Employment, Workforce Development and Labour
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Opposition): Madam Minister, my question is on the very important subject of the free and informed exercise of the right to unionize, or not. In 2004, Senator Diane Bellemare said:
. . . we are generally of the opinion that a secret ballot is necessary for every case of union certification. Making the certification process transparent and democratic makes union certification easier for employees and ensures its legitimacy and better labour relations with the employer. . . . democracy would be better served by a secret ballot and employers would more easily accept the results of their employees' decision to unionize.
Madam Minister, do you agree with these comments by the senator who now represents the government in the Senate?
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk, P.C., M.P., Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour: Thank you for the question. The issue of whether we're going to have a card check system or a secret ballot is a bigger question. Right now, the Senate is looking at Bill C-4 as a way to re-establish reasonable and transparent relationships between workers and employers.
As you know, the process was unusual and did not go through the regular routine for a bill of its sort.
In terms of card check, there was no reason to suspect that it didn't work. In fact, for decades it worked very well. The changes brought in made it more difficult to unionize and easier to get decertified, which enhanced the animosity between business and the labour movement, which is not what we want when we face enormous change at an accelerated rate through the fourth industrial revolution.
What we want is labour-industry harmony and collective working together to face one of the biggest challenges facing Canada and all industrial countries.
The issue of the vote has a particular challenge in that there are cases of employer intimidation or, perhaps, even suspected nervousness.
This doesn't allow for the most reasonable secret ballot, which we probably all agree on. At the present time, voting at a hall in front of your employers does cause significant challenges. Bill C-4 returns a respectful system that worked for industry and labour unions for many years.