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

Commissioner of Lobbying
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I have the honour, pursuant to section 11 of the Lobbying Act, to lay upon the table the report of the Commissioner of Lobbying for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2011.

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I also have the honour to lay upon the table the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal's 2010 annual report.

Yukon Land Claims and Self-Government Agreements
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Vancouver Island North
B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, under the provisions of Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the 2007-2009 biennial report of the Yukon land claims and self-government agreements.

Access to Information Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-253, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act (response time).

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill is to ensure that timely responses to access to information requests are made. Delays have been quite common with these requests and the Canadian public deserve timely responses to their requests.

The bill would require that a report be sent to the requester setting out a full explanation for the delay and that it include a projected completion date.

I have made many access requests and have received lots of apologies, but months and months, even a year and a half later, I still had not received the information I required.

The bill would also require that the Information Commissioner include outstanding requests in his or her annual report to Parliament.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Income Tax Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-254, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act and the Employment Insurance Act (severance pay).

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill is to assist people who lose their jobs and enable them to better manage their money.

First, to help people save for retirement, the bill would change the Income Tax Act to allow a taxpayer to apply for a one-time contribution of any severance pay to his or her RRSP.

The bill also calls for changes to the Employment Insurance Act to exclude severance pay from the determination of earnings when determining deductions from benefits or the commencement date of the payment of benefits. This would ensure that those who were laid off would receive their benefits sooner. It would enable them to manage to continue with their mortgage payments and to pay for their kids' education instead of waiting and waiting for the employment insurance benefits they deserve. It would also allow older workers to invest their severance in RRSPs without penalty.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Breast Implant Registry Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-255, An Act to establish and maintain a national Breast Implant Registry.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my former colleague, Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis, for introducing the bill in previous Parliaments. Like her, I believe the bill is very important for the health and safety of women. It is essential that there be a registry of breast implants and that it be maintained so that if there are health risks associated with any implants, the people involved can be identified and contacted.

Women have suffered dreadfully in the past. We do not want to see that happen in future.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-256, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (firefighters).

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to introduce this bill.

Firefighters put their lives on the line each and every day to protect us, our homes, our families and our communities. This bill would give added protection to firefighters because it would stiffen penalties for those who would attack or wilfully harm a firefighter.

We know there are plans afoot to get rid of the gun registry. Firefighters have indicated very clearly to me that they would be very concerned if no one knew where the guns were and they were going into a situation where their lives were under threat.

The bill also provides for stiffer penalties for those who directly and purposely commit arson.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Food and Drugs Act
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-257, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (mandatory labelling for genetically modified foods).

Mr. Speaker, this is a reintroduction of a previous bill I had. It is timely as it would amend the Food and Drugs Act to ensure there is labelling with regard to genetically modified foods.

Some may ask why this bill is necessary. Canadians are becoming more and more concerned about the food they eat. Independent research is difficult to find when dealing with this topic. There are scientists in the world who have found adverse effects. For example, studies were done on Monsanto's MON 810 corn in Europe. As a result, this corn has been banned in a number of European countries. Bulgaria has a total ban on GMOs because of health and environmental concerns.

This bill is about the choice of Canadians to determine what they want or do not want to eat.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Parliament of Canada Act
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-258, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Canada Post Corporation Act (use of resources by members).

Mr. Speaker, this is a reintroduction of a previous bill I had. It comes as a result of tampering with previous board of director elections at the Canadian Wheat Board. It says that MPs should not interfere with any democratic process, such as electoral processes, of any organization such as the Canadian Wheat Board or other crown corporations. It is my hope that we will ensure that does not happen.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Excise Tax Act
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-259, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act (goods and services tax on school authorities).

Mr. Speaker, this is a very important bill for school authorities in our country. Currently, school authorities get a GST rebate of 68%. We want to make sure it is 100%, the same that municipalities receive.

School authorities in my riding are suffering because of a lack of adequate funding from the provincial government. They often have to make hard choices which involve decisions to shut down schools, which often pits one small community against another.

This would be a small step the federal government could do to ensure that school authorities had a little more cash as they put forward their budgets and try to overcome those difficulties.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Statistics Act
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-260, An Act to amend the Statistics Act (mandatory long-form census questionnaire).

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to reintroduce the bill. It would enshrine the mandatory long form census into the Statistics Act so that never again would we have a census without the comparable data, which unfortunately happened this year. At least in the 2016 census there would be comparable data to 2006 and we would know whether or not our programs were working.

It puts the count in accountability. We hope that members opposite who care about accountability will understand the folly of removing the mandatory long form census and will support this bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-261, An Act respecting a National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day.

Mr. Speaker, what an honour it is once again to introduce this bill. This will be the third time that this bill has been introduced. I am pleased that the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound saw fit to second my bill.

The member and I share a heritage that is shared by many Canadians right across the country from coast to coast to coast. That is the love of the outdoors and conservation. That means being able to harvest deer and other animals, which is a tradition in this country. Hunting and fishing are not only traditions of Canadians but to this day, first nations people subsist on them. Their main way of feeding their families is by hunting and fishing.

My grandfather was a trapper. Many first nations, Inuit and aboriginals right across the country still use trapping as a major source of income.

I am pleased to introduce this bill in the 41st Parliament in the sincere hope that it comes to fruition.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Holidays Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-262, An Act to amend the Holidays Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (St. John the Baptist Day).

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to introduce my private member's bill, An Act to amend the Holidays Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (St. John the Baptist Day). This bill is seconded by the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine and would make St. John the Baptist Day a national holiday in Canada.

As Franco-Ontarians, my family and I have always enjoyed celebrating this holiday. French Canadians across the country have said that they support this important holiday.

I invite all members to support this bill, which will allow us to celebrate our rich Quebec, Franco-Ontarian, Franco-Manitoban, Franco-Albertan and Acadian culture on June 24.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canadian Human Rights Act
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-263, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (social condition).

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, for seconding this bill.

This bill is important because it would prohibit discrimination on the grounds of social condition. It would prohibit discrimination against people who are experiencing social or economic disadvantage on the basis of their source of income, occupation, level of education, poverty, lack of adequate housing, homelessness, or any other similar circumstance.

There are people in our society who have been economically and socially discriminated against based on those various grounds. They face terrible discrimination, whether it is with respect to housing or employment, or accessing public services or community services. It is important that the Criminal Code be clear, that it would be against the law to discriminate against someone on the basis of poverty.

I am pleased to introduce this bill today. I hope that all members of the House will support the bill, because we recognize discrimination as a serious issue in our society that needs to be addressed.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-264, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (social condition).

Mr. Speaker, this is a companion bill to the bill that I just introduced that would amend the Human Rights Act. This bill would amend the Criminal Code on the basis that we need to stop discrimination against people who are poor, disadvantaged or face homelessness.

This bill would create an amendment to the Criminal Code to establish an increased sentence where there is evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on the social condition of the victim.

Unfortunately, we do have these kinds of cases in our society, and they are all too common. Therefore, it is important that there be recognition in the Criminal Code that it is a heinous crime and that a sentence be added to address when poor people are bashed, assaulted or discriminated against simply on the basis of their social condition.

I hope that if this bill is enacted and supported by the House, it will prevent that from happening. We need to have equality in this country so that people who have low incomes or who are poor will not face this kind of discrimination.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canada Post-Secondary Education Act
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-265, An Act to establish criteria and conditions in respect of funding for post-secondary education programs in order to ensure the quality, accessibility, public administration and accountability of those programs.

Mr. Speaker, this bill comes from the history of how our education system is right now. Post-secondary education is not something that is easily accessible and affordable for all Canadians. This bill would enshrine the principles of good quality education and make post-secondary education accessible and affordable to all Canadians.

I sincerely hope that this House will adopt this motion during this session of Parliament.

I am proud to introduce this as my first private members' bill in the Canadian House of Commons.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Falun Gong
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, since July 1999, the Chinese Communist Party launched an eradication campaign against the practitioners of Falun Gong. Its policy is to destroy their reputation, bankrupt them financially and eliminate them completely. It has led to the arbitrary detention and torture of hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners for their beliefs.

Eleven Canadian members are serving jail terms of up to 12 years simply for their belief in the Falun Gong faith.

The medical community, the UN Committee Against Torture and many other organizations have shown great concern that living Falun Gong practitioners have been slaughtered en masse for their vital organs for organ transplant tourism.

Free and democratic nations have a responsibility to condemn crimes against humanity and the shameless disregard for human life wherever they occur.

These dozens of petitioners publicly condemn the Chinese Communist regime's illegal persecution against the Falun Gong and ask for help to rescue the listed family members of Canadians who are incarcerated simply for their belief in the Falun Gong faith.

Asbestos
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise to present a petition on behalf of literally thousands of Canadians from all across the country calling upon Parliament to recognize that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known. They point out that more people die from asbestos than all other industrial causes combined and yet, they point out, Canada remains one of the largest producers and exporters of asbestos in the world.

This petition calls upon Canada to stop spending millions of dollars subsidizing the asbestos industry, as well as to stop blocking international efforts to curb its use.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to ban asbestos in all of its forms and institute a just transition program for any asbestos workers or miners and the communities in which they live in, to end all government subsidies of asbestos both in Canada and abroad, and to stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam Convention.

Visitor Visas
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, many families here in Canada have attempted to get family members from abroad, particularly in countries like Philippines and India, to come to Canada to visit.

This petition asks the government to look at the way in which visitor visas are being issued and, in particular, how they are being denied. They ask that the government take more action so that family members from abroad are better able to come to Canada and participate in things such as funerals, weddings and other types of family celebrations. There are so many reasons.

It is with pleasure that I table this particular petition here today.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

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

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
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

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the consideration of Government Business No. 3, I move:

That the debate be not further adjourned.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1 there will now be a 30-minute question period. I invite hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their place so the Chair has some idea of the number of members who wish to participate in this question period.

Given the number of members who have expressed an interest, I will ask members to keep their questions to one minute and the minister's response to one minute. In that way we will try to accommodate as many as possible.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, we are all aware, unfortunately, that Canada Post locked out its employees, even though they wanted to go back to the bargaining table to ensure that Canada Post would honour the previous collective agreement and give Canada Post workers the benefits to which they were entitled.

