House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was post.

Topics

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 4:55 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

I will take 28 seconds, Mr. Speaker.

I have just asked my hon. colleague if he honestly believes that the fine individual, who I have great respect for, the Minister of Labour, has actually drafted that legislation and that those are her fingerprints all over it. I could almost guarantee my hon. colleague from British Columbia that someone else did that and she is the one who has to be the spokesperson for it. I do not believe that somebody from Cape Breton can draft the most draconian legislation that I have seen in 14 years that affects workers and their families in this country.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 4:55 a.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate you on your election, since I have not had a chance to do so before.

I would like to take the opportunity of my first speech in this debate in the House of Commons to wish all of the residents of the riding of Saint-Jean a wonderful Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, a public holiday, and the same to all francophones in Canada, whom we tend to forget in Quebec: Acadians, Franco-Ontarians, Franco-Albertans, Franco-Manitobans, and I could go on this way for each province and territory.

To me, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day is the celebration of an entire people, who see themselves reflected in a certain set of values. It is more than a national holiday, St. Jean Baptiste Day, it is a people's holiday. Obviously, I would have preferred it if the government, which claims to recognize the Quebec people, had agreed to suspend the proceedings of the House, but unfortunately it did not do that. I would have preferred to celebrate our people's holiday on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, in Lacolle, in Saint-Valentin, in Mont-Saint-Grégoire, in Saint-Paul-de-l'Île-aux-Noix, in Saint-Blaise, in Saint-Alexandre, in Sainte-Brigide or in Sainte-Anne-de-Sabrevois.

While I have the opportunity, I would also like to recognize the sense of responsibility shown by our colleagues in the Bloc Québécois, who did not give in to the demagoguery and who stayed with us in the House. We do not have the same vision of Quebec and the best ways to protect and defend its interests, but we have in common our love for Quebec. Unfortunately, that is not the case for the Conservative members, who hold Quebec in contempt and insult Quebeckers by refusing to suspend the proceedings of the House for Quebec's national holiday. I must recognize that three of the four Bloc Québécois members spent Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day here with us to stand up for workers against the brutality of the lockout imposed by a government that is brutal and reactionary in numerous ways.

On Tuesday, when I was reading La Presse, I noticed something bizarre concerning the Canada Post lockout. The government wants to impose wage increases of 1.75% in 2011, 1.5% in 2012 and 2% in 2013 and 2014. At first glance, one wonders why the postal workers are complaining, since after all, they are getting guaranteed wage increases. In the article, the situation grew grotesque a few lines later, when it said that in the last round of bargaining, Canada Post was proposing increases of 1.9% in 2011 and 2% for the next three years. In other words, the government is imposing a dictatorial settlement that over a four-year period amounts to an average wage $875 lower than what Canada Post was proposing.

My first reflex, as an engineer, is to multiply $875 by 48,000 employees. That comes to the modest sum of $42 million, that the families of postal workers will not be able to put back into the Canadian economy, into the small businesses in our communities, the child care centres and small local shops. What is most ironic is that part of that $42 million would have gone back into the pockets of the Conservatives' friends—the big banks, the oil companies, the pharmaceutical companies, and all the rest. Well, I am not going to worry about those companies, because they have good connections in the government.

One can quite reasonably ask where the logic is when a government grumbles as soon as there is a possibility that $42 million will be paid in wages to 48,000 employees over a period of four years, but hands out generous tax credits to a handful of big companies that are already quite profitable.

As recently as this week, during question period, I asked the Minister of Finance about a Statistics Canada report on the debt crisis of Canadian families. The conclusion of this report is that, for each dollar they earn, Canadian families have $1.50 in debt. One gets the impression the government does not understand that when a family is deeply in debt, $875 can open up many possibilities. It can help a family pay down the debt and avoid going deeper into debt.

By prohibiting Canada Post from paying an average of $875 to each employee over four years, the Conservative government is taking $42 million out of the Canadian economy. This same government boasts about its economic performance and proclaims itself a champion of the economy. What an unbearable irony.

Why was this lockout imposed? It was imposed for strictly ideological reasons and to set a precedent in labour relations. And this precedent will be used by both employers and this government.

True enough, this dispute began with rotating strikes. Nobody is denying that, and everybody recognizes that. But it is time to wake up. The strike is over. It is outrageous that the Conservatives keep talking about a strike when what we have is a lockout. Their intent is shocking.

I would ask my colleagues to please read my lips. The strike is over. We are talking about the lockout. I ask the government to please unlock the doors now.

By imposing this special legislation, the government is not only stepping in for Canada Post, but it is also demonstrating it can be a tougher negotiator by granting less attractive working conditions to postal workers.

One can easily imagine the Minister of Labour, who could more aptly be called the minister of employers, showing up at the bargaining table and telling the incompetent negotiators to step aside and that she will show them how to take a hard line in negotiating a collective agreement. This attitude is not worthy of a great democracy, and it is not worthy of the great country in which I decided to settle nearly a decade ago.

