PSAC Submission on Bill 23 (Manitoba)

On October 25, 2017 PSAC Prairies REVP Marianne Hladun gave remarks and presented PSAC’s Submission on Bill 23, The Fisheries Amendment Act, to the Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs of the Manitoba Legislature.

Please see Sister Hladun’s remarks below, they can also be found online on the Manitoba Hansard website. Attached you will find PSAC’s formal submission. 




Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Madam Chairperson:  I will now call on Marianne Hladun, Public Service Alliance of Canada.

Ms. Hladun, do you have any written materials for distribution to the committee?

Ms. Marianne Hladun (Public Service Alliance of Canada): Yes, I do.

Madam Chairperson: Please proceed with your presentation.

Ms. Hladun: Thank you, and thank you for the opportunity to present. My full presentation is in the paper but, having listened to the speakers, I’m going off script, which is, you know, everyone’s nightmare, but I’m going off script a little bit.

So my name is Marianne Hladun and I’m here on behalf of Public Service Alliance of Canada members living and working in Manitoba. We have about 8,000 members in Manitoba and we have a small number that work at Freshwater Fish Marketing Corp. as the engineers that keep the processing plant operating.

So we’re extremely concerned about the government’s decision to introduce Bill 23 and the decision to withdraw from the participation agreement under Freshwater Fish Marketing Act.

We believe that Freshwater should remain a monopoly single desk for the economic security and stability of Manitoba fishers.

I won’t go through all of the background as to what they–you know, the production, how long they’ve been there; you’ve heard that.

The previous speaker talked about market freedom, and this has–this is an ideological approach that talks about small operators are going to be cut out and wages will be depressed.

So let’s look at the Wheat Board, and this is where I’m going off script, because as I’m listening to this, I’m seeing a consistent approach to the Wheat Board and I’m listening to my dad. My grandfather fought for the Canadian Wheat Board. When he started farming, when he immigrated to this country, he operated a grain farm with no Canadian Wheat Board. He fought for it. He worked for it. My dad benefited from it. My brother benefited from it.

When the Wheat Board was dismantled, all of the promises that were made that there would be no difference, the only ones that have profited from that are the multinational corporations. The small family farms are gone. They cannot survive on a farming income.

I grew up on six quarters of land. That supported our entire family. That’s not possible anymore. So I don’t–I didn’t grow up in a fishing community, but the comparisons–this is why I’m, like, compelled to tell you this as I’m sitting in the back listening to this.      

When I listen to the fishers from the North, from the indigenous community saying this has to stay, we need this, we don’t have the capacity for marketing. Who’s going to profit from this? And this is an extreme concern to us.

Back to the Wheat Board. Some of you may have seen me out there talking about the Port of Churchill. We represent the workers at the Port of Churchill. They relied on the Wheat Board for the community. Generations of residents in Churchill worked at that port. When the Wheat Board was dismantled by the Conservative government, when the subsidies stopped and the multinational American corporation that we all know of right now decided that they weren’t going to support it anymore, who’s suffering? They’re sitting there, yes, their profit margin is down. The community is suffering. I am seeing the same thing happening to our indigenous communities. I am listening to the fishers that were here saying this is what it means for generations of fishers, past and future.

And this is what concerns me, when this ideology that we cannot have a monopoly, that it’s not good for anyone. Well, that’s not true. That’s absolutely not true. It’s–a monopoly works the small fishers. It works for small farmers. It works in all the other agriculture sectors. It works. But the large corporations don’t get the profit margins that they want–not what they need, what they want. And so–see, this is what happens when you go off-script.

You know, we don’t know what’s going to happen, so we’re looking ahead and saying, okay, well, everything will be fine. We’ll pass the bill. And then we’ll start talking to fishers? And then we’ll start consultation with First Nations? That’s–I’m sorry, but that’s a red flag. How can you introduce legislation, how can you introduce something as fundamental as eliminating a single-desk marketing system and say, well, we’ll talk to you after and figure out how to make it work? If that’s not the cart before the horse, I’m not sure what is.

We don’t know what’s going to happen with NAFTA. We don’t know what’s going to happen with the Trump administration. We don’t know what’s going to happen with Brexit. We don’t know what’s going to happen with trade agreements across the world. And so, for us to say now, oh, well, all of those markets are going to be open and it’s going to be a good thing for our fishers–well, forgive me, but I don’t quite believe that.

At the end of the day, yes, FMSC–FMMC will remain open. They said that about the Wheat Board. Tell that to a farmer that can’t get their grain or has to pay extra to ship their grain to Vancouver because Churchill is being held hostage by an American corporation–which the federal and provincial government are doing nothing about, by the way. So forgive me if I have no trust at this point.

