation, that this session was just to concern itself with the Nanaimo propane stoppage. I don't know why the
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government didn't level with the public — or even their own caucus, for that matter. I don't know why ultimate consultation was not entered into by the government between all the facets of management and labour whom this 104-day hoist can affect.
I tend to agree with a lot of the speakers in here. I think very much that this would have been the more responsible approach and would hopefully — maybe not, but it was certainly worth that effort — have brought parties closer to the bargaining table. Perhaps they would have been able to resolve the differences themselves. That would have been preferable, I think, to this type of legislation and what may be some very serious and irretrievable economic consequences of this bill — for example, start-up costs without any assurance of continuity of operation after the 104-day period. I'm not an expert in the field. I don't know how long it takes to get these pulpmills going and start them. Is it 40, 50 or 60 days? Some people here would have that figure on their fingertips. If there is not any assurance that they are going to be operating after the 104th day, where are those dollars going to come from? We don't live in an economic vacuum.
I'd also like to mention this extra crunch power that the cabinet has taken unto itself to set, if it chooses, interest at an amount it may designate to such employees it may nominate. It's retaining unto itself exclusively an element of bargaining that should be between the parties themselves. How is it possible for this cost item to enter into effective deliberations between the parties when they don't have any control over it? How can this kind of an expense be computed or calculated vis-a-vis the parties themselves? There is no way. Sure, it may be a carrot, but it's an undefined and uncertain carrot. It's one that's completely beyond the compass of the parties to consider in their deliberations in the free collective bargaining process.
It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that this is a socialistic excursion directly into the process on this point. It's dibbling and dabbling with something that can affect the employees and affect the employers and certainly, in the final analysis, the markets themselves. I think the Minister when he closes has a responsibility to this House to stipulate under what conditions interest will or will not be granted and the rate at which he proposes it to be granted.
The principle of the bill — or the judgment, perhaps I should say — which Members of this House have to equate in their conscience when they vote is as to whether it is or it is not in the public interest. I don't have any hesitation in saying that it is in the public interest to support this measure and I intend to do so, but I certainly criticize it for the reasons that I've done.
MR. SPEAKER: Any further debate?
HON. MR. BARRETT: Mr. Speaker, I have been waiting patiently to hear from the former shadow Minister and the former Minister (Mr. Chabot) because I think it's only fair that he be given equal time, although he has been moved down a bit from the front row.
HON. MR. BARRETT: I know you haven't had the ability, but after today's performance I think that your standards could go up again.
Mr. Speaker, I did want to engage in some light-hearted banter about the three switches. Unfortunately I don't think it's really opportune in today's debate to take advantage of that except that I must confess I really find it a bit much to see the three of you sitting there — really a bit much. We'll have more comment on that, I'm sure, as the opportunity makes itself available.
I want to say that I regret that a colleague of mine with whom I have sat for my 15 years in public life in this province is not sitting with us today. He came to me some months ago and informed me that he would not be seeking office again. With that, and with other discussions with him, of course, he has resigned his seat. But I want to say that I regret his choice of deciding not to run again. I think we can ill afford to lose people of Bob Strachan's calibre.
I want to say that there has not been one word of criticism, but total praise for the fact that he has been gracious enough to accept the assignment as our Agent-General in London. I can't think of a better British Columbian to fill that post for us.
I want to congratulate the new Liberal leader (Mr. Gibson). As a matter of posting, the odds were definitely in your favour. I wish you well. I admire the political family, the political background that you bring with you to this House. Your father was a very loved Member of this chamber and a person who we had the opportunity of getting to know as a human being. We often, as we do in this business, reflect on our personal relationships with people, and your father came out among the best, in my frame of reference. And you've shown yourself, too, to be a chip off the old block. So I congratulate you.
Welcome back, Scott. (Laughter). You're still there.
MR. WALLACE: I'll be here for a while.
HON. MR. BARRETT: I think you will be here for a long time.
MR. WALLACE: And yet it's the most important riding of the province. Would you believe it?
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HON. MR. BARRETT: I believe that it is, because it is the one voice of true Conservatism left outside of opportunism in this province. When opportunism knocks, strange people enter the door.
Mr. Speaker, in relation to the comments of the official spokesmen of the official opposition, there were no comments of positive value. I don't think that the official opposition has shown over these matter of months any position on any problem dealing with labour-management relations, other than to say: "Blame the government."
There has been a total lack of responsibility from the official opposition, other than to go around this province negatively saying that if you've got ingrown toenails, it's the NDP's fault. If it is raining today and you want sunshine, then it's the NDP's fault. And if there is sunshine and you want rain, it's the same party's fault. No matter what the problem is, it's those guys' fault. They haven't got a good word to say about anyone or anything, and it reflects what they really think of themselves. If you haven't got something good to say about someone else, what do you really think about yourself?
You have contributed absolutely nothing in the debate today other than timid questions about responsibility that any elected government, regardless of party, must face in any given time in any legislature in the British Commonwealth.
Mr. Member, how can I possibly evaluate your words? I do listen, but I don't know where you are sitting from day to day. If something else came along that offered you a better opportunity for ambition, perhaps you would jump on that. What does it do for the poor backbenchers who had a hope of being on the right-hand side?
I want to warn the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bennett) of a crime called regicide. It happened early in history with the clasping of the asp to the breast. The first time it was female: the next occurrence may be male.
Mr. Speaker, we haven't witnessed any real involvement by the official opposition on the basis of saying: "Here is our alternative; here is our suggestion."
Yes, we are a party that has deep interest in the trade union movement in this province, and I am proud of that. Those Members who see the trade union movement as a social, viable force for great philosophical change are motivated to join this party, and I'm proud of it. What the Member for North Vancouver-Seymour (Mr. Gabelmann) said about the early labour-management history of this province is a matter of fact. There were people who were martyrized in this province. But those days are long gone.
We have a system in North America that has seen the trade union movement and powerful business interests both locked under pressure in a society that shows very little human values into competition for who gets the best leg up.
We hoped in our new legislation that people would grow up in this province of all provinces, which does have a bad labour-management history. We hoped that we would surpass the level of Quebec where we were both mired in terms of the breaking through of social, religious and cultural patterns as we emerge into our own form of a society here in British Columbia. But it is not going to happen overnight. The sins of the fathers are visited on the sons. There's so much nepotism in this province today, Mr. Speaker, I'm bound to get that quote confused. (Laughter.) I say that positively, my friend.
But I want to say that there are no absolutes. When the Minister of Labour, who in my opinion is the finest Minister of Labour in the history of this province, was charged with the responsibility of coming into this House and charting a new, more mature, more hopeful course for labour-management relations in this province, we hoped that we were going to start afresh, start anew from a very bad mood and a very bad feeling and that we could make step-by-step progress in this province. I want to say that the new Labour Code of British Columbia has had some spectacular successes, but they do not appear on the front page — they appear way back in the "Help Wanted" or elsewhere, saying, "Another Labour Dispute Settled Today," or "A New Labour Negotiation Contract Has Been Settled." If you look through the papers the settlements go by in small clips; the disputes take the headlines.
That has ever been thus in this province, but the record of this Minister of Labour in getting people to bargain and settle disputes is unparalleled in this province. He has assembled an excellent staff, he has brought together some highly skilled people and allowed to develop a labour-management team the likes of which was not allowed to prosper in this province before. He has gained the respect of all the Members of this House, regardless of where they sat in yesteryear or where they may sit tomorrow. I can quote quote after quote of each one of you praising the Minister of Labour, and rightly so, because he has the most difficult task of any cabinet Minister in any government in this province.
Now what are we faced with today? One of the Members — the Member for Chilliwack (Mr. Schroeder) — got up and said: "Well, what about the options?" Options and consultation and advisement are only good for so long, Mr. Speaker. You hope that two people in a dispute will come to some understanding that they must spend time together, come to some agreement and settle that dispute together. It's a human relations problem. When that human relations problem affects only that small group of people then you sit back and hope that they will be sane. But I don't apologize for the fact of
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being totally responsible for making the suggestion to the Minister of Labour and urging the cabinet and my colleagues to ratify a decision into legislation that I felt was my duty to ask them to support. I must speak for all of the people of this province, many of whom will disagree with this government, many of whom agree and some of whom are undecided. I leave it to the fingerlickers to decide where the undecided are going to go, but it is my responsibility to lead my colleagues in the cabinet and the Members of the government party into a direction on a basis of what situation we are faced with on any given day.
It's not an easy decision but I have no hesitation in saying that this legislation is due, is responsible and must be supported in this House. There are individuals who disagree but it is a matter of opinion, not a matter of moral right or wrong, because there are no absolutes in dealing with these situations. If someone's opinion differs, then I admire them for having the principles of standing up for their opinion. But in a matter of opinion there is also the matter of responsibility, and we have a responsibility to all the people of this province before any one particular group.
No part is greater than the whole. This beautiful province will survive anything — it has proven that in 20 years of a previous administration. The province will survive the jolts, the tugs and the pulls of the change from adolescence into adulthood that is presently taking place in its political history. It will survive because we are endowed by nature with a bounty that makes us somewhat greedy, somewhat arrogant, somewhat selfish and somewhat insular to problems elsewhere in the world. It may come as a surprise to some Members of this House that British Columbia is not the centre of the world but that we are a very happy, lucky place tucked away in a world of turmoil. We must convey to our citizens that we are very lucky to be here and that what we have should not be frittered away by irresponsible acts by any groups or any individuals because we have a system of law and that system of law must prevail beyond political philosophy.
This bill is our duty; to do less would not be doing our duty. We have waited, we have been patient, we have counselled. As I say, we have advised, we have made staff available. But there comes a time when a decision must be made.
Yes, it's an unexpected decision, but it is the right decision and I have, no hesitation in saying that I see my duty very clear in terms of this legislation. I make a very frank, humble and open appeal to all the people of this province. If they disagree with the legislation, there is a remedy through the ballot box. In the interim, this is the duly elected government of this province. It is the will of the people expressed through a government. It is the will of the government that people calm down, go back to work and begin to grow up a bit in new collective bargaining. I support this bill on that cause, Mr. Speaker.
MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad the Premier has found responsibility and leadership that seems to have been lacking in this province all summer, in fact while he was travelling. To come in here and say that he has found a flash in responsibility in the middle of the night, so sudden that they never had time to even provide their caucus with the traditional right of having more than an hour to look at the legislation, to come in here and attack Members of my party who may be concerned about this province, with his new-found responsibility and his new-found leadership is just as hypocritical as someone who would fly around this province in a Lear jet and climb into a Volkswagen to go to public meetings and talk about that he's not like the former Premier who drove in a Cadillac.
Well at least you could travel on the roads at one time in British Columbia, and we didn't need that sort of hypocrisy and we don't need it here today.
We are concerned about this province and we've asked the Premier to show leadership for many months, but not just leadership in this one area of labour dispute. There is a broader issue facing this province, and that is an economy that is crumbling.
If you're concerned, as the Minister of Labour was, with the innocent parties who are hurt by these labour disputes — and you mention Nanaimo, and you talk about 40,000 people — how about the innocent who are hurt because 104,000 are unemployed in British Columbia today?
The greatest number of unemployed persons in this province's history. What about them? What measures, what great leadership have you provided or are you providing in this Legislature to create employment? Are you prepared to back up and backtrack on Bill 31 as you have on all the statements you made on labour over the years? Are you prepared to all of a sudden find responsibility because of the provincial need? Are you prepared to feel some concern for these people who couldn't even travel in their own province, let alone to California for most of the summer? Are you prepared to show the type of leadership that this province has lacked?
Instead, we get this new-found responsibility and the sanctimoniousness. He comes here and he tells this Legislature that the NDP and he have a corner on social conscience, a corner on responsibility. The same attacks on governments that have gone before that built a lot of the prosperity that created employment, that sent money to government so that he could take credit for anything that was good and blame anything that was bad on everyone else — the Americans, the federal government, the former government, wicked management — everybody is
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responsible but the Premier and the poor little NDP. They are now the underdogs and yet in British Columbia and in this chamber they have outvoted and outnumbered the opposition 37 to 17. They have had a majority and they have had the responsibility to lead this province, and it hasn't been led because the responsibility to spend a buck is the responsibility to make sure that those dollars continue and that funds for government can continue.
I can see this legislation just wasn't inspired because the Premier was concerned about people sometime late last night so that even their caucus couldn't discuss it. It was inspired at Treasury Board, because they haven't got the money to continue the services. It's a desperation move, not a move made out of conscience.
That's the same government, the same Premier, whose idea is an economy in British Columbia that he said isn't in trouble because sales tax collections are up. That's the person who would have us convinced that he's concerned about people and the rights of people, and what's more, something that's lacking in British Columbia today, opportunity for people.
Opportunity isn't there for 104,000 unemployed. They don't have an opportunity to bargain and they have no money to send to government. A mining industry that has been attacked by legislation, and a lack of confidence that's happened in our resource industries for investment capital and opportunity for our people to have employment — none of those areas have money to send to government. The fears that we spoke about in the budget last year when that Minister was still Minister of Finance, before they made a strong move in desperation to save the province while that Minister was Minister of Finance…. We mentioned in debate the coming possible labour confrontation because for the first time we had the total forest industry negotiating, and with an uncertain economy in North America and the world the expectation of revenues may not be met. He called us Gloom-and-Doomers, but at that time, we told this Premier that if he allowed an inaccurate budget — which it was — to come before this Legislature, and he had to provide the type of stop-and-go government that met the type of restrictions on services that this province has had to face, it would be the worst irresponsibility of a Minister of Finance and of a government because programmes from government and services of government must have continuity, and in B.C. there's been no continuity of service this year. That continuity may not be there next year under any government because of what has happened to the economy of British Columbia.
Our economy, established on confidence and trust and expectation, our economy that should be there to create employment for our people, is in chaos. The people of this province don't need a public relations tour saying everything's rosy because sales tax collections are up. They want the opportunity to be a part of building that economy. They want jobs. They want employment. They want the opportunity to produce and to send money to government, but they don't have that opportunity in British Columbia today.
That lack of opportunity is just as real as the problem that we came here today to settle — a solution that seemed to have developed in the middle of the night, the blinding flash of responsibility after months of our Members touring this province, talking to the people, passing along their concerns and being called gloom-and-doomers because we happen to mention and call out for government action to a Premier who for most part is absent and instead isn't prepared to listen. Instead, we get public relations, we get the gloom-and-doom treatment.
All the time — all the time — our province suffers. I wish this government had the courage, I wish you could find a flash of responsibility to admit that Bill 31 was wrong. While we're here today, bring in amendments now, if you're going to bring them in at all, that will get the mining industry going as a basis of employment and a basis of part of the economy.
If you're going to allocate revenues and money for gas and petroleum exploration….
AN HON. MEMBER: Do it now.
MR. BENNETT: Do it now. Your own energy board has told you you were wrong last year. You stand indicted by their report in the foolish rhetoric of last year and your continual attacks on multinational corporations. They don't need a defence from me but they don't need to be used as a diversion by you in this province in contrast to the very real way in which Alberta met the needs of exploration and the continuation of that industry in their province.
Now we have the report of your own energy board and that report is very, very serious and brings into question those speeches and those statements that this government made last year. In fact, the shutdown and lack of exploration we had for over a year in this province can be laid directly to blame on this Premier and this government who didn't recognize the need for responsibility in allocating a fair share of the resource dollar so that we could guarantee continuity of employment for our people.
I was in Fort Nelson and Fort St. John, Mr. Speaker, and I met people who told me of others who had taken equipment and themselves to Alberta and were employed there with their equipment. Our people were employed, still supporting families in B.C., because there they have faced the realistic balance of expectation of that resource dollar for both capital and labour and not allowing the putting
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of the expectation of greed for government revenues and making government's hand bigger for the resource dollar that it takes away all opportunity for both capital and labour and in fact — as is happening in mining — destroys even the revenue to government itself.
Nobody has been a winner with the type of resource policies and government legislation and anti-capital bias and lack of opportunity in this province. Our province has suffered. Nobody has gained, because this government has based those policies on rhetoric and blind commitment rather than on realism and responsibility.
The Premier talks about responsibility today — well I'm glad they finally faced one responsibility — even though I may question how they arrived at the decision. We're proud to support this legislation. We would like to have seen the government and the Premier's office show some initiative earlier this summer.
We would like to have seen this government today realize that the problems of British Columbia extend far beyond just a dispute between management and labour, extend through the whole economy.
We would like to have seen initiatives to tackle the shortage of housing and rental accommodation.
We would like to have seen the government make provision for Crown land, for low-priced, serviced lots for our people. We don't want them to be tenants of landlords or the government; we would like to make housing affordable in this province. The construction of housing and rental accommodation, Mr. Speaker, would create employment for thousands of our people who are denied that opportunity.
But nowhere today, and nowhere lately or during the last month while the public relations exercise from government has been going on, have we seen any indication that this government is prepared to accept that responsibility. Even today, in what may be one of their finest moves of all in showing leadership, they have arrived at the right answer in the wrong way — in desperation, in confusion, and unable even to face their own caucus to allow them the traditional time for debate.
While the Member for North Vancouver-Seymour (Mr. Gabelmann) and I disagree on almost everything, I noticed that while he was speaking and talking about his lack of opportunity in only an hour to debate the bill, there were a lot of heads hung low on the government side.
HON. MR. COCKE: Your daddy never even went to caucus.
MR. BENNETT: Heads hung low and they should have been! It's interesting, Mr. Speaker, that when they can't stand the heat we get the sort of smart-alecky remarks from the Minister of Health and the Premier.
HON. MR. COCKE: Get a little humour in your veins.
MR. BENNETT: There is nothing funny about what you've done in the province, Mr. Minister of Health. There's nothing funny about unemployment. If you think it's funny, go out and laugh to the people of this province who are suffering. But don't be a hypocrite, as you are and have been, and talk about good intentions.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think the Hon. Member knows that that's unparliamentary.
MR. BENNETT: Yes, I withdraw that, Mr. Speaker.
In this province today, as I say, 100,000 unemployed and growing, uncontrolled inflation, highest food and housing prices in Canada. We have the B.C. Rail that has been operating at minimal service. We have a crisis in this province and yet this government has failed to deal with any of those areas — a housing crisis, a rental accommodation crisis that grows worse, and yet today in making a strong move — late — we still have no indication the government is prepared to do anything more than go on a public relations exercise for what is the real problem in this province — inflation and lack of opportunity for employment for our people.
We support this legislation. We support it because we want to see some order brought to British Columbia. We want to see a return of opportunity. But, Mr. Speaker, the responsibility of government goes beyond this legislation today. It extends to those areas I have identified and beyond. Strong government and strong leadership, which are needed now, have not been shown in this Legislature this afternoon.
MR. SPEAKER: The Hon. Minister of Labour closes the debate.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I will not comment on the speech made by the official Leader of the Opposition at the moment. Rather, I will move to some of the serious and important statements made earlier.
The new labour critic — the shadow Minister of Labour as I understand it — in the newly organized or dissected or constructed Social Credit Party made a variety of comments that I would like to respond to. Before doing that, I would like to offer my congratulations to the Hon. Member on the assumption of his post as shadow cabinet Minister of
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I note that he seems to have melded into that group physically, intellectually and philosophically very easily. (Laughter.) In fact, so easily that he didn't really even bother to change the speeches and the comments which he has made in this House certainly in the number of years that I've been in the House. I wonder about it….
HON. MR. KING: Oh, certainly we change at times, and I'm not so dogmatic in my view or so unyielding that from time to time I do not change my views. However, I do not believe that this occasion is an indication of a changed view or a changed policy by this party. Our position has been consistently that if both parties who have rights in this province abuse those rights, then it is the responsibility of the Legislature to come to grips with the problem. That is true not only in industrial relations. That is true in other areas of our social and economic fabric as well.
He made some pretty harsh comments about the structure of collective bargaining that is provided. As did the leader of his party, he talked about the unemployment situation as we face it today. Yes, it is serious, and yes, the government is concerned. But it is a symptom of a larger problem that besets the whole nation, not only this province.