The government refused to ask Canada Post to go back to the bargaining table, stating that it did not wish to interfere in the negotiations. But at the same time, it introduced back-to-work legislation and imposed wages that were lower than those that Canada Post had offered the workers.

My question is for the government. Why is the Conservative government imposing legislation that will give workers lower wages than what had already been agreed to by Canada Post? Why does the Conservative government have such hatred for the workers of this country?

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Halton
Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, the back to work legislation that is before the House today has a number of different aspects to it. Some are guiding principles.

Indeed, the government has set wages in this bill, wages that had been negotiated at the table between the largest public sector union in Canada and the government. We feel that those are appropriate and fair wages, which is why we put them in there.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I think what this House has seen over the course of the last week or so is the government tilting negotiations and labour-government relations completely toward the corporation.

We saw it with the Air Canada legislation and we are seeing it again here today with the heavy-handed approach that the government has taken. Any kind of objectivity or any kind of impartiality has certainly been compromised with the presentation of this legislation.

The point made by my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst is absolutely true. To put forward legislation that identifies far less of a wage increase than what was offered by the company makes no sense at all.

Does the minister see the folly in her ways in that she has absolutely kicked organized labour in the teeth? With her actions in the last week, she has sucker-punched organized labour in this country. Is that what we can expect to see over the course of the next four years?

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I am a little concerned that the member uses such violent imagery with respect to introducing back to work legislation when his party in 1997, in fact his colleague from Prince Edward Island, introduced the almost exact legislation, supported by the official opposition, which included wage rates that were lower than what was contemplated by the parties at the table at the time.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, we in the NDP are deeply disturbed that the government has gone to such extraordinary lengths to, in effect, cut out collective bargaining.

I have heard various ministers, but certainly the Minister of Labour, say in the House that workers can go back to the table and bargain while we are debating this legislation. The reality is, and she said it herself in speaking about the legislation and referring to what happened in 1997, that because the back to work legislation includes wages that were lower than what was offered by the employer, what incentive is there at all for Canada Post to go back to the table?

This has been done deliberately to preclude any collective bargaining taking place. Anybody can see that. How can the minister stand here and say that she hopes they go back and bargain?

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, we put this legislation on the notice paper last week and from that point in time there were 72 hours of very intense negotiations. Unfortunately, as has been the case with these parties throughout the time since October, they were unable to conclude a deal. They were unable to even get close.

The issue of wages was not on the table at all. Defining issues had to do with pension, new employees and short-term disability. There were significant issues on the table that they simply could not close the gap on in a short period of time. It is affecting the Canadian economy and Canadian citizens and we are acting.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Before I proceed with more questions and answers, so that everybody understands the rules, I am advised by the Table that we will operate more or less like question period where questions are primarily given by the opposition, but I will recognize some members of the government. I want to ensure there is an understanding of the rules and fairness.

The hon. member for Hamilton Mountain.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, the minister just said that wages were not the primary issue on the table. Why then would she feel compelled to bring in a wage package lower than what the company had already agreed to? It makes absolutely no sense.

We are now dealing with a closure motion before we have even had a single minute of debate on the bill itself. How can closure be moved on something before debate has even started? It is contempt of the rights of members of Parliament, of Parliament itself and of democracy in this country.

The minister needs to bring this bill forward and have it debated for however long it takes without moving a draconian closure motion before we have even started the debate.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I will answer the second part first. We are moving this motion, of course, because the service is not moving. No mail is being delivered. It is a necessary means by which we can get people back to work.

With respect to the first part of the question, setting the wage has been done in the past. It is something that makes a lot of sense because, at the end of the day, Canada Post is a crown corporation and we want to ensure there is future viability for the corporation as well.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, one of my constituents wrote to me. She does not always agree with the government's position or mine. She says that she would like to see the legislation passed and passed quickly. This is what she wrote:

We own a small newspaper business...[of course in my riding]...and we are unable to mail our newspapers to our readers this morning. ... We have staff employed whom we need and they need to be employed. We have customers buying ads which help pay for a community newspaper. All of these Canadians are being inconvenienced.

She personally thinks that we need a government that will legislate for the good and the health of all Canadians. I am sure there are many Canadians facing the same concerns. What would the minister have to say to them and are their concerns part of the reason for taking the action that the minister is taking today?

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Souris—Moose Mountain for all his work with respect to employment and labour that he has given to the House, specifically in the last session of Parliament. I am very grateful for the time and for his question.

That is the crux of the issue. We receive thousands of pieces of correspondence, as MPs, as ministers and as the government with respect to the concerns of small business. We heard them, we have introduced the legislation and we will commence the debate today.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, the minister has introduced a wage lower than the collective agreement that was introduced to the workers. I would like the minister to address the families of the postal workers, including those of Windsor and Essex County, who have relied upon this as a job to raise their children, to be able to send them to school and to be able to participate in the local economy. I want her to specifically talk to those families who are now going to get a wage cut and have actually been locked out and have not received a paycheque. Maybe she could address those individual people and their families who are getting a rollback right now, at a time when they actually need support from the government.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, as I have indicated in interviews, I have a family member who is a postal carrier as well. I am fully aware of the impact of the rolling strikes, the lockout, the breakdown of collective bargaining and indeed that the ending of the collective agreement has on families.

However, what we are talking about here is not a wage rollback. What we have indicated is the fair and appropriate wage. The wage we have put in the legislation has been negotiated in both the private and public sectors. It shows what the intention of the government is with respect to the wage and to encourage the parties to collectively bargain, which has not happened. We have not had a collective agreement.

However, at the end of the day, we are responsible to the great taxpayers of Canada. They have the responsibility of being on the hook for Canada Post. We want to ensure the viability of Canada Post Corporation and these are the appropriate ways to do that.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to correct something the minister said. Back in 1997, the Liberal government did in fact introduce back-to-work legislation after almost two weeks of strike. We do believe that sometimes there is good reason to put in an arbitration process when it is clear that the bargaining process is not working.

Here we have Bill C-6 which makes a mockery of arbitration. It is very prescriptive. It does not allow arbitration in good faith in the normal sense. Why does the government not implore the management to lift the lockout, get the unions to get people back to work on a full-time basis and allow the bargaining process to occur? If it does not work after a reasonable amount of time, unlike the NDP that does not believe in arbitration, we do believe there is a place for it. Why does the minister not allow that process to occur?

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I believe the theory with which we both approached this analysis is one that the member pointed out, which is when it is clear that collective bargaining is not working. There is no more clear analysis of the situation that collective bargaining is not working. We have had rolling strikes since June 1. We have a lockout now. The parties are at an impasse and that is why we have introduced this legislation.

One last point is that I do recognize that the Liberal Party introduced back-to-work legislation in 1997, but we have learned from the flaws that were inherent in that legislation. That is why we have final offer binding selection in the document. The Liberal Party's bill led to two years and millions of dollars of mediation arbitration that did not work at the end of the day. The parties settled themselves and the taxpayers ended up paying for that entire process that did not resolve anything.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I have two quick questions for the minister. I am trying to understand why she is rewarding the employer that locked out its employees by giving them even lower wages.

My constituents in Gatineau, who were very eager to hear members on both sides of the House speak to this motion, asked me why members are being prevented from speaking, which is a fundamental right for all members in this House.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, as I indicated, the wages in the legislation are ones that have been negotiated in the private and public sectors and they are ones that a majority of Canadians across Canada would very much enjoy receiving on a continuous basis guaranteed over the next four years, as well as the opportunity to have a cost-of-living allowance attached to it.

What is important is that the assumption is there that the arbitrator will be choosing necessarily to the benefit of Canada Post Corporation. I want to remind the House that this is final offer binding arbitration. The selection of the arbitrator could be either the union or it could be Canada Post Corporation.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask a question of the minister, on behalf of the people in my constituency, one of the largest constituencies in Canada, with many rural communities that not only depend on the postal service but on the wages, the income that postal workers make. I would like to specifically speak to the young people, people of my age, friends of mine, who work in the postal service who are looking ahead at building a future, hoping to invest in a home, hoping to getting their families started.

What can the minister can say about the draconian measures being put forward by the government when it comes to a cutback in their wages and, ultimately, the silencing of their voices in this critical debate where they are speaking up for nothing more than fairness?

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, for some clarity in the House, the opposition seems to think that we are cutting wages when, indeed, if the members would care to read the act they would see that we contemplate increases of wages and we have put in there the increases in wages that the workers would be receiving over a period of time.

Indeed, I would direct the hon. members to paragraph 15 of the act, where it says salaries will be increased effective January 31, 2011 by 1.75%, increased again in 2012 by 1.5%, increased again in 2013 by 2%, and increased again in 2014 by 2%.

These are increases that are not guaranteed for the majority of Canadians. These are guaranteed wages.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I am amazed at the kind of shell game that the minister is playing on this important issue. There is one thing that is absolutely clear. The government is not moving to arbitration in a way that is fair and equitable, and that is where the government should be.

I would encourage people to read the old Bill C-24 that was introduced by the Liberal Party. It did not have the kind of draconian measures the minister has put in this one.

Yes, the minister talks about increases in wages in the bill, but the increases in wages that are in the bill are less than the wages that were already negotiated. That is taking the side of management, and the government should not be doing this.

We recognize this is an extremely important issue to business and the mail needs to get moving again. I have Veseys seeds company in my riding which depends on Canada Post to move its seeds around the world and it is finding it difficult.

The best way to get a solution that is going to work in the future is allow arbitration to work in a fair and equitable way. If that were in the bill and it was arbitration that was fair and equitable, it would be quite easy for us on this side of the House to support it.

I ask the minister, why is she taking the side of management in terms of this issue and why is the government not coming forward with arbitration that is fair and equitable to both sides and let them negotiate?

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, as we have indicated in the past, the parties have had an ample amount of time at the table. In fact, since last October, the parties have been at the table, trying to come to a solution on the matter.

