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, Noon

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say hello to my constituents. I would have liked to have been with them yesterday. I would especially like to salute shift workers. We have come to a better understanding of their reality over the past few days. I think of them every time I get up in the middle of the night. I have a great deal of respect for them.

I would like to come back to what I consider to be the main problem with the current government's attitude. This government systematically manipulates and, in particular, polarizes the debates that are important to our society. I will present three arguments because I do not wish to make such an assertion without providing valid reasons.

The day before yesterday, the hon. Prime Minister did something that had not been done since 1964. He took the liberty of exploiting a national holiday. He rose in the House to say that the opposition needed only to vote on what was on the table if it wanted to be with friends and family on the national holiday. We have not seen this kind of contempt for such an important symbol of one of the founding nations of this country since 1964.

Did the hon. Prime Minister subsequently tour Quebec to explain his point of view? I still would not have approved, but I could have respected his actions. Did he stay in the House to support his troops? I still would not have approved, but I could have respected his actions. No, the right hon. Prime Minister went to Thetford Mines— where asbestos is a hot topic, as we all know—to throw some oil on the fire. Once again, event after event, they throw oil on the fire and polarize the debate. That is no way to govern Canadians.

Before getting back to the bill being examined, I would like to speak about the gun registry. I am fortunate to come from a rural riding that also has some cities. There are organized women's groups. There are also organized hunters' groups, which include outstanding citizens who hunt duck. They help maintain a balance for farmers by ensuring that there are not too many ducks eating their crops.

For the past three or fours years, those two groups have not needed a government that polarizes the debate. Women's groups have told me they want the gun registry maintained. The police have also told me they want to keep the registry. When two neighbours start threatening to kill each other, I am not the one who has to step into the line of fire and break it up; it is the police. The police themselves have told us they need this tool.

The hunters I often meet in the mountains tell me they do not want us to get rid of the gun registry. All they want is a few changes that would show them more respect. They do not want to feel as though they are looked upon as potentially dishonest people. That is all they have asked me for. None of the groups has told me they want to see the gun registry eliminated. Once again, polarization.

Now back to the bill before us. Yet again, the government is using this bill to manipulate and polarize the debate. The union was acting responsibly, taking reasonable job action: rotating strikes. There were workers who committed, regardless of the events, to volunteer their services to deliver important cheques such as employment insurance payments.

The union had more than 90% support for its actions. Barely a week ago, the minister herself admitted that the rotating strikes were not really creating much disruption. Then all of a sudden, a lockout. What for? When something that was not called for by anyone happens in the public domain, there is a reason behind it, a desired outcome in mind. Unfortunately, this lockout made it possible for the members of the current government to assert a falsehood: that this was a strike.

We are starting to get the correct message out to the national media that this is a lockout, because they have not had the decency to call it by its rightful name. This is a lockout, not a strike. It has taken us three days to get the truth out to the public.

What are they trying to accomplish? To their way of thinking, they are siding with Canadians who work hard and who are fed up with capricious unions. Thirty-three per cent of Canadians are unionized. They have brothers, they have relatives. When their wages increase, what do they do with the extra money in their pockets? Well, they buy another beer, or another item of clothing from an establishment in their community.

Finally, I was floored to see the union itself being vilified. I have an advantage that the Conservatives do not have. When I join workers on a picket line, they talk to me. I am still looking for the bad guy in the union who threatened these workers and forced them on to the picket line. I still have not found him.

It is time to stop manipulating the debate. Quite simply, what we are dealing with is a postal workers union that, backed by over 90% of its members, resorted to reasonable pressure tactics. The right-leaning Conservative government, in the meantime, orders a lockout to achieve its objectives.

Before we get around to discussing the unfairness of many of the provisions in the bill now before the House, there is something very basic that needs to be explained to Canadians. Given its unreasonable attitude and approach to this debate, is it possible that the government will soon no longer grant parties the right to resort to reasonable pressure tactics? Are we about to see a motion tabled in this House calling for pressure tactics to be limited to no more than three or four days? I have an idea: perhaps pressure tactics should be approved by the Minister of Labour three days in advance. There is a good idea.

I am tempted to continue in English because I see that many of my colleagues on the other side are not wearing their earpiece. I want to be very sure that everyone understands what I am saying.

