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

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

7 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, I was hoping my colleague from Winnipeg Centre would have an opportunity to ask a question, because the brand new mail facility is right on the edge of our shared riding boundary. This is a great improvement not only for the delivery of mail but also for the people who work for Canada Post and provide the mail for our shared constituents and throughout the region.

In answer to the question, I wonder if the member is aware that Canada Post, partly for that facility, is investing $1.5 billion in infrastructure. The return on investment is very marginal, which implies that Canada Post is working for Canadians right at the margin.

We do not want taxpayers subsidizing the operations, but we also want to ensure that people in Canada get the mail when they ask for it. There are a lot of factors here.

The bottom line is that at the end of the day we can go into all of this, but we need Canadians to get their mail. Right now they do not. This legislation will ensure that Canadians will get their mail, our economy will move along and everyone will be able to enjoy the great institution of mail delivery.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

7 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the Minister's comments today.

One thing we have overlooked for a lot of small businesses and larger businesses within Canada is that at the end of this month, everyone must remit the HST or GST. A lot of the small business owners still receive it by paper form. We cannot remit without that paper form.

How much of a problem will it be for the government when we small business owners will not be able to remit our taxes to it?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

7 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member on his election.

The member has pointed out one of probably millions of examples of the vital role Canada Post plays in the lives of Canadians.

Right now Canadians are not receiving the mail. There are a lot of reasons. The two parties, Canada Post and CUPW, have not been able to come up with a negotiated settlement. We want to get the mail flowing, and the only way to do this is for the government to bring forward back-to-work legislation so that the stakeholders, the people of Canada, will get their mail.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Burnaby--New Westminster in this debate. Since this is also my first speech in the House since we returned, although I did participate in question period and a few questions and comments, I will take the opportunity to thank the voters of St. John's East who returned me to this House to represent them. I am very proud to be their representative.

This is a very crucial debate. It is a crucial debate because it is really about the values Canadians have and the values this government is trying to impose on them against their will through this legislation.

Let us look at what happened here. The previous speaker, the Minister of State for Transport, said it very well. We have an excellent postal service. We deliver 55 million pieces of mail per day. We have rural and urban delivery. We have a service that is in fact profitable. As stated by my colleague, the member for Winnipeg North, Canada Post has made from $100 million to $300 million per year for the last 10 years. It is a profitable public corporation that is providing a service to Canadians and is able to negotiate fair wage and pension benefits for its workers. It is in a position to do so because it is a profitable service.

What do we have happening here? We have a combination of three things.

First, this crown corporation, essentially run on behalf of the government, has locked out its workers, effectively shutting down the postal service, which it is complaining about. Why does it not tell them to unlock the locks, open the postal service and deliver the mail? Instead of talking about pensioners not getting their cheques, it should open the doors. The employees said they were quite happy to deliver the pension cheques even if they were on strike. They were not trying to disrupt pensioners or people who were dependent on receiving cheques in the mail.

Second, after the workers were locked out and the post office was shut down, there is now legislation ordering the workers back to work, including workers who are not even on strike. At the same time, their wages are being reduced with a wage offer below what was on the table. A profitable corporation made a wage offer in the middle of negotiations, and the government came in and ordered the workers back to work, telling them they will get less than the profitable corporation was prepared to offer through collective bargaining.

What are we doing here? What are we telling the people of Canada?

Part of the problem going on here is the attempt by this profitable corporation to drive down the pension benefits of workers. The government is facilitating, aiding and abetting that attempt. What message are they trying to send to the people of Canada? I do not mean necessarily all the people of Canada, but a certain group of the people of Canada to whom this message is going. I am talking about the next generation of workers.

When I think about this legislation, I think about my children. I think about the young people in this country, the next generation. I am of a generation that is getting close to retirement, but there are young people, and we have them in our caucus, who are being told by the government not to expect for themselves, their friends and their children the same benefits, the same retirement possibilities and the same opportunity to live in dignity in their senior years as exist today.

We are becoming more prosperous as a country, yet we are telling people that if they work for the post office, they should not expect the same kind of retirement security as the people who came before them.

The same thing was happening at Air Canada. The government was aiding and abetting the employer, a profitable company, to drive down the expectations of young people. They are your children and your grandchildren. Members over there are telling them they are not entitled to share in the prosperity of this country.

That is wrong. Members opposite are aiding and abetting it, and that message has to be stopped, Mr. Speaker.

This legislation is going to be opposed as long as it does those things to these workers.

I heard the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound speak earlier, and I like the hon. member. I do not like what he said, though.

The hon. member offered a letter from a constituent who wrote about a grandchild who felt lucky to have a job receiving the minimum wage for a couple of days a week. There may be some people with that sentiment, but the member used that letter to suggest that is a reason to resent someone who has a job with decent pay.

If the argument made by the hon. member is that this is the principle on which we should be talking about these issues, what the hon. member is saying is that everybody should be grateful to have a job, any job at any wage, with any offer from anybody, and should be thankful. That is a recipe for poverty, for disaster, for people working for slave wages without any bargaining rights.

We have heard many moving speeches on this side of the House today concerning collective bargaining. The member for Timmins—James Bay talked about miners being challenged by police officers with machine guns for going on strike in Kirkland Lake to win the right to bargain collectively. It was not that long ago, just some 50, 60 or 70 years ago.

Now members opposite are seeking to destroy that right to bargain collectively with a profitable corporation in the 21st century, in one of the most prosperous countries in the world, with a postal service that is quite capable of paying decent wages and bargaining collectively in good faith. The strike and lockout mechanisms that exist are part of that good-faith bargaining, and the parties could reach a bargain.