Rather than hearing the official opposition simply strike out with condemnation and with complaints about the situation, I think that the government could profit more and the people of the province could profit more by some positive programmes and suggestions put forward by the opposition. Rather than that, we hear more of the negative, bitter and vituperative campaign that the official Leader of the Opposition seems to be spreading across the length and breadth of the province. While it doesn't bother me unduly — certainly I don't mind that kind of thing — I would suggest to him that it is hardly calculated to enhance the mad lust for power and the mad thrust for power that that party is bent on, because I don't think the people will respond well to that kind of approach.
MR. PHILLIPS: Give them an opportunity!
HON. MR. KING: Well, the new labour critic seems to have slid into the fold fairly well and fairly comfortably. I wonder about the others.
I want to refer back to some comments that were made in the limited form of edited Hansard that obtained in this House in 1971. We had an address, and I'm not going to tell you who it is by. You can guess. See if the words are familiar.
In 1969, Mr. Speaker, we had fear preached to us in British Columbia. That was fear preached by the Premier. He talked about those godless, socialist Marxists, the fear of a godless party that had among its ranks of candidates no less than three ordained ministers, and from that Goebbels-like statement he proceeded to preach another fear, an economic fear.
How many remember that slogan, "It will be take-home pay with Bennett or strike pay with Berger."?
Can you imagine who called that group over there Goebbels-like?
AN HON. MEMBER: No. Tell me.
HON. MR. KING: Certainly anybody that held that kind of view would never collaborate with them in any way, would he?
This speech went on. There are some choice excerpts here. He went on:
Well, Mr. Speaker, a year ago in this House I warned of the consequences of that example.
He is talking about the excesses of government behaviour.
And who started it? The government right here, because 1970 commenced as the year of the big grab. "Take-home pay with Bennett or strike pay with Berger," and when you preached it worked. Then you began to preach with the strength, asking for labour and management to be cautious.
He went on to condemn the chaotic condition of the industrial relations climate of that year — 500 million man-days lost due to industrial conflict in that year. What a sorry situation.
He made this comment.
When you examine the root causes of this you find that there is more than greed and government example involved in what took place. There was weak and spineless leadership and that was the basic fault — that, and inexcusable ineptitude.
Can you imagine that?
SOME HON. MEMBERS: No!
HON. MR. KING: Which one? The one that's on the left or the one that is on the right of the Leader of the Opposition?
HON. MR. BARRETT: The one in the caboose! (Laughter.)
HON. MR. KING: No, it was the one that the man who tells us he is going to be the new Premier of British Columbia (Mr. Bennett) has established on his right arm (Mr. McGeer). That's who said it!
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, no!
HON. MR. KING: That was the attitude of that group over there in 1971 when they were confronted
[ Page 42 ]
with high unemployment, when they were confronted with the highest incidence of labour disputes the province had ever seen. They condemned it, and yet they are the very people who are ensconced and associated with that party in its ranks today, including the one who has been appointed the Labour critic….
Poor old Jimmy. You know he tried. He really tried. And that's thanks for you. What kind of a group are you? I know that Jim wasn't the most effective guy in the world. I know that. But after all, I've got a lot of sympathy for him because at least he's a fellow railroader, and I would have given him some thanks. I wouldn't simply have thrown him out to the dogs and established in your ranks as the new critic one of your colleagues who had referred to your own daddy as "Goebbels-like."
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, no! Shocking!
HON. MR. KING: Shameful! Shocking! Interjections.
HON. MR. KING: Shocking! Can we really take that group seriously over there? I doubt it.
Mr. Speaker, it grieves me, and far be it for me to try to embarrass anyone. I wouldn't do that.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Hon. Member for West Vancouver–Howe Sound on a point of order.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: I wonder if the Hon. Minister would please indicate from what he is reading.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I indicated at the outset I was quoting from the expurgated, edited edition of Hansard dated January 25, 1971, a speech by Dr. Pat McGeer, MLA, on labour relations under the Socreds. (Laughter.) I understand he was your leader at that time.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, to move to the issues at hand, I think every Member of the House does agree, indeed, that we do have a serious situation in the province. Perhaps we can be forgiven for a bit of levity because, after all, when we have new Members in the House or new locations and so on, there's bound to be some note taken of it.
The new labour critic for the Social Credit Party made a number of statements, as I say, that I would like to respond to. He wondered how this legislation would be enforced. I simply say that when the Legislature makes a decision, introduces a bill and gives direction, translates that direction into law, I think it's reasonable and I think it's responsible to expect compliance. I do not think it's responsible to wave a big stick or to issue threats which would develop a controversy on the hypothetical case of non-compliance. I do not believe that's a responsible position for the Legislature to take because, frankly, I believe that the working people of this province, the trade union movement in this province and the management groups in this province are responsible enough to comply with the law that the government passes.
The Legislature is supreme. We have consistently said this over the years as a party. Yes, free collective bargaining; yes, the right to lock out and strike; but the abuse of those rights to the jeopardy of the citizens of the province will result in the Legislature being convened to deal with that emergent situation. That's precisely the situation we're in today and that's precisely the situation we could face at any point in time.
This government has demonstrated not once but on no less than three previous occasions that we are prepared to use the Legislature where a full debate of the issues can ensue to deal with these kinds of matters when they arise. We did so with respect to the firefighters' union when they had failed to agree to maintain life-supporting services. We did so with respect to the construction of dikes surrounding the City of Kamloops when the city and workers involved in the CUPE union had let their dispute and their private fight interfere with the public protection of that area. We moved to provide a remedy. We moved again in the elevator constructors' dispute and brought an end and some stability and security to the construction industry of this province.
We have moved once again when, in our view, parties to private agreements are putting their own narrow interests ahead of the welfare of the citizens of the province. Certainly we have moved in a fairly comprehensive way, a fairly wide-ranging way. No question about that. But the government has made a judgment that these disputes in these basic industries are just that: basic to the interests and the security of the people of the province.
To suggest that this device and this move was something that was generated overnight is untrue. We have discussed the ramifications of this matter through a number of cabinet meetings. We have had to respond to changing situations; indeed, situations that could have changed at the 11th hour again. We did not embark on an inflexible course some time ago, a course that we were bent on introducing regardless of the facts.
We attempted, in good conscience, to provide every opportunity and every alternative to the disputing parties because it's frankly with regret that I have to introduce this kind of bill. I certainly take no pleasure from it because it is an indictment of
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those involved at the bargaining table. Whether or not labour argues that management is responsible or the converse, certainly I must take the position that they are both responsible to make the system work. When they failed to do so, they placed that system and the rights they hold in jeopardy. I have warned them of this before.
We've taken a reasonable course. We have taken the course of indicating very strongly and very emphatically that we cannot live with the present circumstances in the province. We have provided a breathing space for them to come together and solve those problems. I think the message is clear that unless they do so, the Legislature of this Province of British Columbia will look with an extremely jaundiced eye upon the conduct of the parties involved.
The Member for West Vancouver–Howe Sound (Mr. L.A. Williams) made certain personal criticisms of me in terms of the handling of the matter. Fair enough — one is free to do that. But I can only respond that the Department of Labour and my office have been available to the parties. We have not refused to meet, to consult, to discuss and to provide any device that was acceptable to both parties.
It has been suggested that I should have imposed a third party or an industrial inquiry commission at the behest of one party. That has been strongly inferred and, in some cases by comments from some of the opposition people, it has been suggested. I want to tell you that before you advocate that kind of policy, I would strongly recommend you talk to both the trade union people in this province and to those in charge of negotiations on behalf of management. There are many cases where the arbitrary intervention of the Department of Labour, or any other well-meaning person, can jeopardize the basis of settlement rather than assisting. There are cases where the imposition of a third party may compromise the position of labour or the position of management. They demand the right to protect their own position.
If you do it in one case, it must be even-handed — you can't have the best of both worlds. It must be evenly applied. It seems a more reasonable proposition to me to seek and obtain from the parties mutual agreement that they will, in fact, welcome the intervention of a third party and co-operate with that device in putting their case forward and, in the final analysis, be more receptive to accepting the recommendations that the third party makes. If he's not welcome and they view him as threatening, then what possibility is there that they would possibly accept a recommendation the third party came in with? Very, very little. But don't simply take my word for it. I suggest to you that you talk to the parties involved.
Now the leader of the Liberal Party (Mr. Gibson), to whom I should also extend my congratulations on his assumption of the position of leader of the Liberal Party…. On one other note, I would congratulate the leader of the Liberal Party, too. I think in the House he gave a generally constructive presentation and, I might say, at a point some weeks ago in a letter that was directed to my office and to the Premier, the Hon. Liberal leader made some suggestions and recommendations. He did it in a private way, out of his concern for the security of the forest industry. He didn't run to the press and do a political trip to aggrandize himself. He offered some sober, constructive suggestions. That's the kind of conduct that I think is worthy of mention. That's the kind of conduct that brings a higher note to politics in this province. I think it's the kind of conduct that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bennett), rather than smirking at, should pay particular attention to.
I just want to say to him that, as I pointed out earlier, we did move in those other three cases where, in the government's judgment, the public interest was unjustifiably threatened. I can't tell you about the precise vote that was taken by the unions. There is no law administered by the Department of Labour which regulates either the method of voting or the actual supervision of voting. We used to have in this province some years ago — and it was changed before we assumed office as government — a supervised strike vote. There are many reasons why that did not work very well — many reasons.
On the other hand, I want to say to the leader of the Liberal Party, and I want to say to the trade union movement, that on occasions I certainly have heard from union members that the vote that was made available was not a very democratic procedure. I think that's a matter of concern to everyone.
Certainly it's not my intention and it's not my preference to get involved in any way in the internal regulation of trade unions. I might say, Mr. Speaker, that there are other social organizations that could use a touch of democratization, too — not only trade unions. Those who call for intervention in the internal affairs of trade unions should think down the line a little bit. Do they want government to become a big brother kind of government that starts to regulate the social conduct of every institution in society? I think not. But at the same time we have to be sensitive to abuses wherever they take place. I simply sound that as a word of caution to everyone involved.
The leader of the Liberal Party made some points that I feel obliged to respond to. There's the element of validity in the points he made — no question about it — with respect to the inequity of settlements. He pointed out that we have demands in some cases that look tremendously inflated, that look irresponsible in many people's judgment. We have, on the other hand, employer groups who are acceding to demands which the public is adjudging to be unrealistic and excessive.
