Just so we may all understand Quebec’s latest in the on-going construction-worker war between Quebec and Ontario – here is a rundown as I understand it to be. But, I might be wrong, since this “humiliation” against Quebec has more twists and turns than a “Habitrail”. But; nonetheless, here goes.
Quebec wants its construction workers to be able to cross into Ontario at will, and be allowed to work in the construction field; whether it is for Ontario government jobs or private work.
Up till now, Quebec construction workers could work for Ontario firms, or work independently, or work for Quebec firms which have won contracts in Ontario. All without restrictions.
And, of the many benefits to Quebec: Quebecers are gainfully employed, and the revenue they earn in Ontario, is taxed in Quebec. Not a bad deal for “Distinctland”.
So far so good. Except: Quebec will not reciprocate.
In Quebec, Ontario workers are not allowed to work in any type of construction whatsoever. Not even to clean up a construction site. And not just Ontario workers. Any workers from outside of Quebec.
In order to work in Quebec construction, at any level, the worker needs a union card.
Ontario has had it up to here with this double standard, and have told Quebec, that as of March 1, 2002, Quebec construction workers will be persona non grata on Ontario construction sites. Tit for tat.
Now guess who’s upset? Quebec is furious. And is threatening legal action. Talk about Chutzpah. According to Quebec, it’s alright for them to come to Ontario and play in our sand box. But; we can’t go to Quebec and play in theirs.
One of the arguments Quebec is going to use in its legal battle against Ontario, is a recent Supreme Court ruling that upheld Quebec unions’ rights to control their entire construction industry.
Even though Quebec is the “only” jurisdiction in North America that prohibits people from working without being a member of a union, the Supreme Court ruled as follows:
“The Supreme Court recognized that Quebec’s labor laws, vis a vis the power of its construction unions, violated the Constitutional Rights of mobility and association to Quebec workers. However; due to the “Unique Nature” of Quebec, The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the unions”.
This is just another double standard Canada uses to placate Quebec nationalists. The very idea that Quebec has a recognized “Unique Characteristic”, or is a “Distinct Society”, or should be recognized for its “Specificity” went out the window three times.
Yet; for some reason, the Supreme Court of Canada uses these definitions as if they were in fact part of Canada’s Constitution. Where in reality, any concept of Canada recognizing Quebec Constitutionally as being a “Distinct Society”, has been rejected at Meech, Charlottetown, and Calgary. But; the elitist Supreme Court of Canada continues to press on, creating laws the people of Canada have summarily rejected.
All of this might be acceptable to the government of Quebec, since rights in Quebec are “assumed” and doled out like favors. But; within the rest of Canada, the right to work, to associate, and to mobility are taken very seriously.
So; if Quebec is satisfied with their Constitutional two-step, that doesn’t mean the rest of Canada has to dance to the same tune.
This is not the first time Quebec has been down this road. They had a similar battle with New Brunswick, that ended in some kind of silent compromise. But; Ontario is not New Brunswick.
I don’t know the hard statistics. However; for every Ontario worker who crosses the border to work in Quebec, there are hundreds of Quebecers heading across the border into Ontario.
There are “THOUSANDS” of Quebec construction workers who cross the river into the Ottawa area every day. So; in a battle between workers; who do you think is going to pay the price?
When this problem first reared itself several years ago, many Quebec construction workers threatened to move to Ontario if Quebec forced the issue. If this becomes the case, it would be an enormous blow to Quebec’s economy, which isn’t doing nearly as well as government officials would like us to believe.
Ontario really has very little to loose. If the courts were to rule in favor of such a double standard, the rest of Canada would go wild. And the backlash against the court system and Quebec would be extreme.
It might be acceptable to elitists in Canada’s Supreme Court, that Canadian citizens have lost their Constitutional right to work in Quebec, unless it is under union auspices. But; it is yet another thing to tell Ontario, or any other Province or territory within Canada that they have to manage their manpower under Quebec rules.
Quebec has become so used to whining, and getting what they want through Constitutional and unity threats and intimidation, that the rest of Canada doesn’t care anymore. And this confrontation has all the makings of a showdown Quebec really does not need. For Quebec, there can be no victory.
There is also a much bigger issue at hand than just Quebec’s right to restrict worker’s mobility between two provinces. What is at stake is the whole concept of national unity and free trade between the provinces.
If Quebec prevails, which is most unlikely, Canada will have to completely review its usefulness as a country.
How can Canada continue to function as a viable country, if one province can dictate inter-provincial worker mobility?
If Quebec loses, which I am confident it will; Quebec will have to completely re-evaluate its place within Confederation, since its labor laws would be compelled to respect Canada’s Constitutional Rights.
Canada will either be a country with one set of Constitutional laws for everyone. Or simply not a country at all.
This battle might be far more than just a cross-border inter-provincial spat The seriousness of this challenge has the making of become a defining moment in the future of Canada. Courtesy of “Chutzpah-Quebec”.