The federal Conservatives claim to have a principled opposition to economic interventionism. So why have they been so hyperactively interventionist on the labour-relations front?
Governments should allow management and labour in private companies to negotiate and settle their differences, according to the collective-bargaining system that prevails across Canada. But on Wednesday, Kellie Leitch, the Minister of Labour, made clear that the government was drafting a bill that would prevent a strike by 3,300 employees of Canadian National Railway Co., which otherwise could have begun on the weekend. As a result, a tentative agreement between the company and the Teamsters Canadian Rail Conference has been reached. It has yet to be ratified.
We’ve seen this movie before. The Conservatives intervened or threatened to intervene at Air Canada and Canada Post Corp. in 2011, Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. in 2012 and now CN Rail. All of these are private-sector companies. None of them is a monopoly; they all have competitors. Businesses and consumers have alternatives to turn to, if any one of them temporarily ceases operations during a strike.
Yes, a prolonged strike by one of the two major railways would be a problem for the railway’s customers. But in this instance and others, no strike was even allowed to begin. Bargaining between employees and a private employer was short-circuited. The federal government is showing a pattern of overreaching.
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