To conclude, I would like to send a message of hope to the hundreds of people who sent me emails, which are coming in every minute, and to the thousands of people who are watching us on CPAC. Contrary to what the hon. member for Bourassa is suggesting, there are not just three or four people watching us, but thousands of people who are staying up all night to watch CPAC. To the thousands of people watching us, I want to say that on May 2, 2011, they elected NDP members to stand for them, and they should rest assured that we will not betray them.

Even though I am a day late, I want to wish everybody a happy Saint-Jean-Baptiste holiday.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 5:05 a.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague’s speech. If he really wanted to show respect to Quebec as he says, he could have managed to find a spot to make his speech on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day. This is June 25.

I had the opportunity to meet with my constituents during an extraordinary event held on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day with 400 people in attendance. There is a real concern that is evident in people’s eyes. It reflects the fact that 70% of Canadians support back-to-work legislation. This work stoppage is having quite an impact on the economy. Members can suggest all kinds of options, but when we go out in the field to meet with small business owners, those who create wealth and are the drivers of our economy, they are asking us to settle the problem as fast as possible.

Notwithstanding the 100 emails he has received, what does my colleague say to those who create wealth, to those who create jobs and to the independent business people in his constituency, who are in a shaky situation because of the labour dispute at Canada Post?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 5:10 a.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, my answer will be crystal clear, and I will try not to follow the example of the minister, who keeps repeating the same thing, like a broken record, during question period. I will answer simply that all the government has to do is unlock the doors, stop this lockout, and everybody will be able to go back to work.

I am getting hundreds of emails from postal workers telling me they are ready to go back to work and they are just waiting for the government to unlock the doors of the sorting and distribution centres.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 5:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed listening to the remarks made by my colleague from Saint-Jean, who has already made an impact in this House as an eloquent speaker. As he mentioned, there are emails from all quarters. I have received several dozen emails myself, just as every member has. However, these emails come from Conservative ridings. We will have an opportunity to talk about this a little later.

It is interesting to note that the Conservative members have failed thus far to mention all the folks who have written in to us from Conservative ridings. I am referring to those people who support the NDP's actions because they consider the government to be so irresponsible. The government decided not to put an end to the lockout. The Conservative members have failed to mention this.

I would like to ask my colleague the following question. Why does he think that the Conservative members are hiding the fact that many of their constituents disagree with their actions?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 5:10 a.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

We are all obviously in the same boat. My office has received emails from ridings across Canada. The Conservative party will not acknowledge this. I even received an email earlier from a postal worker telling me that he voted for the Prime Minister in the previous election but that next time, he would vote for the NDP, because he is very disappointed by the Prime Minister’s lack of support. In fact, I think the email’s author was from Saskatchewan.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 5:10 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to point out that most Canadians support our bill, which is before the House this evening. According to the polls—if my memory serves me correctly—70% of Canadians support our efforts to resolve this issue.

I would like to ask my colleague the following question. There are tens of millions of Canadians currently affected by the postal crisis, so I would like to know what he has to say to Canadians who are having to deal with the fallout from the current predicament.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 5:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Saint-Jean has 30 seconds to answer the question.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 5:10 a.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

I would simply say to them that there is a process that exists in the history of labour relations in this country whereby employers and employees cooperate in good faith when they come to the bargaining table. There is no precedent in the history of this country for a government to arrive, take the place of one of the parties, and lay down the law, including conditions that are worse than those previously offered by the employer.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 5:10 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to take a few minutes to wish all of my constituents in Trois-Rivières a happy national holiday and to let them know that I will be there for the activities. I imagine that I should be there in a few hours.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 5:10 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

We were celebrating the 24.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 5:10 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

I was obviously expecting that response. Thank you to my dear colleague from Bourassa.

I went through this preamble not because I have not slept much and am rambling, but because I noticed that here, in this House, we have witnessed a miracle. The calendar on the desk shows that it is still June 23. So I have plenty of time to return to my riding to celebrate.

I joke, because as I have been listening to the debates over many hours now, I started to realize that it would really take a miracle to put an end to this. But in looking at the calendar, I realized that that was the miracle. In this House, we found a simple way to stop time and still continue working. We have been debating in this House for hours, we are moving forward, yet it is still June 23.

Why is this miracle that is possible in this House not possible with the bargaining of a collective agreement? We could require that Canada Post and the workers provide the service and, at the same time, ask the two parties to hold clear, clean, fair, just and precise negotiations, stopping time until a settlement is reached. If it is possible for the House of Commons, it must be possible for everyone.

The problem we have been seeing for a while is not about the differing opinions that we all have as much as it is about the demagoguery used by our government colleagues to try to force a bill down our throats. A bill that is indigestible, to say the least.

Over the past few hours, I have amused myself by taking note of the most demagogic lines we have heard. I did not sort them by order of importance to pull out the top five or top three, because that would have meant participating in this demagoguery. Regardless, I have no doubt that the Canadian public watching us on CPAC is interested in this debate. There were people in the gallery until 3 a.m. I think that is telling. Not to mention, I have been receiving so many messages that the BlackBerry I have on my belt is more like a massager.

