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, 11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I would remind members there will be a five-minute question and comment period when the member is finished his 10-minute speech. If they have points they would like to raise or questions they would like to ask, I would be happy to recognize them at that point, but until then, if they could just restrain themselves, we could hear the member for Winnipeg Centre.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 11:45 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for that ruling.

As I was saying, as the party of grumpy old guys gets grumpier, its base is getting grumpy as well. That party's base is getting frustrated. Every single principle upon which those members got elected by that base, the party has compromised and jettisoned overboard, thrown overside in the interests of political expediency, whether it is stacking the Senate with their cronies, which the Conservatives said they would never do, or whether it is racking up record deficits, which they said they would not do. The Conservatives' base is starting to wonder where the party is that they elected. Now that the Conservatives have their majority, now is the time to come on strong.

I would think the Minister of Finance was channelling Maggie Thatcher, if he had a sweater set and pearls. Every time I am in the men's washroom at the urinal, I expect to look over and see Maggie Thatcher right beside me, but no, it is the Minister of Finance.

The Conservatives are looking south of the border. If people liked the Mike Harris government, they will certainly like the labour legislation those guys have in mind. We are getting an inkling of what that will be like now. They take on big ticket items, such as defined benefit pension plans. Thomas d'Aquino and the 140 CEOs in the country are who those guys work for. That party is the political arm of the Business Council on National Issues. They have said that we have to do away with defined benefit pension plans, so those guys are dutifully falling into line. They would have us put in place some American-style 401K plan, and we know how well that has worked for American workers who invested their life savings in Enron and others.

The Conservatives would have us revisit our labour laws, like the right to work laws in the United States. As they have set about trying to recreate Canada in the image of the George Bush or Ronald Reagan United States, or however limited their vision is, I do not know if they realize what a fight they will get from the official opposition.

Also there are predictable consequences. There is a point in law that says a person can be presumed to have intended the probable consequences of his or her actions. I will tell one story as a graphic illustration of the predictable outcome of the direction in which the Conservatives are taking us.

In 1913 there was a famous fire in New York City at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Hundreds of workers died because of the sweatshop conditions, et cetera. It was at that time that workplace health and safety conditions began to improve, just out of public outrage, until about the time the Reaganites said, “Enough of these union nuisances. They are holding back prosperity. We have to smash the unions”. They put in place right to work states, like North Carolina, not unlike what the Harris government tried to do in Ontario.

I will tell a story about a chicken factory in Durham, North Carolina. This is a recent story. It happened in the 1990s. In a chicken processing plant, the chickens go by so fast that the poor women who work in the place have to do 40 actions per chicken per minute. They have to cut the wing tips off, cut the neck off, and so on. It goes so fast and it is ice cold in the plant, they do not know they have cut themselves until they see the blood dripping on the ground because their hands are so cold. They are paid $7.50 to $8 an hour. They started stealing the wing tips, the necks and the giblets that would otherwise go into hot dogs, and they would sneak them home. This is a true story. The employer padlocked the doors from the outside. The place started on fire.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 11:45 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Some members are laughing.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. If members want to ask questions during questions and comments, they should wait until then. Otherwise the Chair will not recognize them if they are using the time provided for the member's speech to ask their questions or make their comments. The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 11:50 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to tell a story that happened in the 1990s as a graphic illustration of why our side gets so animated about these issues. The employer padlocked the door on the outside. Underpaid rural black women from North Carolina who largely made up the workforce were taking home wing tips so they could make soup out of it and the place caught on fire: 43 employees died and another 110 were hospitalized. This was the worst industrial relations incident since the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory of 1913 in New York City, so we have come full circle.

If anyone has travelled in rural Pennsylvania, rural North Carolina, or Florida, I think there are 60 of these right to work states, which smashed the labour union in the United States thinking it was the road to prosperity. I saw a bumper sticker the last time I was in the United States that said, “At least the war on the middle class is going well”. That is the only war they are winning. They have gone from the richest and most powerful civilization in the history of the world to almost a failed state. It is a false economy.

There is no utility in forcing wages down. We are not going to shrink our way to prosperity. Fair wages benefit the whole community and the direction we are seeing revealed in the Conservatives' weaker moments when they are tired, sleepy and grumpy and their true colours start to show, scares us a great deal. It is not the Canadian way. We are 33% unionized.