With respect to the choices in the legislation, there seems to be two issues that the member brings up. One is the fact that we have chosen to put in the legislation binding arbitration final offer selection which we believe is the most appropriate way to deal with the matter, in that we have learned from 1997. The process took over two years and indeed, at the end of the day, was a great cost to Canadian taxpayers and we had to proceed to ensure that we paid for those costs associated with it.

We would like to have a clear, crisp decision in the matter and have it settled so that the mail can continue to move and Canada Post Corporation can go on to fulfill its mandate.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the minister for her work on this very important file.

Since the rotating strikes started a few weeks ago causing Canada Post to institute the lockout, and we all know the history of that, I have been inundated from rural constituents, small businesses in particular, which are suffering greatly because of this. We have already suffered an economic recession. Also, since the minister tabled the legislation earlier this week, it is clear that 70% of Canadians support this legislation. What I cannot get my head around is why the opposition continues to battle this legislation when most people want it. Perhaps the minister could explain that to me.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I completely agree with the hon. member's assessment of what is happening in his riding. It is happening in my riding as well. Indeed, I received an email from a small business owner who is so concerned that it is thinking of moving the business to the United States because at least it can get service there. That is something that is of great concern because it shows the importance to small business in Canada for the mail service to continue.

I am disappointed that the opposition is not co-operating with the government in passing this quickly, predominantly because in 1997, with very similar terms within the legislation of going back to work, of setting up a process, of setting wages, the NDP did support it. In fact the member from Winnipeg was very clear why members were supporting it, one of the issues being small business.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, the minister mentioned that mail not being delivered is an important thing.

My question is multi-tiered. Why is it that you forced a lockout when workers were willing to work? I spoke with many workers in my riding who told me that they want to work, that they do not want to be living without a wage, that they do not want to be suffering to feed their children right now. That is why the workers instituted a rolling strike. Why is it that you pushed for a lockout?

You also mentioned that--

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would just ask all members, especially in what can be a very tense debate, to direct their questions through the Speaker. I ask the hon. member to conclude her question.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

My apologies, Madam Speaker, I will ensure my comments are directed through the Speaker.

I will rephrase my question. Why is it that the government pushed for a lockout situation for the workers and has not allowed them to work?

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member from the greater Toronto area for her question and welcome her to the House.

Perhaps for some clarity on the matter, the rolling strikes commenced on June 1. The lockout commenced soon thereafter, 13 days after. Through introducing this legislation we are attempting to actually stop the lockout so that people can go back to work, have their salaries, their benefits, so they can get on with their lives and the mail would continue to be delivered.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, the bill seems to be completely focused on the employer. A number of my colleagues have mentioned the fact that the wage increases imposed in the bill were lower than what the employer was offering. If the government wanted to legislate employees back to work, it could have included other provisions. It could have forced the two parties to accept the collective agreement that was already in force, as the union had agreed to do. It could have decided to eliminate the override clauses and ensure that they are not included in a collective agreement. It could have decided to ensure that employees were able to maintain defined benefits instead of defined contributions. It could have put an end to the lockout, while still upholding the employees' right to strike.

I would like the minister to explain why this bill is so biased in favour of the employer.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, the concept of final offer selection binding arbitration is that both parties put forward their best and final offer to the arbitrator. After they determine what is not in dispute and what is in dispute, they put their final offers on the table. An arbitrator, taking into consideration the guiding principles that we have in the legislation, will choose between one or the other. The parties have that opportunity to ensure that they are within the spirit of the guiding principles.

Having spoken to both sides of the table, intellectually and logically, both the union and management want Canada Post to remain viable, to do better and to ensure that pensions will be available for everyone. That is why the guiding principles are drafted in this way and both parties agree to those fundamental concepts. We want to make sure that the arbitrator understands that those are things that are important to the Canadian public and those are the things we want him or her to consider when looking at both offers on the table.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, what I find humourous in all of this, what I find shameful, is that it is as though the public were on one side and workers were on the other, as though the workers were not part of the public, as though they were not taxpayers. I find that a bit simplistic.

In 1997, I was on that side of the House. When we voted on back-to-work legislation—and it is normal to do so—it was because a national strike had been going on for two weeks. A rotating strike is not a strike, it is a pressure tactic used to force a negotiated settlement. The employer decided to provide mail delivery three days a week, even though the workers wanted to continue delivering the mail. Then came the lockout. What the minister did with Air Canada is part of a pattern. And there is no way she can make me believe that a crown corporation, which belongs to the government, is not talking to the government.

The question is, why play into the employers' hands? Why not ensure that there is a negotiated settlement? Let the arbitrator do his job. If he were to do it, there would at least be a possibility that the workers would get a little something, but this is take it or leave it, one or the other. Why take that stance and hang a sword of Damocles over the heads of the workers, denying their right to a negotiated settlement?

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I should not be surprised that a member of the Liberal Party would find it a source of pride to allow the economy to be put in a desperate situation and proud of the fact that his party has let a two week national strike go on, possibly harming the economy.

We on this side of the House do not share that view. We believe that the risk to the economy is a great one, especially when it comes to any kind of work stoppage at Canada Post. That is why we acted as quickly as we did in the matter. We have heard from small business, charities and Canadians. They all have valid points of view regarding our great national economy, including the concerns of constituents.

The act place takes into consideration that 45,000 employees at Canada Post want to go back to work and want a fair deal. We included the wage rates to ensure that in the case of a final offer selection, there would be a fair wage agreed to outside of the two selections currently on the table.

What we have put before the House is very appropriate. We are thinking about Canadians in the long term and Canada Post as well.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, like my colleagues, I have received a number of emails that support this government's position. Many of them are actually from postal workers and some are from small business owners. I would like to read one of those emails:

I am truly hoping that you and fellow reps are serious about getting Canada Post back to work. The union and all its members and the press need to know seriously their strike hurts small businesses and the self employed, which is the backbone of this country's economy.

Many are virtually without a source of income as long as the strike continues. They cannot receive cheques in the mail, cannot send out invoices or statements. What happens to them, is the union going to help them???

As we know, the union and management are far apart on making a deal. They have spent an enormous amount of time at the table. However, while all of this has been going on, small businesses have been worried about how they are going to survive.

Could the minister please tell us why this legislation is so necessary to protect hard-working Canadians who are involved in small businesses?

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I received similar emails while the rolling strikes were occurring across Canada. Although we did not have the enormous outcry that we heard with the lockout, we certainly did hear from Canadians about the possibility of increasing rolling strikes and the snowball effect these were having after 13 days. That is why we acted. We heard from Canadians. We saw the effect.

We also saw the effect on Canada Post. It felt the rolling strikes. Economically, Canada Post felt the difficulties associated with the rolling strikes, especially when Toronto and Montreal were targeted on the same day. That is why it acted with a lockout.

The government is acting in order to return everyone to work.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I am also hearing from constituents. The Island Tides, a wonderful local paper in my area, cannot be delivered. I have received a heart-wrenching email from a woman who is waiting for a child support cheque from her ex-husband. However, I also recognize that this legislation is draconian and violates union rights, and I am deeply troubled by all of this.

I am particularly troubled about the fact that while collective bargaining rights are what we are talking about at this moment, we do not seem to be negotiating with each other. We have a piece of legislation before us that is clearly not going to enjoy the support of the House.

I would ask the hon. Minister of Labour if she would entertain amendments. Would she be prepared to meet with leaders of the major parties in the House to come to an agreement so that the back to work legislation will be fair? Since we have put a gun to the head of the union, I think we might want to do the same to management and demand that a fixed percentage of Canada Post's profits go to CUPW in the future.

Is the minister willing to entertain negotiations here?

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, we can see the work stoppages affecting everyone from coast to coast to coast.

I would point out that this legislation does not violate anyone's rights at all. It is very much within the confines of what happens in fair collective bargaining. It is unfortunately the final solution with respect to the matter, in that Parliament is being asked to intervene in a dispute between two individual parties. It is a shame that it has come to this.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

It being 10:57 a.m. it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the motion now before the House.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

And five or more members having risen:

Motion that debate be not further adjourned
Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #22

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, given that June 24 is the national holiday of Quebec and since this House has recognized that Quebeckers form a nation, I would ask that you seek unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of this House, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings on Government Business No. 3 at 5:30 p.m. and put forthwith, without further debate, every question necessary to dispose of the motion and that the House suspend, as soon as the motion is disposed of, until June 25 at 8 a.m.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I wish to inform the House that because of the proceedings on the closure motion, government orders will be extended by 30 minutes.

The House resumed from June 21 consideration of the motion, and of the motion that this question be now put.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour has 19 minutes left to conclude his speech.

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to stand for a few more minutes and share some of my thoughts on the direction the government is taking in relation to the negotiations between Canada Post and the postal workers.

When I last was on my feet, I said that I was somewhat surprised and perplexed that government members were justifying their decision by saying that small businesses in their constituencies were being adversely affected by the decision of Canada Post to completely shut down mail delivery. Their response was not to deal with the executives who made that decision and fire them, or bring in legislation that would rescind the decision to shut down mail delivery; instead they directed their anger, venom and frustration at the workers who, under a very difficult set of circumstances, tried to maintain the emergency delivery of mail. The workers tried to keep things operating while exerting pressure on Canada Post to get negotiations moving in a positive direction. That was why there were rotating strikes.

I have heard from some constituents in the last day or so about a situation which really underlines the extent to which the workers at Canada Post have gone to rectify the consequences of the decision by Canada Post to shut down mail delivery. The Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship was organizing a trip to Kazakhstan and seven passports were caught in the mail. One of the people involved in organizing the trip went to the postal outlet in Wolfville, spoke to one of the workers and explained the problem.

11:40 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but there are many side conversations happening. Out of respect for the member who is speaking, I would ask all members to take their conversations out to the lobbies.

The hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, I appreciate that intervention.

As I said, members of a university Christian fellowship group were organizing a trip to Kazakhstan and their passports were caught in the mail because Canada Post, the employer, decided to completely suspend mail delivery. One of the trip organizers explained the problem to a postal worker who committed to try to track down the passports and intervene in order to rectify the problem. After his efforts in Wolfville in dealing with members of management, the worker went to union officials in Halifax and they identified where the passports were. After some insistence by the union officials, they were able to get into the postal station and retrieve the passports and get them into the hands of the people who were going to travel to do important work on an important exchange with Kazakhstan.

