House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was post.

Topics

Nuclear Weapons
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition talks about a review of NATO's nuclear weapons policy and the fact that over 25,000 nuclear weapons are at risk of accidental or intentional use.

Canada is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The International Court of Justice in July 1996 determined that the use and threat of nuclear weapons is, for all practical purposes, contrary to international law. However, NATO states still rely on policies involving nuclear weapons for their defence.

The petitioners encourage the Government of Canada to call for an urgent review of NATO's nuclear weapons policy to ensure that all NATO states fulfill their obligations to renegotiate and conclude an agreement for the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Employment Insurance
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, there are some people who deserve our utmost admiration. One such person is Marie-Hélène Dubé, who is known to my colleagues. She started a petition calling for changes to section 12(3) of the Employment Insurance Act, which provides for a maximum of 15 weeks of benefits in the event of illness. This aspect of the law has not been amended since 1971. We believe it should be changed from 15 weeks of benefits to 52 weeks. It is not right that a person suffering from cancer only has 15 weeks of benefits.

On behalf of more than 75,000 petitioners, I am presenting this petition and urging the government to take note of it because we have had many petitions from the beginning. I presented a petition with 30,000 signatures about the same issue last March, and it is time something was done about this.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

June 21st, 2011 / 10:25 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, a bill in the name of the Minister of Labour, entitled An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services, shall be disposed of as follows: (a) commencing when the said bill is read a first time and concluding when the said bill is read a third time, the House shall not adjourn except pursuant to a motion proposed by a Minister of the Crown; (b) the said bill may be read twice or thrice in one sitting; (c) after being read a second time, the said bill shall be referred to a Committee of the Whole; and (d) during consideration of the said bill, no division shall be deferred.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, just weeks ago our government indicated in the Speech from the Throne that our priority remains focused on jobs and growth. We also noted that the global economy remains fragile and risks to our recovery persist.

After many months of collective bargaining and mediation, a labour dispute between Canada Post and more than 50,000 employees representing the Canadian Union of Postal Workers urban operations unit has resulted in work stoppage, an event that, if unresolved, could jeopardize Canada's economic prosperity.

Canadians gave this government a strong mandate to complete our economic recovery. It is my view that the Government of Canada must take decisive action now before further damage is done to our economy.

Our government introduced Bill C-6, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services. The measures in this proposed legislation are in response to an extraordinary situation facing Canadian families, workers and businesses.

For many Canadians Canada Post remains a vital part of how we connect to each other, even in this digital age. It is also an important part of small and large businesses across Canada. Reliable postal services aid in putting money in the pockets of families and Canadians in need. They play a role in how bills get delivered and paid on time, and ensuring that parcels arrive at their destinations.

As we can see, there is far more at stake here than just mail delivery or good labour relations between Canada Post and its unionized workers. As a result of this long-simmering labour dispute, this has now become a matter that puts Canada's fragile economic recovery on the line. That is a risk that Canadians do not want to take, nor is it one that they should have to endure. They are counting on the Government of Canada to act and that is why we introduced this proposed legislation.

I will take a couple of minutes to outline the intent of this bill, along with the proposed economic risks entailed by this work stoppage. I will also explain why it is important that we take decisive action now rather than wait any longer.

This act would provide for the resumption and continuation of mail services at Canada Post. It would bring to an end the growing uncertainty that has characterized so much of this dispute for the last several months. The act would also impose a four year contract and new pay rate increases. It would mean a 1.75% increase as of February 1, 2011, 1.5% as of February 2012, 2% as of February 2013, and 2% as of February 2014. It would also provide a final offer selection, a binding mechanism on all outstanding matters.

Furthermore, in making the selection of a final offer, the arbitrator is to be guided by the need for terms and conditions of employment that are consistent with those in comparable postal industries and that will provide the necessary degree of flexibility to ensure the short and long-term economic viability and competitiveness of the Canada Post Corporation, maintain the health and safety of its workers, and ensure the sustainability of its pension plan.

The terms and conditions of employment must also take into account: first, that the solvency ratio of the pension plan must not decline as a direct result of the new collective agreement; and second, that the Canada Post Corporation must, without recourse to undue increases in postal rates, operate efficiently, improve productivity, and meet the acceptable standards of service. It is a decisive approach aimed at resolving this labour dispute. While the measures it calls for are not an ideal way of resolving this dispute, it would do what is necessary to safeguard Canadian families, businesses, seniors and workers.

Some might argue that we should wait, that we should let collective bargaining run its course no matter how long it takes. That is unwise. The risks to our economy are too great to ignore. Since talks between CUPW and their employer broke down, our country is now facing a potentially serious situation. Let us be clear about what has happened as a result of this labour dispute at Canada Post.

An integral part of what keeps Canada in business and what puts money in the pockets of many citizens is slowing to a standstill. Ask the small business owners who invoice and get paid through the mail. Ask a company that relies on the mail to issue bills, process orders and receive payments. Ask Canadian publishers and direct marketers whose livelihoods rely on the mail. Ask taxpayers who are waiting for their tax refunds and HST rebates to arrive. Ask citizens in the far north who rely on mail as an essential service of goods, such as prescription eyewear, dental products, drugs, legal documents, and still make payments by mail.

Our citizens cannot afford to be left waiting. They certainly should not be the ones who should bear the brunt of a labour dispute that shows no sign of being resolved through collective bargaining.

As of June 17, the minister received a total of 1,800 letters and email enquiries. Of those, 1,027 requested back-to-work legislation: 692 Canadian citizens; 328 businesses; and 7 charities. The remainder represents 561 employees and 212 citizens expressing concerns.

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind stated:

With 70 per cent of its funding coming from donations, more than half of which arrive through the mail, CNIB is now facing an estimated loss of $250,000 in much-needed funding for this time of the year.