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But these are two private parties out there with the responsibility to regulate their relationship by bargaining in negotiation.
It is curious that many groups in society say: "Well, government must regulate those private groups. It's all right if you're doing it to the other guy, but don't do it to me." Many people applauded the government's intervention into the agricultural land area where we froze that land and protected it for agricultural purposes. But that was an interference with the speculators and the land developers who had traditionally staked that ground as the private domain. The trade union movement and many other people applauded that — "but don't touch me."
Again, the Minister of Consumer Services regulates some of the excesses that obtain in management's rights to set their own prices and to develop the line and the quality of their services to the consumers. The trade union movement applauded that, and so did many politicians in this House.
The point is that we've become a pretty self-interest kind of society. It's true, we have become an avaricious society in many, many ways. It's fine for the government to intervene to protect the public good in one area, so long as it's not your own area.
So you have to balance these conflicting points of interest right through the whole society. Yes, there is inequity. When you talk about the inequity of wage differential and contrast supermarket clerks against forest workers, sure, it looks pretty touch. Some people write me letters and say: "I went to university for four years" — studied medicine or law or chartered accountancy, or whatever — "and here's some guy who's just got a job, he's got a grade 8 education, he's got a good union contract and he's earning more than me." That's essentially the point the leader of the Liberal Party was making.
I want to explore that a bit, because where does it lead? It leads inevitably to the conclusion that government should start placing value judgments on job classifications in this province, from the politician up to the janitor and up to the forest worker.
MR. WALLACE: Don't be so modest, Bill.
HON. MR. KING: That's what it leads to. If we're going to do that which there's an inference and suggestion would be acceptable for the industrial workers, how would you like it as a politician, how would you like it as a lawyer and a doctor, how would you like it as a businessman in terms of the product you sell?
As for this business of productivity and return on the dollar, what is less productive than advertising? What does that contribute to the gross national product? And yet it's that very device, in many ways, that is part of the root problem; it's part of that policy that is the root cause of much of our turmoil because management tries to sell. Somebody mentioned the red boat, the convertible and the sex symbol that's attended with it all to sell the product. Wall-to-wall carpeting — not wall-to-wall members, but wall-to-wall carpeting. This is held out to workers. You're not swinging unless you're able to obtain these things.
The working people respond to this intellectual entrapment, to this appeal to greed and this appeal to avariciousness. They reach out to obtain those good things of life, and first management slaps them on the wrist and says: "Be modest — use some restraint for the good of the economy. Back off!"
At the same time they see the advertising on television, in the newspapers and in the movies enticing them to go into debt to obtain and attain these amenities of life. At the same time they see the sports superstars like Bobby Orr negotiating $4 million contracts, football players…. Do you really want to start making value judgments on what people are worth in society? That's what it leads to — that kind of conclusion.
So if we want to look at fundamental changes in society — some fundamental changes that could be made to affect people's value judgments, to affect their attitudes towards what they can contribute to the province for the good of their fellow man rather than simply extract the profit — then we're getting to an attack on the system that I think should have been undertaken many, many years ago.
I subscribe to that but I doubt that there is any consensus in this House on an approach of that nature. I suspect that there's not a consensus in the province because at this point we've got a long way to go in terms of changing social values in this province.
These are the things that are creating the conflict out there, creating the anomalies, the inequities, the discrepancies — these are the root causes. I think when the politicians, perhaps of all parties, are prepared to start coming to grips with these kind of problems, then perhaps we'll have more respect for our fellow man and more of a desire to be motivated by what we can contribute rather than what we can extract. At that point I think we won't be meeting in the Legislature to discuss ways of getting locked-out and strike-bound industries back into operation.
Now the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party (Mr. Wallace) made essentially the same points, and I agree with him that much of it is a symptom of greed. I am not placing judgment on any group of people. That's the problem with too many politicians — they're looking for a scapegoat. They want to single out somebody and heap the responsibility on their neck. It's symptomatic of the kind of society that we have helped to develop and shape.
When we talk about education, when we talk about our young people, when we talk about the role of the church in society, these are some of the things
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we have to start challenging and trying to motivate our own children with. There's more to a work environment than simply the pay cheque that flows at the end of two weeks. But in the meantime it's totally unrealistic to ask the workers to bear the full responsibility for changing society.
I've strayed in a more philosophical way and I've strayed away from the bill. Perhaps I'd better get back to it. The Conservative leader — just before I leave that — asked about the designation of essential services. He answered his own question, as far as I am concerned, very well. He pointed out that it is a flexible, changing situation. You certainly find an industry that at one point in time is not capable of detrimental impact on the public. In a matter of weeks or months sometimes the opposite is true.
There are no absolutes in industrial relations — no absolutes. It's a changing society and a changing world of industrial relations. Those who offer gimmicks or those who offer absolutes in terms of providing the answer are deluding themselves.
Final-offer selection has been proposed. Final-offer selection is fine — it's fine if it's acceptable to the parties. In fact, final-offer selection was explored with one of the very groups we're dealing with here today — they refused it.
AN HON. MEMBER: Which was that?
HON. MR. KING: I'm not going to explore that because that was something that was explored between the mediation officer and the groups involved. I think I must protect the confidentiality of what the mediation officer explores with the parties, which is often off the record and a confidential chance to get something going.
But we try and I am prepared to use almost any reasonable device that is acceptable to the parties. But there are no absolutes and there are no cure-alls for the kind of dilemma we face.
The cost of settlements was raised. A number of people made the point — at least, again, they certainly inferred — that this province is wildly out of control and out of relationship to the rest of the nation when it comes to the level of wage settlements.
That is simply not true. I have here the statements from Statistics Canada on the first quarter. In the first quarter B.C. was two percentage points higher than the national average — the national average was 16.9; the B.C. average was 18.9. The second quarter national average was 18.8; British Columbia's was 18.9 — a very marginal difference.
Quite often people get distorted ideas simply because they read a headline. They read a headline about some rather high-profile individual, usually on the management side, saying: "Well, the economy is like a runaway train. It's broken loose and it is dashing headlong down the mountain." Everyone latches on to that and they make wild assumptions. One of the largest settlements in the Province of British Columbia last year was in the construction industry, which we heard was going to set off a chain of events all the way across the nation. Lo and behold, the reality is that the settlement in the construction industry in Ontario is a little bit higher than in B.C.
I think that before people make exaggerated statements regarding the level of wage demands and the level of settlements as between this province and other areas, they should do a little bit of homework and they should be accurate because it does no service to the Province of British Columbia when those kinds of facts are flaunted improperly and, I am sure, unintentionally.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Bennett), before he sat down, seemed to be concerned about the Premier flying around the province in a Lear jet. Well, I want to notify him that he must have been thinking of Mr. Gaglardi because we have no Lear jet, Mr. Speaker. We do have some Cessna Citations, but I think it was his father's colleague who used to fly those Lear jets.
I am surprised to hear the Leader of the Opposition castigating the Premier or any other Member of the House for taking a holiday in California. Does he think that is too grand and luxurious for the ordinary people? Is that the preserve of the millionaires? What's so unusual about that?
MRS. JORDAN: What's wrong with British Columbia?
HON. MR. KING: I don't think it is any longer necessary to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth to undertake travel and a little sun once in a while. That's not necessary.
Really, Mr. Speaker, I don't think that contributed a great deal to the resolution of the problem that is before the House today. I find that the leader of the Conservative Party (Mr. Wallace) and the leader of the Liberal Party (Mr. Gibson) made some positive contributions, and I think that that's recognized by the response that I have tried to give to them. But I would like to see the day when every single citizen of the Province of British Columbia could find the available resources and the available leisure time to take a holiday in other parts of this nation and in the country south of the border also. That's the objective of this government: we're for all the people.
Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of the bill.
Motion approved on the following division:
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YEAS — 45
NAYS – 3
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I ask leave to refer Bill 146 to a Committee of the Whole House for consideration forthwith.
Bill 146, Collective Bargaining Continuation Act, read a second time and referred to Committee of the Whole House forthwith.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING CONTINUATION ACT
The House in committee on Bill 146; Mr. Dent in the chair.
On section 1.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: Mr. Chairman, when in second reading debate I asked the Minister about the enforcement of the legislation, I wasn't suggesting that there was going to be any difficulty in obtaining compliance from employers or employees. I was concerned about sections such as 1(e); and the same comments apply also to section 2(a), when we come to it.
Section 1(e) provIdes that: "Commencing forty-eight hours after the coming into force of this Act, every employer to which this Act applies shall call back to work each of his employees who has been on strike or has been laid off...." And there's an obligation to resume operations. I wonder if the Minister could indicate what method there will be of determining performance on the part of both employers or employees. In cases where all of the employees are not required in the start-up operations — and I would refer particularly to some of the pulp plants which apparently were shut down without proper shut-down procedures and there will be some delay in reinstating them to full operating position….
Also, what steps are to be taken to ensure that there is to be no
penalty assessed against an employer or employee in the case where the
employer has legitimately suspended his operations, not because of the
strike or anything of that kind, but because of economic conditions
which have dictated the closing of the plant? And from the employees'
point of view — this is section 2, and maybe the Minister can deal with
them both at the same time — what about those employees who are called
back to work and who don't come because they have taken some other job
or they have decided to retire from the position they held at the time
the strike commenced?
I think it's important that there be some clear indication to both management and labour as to the manner in which the government will determine whether or not there is proper performance under this legislation.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, this provision simply ensures that the industry is obligated to call back immediately all of the employees who were employed at the moment the lockout or the strike took effect. That ensures that there is the opportunity for reinstatement of anyone who was initially involved in the dispute, be it strike or lockout; it ensures that the opportunity is there. Obviously if workers have quit then they can hardly be called back if they have filed official notices of resignation and are employed elsewhere or have moved from the province.