The point I am making is that the government is introducing legislation that pounds on the rights of the people who work for Canada Post when, in fact, it has been the people who work at Canada Post, the workers represented by CUPW, who have done everything in their power to try, at the same time as putting pressure to get negotiations moving forward, to not adversely inconvenience Canadian citizens and small business. In the case I mentioned, they even went so far as to intervene and make sure people could get their passports that were being held up as a direct result of the employer's decisions.

Again, I say to the members opposite that it was Canada Post that shut down completely the mail service in this country. The government should be directing any action toward the employer to either get rid of the members of the executive who are making decisions that adversely affect that operation or have them change their decision. However, that is not what the government is intending to do.

What the government has in mind is to engage in a direct attack on the rights of working people in this country. As a worker told me last night, workers across the country are not going to stand idly by and watch the government do away with rights which have been fought for so hard over the last century. That is an important thing to remember.

I was in Nova Scotia on June 11. That day is officially known as William Davis Miners' Memorial Day to recognize miners who have died on the job. In 1927, William Davis, in a dispute with the coal company, was shot dead. It is an example of the commitment that workers, women and men, have made in this country to ensure that they have some rights over their wages, benefits and working conditions. That is why unionized workers in this country are so discouraged, animated and angry at the attempt by the government to take away those hard-won rights.

Unions do not only exist to protect the rights of their workers, although if they did, that would be important, and to improve the rights and benefits of the people who are represented by that union. The history of the trade union movement in our country and around the world has been to make an important contribution within its community. Unions have played a significant role in the advancement of women's rights. They have worked diligently and tirelessly to bring forward universal medicare and to support and protect it. They have worked to protect public pensions for all.

The CPP is an initiative unions strove for and supported. Many union workers have negotiated pensions in their workplace, but unions recognize that all workers deserve to have a pension and deserve to live in dignity when they retire. That is why, to this day, we have a proposal coming out of the trade union movement to expand and strengthen the Canada pension plan. It has not asked the government to pony up and put all the money into it. It has asked the government to come up with a proposal, which we have endorsed on this side, that would see the Canada pension plan expanded. It would see the increase of premiums on behalf of the employees and the employers in a gradual fashion that would be sustainable. It would ensure that at the end of the day, once this plan is put forward after five years, people who have contributed for their full working lives would recognize a doubling of benefits from the Canada pension plan. People who are not now covered by the Canada pension plan would have access to that.

Those are some of the important things that unions do in order to support the community, pushing for better occupational health and safety and for an increased minimum wage, a liveable wage for all workers, not just union workers. Those are the kinds of initiatives that benefit society and all our communities, and unions have been and will continue to fight for that.

This is important because the initiative undertaken by the government to strip away the rights of the workers at Canada Post is just the beginning. If the government can walk in and unilaterally make changes, which will inevitably change the Canada Labour Code that affects all federal employees, that will be just the beginning.

I suggest that the government is inserting itself in the greater public sector and in the private because it has decided, and it will decide in this case, that these negotiations have gone on too long. It has decided that the conditions under which the collective bargaining positions are being determined are not sufficient. Contrary to the Canada Labour Code and, in fact, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the government is stepping in to make these unilateral changes and, frankly, it is just the beginning.

As an aside, I think the government will have some trouble moving this forward in the court, given what has happened in British Columbia and other provinces, where the Supreme Court has struck down attempts by those provincial governments to insert themselves into the collective bargaining process, basically taking away rights enshrined in the charter, to ensure that workers have the right to assemble and to bargain collectively and freely, without the interference of the state.

We need to recognize these things.

It was interesting when we talked the other day about the successful motion by my colleague from London—Fanshawe to properly fund and raise all seniors out of poverty. We talked about people who had reached retirement age being able to live in some dignity.

Frankly, the disputes that the government has inserted itself into with Air Canada and Canada Post has some considerable significance regarding pension plans. The government members opposite support companies that say they cannot afford the pensions they have freely negotiated with their employees. Therefore, they want to change, dilute or ensure that new employees are not eligible for the same level of pension benefit.

Surely the consequence of that is clear to all members. We are now dealing with 250,000 to 300,000 seniors living below the poverty line because they have inadequate pensions. If we continue to push down the pension levels of working people, that problem will only be exacerbated. What will the government do then?

I believe the government does not think too far into the future other than maybe beyond the next election. In many cases, the people of small businesses in my community support the rights of working people to earn a fair wage and to get their benefits so they can live in some dignity when they are in their later years.

It is important that all businesses recognize that if we continue to allow the government to push down wages and pension benefits, people will be unable to afford groceries, furniture, condominiums, nice apartments, cars, or the goods and services that make our communities work. If we continue to shove everything down to the lowest common denominator, the workers will not have enough money to pay for decent lodgings, for fridges and stoves, or to have their lawns cut, those services that are so important to small businesses, in my community anyway.

What will happen then to those small businesses, some of which are now urging members opposite to start putting the strap to working people, hammering away and taking away their rights, their benefits and their ability to function appropriately and live in dignity, or to contribute to their families, their communities and their organizations?

What will the end result be? I ask the members opposite to think about this.

I suggest that in many jurisdictions the balance that has been struck in the Canada Labour Code and the Trade Union Act of Nova Scotia, as well as other statutes dealing with labour relations in the country, is already outweighed by employers. Having said that, the Canada Labour Code has existed for many years and continues to operate.

If the government inserts itself so clearly on the side of the employer to completely tip the balance in that regard, the Canada Labour Code, as we know it, will no longer exist. Why would any federal employer, or any employer that operates under the Canada Labour Code, come to the table in good faith and be prepared to negotiate with its workers? Even in non-unionized situations, why would employers be willing to negotiate a good wage, a fair wage, a good pension plan, a good health plan if they know the Conservative government would be willing to help them out any way it could to shove down their costs and, in many cases, reward inefficiency?

That is another bizarre thing about this situation. Canada Post, because of its workers, has shown itself to be very successful in generating revenues.

We will have the opportunity to speak more about this and I will certainly stand as many times as I can to talk about this legislation.

Noon

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Madam Speaker, I listened intently to the member and what I did not hear from him was discussion about the workers themselves and perhaps where they stood on this dispute. He gave the position of the union bosses.

However, I have received a number of emails from postal workers in my riding, friends of mine, and I would like to share a few words from one of the emails with the member and get his response.

It is addressed to me and the subject is, “VOTE YES TO BACK TO WORK LEGISLATION”. It states, in part:

I am a postal clerk and I feel that legislation is our only hope to keep our jobs. Our union has not allowed us to vote on any of the revised offers that CPC has made. Most of us think the final revised offer is fair and wanted to vote but were not allowed to by the union

On this side of the House, we actually understand.

Yesterday, we had a motion on small business from the NDP. We know those members do not really believe in supporting small business or they would understand that Canada Post is an essential service and this commands responsibility from the House.

However, does the member know that the big bosses, the people who are really intimidating people right now, are the union bosses? That is who he is standing up for, not for the workers.

Noon

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's intervention. I saw him paying close attention to what I had to say. I hoped he would rise to his feet and engage in this because this place is all about that, a democracy and people participating in the discussion.

Speaking of democracy and democratic organizations, trade unions are one of the most democratic organizations in our society. The decisions taken by the union are as a result of majority votes and as a result of consultation with employees. That does not mean there will not be dissent within the organizations. There is dissent in many democratic organizations, as opposed to the Conservative Party, where we do not hear any dissent on the prevailing wisdom of the Prime Minister's Office because that is not allowed on the government side. The Conservatives are not allowed to oppose. They are not allowed to dissent. They are not allowed to speak their own minds.

Good for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers for allowing its members to express their opinions, while at the same time respecting the democratic wisdom of the majority.

Noon

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments that were made by my colleague from Nova Scotia. What came out during his presentation was the fact that both opposition parties understood full well that there was an inconvenience to the Canadian public and to small business. However, it is because of a lockout by Canada Post. That is what has to be underlined here. It is because the corporation locked the workers out and I think it did that understanding full well that this legislation would end up making its way to the House.

It certainly is not a level playing field and that level playing field has been taken away by the actions of the government

Today nurses at IWK have signed a contract with their employers. Their contract had lapsed October 31, 2009, but due process was followed.

In this case, the contract of the postal workers lapsed January 31 of this year. Does the member agree that if due process is followed, if given the opportunity, both—

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. I would ask all hon. members to look to the Chair for guidance in terms of keeping their questions within a reasonable period of time.

The hon. member for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the point my colleague made was absolutely right. What gives the government the right to decide what is a reasonable time to negotiate a deal? I have to watch my language, and I will in respect to you, Mr. Speaker, and the House and the member opposite.

I do not think members opposite understand the process. It is about two parties that have conflicting interests. The point is that negotiations are done through a process in order to bring the parties as close together as possible in order to reach an agreement. Sometimes that takes longer than others but we need to let the parties work it out so they are both in agreement once the document is signed and then there is peace in the workplace for the duration of that collective agreement. That is key.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I spent a lot of time knocking on doors during the federal election, especially in the afternoon, and I met a lot of seniors and people on fixed income. These people were often dressed in jackets, hats and mitts. The reason they were dressed that way is because they could not afford to turn on the heat. I know that seniors, people on pensions and people on fixed income are having a hard time paying their bills, especially with the rising prices of food, oil and gas.

Pensions are becoming a major issue in this country and now the pensions of postal workers are under attack. Does the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour see pensions becoming more of a major issue facing Canadians?

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl is absolutely right about pensions, and I spoke to that a bit in my speech.

It is so important that we not take pensions away from those people who now have them. We should be strengthening existing pensions and creating opportunities for more Canadians to have access to pensions.

Instead of driving everything down to the lowest common denominator, we should be raising things up so that all Canadians have an income that will provide them with the opportunity to house themselves, feed themselves and live in dignity.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

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

What people seem to be forgetting in this debate, despite the importance of the situation, is that this is about more than just Canada Post. It is about all employees working in various situations. What sort of precedent will be set if this is how the government acts whenever it is confronted with such a situation?

