Even if you’re not a fan of CPAC, the live coverage of events taking place in the House of Commons this past Wednesday on Canada’s parliamentary affairs television channel were rather exciting.
And what was happening behind the scenes was an inspiring example of parliamentary strategy and partisan cooperation for the good of the country.
It all began when the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference initiated strike action against CN Rail the previous Saturday morning after the two sides were unable to reach an agreement in their labour dispute. While our Conservative Government, led by Labour Minister Rona Ambrose, had been monitoring the situation closely and urging both sides to settle the dispute, we could leave nothing to chance or hope.
Too much was at stake. All corners of Canada’s economy, already in a fragile state due to the global economic recession, would be devastated if the trains were to stop in their tracks for a prolonged strike. Even a week would ravage the sectors that depend upon CN Rail’s 20,000 km of track, from agriculture to forestry to automotive and mining products.
In Prince George-Peace River, the strike would deal a massive blow to our coal mines, mills and farmers. I immediately gave formal ‘notice’ in the Order Paper that if negotiations between both sides continued to fail, we would table back-to-work legislation to protect the livelihoods of Canadians.
However, a piece of legislation can take several days to wind through the Parliamentary approval process … it can take far, far longer if one of the political parties, in this case the NDP, obstruct.
While Minister Ambrose continued to urge CN Rail and the Teamsters Union to come to an agreement, as Government House Leader, I was working with the Official Opposition to put the best interests of the nation first.
Without the cooperation of the NDP, we would need to invoke “closure”, a motion to fast-track the bill through all stages in the House of Commons. And so, in the final ten minutes of Question Period on Wednesday, as I was preparing to rise and move a motion of “closure” on the CN back-to-work legislation … as Members of Parliament were poised to sit through the night until the early morning hours the next day to get the trains rolling once again….Minister Ambrose rose in the House to announce that CN and the Teamsters Union had reached an agreement.
I would like to congratulate Minister Ambrose for her leadership and efforts on this labour dispute, and CN Rail and the Teamsters Union for their hard work in reaching an agreement.
I would also like to applaud my colleagues in the Liberal Party for their cooperation and willingness to set aside partisanship to shield Canadians from the damaging effects of this strike. Only the federal New Democratic Party is unhappy with the outcome.
Canada is slowly edging its way out of the global recession with the GDP, consumer spending and confidence on the rise, and a 25% increase in infrastructure investment.
We must continue to implement our two-year Economic Action Plan, stay the course and be ever vigilant.