The method of ascertaining that the spirit of this provision is lived up to will simply be on the basis of any complaints that are filed by the trade union involved or by the employer involved. But section 2, as you will note, does not bar the employer from suspending, transferring, laying off, discharging or disciplining an employee for reasonable cause. I do not think it is an unreasonable proposition to demand that he, until such time as he consummates a collective agreement or a collective agreement renewal, or until the expiry of 90 days, continues to operate with the full workforce which he had at the beginning of the dispute. That is an additional inducement for him to carry on with good-faith collective bargaining as well.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: Just one further question, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate what the Minister says. All I am asking is: what is the mechanism by which such questions may be resolved? For example, you may have a single employer who may have a number of wood-manufacturing plants. He may be in a position
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to open three out of four but by reason of economic circumstances — a shortage of wood or whatever the case may be — he can't open a fourth plant. Now is there going to be a mechanism whereby the Labour Relations Board or someone will determine whether or not that employer is in good faith living up to section 1? The same with regard to section 2 — if employees don't show for some reason or other that they can determine whether or not in good faith there is a reason that they would not attend work.
HON. MR. KING: Yes, that's right. If there were a complaint filed regarding the compliance with that section then redress would be to the Labour Relations Board, which has the authority to interpret and the authority to issue cease-and-desist orders prohibiting any actions or lack of compliance. That would flow from a complaint filed by one of the parties to the board in the event that there is an allegation of non-compliance. On the other hand, I should mention that the parties are allowed by mutual consent to vary any of the provisions of the Act in that respect.
MR. GIBSON: I'd like to follow up with the Minister just to make sure I understand what's going on here. Section 1(a) provides that the employer shall in effect reinstate his operations as at the time the strike commenced. I would ask the Minister what would happen in the event that there had been a marked economic change in the interval. In the forest industry, for example, it has been almost three months, and it is conceivable that with respect to any given plant the market for that product may have either advanced or deteriorated significantly. What is the situation in that case? Is the employer nevertheless required to continue operations at the level — no more, no less — as when the strike commenced, or is there some provision for variation perhaps in accordance with subsection 2 here?
HON. MR. KING: There may also be provision for variance according to collective agreements. Some collective agreements have provisions regulating to some extent layoff provisions and so on. So at one and the same time as the bill passes and receives royal assent it re-establishes the legal collective agreement that was in force before the dispute ensued. We're basically re-establishing the ground rules as they were at the time the dispute occurred.
MR. PHILLIPS: Mr. Chairman, just one short question to the Minister. There are some woods operations in the province that did not go out on strike but merely closed down due to possibly not being able to sell their chips or due to the lumber market. I'd like to ask the Minister if these mills which actually are not out on strike are going to be forced to reopen.
HON. MR. KING: If they are named and involved in the labour dispute, the legislation is applicable to everyone involved in the dispute. It does not differentiate. If some elements of the industry, some private groups within the general framework of application of the legislation, have signed and consummated and executed a collective agreement, then fine — they are exempt. Traditionally, you will note that if that occurs within 48 hours after royal assent to the bill they will escape the provisions of the bill also with respect to the start-up.
MR. PHILLIPS: Mr. Chairman, just one further question. The Minister didn't really answer my question. You may have a company which has various operations throughout the province, and in one particular area they have not gone out on strike but they have laid their employees off so they can collect unemployment insurance. This mill, I take it from what you have said, doesn't have to open, because they're really not out on strike. They have closed their operation, laid their employees off. They're not on strike. They closed because of economic conditions which were prevalent maybe in the rest of the industry, but they're still not out on strike. They've merely closed down their mill. I'm concerned as to whether this legislation has an effect on them or not.
HON. MR. KING: Well, as I indicated, Mr. Chairman — as I tried to indicate — if any of the parties named in the schedule of the bill, and their companies and their unions, are involved in a dispute either through lockout or strike action, then they are obliged to reopen their business and commence operations. Now if it's a kind of benign situation like the Member outlines, where this mill has taken a benign position and the reality of their shutdown is the impact of the general strike, then they would be caught up in that on the basis of how they are certified. Are they in the provincial bargaining group? Are they in the accredited management group, or whatever? If it's an interior mill and it's represented by the South Central Interior Loggers Association, then they're bound by this legislation, even though there may not be an active dispute going on that's the root cause of their closure.
MR. PHILLIPS: Mr. Chairman, then from what the Minister has told me, where a sawmill is closed down for economic reasons and not necessarily involved in a strike — and the economic reasons could be because of the effects on their market or because of the lumber prices — if they're involved in this schedule, they are going to be forced to open their doors, whether they are involved in a strike or just
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closed down for economic reasons.
HON. MR. KING: Well, if someone has chosen to go out of business, of course, they're free to do that.
MR. PHILLIPS: I didn't say out of business; now don't misinterpret me. I said that they shut down for economic reasons.
HON. MR. KING: Well, if what you're saying is that they're shut down as a side effect of the strike, they're actually involved in the legal units described in this bill. But if they have taken a passive position and simply closed, for instance, because of the drying up of the chip capacity, yes, they're very much involved in the dispute, part and parcel of it and, yes, they're obliged to reopen.
Section 1 approved.
On section 2.
MR. GARDOM: Just one question here dealing with section 2. It's compulsory upon employees to immediately resume the duties of their employment with their respective employers. Now what happens in the situation of an employee who has, shall we say, gone to the Province of Alberta? Is he deemed no longer an employee? He was an employee at the time of the commencement of the strike. Supposing he's decided he was an employee and today he no longer is? What's your position on that, Mr. Minister? Could that individual face a fine of up to $1,000?
HON. MR. KING: No, the requirement is that trade unions and employees must return to work for a period of 90 days. The union is obliged to give notice to…. Well, that's actually a different section. No strike may be called during the 90-day period. Now if there's been a separation of the employee-employer relationship, then obviously they would not be bound by section 2.
MR. GARDOM: Even though that relationship was severed since the lockout or strike.
HON. MR. KING: No.
MRS. JORDAN: Just one question, Mr. Chairman, and I'm certainly willing to defer to my colleague from the Peace River if he wishes to pursue his point.
In relation to section 2, as the Minister may be well aware, there are a number of small mills in the province, and certainly in the area I represent, that just have a devastating backlog of chips. They are in a position where they tell me that they are not going to be able to go into production unless they spend expensive funds in trying to find another location for storage of their chips. I understand that some of the pulp mills also have a backlog of chips.
Is the government prepared to make provision financially, in light of some of the added costs that will be imposed because of this bill, to help these small operators meet this problem? In other words, first of all, where is one going to store chips? There may be immediate permission from the Land Commission needed in order to allow land to be used for this purpose. If this doesn't happen, they may have to haul tons and tons of chips many miles away to appropriate land in order to store the backlog. This is going to put on an added cost. Are you prepared to assist with this cost, or are you prepared to assist these people trying to get back to work some leeway in terms of a jammed situation?
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the Member's concern, but I think she can appreciate that I am hardly in a position to answer for my colleague, the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources (Hon. R.A. Williams), but I can say that I am sure that….
AN HON. MEMBER: Where is he?
HON. MR. KING: He's away on government business, representing the people of the province, as most Ministers of this government do.
I'm sure, though, that he would be sensitive to any requests that come in. He's helped the small operators in the past and I'm sure he would be pleased to co-operate in any way he can to get the industry going to full capacity again.
MRS. JORDAN: Well, I appreciate the concern that he is representing us. Lots of British Columbians don't like going to cocktail parties. But I also want to know whether you have discussed what is a very crucial point when you put together your legislation and his legislation, or the Minister of Agriculture's (Hon. Mr. Stupich's) legislation, in relation to the land freeze. Then the third Minister, the Minister of Lands, Forests and Water Resources… contrary to your opinion, many of these small operators have not found, as you seem to have found, that his response is either sympathetic or, in fact, active.
What are you going to do? If they can't open for the reason I described, you're going to start fining them up to $10,000 a day, and they may be bound by the legislation of the Minister of Agriculture under the Land Commission. What are you prepared to do? Are you prepared to give them an avenue of appeal or are you just going to fine them and say that it's the other Minister's responsibility?
HON. MR. KING: Your comments are the first ones I have heard about threats and about fines, and I
[ Page 49 ]
think that is rather reprehensible. I don't think that really contributes too much to the debate. I have tried to indicate how complaints of non-compliance would be handled with respect to start-up, with respect to the call-back of employees. Obviously there are a wide variety of circumstances that cannot be contemplated in the legislation, that cannot even be conceived by Members of this House.
Now you have put forward certain hypothetical questions, certain hypothetical points. I can only say to you that we have left flexibility deliberately. We have left the right for the parties to vary any of the circumstances that they can agree to. If anyone comes to the government and demonstrates an undue and unjustified hardship, a peculiar and uncontemplated hardship created by this approach, fair enough, we will look at it. That is about the best I can offer.
MRS. JORDAN: I have just one further comment, and certainly correct me if I am wrong — and I think all Members of the House would like to know if they are wrong — but our understanding is that the fines would not be directly imposed through this Act, but as it relates to the Labour Code of British Columbia — I think it is section 65(2). Well, I haven't got the Act here at the moment, but certainly correct us if we are wrong — that there is no way the fines in the Labour Code, as defined in the Labour Code of British Columbia, would be applied by the request of this Act. Is that correct?
HON. MR. KING: No. I think it is clearly spelled out in the Act the sections and the parts to which the Labour Code applies. The fines which you refer to in the Labour Code are not contemplated as being used as sanctions in this bill.
MR. PHILLIPS: Mr. Chairman, I would just like to know, supposing somebody defies this Act and employees do not immediately return, what action you propose to take to enforce the Act?
HON. MR. KING: It is a hypothetical question again, Mr. Chairman, and it's the kind of question I never respond to. It's precisely the kind of question I get from representatives of the media frequently, and it has become a bit of a game now. I suppose they have to ask the question, but they know beforehand what my response will be.
I think to hold out any threat, or to even speculate on due circumstances that may occur, is damaging to the climate and to the attitude of the people involved, and I just won't respond.
The government, as I say, makes decisions on the basis of the facts that are before us. Such facts are not now before us.
MR. PHILLIPS: Just one further comment. The Minister talks about hypothetical situations. If he was aware of what was happening in the province he wouldn't call them hypothetical situations because there are, in the north country particularly — in Kitimat and, indeed, in Prince George and Prince Rupert — many hundreds of families who have picked up and moved away to Alberta. Now this is a real, cold, hard fact of life. It is not hypothetical at all.
