Letter to The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, P.C., M.P., Minister of Labour Employment and Social Development Canada with regards to Bill C-58: An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Industrial Relations Board Regulations.
Earlier this year we urged your government not to introduce legislation that would prohibit employers from using replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out. Despite our concerns, Bill C-58 was tabled in Parliament on November 9.
Business leaders support the collective bargaining process and recognize a worker’s right to job action. Yet we are concerned that restricting the use of replacement workers in certain specified circumstances will have severe implications to employers who operate under federal jurisdiction and provide critical infrastructure to Canadians. Bill C-58 does not sufficiently consider security threats to the Canadian economy and, if passed as drafted, will expose critical infrastructure operators to higher levels of risk of foreign interference from both state and non-state actors.
Much of North America’s integrated infrastructure – from rail and transportation networks to electricity grids, financial services, and telecommunications – are owned and operated by private sector companies which fall under federal jurisdiction. These vital continental infrastructure networks must remain resilient to attack from hostile actors, including in the event of a labour dispute.
The limited exemption clauses contained in Bill C-58 fail to recognize that Canadian companies are exposed to strategic threat actors seeking to undermine Canada’s economic security. Geopolitically inspired cyberattacks directed at Canadian companies are increasing at an alarming rate, with two out of every five companies falling victim to these types of cyberattacks in the last two years. In 2021 alone, the Canadian economy lost $4.3 billion (U.S.) due to paid ransoms and lost productivity.
Cyberattacks against critical infrastructure – such as electrical grids, telecommunications and energy networks – are particularly troubling given their potential to wreak havoc on Canadians’ everyday lives. Moreover, they result in reputational damage. Bill C-58 must ensure that Canadian companies can continue to defend themselves and their customers from foreign interference.
Moreover, given the integrated nature of our infrastructure networks, Canada cannot ignore the obligation it owes its allies and partners: the United States and Mexico. If continental infrastructure is targeted in Canada, it is not just Canadians who are affected. We have a duty and responsibility to ensure the responsiveness and resilience of infrastructure that Americans and Mexicans rely on.
Bill C-58 is deeply flawed and would require substantive amendments to ensure Canada’s vital infrastructure is protected during a labour dispute. If the government is not prepared to make those substantial amendments, we would again urge you to abandon the legislation.
February 12, 2024
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