I would like my colleague to go into further detail about the following issue. It is very important that seniors have pension plans, but many workers have young families, and we are here to protect them too. I wonder how important it is to have a good argument in order to ensure that we do not set a precedent that might negatively affect workers' rights.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, that is the real concern when I talk about this being the beginning. This is the slippery slope.

If the government is allowed to continue forward, stripping away the rights of the workers at Canada Post, who will be next? What rights will be taken away next? It is not just workers' rights, but the rights of people in our community to live a fair and equitable life, to make a living and to contribute to their community. It is all the hard-won rights that we, our parents, grandparents and the generations before have fought world wars to protect our rights.

What is next once the government gets beyond this point, feeling that it can take any right away from anybody it decides to?

12:10 p.m.

Halton
Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, before I commence my speech, I want to pick up on something the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour said.

He mentioned Davis Day, which is on June 11, and it is celebrated in mining communities across Nova Scotia. It is a very important day in the culture that I come from. However, it is also important to note that it is a day when a very tragic incident happened. It was the day when William Davis was shot in cold blood as a result of protests at the mines because employees were not receiving wages and, indeed, were being asked to take a further cut.

My take from Davis Day, however, is one that is even more important, which is that it only escalated to that level of violence after the government refused to intervene, even though the families and the men asked it to do so. That is valid. The Government of Canada should intervene when it is appropriate to do so in the public interest.

This government has been given a strong mandate by Canadians to complete our economic recovery. As Canada's labour minister, it is my view that the Government of Canada must take decisive action now before further damage is done to our economy. That is why our government introduced in the House Bill C-6, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services.

After eight months of collective bargaining and mediation, a labour dispute between Canada Post and more than 50,000 employees, represented by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Urban Operations Unit, has resulted in a work stoppage. It is an event that, if left unresolved, could jeopardize Canada's economic prosperity.

Today I will discuss the specific details of this proposed legislation, but, first, there are some important facts that will help put this extraordinary legislative measure in its proper context.

Canada Post is one of Canada's largest corporations and delivers a service that many Canadians count on. It supports 70,000 full-time and part-time employees and contributes $6.6 billion to our country's GDP. A reliable postal service without interruption is an important part of what keeps our economy running smoothly.

As a result of a labour dispute between Canada Post and more than 50,000 of these employees, the service is now interrupted and at a standstill. However, this labour dispute has been simmering for many months and, now that postal services have stopped, this dispute is having more of an impact on the Canadian public, not just Canada Post and its employees. It could affect the livelihood of many Canadians across the land.

Contrary to the assertions of the opposition, we do not take back to work legislation lightly, but this measure is necessary. All other avenues have been exhausted. This is the right thing to do. There is too much at stake for Canadians and our economy on the whole. We must and we will act now.

I will take a few minutes to outline the potential economic risks entailed by this work stoppage. I will also talk about the intent of the proposed legislation.

As I indicated, a reliable postal service is far more than just personal mail. It is a fundamental part of doing business in Canada and the economic risks of no longer having that service are significant. Canada Post is an integral part of what keeps Canada in business and what puts money in the pockets of its citizens. Many small and large businesses rely on Canada Post to issue bills, to process orders and to receive payments. This is a service that matters.

There are Canadian families waiting for their tax refunds or HST rebates to arrive. There are citizens in the far north who rely on the mail for essential goods, like prescription eyewear, dental products, drugs and legal documents, and there are those who still make payments by mail. They will tell us that there is much at stake in this dispute.

Quite frankly, Canadians and businesses should not have to deal with this kind of uncertainty. They should not be the ones expected to bear the brunt of a labour dispute that shows no sign of being resolved through the collective bargaining process.

Just as important, our economy cannot afford to deal with a postal disruption brought by the lockout. Consider the costs that we are all having to pay. It has been nearly 14 years since Canada last had a work stoppage at Canada Post. A work stoppage could result in losses to our economy of between $9 million and $31 million per week. That means every day, more jobs at risk, more productivity lost, more challenges for business and more uncertainty for consumers.

Therefore I ask the following question. Can we afford to have this happen, especially when Canada's recovery from the recession is really starting to gain speed? I think the answer is clearly no.

As I said, every other avenue has been exhausted to help bring a full and lasting resolution to this dispute. Let me tell the House what has transpired over the last eight months.

On October 4 of last year, the union, CUPW, served the employer notice to commence collective bargaining for the purpose of renewing their collective agreement, the first step in the process. The parties negotiated directly from October 2010 to January 2011. On January 21 of this year, the union filed a notice of dispute and requested services of conciliation from the federal government. I appointed a conciliation officer on January 31 to help the parties reach a resolution. Through February and March, the conciliation officer met with the parties and on April 1 the conciliation period was extended until May 3, 2011 to get us through the general election. During that time, the conciliation officer continued to meet with the parties. As per the Canada Labour Code, the parties were released from conciliation in early May, and on May 5 a mediator was appointed. Throughout the month of May, the mediator from the labour program's federal mediation and conciliation service met very frequently with the parties. Unfortunately, despite all these efforts, an agreement between the parties remained elusive.

We need to take decisive action now. Canadians deserve no less.

This act provides for the resumption and continuation of mail services at Canada Post. First, it brings an end to the growing uncertainty that has characterized so much of this dispute in the last several months. As well, consistent with the recent settlements in the federal public service, it imposes a four-year contract and provides new pay-rate increases. The pay outcome will be a 1.75% increase as of February 1, 2011; a 1.5% increase in February 2012; a further 2% increase in February 2013; and a further 2% increase again in February 2014.

The act also provides for final-offer selection, which is a binding mechanism on all matters still in dispute and outstanding. Furthermore, in making this selection of a final offer, the arbitrator is to be guided by general principles that take into consideration the need for terms and conditions of employment that are consistent with those in comparable postal industries and that provide the necessary degree of flexibility to ensure both the short- and long-term economic viability and competitiveness of the Canada Post Corporation. It also takes into consideration the need to maintain the health and safety of the workers and to ensure the sustainability of their pension plan.

More specifically, the terms and conditions have to take into account two things: first, that the solvency ratio of the pension plan must not decline as a direct result of a 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 acceptable standards of service. It is a decisive approach and it is aimed at resolving this labour dispute.

In the absence of solution that is crafted by the parties themselves, which we have spent many hours trying to achieve since the rolling strikes of June 1 and which we would have preferred to see, this proposed legislation takes the steps that are necessary to safeguard our recovering economy and to ensure that Canadian families and businesses do not wind up suffering as a result of a dispute they had no part in creating.

Our government has put procedures in place to ensure the efficient delivery of services and benefits to Canadians, such as the use of courier delivery, early release of some benefit payments and in-person delivery through regional Service Canada centres. These are things we needed to do to ensure that Canadian citizens are still served by the Government of Canada during this postal stoppage.

However, by introducing this proposed legislation, we are not taking sides in the matter. What we are doing, and what all parties in this House have a responsibility to do, is working on behalf of all Canadians because that is what they expect of us. We are showing leadership in this matter. That means taking decisive action to keep business in Canada moving.

In conclusion, I would reiterate that we are taking extraordinary measures. We are doing so because no workable solutions have been found to resolve the dispute at Canada Post. Parliament has an obligation to respond in turn and we have to act in the best interests of the country. Canadians, quite frankly, deserve much better than delays or excuses or random rhetoric. They have a right to expect that Parliament will do the right thing to protect our economy and to ensure that the business of Canada keeps moving.

I would ask all members of this House to join me in meeting our collective responsibility to Canadians and support this proposed legislation.

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, this morning the minister said in the House that the arbitration between Canada Post and CUPW in 1997 had cost the taxpayers many thousands, probably millions, of dollars. However, from the information we have, all of the arbitration costs were paid by the union and Canada Post, not by the taxpayers of this country. Therefore, I would like the minister to correct her statement.

Second, the minister said she was not taking sides. How could she say that when in the last proposal of June 9, 2011, Canada Post offered its employees 1.9% for 2011, 1.9% for 2012-13, and 2% for 2014, or 3% below the inflation rate, and the Conservative government has come up with 1.75% for 2011 and 1.5% in 2012, or 0.4% less?

What have the workers done to the government that it hates them so much? How can the government say it is not taking sides?

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the comment I made with respect to payment, that was the information I was given. I will correct the record if I am incorrect on the costs associated with that. I will do that this afternoon. I will just get more information on it. I thank the member for bringing that to my attention.

With respect to the wages, we believe these wages are fair. They are wages that have been negotiated within collective bargaining processes both in the federal service as well as in the private sector. They match what has been going on in industry. These are good increases that would happen over four years, as I indicated in my remarks.

The other point to remember is that we have an obligation to the taxpayer with respect to the ongoing viability of Canada Post, and that is an important aspect of this too.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for her speech, but after listening to it and to some of my colleagues from the NDP, we now know more than ever before why the Liberal Party is needed. Both parties are obviously picking sides. The government has chosen to be on the side of management, and the NDP is on the side of labour. Meanwhile, the Liberal Party has to defend Canadians.

I listened carefully to the minister's speech. She started by saying that all avenues had been exhausted, and yet all we heard about was why we needed Canada Post. I am glad I became a member of Parliament so I could sit in this House and learn about Canada Post. Meanwhile, she is thelabour minister. I did not hear how she had intervened or become involved at all in trying to resolve this issue.

What has the minister done for Canadians? I did not hear that in her speech. The only thing the minister was able to tell us is why we needed Canada Post. I think we are all aware of why we need Canada Post. Let us get the mail delivered, but it does not have to come about through a lockout.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the importance of talking about Canada Post was that it set out the economic reasons that we felt it was necessary to move as quickly as we have.

With respect to what Labour Canada and I have done with the dispute, we have been engaged on the issues from very early on, since we returned to the House in May. I have met with the parties about six, seven or eight times each. I brought the parties together on June 1 and June 3. I have spent that last 72 hours working with the parties.

