Rail strike bill set for Tory push through Senate

The government wants to speed up the Senate's approval of back-to-work legislation to end a week-long strike by Canadian Pacific Railway workers. The bill cleared its final vote in the Commons overnight.

Commons passed back-to-work bill overnight as Canadian Pacific Railway strike continues for 8th day

Canadian Pacific Railway workers have been off the job since last Wednesday. Talks went off the rails last Sunday afternoon after the two sides could not agree on pension issues, among other things, and the federal negotiator left. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The Harper government has pushed back-to-work legislation through the House of Commons to end a week-long strike by Canadian Pacific Railway workers. Now it wants to shorten the length of time the Senate takes to approve the bill.

The Tories used their majority to limit debate, setting in motion a series of overnight votes that saw the bill clear the Commons just after 1:20 a.m. ET. The final vote was 157-139.

The bill will be introduced in the Conservative-dominated Senate Wednesday afternoon.

Normally the Senate cannot pass legislation until two days after it receives a bill from the Commons, but Conservatives in the Senate are seeking unanimous consent to speed the bill through all stages of consideration as early as Thursday.

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt may appear before Senators Thursday as part of that process. Liberal Senators have also expressed an interest in hearing from CP Rail's management and representatives from the Teamsters union that represents the striking workers.

The Senate does not usually sit on Fridays, but may do so to consider this bill, if necessary.

Following morning caucus meetings on Parliament Hill Wednesday, Raitt accused Liberal Senators of wanting to hold up the bill.

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt introduced back to work legislation to end the Canadian Pacific Railway strike on Monday. The House of Commons rushed it through and it cleared its final vote just after 1:20 a.m. ET Wednesday morning. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

"We need it before Thursday," Raitt told reporters. "I'm extremely disappointed. I’m trying to get more information with respect to... what or who in the Senate has decided that it’s their ability to stop the progress of the economy."

Liberal Leader Bob Rae denied that Liberal Senators were doing anything to delay the bill and said that Liberals were willing to move up consideration of the bill faster than the 48 hour delay normally dictated by Senate rules.

"We do want to make sure that witnesses can appear and that people are allowed to have their say but there's no desire on our part that there should be any delay," Rae told reporters.

Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair opened the Commons debate Tuesday night by saying the Conservatives have sent employers a clear signal with repeated legislated back-to-work threats at Canada Post, Air Canada and now CP Rail.

He says there's no incentive for the parties to negotiate in good faith if they know the government will step in.

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt pointed out in the House that the legislation calls for a government-appointed arbitrator to resolve outstanding differences within 90 days, and "doesn't pre-determined any issue."

CP Rail walked off the job last Wednesday after talks over pension issues broke down. Raitt said Wednesday that trains "have to start rolling again" 12 hours after royal assent for the back-to-work legislation.

Replay Kady O'Malley's liveblog of the debate and votes overnight:


Mobile-friendly version of the back-to-work legislation liveblog.

with files from CBC News