If they respect seniors waiting for drugs, they will unlock the lockout. If they respect rural and native communities living far away from services, they will unlock the lockout. If they respect small business, and do not want to cut salaries of thousands of young workers who will then still be consumers and bring good business to small businesses, they will unlock the lockout. Workers should be allowed to come back to the table to negotiate. Doing that will fix it all. They should unlock the lockout.

Since I have one minute left, I would like to conclude with three or four suggestions I disagreed with, which would at least present a consistent picture.

I am willing to support a bill that would decrease the salary of all new Conservative members by 18%. Let us put that motion on the table. That would make me happy. I would vote for that.

I would like to see another motion, one to change the title of the Minister of Labour to the Minister of Lowering Working Conditions. At least that would be honest.

I would also like to see legislation put forward to prohibit reasonable job action without prior consent from the Minister of Labour. This would clearly show the true intentions of this government.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Kyle Seeback Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have all been here a long time. This morning I have heard members of the opposition talk about how often they speak to union leaders. Throughout this debate they seem to be repeatedly parroting the CUPW talking points. It is clear they have a hotline and are beholden to the big union bosses. The lack of mail service is crippling small business. It is crippling the economy, and it is hurting Canadian families.

I have two questions. Number one: why will the opposition not get on that hotline or the “Batphone” or whatever they use to talk to the union bosses, and tell them to get back to the bargaining table so we can get this solved or to support our legislation so mail delivery will resume?

Number two: is the opposition repeating talking points coming directly from CUPW that are in fact on CUPW letterhead?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 12:10 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, if this can reassure my colleague across the way, personally I have not even seen a letterhead from the union in question; therefore, I could not have repeated the content of such letters. I would like to clarify one thing: I have spoken to unionized workers on the street, not to union leaders. I have heard the views of these people, my fellow citizens, consumers, and my brothers-in-law. So, I could not comment on hotline.

That said, one comment comes back repeatedly: under suitable conditions, the parties could simply agree to resume negotiations while the former collective agreement would continue to apply. They are totally open to that.

The solution is not complicated. Unlock the lock-out! That is simple enough. Solutions are right here in front of us and the situation could be resolved within three hours.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 12:10 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, in regard to the question the member just asked, I walked the picket line in the first rotating strike at the Hamilton sorting centre. I would not know the president of CUPW if he walked into the room. One thing I do know is we share solidarity in wanting to take care of the workers of Canada, and in this case particularly the workers at Canada Post. That is what we share.

Personally, I have not seen one piece of paper in this lobby from CUPW. I do not know that there are any there. The reality is that we understand the issues and we share CUPW's perspective of the issues. That is very clear.

The member says he met workers on the street. Was that on a picket line?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 12:15 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, it was right in my riding. There is not one big centre but rather several centres: Montmagny, La Pocatière and Rivière-du-Loup. It was in Montmagny that I met about 20 employees, including a union leader. It is not my field so I do not know what his rank was, but he was an extremely nice union leader who seemed to be very well liked by his members, and not a monster that they had forced to come under some mysterious threat.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 12:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have heard throughout this entire debate over the past just about 40 hours now how important and valued the postal service is to every Canadian. I have heard that Canadians have been handcuffed by this disruption and that small business is jeopardized. It sounds to me as though we are dealing with an essential service for all Canadians.

My question to the hon. member is this: Is he willing to support designating Canada Post an essential service?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 12:15 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, that would be a job for another committee or another bill. I do not want to mix things up, definitely not.

The mail is very important. So important that I think that they should unlock the lockout today.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, as we listen to the member for Winnipeg Centre and other members, it is obvious that their true colours are starting to show and they are beholden to the union. They have forgotten about the small businesses they are crippling and about ordinary Canadians.

In my riding of Souris—Moose Mountain there has been severe flooding from Yellow Grass, Weyburn, and Estevan to Roche Percee. People are losing homes.

I got a letter from the Chamber of Commerce. It says:

As you are aware, the past seven days have been taxing for everyone in southeastern Saskatchewan.... Flood damage has forced the closure of a number of our retail and service businesses....

Many of our businesses are already in a crisis mode as a result of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers strike. Businesses are not receiving payments from many of their customers, and we fear that having more hurdles in their way at this time may cause job losses, bankruptcies, and migration of people out of our area.

Given all of that, why do these members not put the interests of Canadians at hand, ensure that their benefits are looked after, and support this bill to get the mail moving?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 12:15 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, we are everywhere in Canada and in Quebec for people have suffered terrible losses as a result of floods. This is what is happening. On the other hand, the union is ready to go back to the bargaining table and is offering solutions.