What does one do with that? What did the government do? The union and its members offered to end the rotating strikes and to return to work under their existing contract and to continue negotiations. There would be no worries about the postal service working, no worries about rotating strikes, no worries about anything. The union offered to continue to negotiate in good faith.

Sometimes negotiations go on for a couple of years. They do not always take two or three months. Sometimes they take two or three months, but sometimes when there are tough negotiations and people want an opportunity to figure things out, they do that.

However, Canada Post said no and locked the doors.

The Conservative government supported the company by stepping up virtually immediately to say it would bring in back-to-work legislation. In fact, notice was given on June 15. This is what is going on.

It is happening in lockstep. Who locked the doors? Canada Post locked the doors, but the government was there a minute later to say it would order the workers back to work because the postal service could not be shut down.

That is wrong. The challenge the Conservative government is putting to workers and to ordinary people has to be challenged back, and that is what we are here to do.

To actually interfere with collective bargaining and impose a wage rate below what fair collective bargaining in good faith was producing is outrageous.

I see that my time is coming to a close. I have a minute left, but as someone who has practised law for 30 years, a good portion of it labour law, I am very familiar with the kind of situation that we are facing here today with back-to-work legislation.

To put people back to work, to reduce their wages from an offer that was on the table, to impose with this legislation a final offer on parties that have not agreed to it is one of the most draconian pieces of legislation that I have seen in the 30 years I have been practising labour law. That is something the parties agree to sometimes as a way out of a situation, and these parties may at some point have agreed to such a thing on certain aspects of their contract, but it should not be imposed by a third party.

It is utterly wrong on all counts, and we are opposed to it.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have had an opportunity to stand up in the House since being re-elected on May 2. I want to thank the voters of Burlington for sending me back to this fine institution. I hope to be able to support the needs and causes that are important to Burlington over the next four and a half years.

My question is simple. I stand to be corrected if I am wrong, but it is my understanding that the postal workers have never had an opportunity to vote of any offers that Canada Post has made to them. I have had calls from CUPW workers asking me to support back-to-work legislation because their union would not let them vote on the offers that had been made by Canada Post.

Can the hon. member explain to me what the responsibility of union leadership is in allowing its workers an opportunity to vote on offers that have been made to them?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member on getting re-elected and serving here in the House. I thank him for his question. It is one that is often misunderstood.

An individual union member may not agree. If there is a strike vote the member may vote against going on strike. That same person may think he or she should vote on every piece of paper, every comment, every single offer that is made, that negotiations will be taking place pretty shortly so we will have a vote on this and another vote on this.

These cost thousands of dollars. There are 48,000 workers and that member feels the workers and their families should vote on every offer.

The democratic union elects the bargaining committee. It elects the process. It is a democratic organization. That is the way this works and that is the way it happens. Some people may disagree, but it is a democratic organization that has its own democratically chosen procedure as to how to deal with this.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, let me congratulate my colleague from Newfoundland for his re-election in St. John's East. I remember a time when he was the provincial leader of the NDP in Newfoundland and Labrador. I do not recall him supporting any back to work legislation ever. I remember the nurse's strike of 1996. He did not support back to work legislation for that essential service in Newfoundland.

Would the member ever see himself supporting any type of back to work legislation that is good for the public?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Avalon on his re-election against the senator. I know it was a hard fought election. It is good to see him back here.

What I am hearing is a bit of an echo of a Liberal mantra today. The Liberal mantra is not about will we support this legislation, do we support postal workers, do we believe that governments should order people back to work, impose contracts, lower people's wages. All they want to know is some theoretical, philosophical issue to do with something that may or may not happen in the future.

I do not speculate on the future. What I will say is that this legislation is as bad, probably worse, than the legislation that he is talking about that was brought in by his provincial counterparts against the nurses. It is probably just as bad, if not worse. I said in my speech they had the worst legislation. So if someone brings in legislation like this, we will vote against it, as we did in Newfoundland, as we will here today.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, while we are dealing with a very specific labour dispute between Canada Post, the workers and the management, and this government's intervention, are we not also dealing with the more fundamental principle of how the government treats the legislative process that exists in law in Canada that has been supported by constitutional experts and in fact the Supreme Court that says that when workers have a dispute with management if they are in a union they can go and freely and fairly bargain with those that employ them?

For a government to intervene and impose a wage settlement, as it has done here, I am trying to find a precedent for a government having done that with an arm's-length institution like Canada Post before, intervening on the actual settlement, not even allowing an arbitrator or mediator to work out the details. Is there not a fundamental principle for which the NDP members are standing in our places for time and time again today and potentially tonight and tomorrow?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I will be brief. The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that the fundamental right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the right to organize and to bargain collectively is part of the freedom of association. There is a case in B.C. where legislation that imposed restrictions on collective bargaining was struck down.

It is a very high level of right protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The government is attacking those rights in this legislation and that is one of the many reasons why we are opposing it.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The member hon. member for Leeds—Grenville has a point of order.

(Bill S-1001. On the Order: Government Orders:)

June 23, 2011--Second reading, An Act Respecting Queen's University at Kingston

An Act Respecting Queen's University at Kingston
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

moved:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Bill S-1001, An Act Respecting Queen's University at Kingston, be deemed to have been reported favourably by the Examiner of Petitions pursuant to Standing Order 133(3); and that the bill be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole, deemed considered in Committee of the Whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

An Act Respecting Queen's University at Kingston
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Does the hon. member have the consent of the House to propose this motion?

An Act Respecting Queen's University at Kingston
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.