If there’s problems within the corporation, then somebody better darn well deal with it. If there’s patronage, if there’s issues that are being identified in the Auditor General’s report, then someone needs to deal with that. You do not throw out a corporation, you do not privatize, you do not get rid of this whole thing because someone is not running it properly. There’s got to be accountability. As politicians–as you are politicians, as I’m a politician in my union–if we’re not accountable, well, we don’t get re-elected. So someone needs to deal with the fact within the corporation that if that is happening, someone needs to do something, because they’re not accountable to fishers. They forgot who they’re representing, and it’s time that somebody reminded them of that.

So, at the end of the day–I could go on and you can read the rest of my presentation for the other official words I’m supposed to say, but you know, I’m here tonight primarily, of course, representing PSAC members that work there. That’s my job. I represent those members. That’s their employment. They contribute to this community. This affects their families. And they provide a valuable service to the corporation in the processing plant.

I am so concerned when I hear the other presenters tonight. That–while I was sure when I walked in here that it was not a good idea, I am now absolutely committed that it is not a good idea. When I hear that indigenous communities have not been consulted, when fishers have not been consulted, that concerns me. And I urge the government to abandon Bill 23 or, at the very least, put this on hold and do some true consultation. Thank you.

Madam Chairperson: Thank you for your presentation.

Do members of the committee have questions for the presenter?

Mr. Altemeyer: Thank you very much for your impassioned and impromptu presentation. It’s a smart move, actually. You can have a written submission, which is part of the official record, and then benefit as well from your wisdom here tonight.

How many employees of your local are at the plant here in Winnipeg?

Ms. Hladun: We have currently–we have six members. To me, whether it’s six or 600, we still represent them.

Mr. Gerrard: Thank you, and thank you for your presentation and your concerns over the situation.

Let me ask the same question that I asked earlier on. Have your members told you that–whether the leadership–union leadership, but the leadership of the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation have communicated effectively what their plan is for the plant with this legislation?

Ms. Hladun: There has been minimal discussion. We are currently entering to bargaining. Our collective agreement is up. We’ve served notice to bargain. That, of course, lends some complications to the process, but it’s just the absolute uncertainty until this–we know how this plays out. You know, I suspect, as with any situation, any workplace in this situation, you start to eye other opportunities because if you’re not sure you’re going to be there, you take those opportunities when they come forward. But consultation with the corporation has been minimal at best.

Mr. Selinger: Do you have recommendations on how the FFMC can improve its delivery of service and its governance model. Do you have any, given your experience?

Ms. Hladun: Well, as a federal government employee of 30 years, I will tell you this, if Canadian Food Inspection–they turned down the fish inspector job, just saying.

If you really want to know how a corporation needs to work and how a department needs to work, you need to talk to the people on the floor. You need to go down as many levels as you can and ask people what’s working. You need to do true consultation in a format where people are free to be able to give their criticism, give suggestions and, ultimately, at the end of the day, if that means removing the top level of management and putting someone in who has a mandate, then that’s what needs to happen because until that happens nothing will change.

Mr. Altemeyer: Really appreciate it as well the comparison you brought to the table tonight with your own family’s history, no less, of the Canadian Wheat Board. I think that’s–and you also mentioned that, you know, you’ve been impacted, as I have, by the presentations that we’ve heard here tonight.

Now, I believe, unless there’s someone else from the audience who leaps up to also present, you might be our last presenter, so I’ll give you a chance to give us a final word based on what you’ve heard tonight, the content which says, hey, there’s a problem at FFMC, the presentations from indigenous leaders and communities and their supporters, that they were not consulted, that they have not been treated appropriately in this process, the concerns from labour. I’d invite you put yourself in the minister’s shoes. You’ve heard this–you’ve heard these arguments. What do you think the best decision would be for Manitoba here tonight, for the govern­ment to make on this topic?

Ms. Hladun: Why, thank you. You know, at the end of the day, I think the message that the thing that needs to resonate is that there’s real people behind these decisions. Every time a government makes a decision, every time you introduce something, and I don’t know what the impetus was to make it a campaign promise, to bring it forward in the grand scheme of everything that is critical to our province and to the residents of Manitoba, how this made it up to the priority list, but I think you have to honour the voices that you’ve heard here tonight, and I would urge–I will say I, you know, it would have been–it’s disappointing to see that there isn’t questions from the government side.

So I hope you’ve have been listening and not just hearing, but there’s a real opportunity here, not to say that it can’t be done better, there needs to be consultation and it needs to be done in a way where everyone’s voice is heard, and not putting it forward because–for whatever reason, I’m not going make a presumption on why that happened–but there’s real  people impacted here. We have northern communities that will be impacted. We have indigenous communities that will be impacted. This will affect generations to come.

And so I would ask you to please postpone this, if you must, if you won’t take it off the table, but you need to listen to the voices you have and you need to expand and hear more of those.

Madam Chairperson: Thank you for your presentation. The time for questions has expired.