I know their issues and I know exactly how far apart the parties are. That is the concern I have, and why I see no prospect of a resolution either. Indeed, last evening, competing press releases came out from both Canada Post and the union indicating that their collective bargaining was at an end and that they saw no hope of a resolution.

We tried very hard to bring the parties together, to narrow and define what the dispute was. However, at the end of the day, there was no will at the table to do the deal, and the will of Canadians is, of course, for the service to resume.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the minister and prior to that I listened to the comments by a member of the official opposition. I heard him mention the word “rights”.

I want to ask the minister about the right of Canadians to receive their mail. What about the right of the single owner, the taxpayer who owns Canada Post? What about their right to make sure that the service is provided?

Could the minister talk not only about the rights of Canadians to receive their mail but also how this is affecting the Canadian economy, in particular small- and medium-size businesses who are the generators of our economy and how they are being affected by this strike?

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question and all the work he has been doing with small business, especially in his area.

As a member indicated this morning, we have heard from groups as diverse as a seed company to magazine delivery companies to people who produce nutritional bars to people who operate in very niche industries that rely upon the mail service. They are indicating that they are hurting with respect to the actual delivery of their product to their consumers. We know in this day and age that if companies are unable to deliver a product or provide a service, the consumer will go to the next company, especially in this competitive world we are in.

The other aspect, too, is the actual doing of business, the collecting and making of payments and companies being good to their receivers and to those who owe them money, so the business can continue. They need those profits to look after their families and to give back to their communities.

It is a very large issue that has been brought to our attention. After all, the government indicates all the time that it is on the side of small business. It is here to make sure that small businesses are able to operate efficiently and as well as they can.

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the minister. Why is the government in such a hurry to impose back-to-work legislation? We know that Canada Post officials were the ones who imposed the lockout. The Conservatives talk about the best interests of Canadians, but are the workers not Canadians? Are those workers not part of Canada? Why do the Conservatives always want to protect employers' rights while abandoning the workers?

Why are they trying to violate workers' rights and open the door to privatization through this government's insidious actions?

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the rights of workers, this government supports the Canada Labour Code and supports the charter section 2(d) that provides for freedom of association.

The courts have been very clear. They indicate that a collective bargaining process needs to be in place, and I think members can agree with me that eight months for a collective bargaining process is indeed a very long period of time. That is an ample amount of process for the parties to reach a deal. They have been unable to do so and third party harm to the Canadian economy and to the public is just too great for it to continue. We had to act. We acted decisively and that is why we have introduced this legislation.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Bourassa in the debate today.

We had the chronology from the minister, but one thing she did not identify or point out was the political chronology that paralleled the negotiations through the last number of months, that being the fact that we were approaching an election during those contract talks. We had the election and now the minister is certainly buoyed by the fact that she is in a majority situation and the Conservatives will deal with it like they would have liked to deal with it a number of months ago. Their fingerprints are all over the final outcome of this labour dispute.

We do not doubt in any way, and certainly the government members have said time and time again throughout the course of this debate, that it is important to get Canada Post workers back to work. They have said that businesses, charities and individual Canadians are being inconvenienced. The opposition parties do not dispute that.

I had the opportunity to speak with a number of the striking workers in Sydney this past weekend. CUPW members had made it perfectly clear that they were willing to go back to work. They wanted to go back to work. They had a meeting with Mr. Chopra. They identified three particular points, one of those points being that they would go back to work under the past collective agreement. They would be willing to go back to work under those terms. However, the corporation knew full well that it was supported by the government and that the government, in tabling legislation, would reinforce its position, its seat at the bargaining table. He asked, “Why would we do that? We will get the legislation coming forward from the government and we will maintain this lockout”. Let us be perfectly clear, this is a lockout. It is not a strike by CUPW. This is a lockout by Canada Post.

The workers wanted to get back. They were content to go back under the terms of the last agreement. They were willing to do that. We in the opposition understand that. Government members portray it like this is a nefarious plan to really jig up Canadians by not delivering cheques or not providing services. Anyone who has been in any strike before, whether it was on the union side or on the management side, knows that strikes are absolutely no fun.

I remember as a student working with Nova Scotia Power Corporation and being a casual member of the pool. We were members of CBRT & GW. In the work term one summer there was an information picket and we were out on the picket lines for a couple of days. The first day was a little bit of fun. It was almost jovial the first couple of days, but I was a student and all I had to worry about was putting a few bucks together to go back to school the next year. But by day two, day three, people really started to feel the impact. They had to provide for their families and a tension is created because those people had to go back to work in that environment again. There is a tension created through the course of a labour dispute that does no benefit. There are strikes which have taken place and the scars still remain from past union-company management disturbances that take years and years to heal.

CUPW workers offered to go back. They wanted to go back, but again, the company maintained the lockout. That is why we are in the situation we are in today.

I shared with my colleague from Halifax earlier that union-management negotiations and collective bargaining follow their own path.

Today the nurses at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax signed off on an agreement that should be ratified. Their past contract lapsed in October 2009.

The last CUPW agreement finished on January 31, 2011. That is not a long time. Both Canada Post and the union should be encouraged to sit down in good faith, agree on what they can, sign off on what they agree on, and then take outstanding issues to arbitration mediation. That would make more sense than what is being rammed down the throats of the workers right now under this legislation.

The workers were having rotating strikes and getting attention to their issues, but Canada Post went forward with the lockout and that caught some people by surprise.

The fact that the government has come forward with this type of legislation should not be a surprise to anybody, because we have seen this movie before. We saw the action taken by the government during the Air Canada strike. Air travellers had numerous opportunities to take other flights to get around this country. Even with this private corporation, the government felt obliged to bring forward back-to-work legislation. The government did that to a private corporation, so none of us should have been surprised when the government presented back to work legislation once Canada Post locked the workers out.

I think the common view in this chamber is that Canada Post would not have proceeded had it not been given some indication by the government that it would present back-to-work legislation. We would be naive to think that Canada Post did not have that in its back pocket before it went ahead with the lockout.

Coming forward with this legislation is equivalent to someone with a broken wrist walking into the doctor's office expecting it to be put in a cast, but instead the doctor cuts it off at the elbow. The government has done exactly that by presenting this legislation. Rather than encouraging the parties to get back to the table and bargain in good faith, the government has pushed that all aside. It has cut off the arm at the elbow.

It is obvious that this legislation is loaded on the side of Canada Post. With the final offer arbitration, the government has handcuffed an arbitrator who will have to find a resolution that is fair to both sides. We just need to look at the salaries in this legislation. Canada Post had offered far greater than what is being offered in this legislation. The government felt compelled to send a message out to organized labour in this country that workers' rights are no longer going to be respected, it is back to work and this is what they are going to get. It is unfair. This legislation is not fair. Other avenues should have been pursued before the government came in with a hammer, before it cut the arm off at the elbow. Shame on the government for this particular piece of legislation.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to get some clarification on a couple of the member's points.

The rotating strikes at Canada Post were clearly affecting mail delivery and in some ways affecting the health and safety of workers at various depots across the country. Is the member suggesting that the rotating strikes that could have gone on for a prolonged period are acceptable, but a lockout to protect workers' safety and the interests of Canada Post, which the taxpayers of this country own, is unacceptable? Are rotating strikes ad nauseam acceptable? Is that the member's position?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the member from Mississauga—Streetsville. We have spent some time together on the human resources, skills and social development committee. It may not have been brought up in his briefing, but he should know that rotating strikes are a perfectly legitimate tactic that can be undertaken during the bargaining process. It is written in the Canada Labour Code.

There was talk about undue hardship regarding the rotating strikes that were taking place over 25 different sites. Certainly, the actions taken by Canada Post far exceeded simple inconvenience. When it talked about reducing the service to Monday, Wednesday, Friday delivery, that was a far greater inconvenience than the rotating strikes that occurred across the country. It was purposeful.

Workers did not mean to bring any inconvenience. They wanted to bring attention to the issues. They wanted to bring attention to their plight. Certainly, it is absolutely acceptable. It has been an accepted tactic. It is recognized under the Canada Labour Code.

The member should understand that before he asks a question like this.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have noticed something. I am sure that all across the country, in every bar, kitchen and living room, there are people who do not have a pension plan, there are people who do not have job security, and there are people who have lousy salaries. They will all say that union workers have it good and that they are overprotected. They will make comments that do not take every aspect of the situation into account.

We can expect to hear that type of argument being made over a beer, but not in Parliament.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, let me elaborate on some of the offhanded comments that have been made by members on the other side.

The members figure that the postal workers in this country have some soft, cushy jobs and that the perks are elaborate. They should know that anything that the postal workers have is as a result of negotiations over years and years of bargaining. They may have given up wage increases in a particular contract in order to get a benefit in another area. That is just due process. Every organized labour group in this country finds itself in a different reality and a different situation.

We just came through an election so we had five weeks of going door to door knocking on doors. It is not a whole lot of fun. Think about letter carriers carrying 40 pounds of letters while being chased by dogs or dealing with whatever the weather might be.

I would like to share this story. I spoke with a guy in Sydney who was delivering mail and as he went up to a property, a dog came around the corner and jumped at him. He fell off the step, shattering his arm. It is a tough job. Postal workers deserve our respect and deserve the respect of the government.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, ironically, 14 years ago I took part in this same debate, but there were significant differences: after two weeks of strike action by Canada Post postal workers, the Liberal government of the day wanted to introduce back-to-work legislation. That is obviously when an arbitrator is appointed. However, unlike what we are seeing today, the arbitrator spoke to both the employer and the union. A binding agreement was reached. Having an arbitrator makes the decision binding. It ends the strike and people return to work.

I would say, for the benefit of the thousands of people watching us on television, that a number of things are going to happen today. First, since the government has a majority, it will not matter who tears their shirt over this; the bill will pass. Then, the official opposition will tear its shirt and engage in what we call a filibuster: it will take all the time in the world in order to look good to the workers and the union. The opposition will have done its job, but the bill will pass nonetheless.