You, as Minister of Labour, know exactly what's what. You give them 48 hours to get back. Now what we are asking is: how much leeway are you going to give them?
You go ahead and make light of the real hardship that has been created in this province. People have had to pack up and move away. It is a real, cold, hard fact of life that many hundreds of families have left. Ask the Member for Skeena (Mr. Dent). How many families have moved away from Kitimat at the advice of the labour union leaders who told them the strike wouldn't be over until spring?
This is a real, difficult situation. I think you should be prepared to answer this House this afternoon what the intentions of the government are going to be in this regard.
HON. MR. KING: Perhaps if the Member would consult some of his new colleagues who are lawyers, he would understand that constitutionally the Province of British Columbia has no authority to impose requirements on workers in the Province of Alberta. So if you want to be hypothetical, that's the truth of the matter.
This provision is geared and directed towards the protection of the workers. Any suggestion that it would be used against them, in terms of reporting back to work when they're in the circumstance of having moved out of the province, is just unrealistic. What we do require in section 3 is that trade union leaders notify their membership that any direction to strike or picket is now invalid. So any workers who are involved, who are still in a relationship of an employment with the employer, are obliged to return to work. If they are no longer in that relationship, due to a variety of causes, then, of course, they are not bound.
That's about as clearly as I can explain it. The intent is to protect the interests of those workers who are prepared and willing and able to go back.
MR. PHILLIPS: Well, they'll need more than 48 hours.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: I don't want to delay the committee, but I want to make one thing absolutely certain.
In the event that there are difficulties in complying with this legislation by employer or
[ Page 50 ]
employee within the 48-hour period that is spelled out, are questions to be raised with the office of the Minister of Labour? Is that the route one goes, or does one go to the Labour Relations Board?
HON. MR. KING: The Labour Relations Board.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: To the board. So if there is an employer who says that he can't comply, for any particular reason, he goes to the LRB, not to your office.
Section 2 approved.
On section 3.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Chairman, just to clarify a point here, section 3 in the second-last line prohibits any strike and picketing by reason of the coming into force of this Act. Yet the parties are to be negotiating for the next 90 days, or however long it takes them. One of the traditional weapons of negotiation is the strike vote or lockout vote — not the strike or lockout itself but the vote. Could the Minister tell the House whether this section prohibits the taking of such a vote as well?
HON. MR. KING: Well, Mr. Chairman, I think that in all of these disputes, that provision would be redundant because, in fact, strike votes have been taken in each one of the disputes. They are in fact in a legal strike/lockout position with respect to every one of these four basic disputes. Therefore, if there were no change and no contract renewal before the expiry of the 90-day period, and the extension being provided at the discretion of the government, then, of course, they would revert to their position of freedom to strike and lock out.
We recognize that striking is a dynamic part of the bargaining process; and the lockout device is too. We have sought to militate against the loss of that device, particularly on behalf of the workers, because it is stronger to them, I believe, by providing the requirements of retroactivity and the authority to consider the interest on the retroactive portion.
MR. GIBSON: If I then might just clarify, Mr. Chairman: the Minister is saying that if there is no agreement reached at the end of the 90 days plus the 14-day extension, no further strike or lockout vote is required if one was in force previous to this legislation.
Sections 3 and 4 approved.
On section 5.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: In respect to section 5, and in view of the provision in section 7, would the Minister advise whether or not, during these renewed negotiation periods, all of the facilities of the Minister's department under the Labour Code will be available — that is, mediation officers, industrial inquiry commissioners, if necessary? Will they be available in the same way as if there hadn't been any strike or lockout intervening?
HON. MR. KING: Yes, I would certainly be quite prepared to assure the Member and the House, Mr. Chairman, that indeed I will not be taking a passive position. The Department of Labour will be actively consulting with the parties to determine what kind of services we might provide to facilitate their bargaining and their attaining a collective agreement. In many of the cases we are involved still to some degree — in varying degrees. That certainly will continue, and I will be actively encouraging the parties to leave no stone unturned in finding a collective agreement. And the resources of the department are unquestionably available to them.
Section 5 approved. On section 6.
MR. GARDOM: Mr. Chairman, I mentioned the provisions of section 6 and the interest provision, and I find this very upsetting. There is no question of a doubt that it could certainly tilt the bargaining processes between management and labour. It is impossible for them to define the economic ballpark with the government leaving unto itself the unbridled right to assess interest on each of the employees. We don't know of which group or of which employer or the time of the interest rate or the rate of interest you propose.
I find it very extraordinary and I would just ask the Minister: who is going to pay this, who is going to get it, and why? What's the object behind it? What's the reason behind it?
HON. MR. KING: The intent you question is certainly applicable only to that portion of a wage increase which would be retroactive– in other words, to the front-end wage increase. And wage increases may well be staged over the duration of the collective agreement. It would not be applicable to the entire increase spread throughout the collective agreement. It would be only the retroactive part which goes back to the expiry date of the last collective agreement.
The rationale is quite simple, and I commented on it earlier. Perhaps you disagree, but I wouldn't think so. The rationale is to provide some inducement to the employer to, in fact, bargain in good faith to achieve a collective agreement.
The fact of the matter is that when legislation such
[ Page 51 ]
as this is introduced, if left unregulated by special provisions, it militates more harshly against the employee than against the employer, in my view, because he is the one who is losing his strike right. Certainly it would be more difficult for the woodworkers, for instance, to reactivate the strike in the harsh, cold months of the dead of winter than it would at this particular time of year. Therefore, we must make absolutely certain that if they are going to have that right curtailed for the moment, there must be some assurance, now that he has lost the weight of that economic strike sanction against him, the employer is going to be prepared to sit down and in good faith achieve a collective agreement. If he is faced with the possibility of the imposition of interest on part of the wage package that would be assessed on the basis of his conduct — as to whether or not he drags his feet unduly…. If it were blatant, then he could be pretty well assured that he is going to have some interest to pay.
On the other hand, if he proceeds in good faith and a collective agreement is worked out within a reasonable length of time, then in all probability he would avoid that kind of interest payment.
So it's an inducement, and I certainly hope that it does not have to be used.
MR. GARDOM: I have another question for the Hon. Minister. It seems that his position is extremely clear — that he is very definitely offering this financial club against the employers. But then perhaps we would have the converse of the situation, of the employer perhaps coming up with a lesser sum than he would have otherwise by virtue of the fact that there will be hanging over his head this Sword of Damocles of an interest payment.
If I could have the attention of the Hon. Minister, I would ask him: who is going to adjudicate whether or not the employer is effectively and properly bargaining, and in good faith? Is that going to be the determination of cabinet and only cabinet?
Secondly, why don't you stipulate the rate of interest? Are there going to be different rates of interest for different employers under different sets of circumstances? What's the rate of interest? It's going to be open-ended. You don't pay interest in ICBC settlements; why open-ended here? Do you think that's fair?
I just put it to you, Mr. Minister: you're getting right there into the bargaining process. And a lot of your arguing was the fact that you wanted to keep away from it. Flip-flop, 180 degrees there — make no mistake of that fact! And I think you owe it to this House, and you owe it to the employers in this province…. If you are going to hold this over their heads, they're entitled to know under what sort of circumstances they will run into this. Will the whole industry run into this or will one employer run into it?
Who's going to be the judge? Who's going to do the adjudicating? Is it going to be you? You say: "What's wrong with that?" I'm asking if it's going to be you. Let's have it defined. Your bill doesn't say so. Is it going to be the cabinet? The whole of the cabinet? Plurality of the cabinet? Majority of the cabinet? Who is going to set that rate, and why can't you today tell the employers what that rate will be?
Is that the second part of the club? Will it be a 2 per cent rate for some people and a 15 per cent rate for others? What are you contemplating?
Well, you're shaking your head. It's a pretty easy thing to name a rate. Bank interest rate?
HON. MR. KING: I'm not prepared to name a rate.
MR. GARDOM: Well, you're not prepared to name a rate. Then it is a very, very harsh sort of uncertain club you are wishing to hang over the heads of the employers, Mr. Minister.
HON. MR. KING: You're not examining somebody in the courtroom, you know.
MR. GARDOM: I would tend to think that this is the courtroom of the people. You're affecting the economy of the province. Now you're suggesting that the questioning is improper. That's stupid.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Would the Hon. Member address the Chair, please?
MR. GARDOM: Yes, Mr. Chairman. The Minister in that last statement is acting in a very stupid manner. I'm just asking the Hon. Minister if he would not….
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. I think the Hon…. Order, please! Before the Hon. Member proceeds — I was going to let it pass but since he repeated it — I would ask the Hon. Member to withdraw the word "stupid."
MR. GARDOM: Oh, fine. If it offends the Minister, I'm delighted to. I'm asking the Hon. Minister to give certainty to this package and to inform the House so the employers will know under what circumstances you will bring this club into play and at what rate.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, I explained the policy; I explained the point of view. The Member is certainly entitled to disagree, but I am not prepared to submit to a kind of cross-examination style of interrogation on the floor of the House. I respect my distinguished legal friend's ability and stature, but
[ Page 52 ]
he's not practising on a client. He's discussing a matter in the House which he is quite entitled to disagree with. If he disagrees with the approach, then he is certainly entitled to vote against it.
I have explained what the approach is and what the policy and the philosophy of it is. I do not think it is unrealistic. I think that the uncertainty of it, in terms of whether or not it is applied, is not a bad thing. I hope it doesn't have to be used; that's why it's left somewhat flexible. If the parties proceed in good conscience and accept their responsibility to consummate collective agreements, then I can say emphatically that it will not be used. Certainly that's our preference. But if the employers, because the opportunity of removing the strike weapon from the employees gives them the opportunity to simply refuse to even discuss an agreement, and if the efforts of my mediation officers to get them together in meaningful discussion are to no avail because the employers are now assured that they are in operation for three months and therefore there is no need to sit down and negotiate, then I would say they deserve a penalty. That's what the provision is for. Fine, if you can't agree with it, then you're free to vote against it, but I think that's a reasonable proposition.
MR. GARDOM: One question, if I may, Mr. Chairman. The Hon. Minister has explained the rationale for the section, but he certainly has not explained the rationale for not defining the rate of interest. Is it going to be a consistent rate? Will you answer that question?
