The Liberal government is trying to get its sustainable jobs legislation through a month-long Conservative filibuster as frustration mounts among MPs and labour unions.

MPs on the federal Standing Committee on Natural Resources are supposed to be studying two pieces of legislation, but the process has been at an impasse for a month.

“The Conservative Party is simply blocking the ability to even have a conversation,” said Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson on Nov. 9, calling the situation “a ridiculous waste of taxpayer resources.”

Now, the federal government is trying to break the logjam with a motion to impose a strict deadline on the committee to finish its study of the sustainable jobs act two days after the motion passes, possibly early next week. The motion allocates two hours for the committee to debate amendments and then MPs would vote on amendments.

The Liberals’ move was immediately applauded by Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, Canada's largest labour organization with 50 affiliate unions.

“I am thrilled that we have a pathway forward,” Bruske told Canada’s National Observer on Thursday evening. “Workers are so worried about their future. Making headway on this issue on sustainable jobs and this bill is critically important.”

Labour leaders and politicians say delaying the committee’s work sidelines Canada at a time when the world is moving toward a low-carbon economy and risks missing out on massive investments that come with the shift.

“The Conservatives have really thrown the parliamentary rulebook out the window and so it necessitates a stronger reaction,” NDP MP Charlie Angus told Canada’s National Observer.

Committees are tasked with studying and amending legislation. But in over 20 hours of meetings, the natural resources committee hasn’t even been able to pass a scheduling motion because of seemingly endless points of order, largely raised by Conservative MPs.

The Liberal government is trying to get its sustainable jobs legislation through a month-long Conservative filibuster as frustration mounts among MPs and labour unions.

One of the latest time-wasting topics, Angus said, was raised by Conservative MP Ted Falk “bragging about the big engines and muscle cars he owned in the ’70s.”

“I’ve got better things to do than listen to, you know, boomer memories of muscle cars,” said Angus. “We have people whose livelihoods are on the line and the planet is burning. There's an urgency to get this legislation passed.”

In nearly two decades as a parliamentarian, “I have never seen any parliamentary committee descend into the dismal abuse of process that I've seen with this one,” said Angus.

“For eight hours, I wasn't even allowed to speak because of harassment and toxic interventions, when I had the floor,” said Angus.

Often, MPs from different parties “work in good faith” — though not without disagreements — to study legislation in committee, but in this case, the Conservatives have “gone MAGA,” said Angus.

“It's clear they have no intention of letting any workers speak on this legislation, they have no intention of letting this legislation pass.”

With the Liberals’ motion, “the Conservatives can stand on their head, they can scream and shout, they can do whatever they're going to do. But those votes are going to go ahead because Canadians expect us to deliver,” said Angus.

Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs said the issue is a scheduling motion that would see Bill C-50 studied at the same time as a much longer, more complex bill related to offshore wind development in Atlantic Canada. She wants C-49 studied first, and said the NDP and Liberals are trying to “dictate every term and timing of the schedule they want to impose on our committee.”

Conservative delay tactics 'incredibly disappointing'

Conservative MPs’ committee conduct has also attracted the ire of prominent labour leaders and trade unions who endorsed Bill C-50. Some explicitly called out the Opposition’s filibuster on Nov. 2.

“It's incredibly disappointing when you talk about a particular party that's claiming to want to represent workers and yet they're unwilling to do the work that Canadians have put them in their position to do,” Patrick Campbell, Canadian regional director of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), told Canada’s National Observer in an interview on Nov. 22.

Stubbs said C-50 is “the embodiment of and the culmination of eight years of an anti-energy, anti-private sector, anti-development agenda” and “absolutely does pose a major threat to the livelihoods and the jobs of people in the oil and gas sector.”

The bill’s stated purpose is to support the creation of sustainable jobs for workers and economic growth in a net-zero economy and does not include any language about phasing out oil and gas. Wilkinson and other cabinet ministers have repeatedly said the bill will have no impact on oil production.

The IUOE represents more than 50,000 Canadian workers, mostly heavy equipment operators and mechanics in the construction industry who work on projects like buildings, dams, pipelines, oil refineries and rigs, petrochemical plants and wind and solar farms. Campbell said that while the bill isn’t a silver bullet, it doesn't have to be and as written, it sets a framework that will "assist the working Canadians in many industries.”

Canadian Labour Congress president Bea Bruske pictured at a coffee shop in downtown Ottawa on Nov. 28, 2023. Bruske responded to comments Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs made earlier that month about the long-awaited sustainable jobs legislation that has been delayed in the committee stage for a month. Photo by Canada's National Observer

Stubbs also expressed concern that Bill C-50 lacks any “concrete initiatives” for skills training programs for workers.

“What the labour union leaders are clearly saying is that the work from the government on upskilling, reskilling and training must proceed,” she said when asked about labour leaders calling on her party to stop delaying discussion on Bill C-50.

When asked if this is, in fact, what labour is saying, Bruske said actually, they’re saying they want the bill passed so unions can start working with government and business to identify investment and job opportunities.

As written, the bill would require the federal government to publish sustainable job action plans every five years, create a sustainable job partnership council to advise government and ensure workers can contribute to future plans. In a nutshell, the bill aims to give workers a permanent seat at the table.

“What Conservatives will ensure is that workers of all kinds — you need labourers of all kinds, innovators, entrepreneurs, business owners of all kinds — in every sector, from every community in this country that will be impacted by this legislation will be able to be heard through this committee process,” said Stubbs in an earlier interview.

At a recent committee meeting she attended, Bruske said Conservative MPs spent at least 45 minutes arguing about who could speak next.

“So when they're speaking about making sure that all kinds of workers' voices are heard in this committee process, that is clearly not happening, it is clearly a waste of time that we're engaging in,” said Bruske.

Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer

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Now there’s the REAL Conservative Party, highly paid shills for the fossil fuel extraction industry and the wealthy!

"The Conservatives have really thrown the parliamentary rulebook out the window so it necessitates a STRONGER REACTION," says Charlie Angus, because "they've gone MAGA."
YEAH, exactly, that's what's happening in a nutshell, the cons have become the "party of NO" as Jon Stewart said when referring to Republicans.
But here's a hopeful line written by Gwendolyn Brooks before the right wing lost its mind, which was always more closed to begin with, "do not be afraid of NO who has so very far to go."