I think we must take this opportunity to help people understand what is really happening and how dangerous this bill is. This tactic is often used by this government. It is important to remember that we are not just talking about Canada Post. The government showed its true colours in the case of Air Canada; in less than 24 hours, the government was ready to introduce a bill. It was a warning. That means that, as of now, the government no longer believes in bargaining power. The government no longer believes that employees and unions can sit down and talk with management. The government is on management's side and that is that. There are no more collective rights.

What is troubling is the way this bill is being introduced. I want to talk today about respect because, as the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle said earlier, the government is also starting to label: unions are bad and management is good. The bad guys are the greedy employees who have a very big collective agreement and who, when it comes right down to it, are well paid. Does the government need that? Now, it is going to try to make the public believe that this bill is important because some people are losing a lot of money and others are not receiving their cheques, etc.

Can we put things into perspective? The Liberal Party believes that we must take a pragmatic approach. Yes, it is true that Canada Post is an essential service and is linked to an economic reality. However, it is also important to understand that, unlike 14 years ago when the strike lasted two weeks, this time the workers were not on a general strike but, rather, a rotating strike. Service was still being provided. It was the employer itself that decided to reduce the number of days that the mail would be delivered: three days a week rather than five. In addition, according to the union—and this information must still be verified—a little bit of mail was being set aside. This made it more difficult to deliver all the mail. Then, after 12 days, Canada Post declared a lockout.

The problem is that Canada Post is owned by the government . It is a crown corporation. I refuse to believe that the Minister of Labour was not speaking directly to Canada Post's management. In summary, this whole situation does not really hold water.

The Canadian public must understand that, yes, the mail is an essential service; yes, the mail must be delivered; yes, there are economic considerations, particularly in rural regions. We understand all that.

To demonstrate the good faith of the Canada Post workers, I note that some people were to receive their cheques last week. They received them because the postal workers did deliver social assistance cheques, for example, and cheques for seniors. That shows that there is some element of good faith in this situation.

What exasperates me in this kind of debate is that everything is black or white. Unfortunately, the NDP is dogmatic, with its all or nothing approach. We heard the member for Acadie—Bathurst who was fit to be tied. We are also fit to be tied, but he should watch his blood pressure.

Even on the Conservative side, just now, there was a member who did not understand that in the Canada Labour Code there is a right to stage rotating strikes. Things are not going well.

That is why this debate is important: people have to understand how things work.

What I find even more disrespectful, as a Quebecker and a French Canadian, is that with the NDP's symbolic obstruction and the way the Conservative Party is proceeding, it has been decided that even though June 24 is the national holiday of Quebec, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, we are going to sit anyway. The national holiday is being treated as something of no importance. I agree with the Bloc, as I mentioned this morning, that we could have adjourned. If we believe Quebec is a nation, we should respect the Quebec nation. I do not see why we would sit on that day. In any event, let us not panic; on the 24th, there is no mail delivery in Quebec, and so we would not have received any, in any event. At some point, we have to have some principles.

That being said, it is unfortunate to see a bill offering employees a lower wage than what the employer had offered in the first place. We have an arbitrator who is essentially being held by the throat and told what he has to impose, how he is going to achieve it, that it is either the employer’s package or the union’s package. The way things are working, I would find it very surprising if the union’s package were accepted. We are on a very slippery slope in Canada. At some point, the issue is one of rights and values.

Certainly if there had been a general strike for two weeks in the same circumstances as the strike 14 years ago, the situation would be different. After two weeks of a general strike, the bill could have given the arbitrator some latitude and the binding authority to look at both sides of the coin and pick some things from each side. When there is an arbitrator, there are losers on both sides, the employer’s and the union’s. I have seen enough examples in my lifetime to know that. But in this case we get the clear impression that the dice are loaded.

I think it is really very sad that we find ourselves in this situation. The government is going to try to tell us how awful it was during the Liberals’ time, and that this government believes in the economy. We believe in the economy too. In 1993, when we took power, the Conservatives had left us with a $42 billion deficit, and we balanced the books, as my former leader Jean Chrétien said. And now we have another deficit.

It is odd; Canada Post is earning a profit. They cannot pick and choose. The hot topic concerning the economy this fall will be the future of pension plans for those who have them. Look at what is going on with the City of Montreal and others. All collective agreements are being reopened. There is something going on with pension plans. Furthermore, young people are entering the labour market. They will notice they do not have the same working conditions and will perhaps not have any pension plan.

Bullying tactics, like the action being forced down our throats, will not solve anything. They are simply sweeping things under the rug. It looks good, people return to work, but the problems will still be there. The government could have been more creative and respectful of collective rights, while still respecting individual rights, by creating appropriate legislation. I hope that the minister will want to make some amendments.

As a member from Quebec, I will not be here on June 24. If we are still sitting on June 25, I will be happy to return, but out of respect for Quebeckers and French Canadians, I will not be here on June 24. If there is something on the 25, we will be here. We believe that we must have just as much respect for French Canadians and Quebeckers as for workers.

The Liberal Party has a pragmatic approach. I congratulate and thank my colleague from Cape Breton—Canso, our labour critic. He has shown how different our approach was compared to the NDP's and the Conservatives'. At some point, any government, regardless of the political party, will introduce back-to-work legislation. There must be a balance to help the general public, but we must not ignore the fact that workers also have rights and that, above all, they deserve decent working conditions.

12:55 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I will first address the orthopedics analogy that was used earlier by the member for Cape Breton—Canso.

I am a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and it is not as he depicted it. This is more like a patient being brought into the emergency department, fast-tracked to the trauma room and treated immediately. That is what we need to do. We are taking action to act for Canadians and Canadian businesses and to keep the economy moving in this fragile time.

I have a question for the member. There have been numerous instances in history, as the member commented on, when the member's party introduced and supported back to work legislation, including in 1997 when wage rates were imposed. Why is the member so decidedly against this particular back to work legislation? Does he not feel that Canadians deserve to continue to receive mail in a timely fashion?

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if it makes sense to use waiting rooms as an example, but I know that this will disappoint some people even more. Given the number of people in waiting rooms, it is pretty sad to think that there is a fast track. That would explain why the government is in favour of a two-tier or two-speed system.

I said earlier that I agree with back-to-work-legislation, but that each situation is different. A balance needs to be struck between collective rights and individual rights. Bargaining is normal, as is tension between employers and employees, or between unions and employers. I believe that the rotating strikes were a good choice. It was a pressure tactic, not a national strike. I have been involved with unions enough to know that.

The NDP member spoke about how democratic unions are. As an aside, Local 144 is one example that contradicts that idea of democracy, and there may be others. It is true that talks can sometimes be difficult, but they work. Disputes are normal. I find it sad that we are imposing this sort of thing, especially given that the current context is entirely different from 1997.

1 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Bourassa for his speech.

He says that this situation is different from the 1997 strike. From experience I know that negotiations are never identical. The Liberals are using the excuse that the strike lasted 12 days and that they had every reason to legislate employees back to work. I would like the member to explain what was different in 1997. In their legislation, the Liberals also stipulated lower wages than what had been offered by Canada Post. It is exactly the same problem that we are facing today with the Conservative government. That was in 1997, under Jean Chrétien's Liberal government, and I believe that the hon. member was in the House at the time. They voted for a bill that included lower wages than Canada Post was offering. I have a problem with that.

1 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst. His blood pressure is fine today. I am pleased to see that he did not explode. I do like him personally.

You have to be pragmatic when it comes to bringing in back-to-work legislation. All governments, even provincial NDP governments, have introduced back-to-work legislation. A dogmatic approach should not prevail. It looks good, it will be make a good news clip, we can rip our shirts to shreds over it—the shirtmakers are the only ones doing all right in Parliament during the recession. We show our anger and that works, but we must find a balance between respect for the rights of workers and those of the general public, because it is an essential service.

Naturally, circumstances lead us to make decisions. In 1997, there was no lockout or rotating strike. After 12 days, the employer had not taken the action that it has at this point. Thus, decisions were made and it was right to do so at that time. I am saddened by the NDP's dogmatic approach. It is clear that only the Liberal Party has a pragmatic approach.

1 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. When I was on my feet earlier, I may have misspoken some dates. I was talking about Davis Day, also known as Miners' Memorial Day, and now, since November 25, 2008, officially known as William Davis Miners' Memorial Day. At 11 a.m. on June 11, 1925, William Davis was shot dead in a protest against the mining company. It is a day that has been recognized. I have had the opportunity to attend numerous services in both Glace Bay and Springhill. It is a very important day to me and to many Nova Scotians. I would not want anyone to think that I did not appreciate how important it is to ensure the record is clear.

1:05 p.m.

Delta—Richmond East
B.C.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-6, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services.

This bill would bring an end to the work stoppage involving Canada Post and about 50,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Urban Operations Unit, or CUPW.

As my fellow members know, the government has used every tool available under the Canada Labour Code to bring the two sides together, without success. This legislation would end the strike. It would impose a four-year contract and new rates of pay. The legislation also provides for final offer selection, a binding mechanism on all outstanding matters.

Furthermore, in making the selection of a final offer, the arbitrator would be guided by the need for terms and conditions of employment that are consistent with those in comparable postal industries and that would 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 that the solvency ratio of the pension plan must not decline as a result of the new collective agreement, and that the Canada Post Corporation must, without recourse to undue increases in postal rates, operate efficiently, improve productivity and meet acceptable standards of service.

The best solution in any dispute is always the one that the parties reach themselves. It is always better when employers and unions can negotiate contracts at the bargaining table without the need for Parliament to intervene. We have come a long way since the 1920s.

No member of this House is pleased about having to vote on this kind of legislation. However, it is absolutely vital that we do intervene. Parliament must act. In a moment I will talk about what is at stake for our national economy, but first I will take a little time to summarize the events that brought us to this point. I will start with some background on this dispute.

Canada Post is a crown corporation that employs more than 70,000 full and part-time employees. Every business day, Canada Post delivers approximately 40 million items. That adds up to 11 billion pieces of mail every year. Canada Post has to be reliable and efficient and offer services at a reasonable price if it is going to keep its customers. It also has to generate revenue and control expenses, like any other business.