Unlock the lockout.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 12:15 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to this bill. I have heard both sides talk about different issues and go back and forth on a number of different things. I think what we all agree upon is a sense of fairness. I think members on both sides would agree that we want a sense of fairness. Let me try to use what happened years ago as an illustration of how we would like that fairness to happen.

In my previous life as a union elected official, I used to keep agreements. Some called me a union boss, but my members never called me that. They used to call me by my first name. I used to go to co-op classes in schools and do a bit of a history of how collective bargaining started and show them what collective bargaining books looked like.

One of the very first books I showed them was all of about 12 pages. That was it. I used to bring in the most recent agreements, which were about eight books that had all kinds of measures and clauses in them. The one that had 12 pages had a very unfair clause in it, and I think all of us would agree with the unfairness of the clause. Let me explain what it was about.

It was about the three classes of workers, which were men, women and boys. For those three classes there were three very different wage rates, regardless of what they did. Regardless of how severe or dangerous the job might have been, men made more, women made less, and boys made even less. This was at a time when companies could actually hire boys, which meant they were under the age of 16.

I met a man, who has fortunately retired and has a decent pension courtesy of what was then the United Auto Workers ans is now the CAW, who was a boy when he started working. He actually had that classification. He was the last boy ever hired in the GM plant in St. Catharines. He told me about what used to happen at the time.

There were three classifications of workers all making different wages regardless of the work they did. How were folks laid off when things got slow? I am sure people are wondering that. Men were the first to stay.

One would expect, because the wage classification was men, women and boys, they would have been laid off exactly the same way. They were not. Women were laid off first and employers kept the boys. The boys would then be made to do the jobs that the women used to do for the same wages they made doing what was termed a “boy's job”, which for the most part in those days was bringing water to the assembly line because there were no fountains. They used to bring water to the men working on the line.

I heard my colleagues on the other side talk about a sense of fairness. Is it okay that new workers start with less pay in the postal service because other workers do? The illustrations that they used were about workers who would eventually move to the top rate of pay.

They talked about teachers. It is true that new teachers do not start at the same rate of pay as senior teachers. That is absolutely true in most provinces of this country. That is not what Canada Post is talking about. It is not talking about a wage rate for new employees that is lower than that of those who are already there but that over time, with experience, they will eventually get to the same rate. It is talking about the wage rate being lower for the rest of a person's working life. A person would continue to work with someone who got hired the day before the new contract came into being.

Let us say two people of the same age, 22, get hired. One gets hired the day before this new agreement and the other gets hired the day after the new agreement. Those two workers work the same number of years, because they are the same age. One will work for 18% more, and the other will work for 18% less and the one who works for less will never catch up. That is the intent. Surely, that is as unfair as the three classifications of workers.

By the way, that was in the 1930s. It was a unionized workplace with a recognized collective agreement. It was around the Second World War, not that long ago. It seems like a long time ago, but there are members in the House who would have been alive albeit very young at the time this agreement was in place.

People understood that that was patently unfair and changed it over time. Surely we can see the unfairness of two workers, one hired the day before, one hired the day after a collective agreement, one working for more than the other and doing exactly the same job. Whether it be a letter carrier, a sorter, a clerk, whatever the job they happen to have within the postal service, the rest of their working days they would work for less than the other, doing exactly the same work.

Surely we see that is unfair. I think we all would see the unfairness in that. So why would we want to propagate that on those workers? If we want to have some sense of fairness we would want to actually have them all work for the same wage. I hope they would not ask me whether they should all just not take a reduction. If it is a profitable corporation, I do not see why wages should roll back.

I will give an example of what would happen. In my riding of Welland, we have lost major manufacturing like John Deere, Atlas Steel and Union Carbide. This has been going on since before the recession of two years ago. It has been going on for the last 15 years. What we see are workers, who used to make $28, $29, $30 an hour, now working for $12 and $14 trying to raise the same family, pay the same mortgage, pay the same debts for their cars and trying to get their kids into post-secondary education but having to live on less than half the wage. What we see in Welland is folks in poverty.

The rate of poverty in my riding has gone up exponentially over the last 15 years. Families are relocating. We have seen an erosion of the middle class because the good paying jobs have been replaced by those that pay less. We see defaults on property taxes going up. When I talk to the five mayors of the communities I represent they all say the same thing. They say that they have difficulty with folks who are getting into property tax arrears.