HON. MR. KING: No.
MR. GARDOM: It may not be a consistent rate. So the Minister has indicated that there may be one rate for one set of employers and employees and another rate for…. So it's a fine; that's what it boils down to. It's just a fine and nothing more than that. That's what you're contemplating here.
MR. WALLACE: Mr. Chairman, I have listened very carefully to the Minister's rationale for this clause. This really is the clause in the bill which I think seems to conflict with and contradict the very thrust of all the Minister's comments in this debate. He just interjected across the floor a moment ago that this would be a judgment matter. The Minister has been telling us all day that the worst thing that can happen in labour-management relations is for the Minister himself to make judgment values.
HON. MR. KING: Under normal circumstances that's true. Are these normal circumstances?
MR. WALLACE: Well, I think that the variability in this section 6(b) is, first of all, "if ordered by the cabinet." In other words, there is obviously going to be very extensive latitude in the judgment made by the cabinet as to which parties, in the Minister's words a moment ago, have been "blatantly dragging their feet." Now if that isn't the most sensitive kind of area for anybody to judge — as to who is dragging feet in negotiations — I don't know what is. This is the heart of the debate we have had all day: that people, either employees or employers, believe that they have legitimate, valid positions which they would argue to defend economically. And all we try to do with a negotiation is to bring them together, and the sole goal of the mediator, the Minister and everybody in his department, so we are told from the debate earlier today, is to bring the parties together and not to make value judgments.
But here within this bill, the financial expense to the employer is to be totally a value judgment on the part of cabinet and probably on the part of one Minister who recommends to cabinet. If that isn't the most gross contradiction of the whole thrust of what we have talked about today, I don't know. I just begin to wonder if I really heard what I heard earlier today.
So while I think the principle is unsound, the Minister also said that he favoured this interest penalty because the strikers lost freedom to strike during the 90 days, but I guess again, unless I'm mistaken, it also takes away the right to lock out the employees during the 90 days.
So it seems to me that this is an unnecessary part of the bill which is just causing controversy. It's giving to the cabinet a very arbitrary, flexible, unwritten power to judge who is not negotiating in good faith. I think if the Minister is prepared to go this far in giving such arbitrary powers, then in fact he's very seriously weakening the strong position he built up earlier in the debate today on second reading, namely that he does not want to be involved in value judgments. Surely the principle is open to question on that ground.
Even if for a moment we were to accept the principle, I'd have to agree entirely with the Member for Vancouver–Point Grey (Mr. Gardom), who says that not only is there to be the power given to the cabinet at its discretion to impose an interest payment, but apparently it won't be the same rate for everybody and the rate is not stated to anybody. The employers, if they fear this penalty being imposed against them, can't even figure what it will be because the figure isn't there to be included in their total cost projections.
Thirdly, is the government proposing to set some rather far-reaching precedent, Mr. Chairman? I may be wrong, but I can't ever recall that when
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retroactive payments have been made after lengthy disputes there has ever even been discussion that interest should be paid on the retroactive payments. I wonder, for example, if the government, by taking this step in this bill, signals to other groups in society that this isn't such a bad idea as a club to hold over the employer to expedite settlements. If this is the case, I might go further and ask if it's the government's intention with its own civil servants, perhaps in the next go-around, if the agreement expires and it goes through all various forms of arbitration, to pay interest on civil servants' wages if this kind of situation should happen. After all, the government has made it very plain that it believes that public service employees should have the right to strike, and while we're all very happy that that weapon was not used on the recent negotiations, it could certainly happen and we could be back in this House with emergency legislation to put the civil servants back to work. Is it to be suggested that this precedent in section 6 is likely to be one that the government would use itself?
I think that this section of the bill has staggering ramifications. I would lean this far in trying to understand the Minister's position, that perhaps this was put in in some hurry without really thinking the matter through, because the principle is open to a great deal of debate and the practical facts of how variable it is, even in the way it is written, seem to me to perhaps be a part of the bill that the Minister didn't really have time to consider fully.
I would suggest that it would be most appropriate, even at this late stage in the debate, for the Minister to introduce an amendment which would delete section 6(b) from the bill, because on top of that, I don't think that with all the economic difficulties that have arisen over many weeks in this situation this kind of club will really have that much effect anyway. So if it has all the dangers that I honestly believe it has, and if it's not likely to fulfil the purpose for which it's put forward, surely in the sense that some of the backbenchers mentioned we really in trying to debate this whole bill in three readings in one day, maybe are running the risk of setting a very serious precedent in section 6(b) which will come back to haunt this government and probably come back to haunt the whole field of labour-management negotiations, regardless of this particular series of disputes. I offer this very sincerely. I just wonder if the example and the precedent that's being set here isn't just one that was brought in in some haste and maybe even in desperation, in the hope that we could use every little angle possible to ensure that during the 90 days some settlement would be reached.
I do feel, Mr. Chairman, that this has to be one of the most vital sections of this bill, and it isn't too late, in my view, to reconsider the rationale, which I don't think is very strong in its own merits, and to certainly reconsider the lack of detail in the practical way in which it's written.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, I just wonder what the Member would offer as an alternative. Is he simply saying that this kind of unusual action should be taken? We have explained why it has been taken. Is he simply suggesting that the only right the employee has and which the worker has, which is his right to strike, be stripped from him for a period of 31 days in the hopes of obtaining a new collective agreement, and to leave him, in effect, bare naked, without any equivalent balancing power, and the employer receiving the benefit of this initiative completely because he is back in production, he is back in operation, his profits are flowing?
MR. WALLACE: He may not even want to be.
HON. MR. KING: He may not even want to be? Well ….
AN HON. MEMBER: But he obeys the law.
HON. MR. KING: Well, my friends, you'll have to make your own judgments on that. But I hold the view that the inescapable conclusion, when you put in this kind of cooling-off period, is that the employer, by the very nature and the very dynamics of the collective bargaining system, comes out the winner. All he has to do is drag his feet for three months. What I mean by "dragging his feet" is what if he says: "I'm not even going to talk to you"? What if he won't meet to hold discussions? How would you respond then?
Well, now certainly he would be entitled to do that under the law, would he not? I've been questioned on the most hypothetical basis under this law. Is it too wild to speculate that some parties may take full advantage of what the law extends to them? I don't think so. So we want to make sure that there is an inducement, there is a built-in inducement. I'm deadly serious about this. There is no mistake. I stand by this initiative and I stand by the philosophy of it.
To suggest that this is a change of position because we are now making judgments is to escape the whole dilemma we are confronted with. Certainly, I should not make judgments in the normal collective bargaining scene, but we have intruded into that on behalf of the people of British Columbia.
MR. WALLACE: Don't make it any worse.
HON. MR. KING: We have said: "You have gone beyond the bounds of reason and we are intruding." So when we do intrude I think we are obliged to try and do so in a realistic way and a way which attempts to bring some equity to the intrusion. That's precisely
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what we are doing with this section.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Chairman, I very much share the concern of the Hon. Member for Oak Bay (Mr. Wallace) and still hope that the Minister might reassess his position.
The Minister asked the House for an alternative. The alternative, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Chairman, if indeed there are parties that are not bargaining in good faith during this 90-day period, is to go after them at the end of that 90-day period, because by then the dispute will not be settled and you will still have your chance to go after that particular party that is dragging their feet, whoever it is.
Mr. Chairman, the Minister was telling the House earlier on that it would be regrettable and improper if penalties were discussed in connection with this legislation. But I submit to you that this clause is nothing but a penalty. It is a penalty clause….
MR. GIBSON: Well, it is a penalty clause, however you slice it, to be left in the hands of the cabinet. It is a very distasteful and improper section of this Act, Mr. Chairman. To leave the discretion with the cabinet and with the government is to make that judgment call which is not necessary to make under this Act because you can do it later. You can do it at the end of three months if things haven't worked out.
The usual way for the parties to look after this question of retroactivity is to adjust the settlement at the time it is made to take into account the length of time that has elapsed, and that's the proper way to leave it.
To put in this section which gives literally an unlimited club to the cabinet because they can set the interest rate anywhere they want, is another example of the kind of terrifying discretionary authority — not legislative authority but discretionary authority — that is concerning all of those who would make productive investment to build up the future of this province. It is just another example of that.
It is not right, Mr. Chairman, even in these particular circumstances, for the Minister's department to be making that kind of judgment. I said earlier on that it is right for the government to make certain kinds of judgment, but this particular one is unnecessary. It doesn't have to be made until the end of 90 days.
Let me also point out a very practical problem. Let us assume that negotiations have been going on, whether satisfactory or unsatisfactorily, for 60 days, and let us assume that the government reaches the conclusion that the employer has been dragging his feet and therefore they are going to institute that penalty clause. Won't that just, in effect, force the employer to prolong the settlement beyond the expiry of this Act so that he gets out from underneath that penalty clause?
In effect, because of introducing this argument of uncertainty, the Minister has put in a wild card, and he can't say how that wild card is going to induce the parties to act. It is not at all unlikely that circumstances will arise where this wild card will encourage people to say: "We cannot afford to make a settlement under this legislation. We must wait until this legislation expires." That is just more time wasted in the labour relations situation in British Columbia.
Mr. Chairman, I very strongly oppose this section.
MR. GARDOM: I'd just like the Hon. Minister to take another look at this section which is the subject of debate at the present time, because the Minister's argument is completely contradictory. It's completely contradictory to the remarks he raised earlier today and it's completely contradictory to the section itself. Now the Minister said that this penalty, this unlimited penalty, this uncertain penalty or fine will only apply to those employers whom he deems did not bargain in good faith. But, Mr. Minister, the section itself only applies to those people who have entered into collective agreements. So this is the situation, it's ludicrous: they enter into a collective agreement and then you give yourself the right to make a determination that they might not have been bargaining in good faith in having entered into that collective agreement. That's nonsense. It's absolute nonsense.
The section starts, section 6: "Every collective agreement concluded" — so forth and so on — "contains provisions that..." Then it refers to (a) and then (b): "If ordered by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council, the employer shall pay to each of the employees interest on the amount of any increase in wages in respect to the retroactive period determined under paragraph (a) at a rate fixed in the order." So it will only apply to every collective agreement concluded. That's what you're asking the employers and that's what you're asking the employees to do. Then you're giving yourself an open sesame to say they didn't enter into a collective agreement in good faith.