The charity has also experienced $30,000 in unexpected costs associated with communicating its contingency plan to clients, donors and library users.

One stakeholder, a leading provider of integrated mail and document management systems, is requesting a rapid intervention of the government to ensure reliable postal services and supporting the view of Canada Post as an essential service.

Many Canadians are beginning to see the repercussions of a work stoppage and are requesting a government intervention for the resumption of postal services.

It has been nearly 14 years since Canada last had a work stoppage at Canada Post. The numbers speak for themselves. A work stoppage could result in losses to our economy of between $9 million and $31 million per week. The work stoppage at Canada Post is expected to have an immeasurable impact on our economy.

Canada's gross domestic product could shrink by up to 0.21% for every day of work stoppage. That means every day more jobs at risk, more productivity lost, more challenges for businesses and more uncertainty for consumers.

Every other avenue has been tried to help bring a full and lasting resolution to this dispute. Parliament must do the right thing and intervene.

The parties have negotiated for direct collective bargaining from October 2010 to January 2011. When those talks stayed at an impasse, a conciliation officer was appointed. The conciliation period was extended into early May and during that time, the conciliation officer met again with the parties. Throughout the month of May, a mediator from the labour program's Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service met frequently with the parties.

Unfortunately, despite all of these efforts, an agreement between the parties has yet to be reached.

While the best solution may have been the one that the parties reached themselves, we must do what is necessary to protect our recovering economy and safeguard Canadian families, workers and businesses. We must act now to keep the businesses of Canada moving. That is what this proposed legislation would do.

It is my hope that all members of the House will join me in meeting our shared responsibility to Canadians and give this proposed legislation the support it deserves.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my Conservative colleague a question.

We see the direction the government is going in. She says that the government is taking action to protect the economic recovery. It seems that nothing will stop it and that the government is going to use the excuse of the economic recovery.

I will be giving my speech shortly and voicing my opinions about this matter, but I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development a specific question. In this back-to-work legislation, why is the government offering lower wages than Canada Post had offered? Canada Post had proposed a 1.9% increase for January 2011. Now the Conservative government is telling Canada Post that its offer is too high and that it will make further reductions. Why punish the workers like that? Does the Conservative government hate the workers? Have we reached the point where the Conservative government is going so far as to include in a bill a proposal—it is more than a proposal because it will be the law—that will give workers less than what Canada Post had offered? What is behind this? I would like to understand because I do not understand it, unless the government hates the workers.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Madam Speaker, I think it is incumbent upon all members of the House to act in the interests of all Canadians.

With respect to the wage increases, the proposed legislation includes wage rate increases consistent with other federal public sector collective agreements. The wage rate increases are the result of concessions in the public sector negotiations that take into consideration the future economic viability of Canada Post.

Canada has weathered an economic crisis and it is the federal government's responsibility to intervene in this unique circumstance to ensure the effects of this strike do not cause further negative impact on the Canadian economy, including its consumers, its charities and its businesses.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Madam Speaker, I welcome the member to the House in her role as parliamentary secretary. It is sort of a dirty file to be handling the first time around but, nonetheless, it is her job at hand.

Organized labour in this country has really had a taste of what to expect over the next four years with the government, first with the legislation for Air Canada and now with this piece of legislation. There are a number of egregious aspects to this particular legislation in the guiding principle where it compares Canada Post to a private industry, which is totally unfair and shows the lack of understanding the government has for the function of Canada Post.

As my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst indicated, the parameters put around the salaries actually offer less than what Canada Post had on the table already. It is rare to see salary parameters in a piece of legislation but ones that are less than what was on the table initially is mind-blowing. The government just does not understand. Then, the fact that it is final offer arbitration is of concern.This is an all or nothing crapshoot.

In ignoring the requests of CUPW to this point which have obviously been ignored in the legislation, would the Conservatives at least comply with the one request that the appointed arbitrator is one agreed upon by CUPW?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Madam Speaker, we are all disappointed that the parties have been unable to reach an agreement of their own, despite months of negotiation. Nothing in this proposed legislation precludes the employer and the union from entering into a new collective agreement before the legislation is passed. I strongly encourage the parties to return to the bargaining table and send those outstanding issues that they deem appropriate to voluntary arbitration in order to resolve this dispute now.

This is about Canadians. This is about ensuring Canadian businesses, charities and small businesses can get back to work.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, some of the residents of my riding would like to know and understand our role. I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary what role Labour Canada has played throughout the negotiations of a new collective agreement between the parties?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Madam Speaker, with respect to the back-to-work legislation, Labour Canada has worked diligently, as has our minister.

Since January 31, Minister Raitt has supported the parties in their negotiations by appointing a conciliation officer and a mediator. Over the past five months, proposals and counter-proposals were exchanged. However, the parties are still far apart and no agreement has been achieved.

While a negotiated settlement is always preferred, the consequences of work stoppage extend far beyond the parties themselves and the economic impact of the dispute can no longer be tolerated. Canada has weathered a global economic crisis and it is the federal government's responsibility to intervene in these unique circumstances.

Given the lack of progress of these two parties, Minister Raitt tabled our back-to-work legislation which puts in a process to help ensure that this dispute is determined and that the dispute comes to an end so Canadians can get back to work.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I would just remind all hon. members that sitting members' names cannot be mentioned in the House. A very brief question, the hon. member for Western Arctic.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, I rise to question the parliamentary secretary on her seemingly inconsistent approach to this.

She says the government has taken the recent public sector wage increases into account when it put this legislation together, yet at the same time she does not recognize Canada Post as a crown corporation.

Why would the parliamentary secretary not put forward to that crown corporation, the requirement that it quits this lockout, which has really been the problem in this whole dispute? That has stopped the postal service from working at all.