Despite CN Rail strike, Parliament won't be recalled before Dec. 5: House leader
OTTAWA – Despite calls from federal and provincial leaders to recall Parliament early in light of the CN Rail strike, Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez says the first day of the new Parliament will remain Dec. 5.
“The date set is Dec. 5 and that’s what’s going to happen,” Rodriguez said in an interview with CTV’s Question Period host Evan Solomon.
Freight trains across Canada have been halted for the better part of a week, after 3,200 Canadian National Railway Co. workers took to the picket lines on Tuesday after a deadline for an agreement between the company and the Teamsters union couldn’t be reached by Monday at midnight.
As of Friday the union said that “no substantive progress has been made” on the union’s key workplace safety and health issues, but that talks are ongoing. The days-long strike has led to concerns about a propane shortage in Quebec and from other sectors that rely on CN Rail to ship their products, like grain producers.
Last Tuesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and his energy minister, Sonya Savage, called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “immediately” call back the House of Commons to enact back-to-work legislation for CN Rail, saying that any disruption to the "170,000 barrels of Western Canadian oil" CN Rail ships per day "would have serious consequences for an economy that is already dealing with severe bottlenecks due to cancelled and delayed pipelines."
Savage's plea was echoed by Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, who tweeted out his support for a letter his ministers for agriculture, infrastructure and energy sent to the federal labour minister; a job now held by Filomena Tassi. In the letter, the three Saskatchewan ministers said they wanted the federal government to "act as expediently as possible to end this potential labour disruption from occurring."
On Thursday Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer spoke with Trudeau on the phone, where he says he “urged him to recall Parliament as soon as possible,” to end the strike, saying that “our farmers and producers are counting on the government to act.”
In an interview airing on Sunday, Trudeau’s new point-person on government legislation indicated that the Liberals have no plans to kick off the 43rd Parliament any earlier than already scheduled.
The new session is scheduled to begin on Dec. 5 with the election of a House of Commons speaker and a throne speech. Typically for several days following the speech, the main focus of parliamentary time is on the debate in response to it so it remains to be seen how soon after parliamentarians reconvene in Ottawa that potential back-to-work legislation could be advanced.
Friday afternoon Transport Minister Marc Garneau’s position as of Friday afternoon was that continued talks would be the fastest way to resolve the dispute, The Canadian Press has reported.
“We believe that mediation, collective bargaining, is the right way to do this, we've looked at the situation and we feel that the two sides need to be talking to each other," Garneau said.
Should the strike still be happening by then it’s likely the Liberals would have the support of the Conservatives to pass a bill forcing the striking CN Rail workers back on the job.
Generally speaking, Rodriguez said that the Liberal approach to finding support to advance its agenda in the new Parliament will be done “issue by issue.”
“Fighting climate change is very important for us, so we of course will be discussing that with the NDP, the Bloc Quebecois. On the other hand we also want to reduce taxes for the middle class, so we can discuss that with the Conservatives, so piece by piece,” Rodriguez said.
“We have to find people, dancing partners that will move forward with us on those priorities. If there’s tweaking to do here and there, it could be possible, it depends. We’re working on the throne speech, let’s see what it is.”