Mr. Minister, that's not labour law anywhere in the world. That's not labour law at all. You've misconstrued the section and with every respect, I think the only thing the Hon. Minister should do is agree to take out section (b). It's ludicrous.
We have a concluded collective agreement. You're not going to suggest that the parties haven't bargained in good faith when they've reached agreement. The agreement's signed, sealed and delivered. They're happy and they go home and you leave yourself the right to determine as to whether or not they bargained in good faith
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and penalize one side at an amount that has not been determined, an amount that is not consistent and an amount that will be as long as the chancellor's foot, as the old definition used to go, and you're setting yourself up as that kind of a chancellor.
Mr. Minister, with every respect, this is just not consistent with your posture today, your statements today, with the philosophy with which you brought this bill into this Legislature. It is totally inconsistent with the wording of section 6.
Let's not go ahead and pass something that's silly. Surely to goodness all the Members in this House who've had infinitely more training in labour law than I've ever had can appreciate this difficulty. Read it.
The Member for Kamloops (Mr. G.H. Anderson) shakes his head. Well, I tell you, Mr. Member, if you're going to continue shaking your head on this kind of an interpretation, we're going to start hearing your head when you shake it, make no mistake of that fact. (Laughter.)
AN HON. MEMBER: I can hear it now.
MR. GARDOM: Mr. Minister, don't you see what you've done? Come on now, come on now, everybody makes a mistake. You've made a mistake, 'fess up to the thing and take this out. It's the only appropriate thing for you to do.
MR. WALLACE: Mr. Chairman, the longer I listen to the debate on section 6(b), the more convinced I am that it would be a tragedy if we passed this section.
The most recent statement by the Member for Vancouver-Point Grey adds more weight to the fact that you're going to penalize somebody after they've reached an agreement on a judgment made by the cabinet that a certain penalty should be applied.
Again, I plead with the Minister because all the thrust of our comments from both sides of the House today has been to create an atmosphere of greater harmony and co-operation among all the parties concerned in every labour-management dispute — the management, the employees, the government, the man in the street, the Labour Relations Board, everybody who's involved. This, I think, really detracts from and certainly contradicts both that basic premise and the other basic premise that we shouldn't inflame the situation by making value judgments.
I feel so strongly that I move an amendment to section 6 of the bill to the effect that subsection (b) be deleted.
Amendment negatived on the following division:
YEAS — 14
NAYS – 32
Mr. Chabot requests that leave be asked to record the division in the Journals of the House.
On section 6.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Chairman, just before we take a vote on this section, if that's what we're going to do, I'd like the Minister to answer this question: why does he make the assumption, in view of his even-handed approach in other areas, that only one party is a potential foot-dragger on negotiations during this 90-day period? I think it's obvious to the Minister that in some cases it could be to the advantage of the other party to drag their feet. The Minister has provided no penalties there. How does he justify penalties on one side and not on the other?
HON. MR. KING: Perhaps you don't agree with me, but my assessment is that we're talking about equity and, in my view, the equitability of the dispute is thrown out of kilter in a move such as this unless there is some method introduced to assuage the situation. I believe that when the employee's right to strike is removed he suffers a more extreme sanction — a more extreme handicap in terms of his economic balance of bargaining power — than does the employer, because the employer is back in production. And, in most circumstances, certainly the reality of the industrial relations world usually indicates that the waiting game can only benefit the employer. Now it's a judgment, it's not an absolute. It's a judgment, but I would say that most people involved would agree with that proposition. Quite frankly, I hope this provision never has to be used. I believe that most of the parties involved will, in good
[ Page 56 ]
faith, try to consummate a collective agreement, and I look forward to that. In order to restore some of the equity to the position — that's why we introduced this provision.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Chairman, I'll drop it after this point, but I have to make the case that the Minister's argument about equity just does not hold water in at least two of the areas we're talking about, and remember we're not talking about the broad range of industrial relations in British Columbia. We are talking about four specific industrial situations.
The strike weapon in the propane strike is not impaired by delaying the right to strike until the dead of winter. Surely the strike weapon at that time is stronger even than it is now. And that is after taking into account the fact of an inventory of supplies being built up.
MR. GIBSON: I am most certainly not prepared to see a strike in the dead of winter, Mr. Minister, and that's why I suggested essential services bargaining ingredients. But I'm replying to your case about the equity — about the even-handedness of this provision. At least in that area the provision is not even-handed. I would suggest that it may or may not be even-handed in the forest industry. That depends on whether or not markets improve considerably by the end of January. If they do, then there could be an advantage to the other party dragging their feet there — and I'm not suggesting for a moment there would — but what I am getting at is the Minister's contention that equity requires this solution. Equity does not require this solution. As a matter of fact, it is a most iniquitous provision.
MR. GARDOM: Mr. Minister, since it's clear from the reading of the section that this open-end penalty will only apply in the event of concluded collective agreements, and since it is apparent that the Minister will have to make a judgment decision, notwithstanding the fact the parties have agreed and reached a decision, that one of them has not bargained in good faith, I put the converse to the Hon. Minister: how does this give him any assistance whatsoever to deal with those parties who do not arrive at a collective agreement by virtue of not bargaining in good faith? There is absolutely no remedy for you there at all.
MR. CUMMINGS: Mr. Chairman, I just wish to point out to the Minister that this penalty has to be at least 8 per cent or else these companies will not come to agreement. They can actually make money by not coming to agreement by just placing the money in the hands of a bank. Therefore, when you set this penalty it will have to be greater than 8 per cent.
MR. GARDOM: Unfortunately, the backbench is missing the point too, because it doesn't apply in the situations of people not entering into collective agreements. It only applies in the situation of people having entered into collective agreements. You see, then the Minister is going to go into the collective agreement and say: "You didn't bargain in good faith." Two per cent, 5 per cent, 8 per cent — it's not overly logic. I'm going to sit down. I'm not going to say any more, Mr. Minister, but it is not overly logic. (Laughter.)
Section 6 approved. On section 7.
MR. GARDOM: Just one word about section 7. A couple of the other speakers today were talking about the penalty sections under the Act and I think the Minister was rather vague in his response. The way section 7 reads, there is no question of a doubt that the penalty sections under the Labour Code of British Columbia are still in effect, and I'm referring to section 138. I agree with the Minister — let's hope that these kind of things do not have to be called upon. But I think he's got to level with the general public, level with the employers, level with the employees, that the fine provisions under the Labour Code of British Columbia are not eradicated by this bill at all.
Sections 7 to 9 inclusive approved. On section 10.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: Could the Minister advise the committee with regard to the definition of "collective agreement"? I appreciate that he's restricting it to certain employers and employees and a certain date, but why did he detract from the style of definition used in the Labour Code which talks about an agreement in writing and also involves people who fall into the dependent contractor class?
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, I think that's because there's a variety — quite a wide variety — of unions involved. We changed that somewhat to accommodate the problem of looking up all of the vertifications that exist. There are widely fragmented, small units in some of the industries involved, some of them certified to a whole variety of trade unions.
They are not all one trade union holding jurisdiction. So it's a simplified way of ensuring that all of the companies are involved and their employees and the trade unions in relation to that group.
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If I understood the Member's question properly, that is what he was referring to: the differential between the interpretation of employer, employee, trade union, and so on, between this statute and the code.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: On a collective agreement.
HON. MR. KING: On a collective agreement.
MR. L.A. WILLIAMS: There is a much broader definition in the code.
HON. MR. KING: Well, because there was such a wide variation again in some of the expiry dates of the myriad collective agreements involved. As I indicated to you earlier, in the propane industry, for instance, we have an accredited association on the management side — thus one bargaining instrument — while on the trade union side there are, I think…. Well, I am not certain how many locals, separately certified locals, are involved, but there are a large number. Again, in the pulp and the forest industry there are a wide variety of small locals, some belonging to unions which are outside the pulp groups and outside the IWA. So rather than come to grips with all that, we went to a broader definition.
Section 10 approved.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, I would ask leave of the House to reopen section 1 for the purpose of a small amendment, a drafting amendment, which was overlooked. I believe, Mr. Chairman, there is a copy available to the Clerk.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. Before the Hon. Minister proceeds, we will pass the schedule first, I think.
On section 1.
HON. MR. KING: This is an amendment to section 1, inserting the words "or locked out" after "strike."
Section 1 as amended approved.
HON. MR. KING: Mr. Chairman, I move that the committee rise and report the bill complete with amendment.
The House resumed; Mr. Speaker in the chair.
Bill 146, Collective Bargaining Continuation Act, reported complete with amendments. Division on section 6 ordered to be recorded in the Journals of the House.
MR. SPEAKER: When shall the bill be considered as reported?
HON. MR. KING: Now, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: With leave of the House?
HON. MR. KING: Yes.
Bill 146, Collective Bargaining Continuation Act, read a third time and passed.
HON. MRS. DAILLY: Mr. Speaker, I believe His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor is on the premises now, and I think that if everyone just remains seated, he will be here very soon.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. If you will just wait a few minutes, please.
His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor entered the chamber and took his place in the chair.
MR. SPEAKER: May it please your Honour:
We, Her Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia in session assembled, approach your Honour with sentiments of unfeigned devotion and loyalty to Her Majesty's person and government and humbly beg to present for your Honour's acceptance Bill 146 intituled Collective Bargaining Continuation Act.
CLERK: In Her Majesty's name His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor doth thank Her Majesty's loyal subjects, accept their benevolence and assent to this bill.
His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor retired from the chamber.
HON. MRS. DAILLY: Mr. Speaker, I move that
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the House at its rising do stand adjourned until it appears to the satisfaction of Mr. Speaker, after consultation with the government, that the public interest requires that the House shall meet.
Mr. Speaker may give notice that he is so satisfied and thereupon the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice and shall transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to that time.
And that in the event of Mr. Speaker being unable to act, owing to illness or other cause, the Deputy Speaker shall act in his stead for the purpose of this order.
The House adjourned at 5:36 p.m.