My colleague argues we should be more unionized because fair wages and free collective bargaining have led to labour peace. That was the post-war compact. Right after the war there were a lot of wildcat strikes and a lot of violence on picket lines. Guys had their heads split open on picket lines, but by free collective bargaining through a prescribed negotiations process we eliminated that violence. We eliminated work stoppages with fair wages, et cetera.

The Conservatives are inviting labour unrest the likes of which we have not seen since the 1930s and they are starting with the most volatile industrial relations environment in the free world, which is the Canadian post office. Believe me, one does not mess with the Canadian post office's labour relations. One does not invite tourists to the bargaining table in that particular environment, because it is a tinderbox that is ready to blow at any given time and the government just pressed the plunger. The postal workers have offered to go back to work.

If it were not for the irresponsible, reckless, mean-spirited, inflammatory actions of the government with this unnecessary back to work legislation, the workers have agreed to go back to work with no rotating strikes. However, they want to press their agenda because it is the tea party all over again here. It is the Republican Tea Party political environment. Conservatives have to throw some red meat to their base, so they are going to take on the big, bad union of Canada Post Corporation and show it a thing or two with a stable majority Conservative Government.

The government does not know the damage and the misery it is inviting. The worst thing that could be done for an economic recovery is to invite labour unrest and that is what it is doing. Conservatives are a bunch of amateurs.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have not been in the House a long time, the last Parliament and this session, but the last comments sounded unparliamentary and I would ask you to request an apology of that speaker.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I did not hear anything specifically unparliamentary. If the member is referring to the word “amateur”, I am not sure if that would fall into the realm of unparliamentary.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Mississauga South.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I received a communication from the publisher and managing editor of a small business magazine. Its online survey which began on June 3 to find out how the strike was impacting small businesses in Canada has been ongoing. It has received hundreds of responses from small business people across the country.

As of yesterday, 91% of small business respondents have said the lockout has been having a negative impact on their businesses.

My question for the member opposite has to do with choosing sides in this dispute. It is clear that the official opposition is standing in solidarity with CUPW. Can the member please explain to the House how he can justify turning his back on the rest of Canadians and so clearly picking sides in this dispute and frankly, not picking the side of business where people have jobs they depend on? As the official opposition, is it not supposed to take the sides of all Canadians in this dispute?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 11:55 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, someone used a quote from Winston Churchill against us a little while ago.

There is a quote from Disraeli that says: “A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy”.

The hypocrisy that exists here is the government that manufactured this crisis in a classic wag the dog kind of a scenario and then points to us as if we are problem here. The government picked a fight and it is a scrappy thing to do.

There are some scrappy guys on that side and they like to throw their weight around now that they have a majority. So the government picked a perfect enemy, a straw man. It decided to jump all over Canada Post's union because it has the reputation of being sort of a militant union. The tough guys here are going take the union on, so that they show their base. As the Conservatives say, throw some red meat to their base by getting tough with big labour. They just love it. They eat it up.

What worries me is it is like the Wisconsin experience. All over the United States the public sector unions are being taken on and sure enough, the Republicans are trying to ride that into the next—

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, Noon

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I will have to stop the member there to allow for some more questions and comments.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, Noon

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, first, is the member aware that the president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives is no longer Thomas d'Aquino but former Liberal cabinet minister, John Manley, who wrote a letter to the Prime Minister in May specifically asking to do away with supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board in the agricultural sector? That shows the influence.

Second, is the member aware that in Sweden over 70% of the labour force is unionized, that it is mandatory for labour to be on the board of directors with management and it has had labour peace since that policy was instituted? And who is leading the economic recovery today? It is not Canada. It is Australia, with a labour government, and Sweden. Is the member aware of that?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, Noon

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, most successful western democracies have a relatively tripartite approach to their economic development: business, government and labour. Whether labour is at the table or not, their rights to negotiate fair wages are enshrined in ways that cannot be eliminated.

Again, we have a saying that fair wages benefit the whole community, but the only way to elevate the standard of wages, working conditions and working people has been through free collective bargaining. Again, we cannot shrink our way to prosperity, we believe we grow our way to prosperity. A burgeoning, healthy, consuming middle class is key and integral to our economic recovery.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, Noon

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the consent or approval of the members opposite to wear this small Quebec flag since I am unable to participate in Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, Noon

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I do not think that the hon. member needs consent. It is not a prohibited prop.