What have we been hearing in these debates? First the legitimacy of the union and of its negotiation committee in particular has been attacked. I believe that a committee that gets 94% of the votes to represent its members has significant support. Here, in Parliament, we have a government leading in a legal manner after winning only 40% of the votes. I wish people would stop making this argument.

Then they talk about negotiations that have been going on for eight months. I have a slight problem with the word “negotiations”. The beauty in negotiations is trying to achieve a balance between the interests of the employer and those of the employees. All the work done to achieve this balance must not however be destroyed by the intervention of a third party. That seems obvious to me. In this case, the government should be using its power of intervention to force the parties to negotiate, and not to impose a settlement. Let us face it, the telegraphed lockout and the arbitrator's mandate make it easy to predict the outcome of this dispute, unless the government shows openness and allows real negotiations, in return for which the postal workers are prepared to resume mail service if the collective agreement they had before the lockout is maintained. That is the second demagogic argument that should be dropped.

With regard to damage to the blessed economy, it goes without saying that this dispute cannot last forever because of the economy, which was hardly affected by the rotating strikes. However, the impact has been tremendous since the lockout, but not for everyone. When we talk about a lockout, what are we talking about? We are talking about employees thrown out on the street without any wages who are told to stew for a while until they have had enough and are prepared to go to employer and accept what they would not have accepted otherwise.

What happens in the meantime? The crown corporation's profits go up because its expenses have gone down. In fact, I am expecting an email from the CEO of Canada Post encouraging me to defend the workers because his bonus increases with every day of the strike.

Enough has been said about strikes and lockouts. I do not need to add anything more. The concept seems to be clearer in everyone's mind. Even the Conservatives are speaking more and more about a lockout, which is the real situation.

I received a little message. The union had offered to stop all strike activity—including the rotating strikes, which, I would remind the House, were not terribly disruptive—if Canada Post would reinstate the old collective agreement while the mediator was continuing his work. The corporation categorically refused. This illustrates the current atmosphere.

Since we are in the process of negotiating instead of the parties—which is not at all our role—let us explore things from the inside to see how the situation is playing out for the locked out workers. I would like to share a few facts.

Canada Post management decided to adopt a really tough negotiation strategy. As soon as the union notified the corporation of its intent to take strike action, all leave and insurance coverage were cancelled. The collective agreement was tossed out the window. As a result, the employees were left without the financial resources to deal with serious illnesses. Some were forced to pay the full cost of medical expenses for themselves or their loved ones. Some had to pay thousands of dollars to buy medications they need to treat their illness or that of their loved ones, because Canada Post decided to cancel all musical coverage, I mean, medical coverage. A little music would have done us some good, since music has a calming influence.

Employees on sick leave were contacted and informed that they would no longer be receiving a salary during their absence and that they no longer had medical coverage. At present, there is not a single Quebecker without medical coverage, apart from the postal workers. Any corporation that brings in such draconian measures cannot do so without knowing that it has this government's support. It is truly unacceptable.

In closing, members on both sides agree that some sort of legislation is required to get the mail service running again, but we will never, and I mean never, support Bill C-6.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 5:20 a.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is very sad that the parties could not reach an agreement and that we are all discussing this matter here. It is even sadder to see the NDP members working very hard to hide the facts from Canadians.

The fact is that the parties commenced negotiations eight months ago. The fact is, according to the Canada Labour Code, the minister appointed a reconciliator and then a mediator. Despite all these communications and conversations, the fact is that the union chose to go on strike. Of course, the union had the right to choose to strike, but after that, the corporation had the right to choose to have a lockout.

I have a question for my friend, my colleague, from the other side, because I have been having conversations with career companies, transmission shops, mechanic shops, grocery stores and restaurants. I have a note from someone who says that if he doesn't get his cheques, he cannot pay his rent, and if he misses his rent, the NDP will have to pay for it.

The question is: What is the NDP's plan to reimburse those small businesses for the damages caused by stalling this legislation?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 5:25 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my honourable colleague for his friendship. It was short-lived. First it was friend, then colleague, but perhaps we may develop it over the years.

Quite simply, perhaps I was not understood. Maybe it is the language barrier. Not only have the parties not agreed so far, but I can also predict that they will never agree, as long as the fight is unbalanced, two against one. If you really want to resolve the economic problems of your small- and medium-sized businesses very quickly, end the lock out.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 5:25 a.m.

NDP

Ève Péclet La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for his speech. What I am seeing here is a government that, since its budget was adopted, is cutting, cutting and cutting public services. It is cutting pensions. It is making cuts everywhere.

I would like my colleague to comment on that. It is as if the government has seized this opportunity. Actually, we have known for a very long time that it wishes to make cuts to the public postal services. For a long time, post offices in the regions have been lacking funding. It is as if the government is taking advantage of the strike just to try to get around the rules and make cuts to postal services using special legislation.

I would like my colleague to comment on the true intentions of the government, which is accusing us of wanting to hide things from Canadians. Instead, I think that it is the government that is trying to hide things from Canadians.