When those folks come into my constituency office, they ask if there is any way I can help them with that. All of us know there is not. We ask them how that happened to them and they tell us that they lost their job at the Deere where they were making $28 an hour. They tell us that they were lucky enough to get a new job but that they are only making $14.50 an hour. Many of them have kids at home and mortgages to pay. Some have tried to sell their house but it did not move because of the mortgage.

We are having some struggling times in Welland. Yes, there are some good things happening in Welland. For the folks who are listening, I want to say that Welland is a great place to invest. Things are happening in Welland but it will be a slower recovery because it has happened over a long period of time and we have literally lost thousands of manufacturing jobs. It will take time and it will have to take that change to get there.

Ultimately, when we talk about that fairness issue, if we continue to drive wages backward , as some of my colleagues talked about a little earlier, we indeed will have an erosion in the middle class.

My father, as a young man with a young family in the U.K., was a shipbuilder who came to this country at the request of the Canadian immigration board because he had the skills but he did not have any work. He brought myself, my two sisters and my brother to Collingwood to start work at the shipyards in St. Catharines. He came to this place because he wanted to be part of the middle class. He wanted an opportunity for his four kids. It turned out to be five kids because my brother was born here. Nonetheless, he gave us the opportunity to be part of that middle class. He got a post-secondary education.

I thank my late father and my mother, who is still alive today, for the opportunity because they say that this is truly the greatest country in the world. There is no question in my mind about that. What other country in this world would allow a young kid like me who was not born here, who came with a funny accent, although I now speak Canadian, to be here. I once told my mother I would lose that accent, so I did so and now I do not have that funny voice. Nonetheless, this is the greatest place in the world that allows me to be in my place and stand up for all of us who are out there.

A member on the other side said that small businesses were saying that the lockout must end. They are right, end the lockout. The people on that side have the power to do that. They have the key to turn in the lock to open the gates of the postal sorting stations, the padlocks on those super mailboxes, and allow the postal workers, who have voluntarily put their hands up and said that if the locks are taken off they will be back to work tomorrow.

The government has the power and we ask that it please exercise that power. We will be happy on this side if they exercise that power. We will not fight if the government decides to take that key, unlock the postal sorting stations, unlock the super mailboxes and unlock the postal workers who want to go back to work. If they are allowed to go back to work they will start delivering the mail on Monday.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 12:25 p.m.

Cambridge
Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, the member is correct. John Deere is gone. The member's area has lost a lot of manufacturing jobs. In my area, Bundy of Canada has disappeared. Budd Automotive has disappeared. The common denominator here is unions, and we could get into that argument, but my question is not about that. We could also argue about bad employers who should go to jail and, if the NDP would support our crime agenda, maybe that too would happen. We could even talk about Jimmy Hoffa. We could go into this rhetoric.

However, I hear about how unions are democratic. I am not talking about the right to strike. I understand that 94%, so I ask the member not to go there. Postal workers are asking to have had the democratic right to vote on the offer by Canada Post. They were denied a basic democratic right. That is very offensive to Canadians. It is not about us taking the locks off the door. It is about the unions behaving democratically in the best interest of the country, not in the historic interest of the long gone Budd Automotive, John Deere and all of these industries that cannot compete, and guess why.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 12:30 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not have to guess why, I will tell the member. It is called free trade and it is propagated by the member's particular government. If the member would like to ask John Deere why it left, he can go ahead and ask it.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I am having difficulty hearing the hon. member and he sits right by the Chair. I will ask members to wait until they have an opportunity to ask another question to make their statements.

The hon. member for Welland.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 12:30 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I do not think I have a small voice either.

However, in response to the minister's question, and I will not use the 94.5%, the democratic structure of the union is somewhat like this Parliament. People run for office. The membership, just like a riding, elects them and empowers them to make decisions on their behalf because they were democratically elected, just like this side of the House does as the government. Elected by the people in their constituency, whatever number that happens to be, members are then empowered by them to make decisions on their behalf without having to go back to them every time with a plebiscite and asking if they are okay with it. That is what they asked them to do. That is the reality of how a democratic structure works.

This one works the same way. The unions actually looked at Parliament and structured themselves the same way as Parliament and said that they can go ahead and do that, and that is exactly what they do. When they have an offer to present to their members, they will and their members will vote on it yes or no.