For its part, the union, naturally, wants the best possible deal for its members in terms of salary and working conditions. The dispute between Canada Post and CUPW relates to the renewal of collective agreements covering some 50,000 postal workers, plant and retail employees, letter carriers and mail service couriers. The latest collective agreement expired on January 31, 2011.

Negotiations for a new agreement began in October 2010. Major and complex issues had to be addressed at the negotiating table, including the introduction of a short-term disability plan and Canada Post's interest in moving toward a two-tiered wage approach.

On January 21 of this year, the parties informed the Government of Canada that they had reached an impasse. The Minister of Labour immediately appointed a conciliator to help the parties resolve their differences. When no progress was made after the initial 60-day conciliation period, it was then extended by another 32 days.

A solution was still not forthcoming and on May 5 a mediator was appointed. Throughout the month of May, an officer from the labour program's federal mediation and conciliation service met frequently with the parties.

Despite this lengthy process and the breadth of federal government support, on May 30, CUPW gave 72-hours notice of its intent to strike. On June 3, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers started rotating strike action and, on June 15, 2011, the employer declared a lockout.

I heard the member opposite talk about what our minister and our government have done with respect to this matter. This gives a very good idea of the lengths that have been gone to over many months to attempt to resolve this dispute in a different way.

The postal workers have been without a contract since the end of January of this year despite many rounds of bargaining. The two sides have been unable to close the gap between their positions. It is unfortunate when employers and unions cannot find a way to reach settlements that are in their mutual interest.

However, the reality is that sometimes collective bargaining fails. When that happens, the parties have several options. They can jointly request that the Minister of Labour appoint an arbitrator. Employers can also bring pressure to bear on the union by locking out workers and trying to continue business without them. Workers can pressure the employer by withdrawing their labour. All of those options are of course legal as long as certain conditions are met.

Under normal circumstances, the Government of Canada does not intervene in labour disputes of this kind. We respect the right to free collective bargaining, which includes the right to strike or lockout. Parliament will stand aside as long as the people most affected are the parties to the dispute themselves and there is no threat of serious harm to the national economy or public health and safety.

When employers and unions choose a course of action that has serious consequences on the country as a whole, this situation changes. Parliament can no longer stand aside. Parliament may then decide that the right of the parties to exert pressure through a strike or lockout has to be weighed against the rights of all Canadians in all provinces and territories.

The losses caused by a shutdown of postal services are not borne only by Canada Post and its employees. They are borne by hard-working Canadians and their families across the country. Jobs are at stake and businesses are on the line. Whole sectors of the economy will be affected and the ripple effect will reach everywhere.

Bringing in back to work legislation is always a difficult decision, but in this particular case we feel we have no alternative. We must do what is necessary to keep Canada and the Canadian economy running. That is the strong mandate we were given in the last election.

We need to consider what a strike means in the mail order sector. By definition, these businesses depend on reliable postal services. They could hardly exist without them. Many of these enterprises are mom and pop operations run out of someone's home. Not all of them can afford to switch to courier services. If the strike continues, many small businesses will go under. As all parties in the House have been expressing support for small businesses, they should support this government initiative.

This is not speculation. Interestingly, my notes have me saying that I am sure everyone here remembers the mail strike of November 1997. However, mindful of many young parliamentarians, I would say that everyone over a certain age perhaps remembers that mail strike of 1997. It lasted for 15 days and many small and medium-sized businesses suffered or went under.

Reliance on postal services has diminished somewhat since 1997 due to the advent of the Internet and the increased use of faxes, email, electronic billing and electronic funds transfers, but small and medium-sized businesses still rely heavily on postal services for billing and order fulfillment. A work stoppage at Canada Post is hitting small and medium-sized businesses much harder than large corporations.

Again, if the opposition members are determined, as they have stated, to champion small business, I encourage them to proudly support the legislation.

Is it fair that hard-working Canadian entrepreneurs are held hostage by a postal dispute? Small- and medium-size businesses are engines of growth, and every day they make a significant contribution to Canada's recovery from the recession, a recovery, by the way, that is still fragile.

The 15-day strike in 1997 did a lot of damage. The strike we are now experiencing could cost our economy a lot more. I will give some figures.

Members of the House may not be aware that directly or indirectly Canada Post contributes $6.6 billion to this country's GDP. We know that past mail strikes have had a crippling effect on the economy in a very short period of time. Can our economy afford such a heavy blow when some sectors are still struggling?

The Canadian direct marketing industry, for example, suffered serious financial losses during the economic downturn. How would it cope with a prolonged postal strike?

What about the Canadian magazine industry? Those businesses have no practical cost-effective way to get their product to customers in the absence of postal service. For them, this postal strike could be nothing short of a disaster.

I could go on and on. If we do not do something soon about the postal strike, Canadian businesses will suffer. They already are. Canadian consumers will suffer. They already are. People who just want to communicate with family and friends will suffer.

I have a couple of examples of emails that I have received from constituents in my riding. One of them, which is addressed to me, says:

Canada Post does definitely affect the economy! A good portion of Canadians many of them Seniors, and the disabled, rely on Canada Post to deliver cheques, bills, bank statements, etc. Without the mail, they are stuck.

Another email came from a resident of Vancouver, B.C. I assume she thought that this might fall on deaf ears with her Liberal member of Parliament. She wrote in the subject line “I really need your help”, and said in the email:

I live in Vancouver, BC, I have a big problem, my young sister is going to marry on 01 of July this year in Mexico, in 15 days. My husband and I appl[ied] for visas to go to Mexico. Citizenship and Immigration Canada [says that] you need to send an Xpresspost from Canada Post to receive your documents faster. After 20 days of waiting they are all ready but I have a stranded envelope in a Canada post office in London, Ontario...with the passports and visas [for] my daughter, my husband and [me]. For the decision of putting down the labours in Canada post, I'm going to lose the opportunity to see my family and go to my sister's wedding. I have very important documents that are going to Mexico my country. Please help me to receive this envelope. I hope you understand....

She also said:

I really care about the problem between Canada Post and the CUPW but they really need to think of mine too.

We cannot do everything, even in this modern world, by email. For the sake of all Canadians, we must act now and pass the legislation. We must not wait until jobs are lost, until businesses start closing, and until the damage is too severe to be repaired. We must act now.

I hope all members of the House will join me in supporting the legislation.

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest as my hon. colleague went through the chronology. She very accurately job laid out the events over the last number of years. She was accurate about the fact that there are a great many members on this side of the House who probably do not remember the strike of 1997, which is a good thing. It actually livens this place and brings a breath of fresh air to this Parliament and the country.

After very accurately laying out the chronology, she switched to the second part of her presentation and continually referred to “the strike”. I would remind my hon. colleague that this is no longer a strike; indeed it is a lockout. The employer, not the union or its workers, but the employer has decided to terminate all of the business of Canada Post across the country because it has locked out all of its employees.

Partway through the rotation strikes, the postal union said to the employer that this was going to take a long time. The union leaders said that because, as the member has outlined, it has a history of taking a long time to get to an agreement. We saw that at Vale Inco in Sudbury where it took over 14 months.

I would say to my hon. colleague that if the government had taken the advice of the union leadership who said it would return to work and just go through the bargaining process and leave the agreement in place, the person the member talked about would be going to the wedding in Mexico and small businesses would be getting their transactions done. Canada Post should have been ordered by the minister to adhere to what the union wants, let the workers go back to work and get back to the bargaining table.

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that in the labour environment we have in Canada, workers have the right to strike and employers have the right to lock out. These are balancing rights that they have. This is strike and lockout have been evolving over time. I gave the history of it, as my friend opposite acknowledged, as accurately as I could and now is the time for this government to act.

The parties have been unable to resolve this dispute, much as we would have hoped they would. Now it is time to get back to work.

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, in business generally the parties want a level playing field. They want to be able to negotiate in a principled manner back and forth across the table, whether they are dealing with government, competitors, industry, or employees. The proposed legislation ties the hands of the arbitrator. It says to the arbitrator that wages are not negotiable, they are imposed. It says to the arbitrator that pensions are not negotiable, they are imposed. It says that the arbitrator is going to look at how postal services are delivered in other countries because there is no comparable postal service in Canada.

Why is it that the legislation has to show such disrespect to the intentions of the parties and the integrity of the collective bargaining process in this country?

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, this government has been not only patient but actively engaged in trying to help the parties come to a mutual settlement, which is always preferable. However, that has not occurred.

The proposed legislation includes wage rate increases which are consistent with other recent federal public sector collective agreements. The wage rate increases are the result of concessions in the public sector negotiations and take into consideration the future economic vitality of Canada Post.

This government was given a strong mandate to shepherd a fragile economy and continue to do the good work it has done and intends to continue to do.

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is an important debate. I have thought long and hard about this whole dialogue. I appreciate the contribution the parliamentary secretary is making in this important discussion. It is critical for Canada's economy.

I am going to ask her, in just a moment, to help me, Canadians and this House better understand what, by not ultimately bringing these people back to work, impact it would have on our economy.

All parliamentarians have received many letters. I want to share one of the letters that I have received:

As a small business owner I depend on the mail to run my business. While there are alternatives to using the mail service, we do not have the resources to use them. Using the courier, as well as the labour costs of contacting my customers to make alternative arrangements are additional costs that we just cannot afford at this time.

My payroll depends on the mail, if this continues for any length of time I will likely be forced to close my doors....

I am also sure that I do not have to stress to you that any of the small gains made in our economic situation in general over the past year will be quickly lost if this does not end ASAP.

Because of the critical importance it has for communities like London, Ontario, and while we are the tenth largest city in Canada I will also tell members that we are as impacted as anyone by this, could the parliamentary secretary indicate the impact this has on business right across our country?

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canada Post is a major economic enabler of the Canadian economy. Through its postal services, marketing is conducted, contracts are signed, long distance sales are made, and goods, bills and cheques are reliably delivered.

It is estimated that the Canada Post group itself spends $3 billion annually on goods and services, thereby supporting an additional 30,000 jobs in the national economy.

Canada Post is also one of Canada's largest employers. Some 69,000 Canadians in urban and rural areas work at Canada Post or its subsidiaries. These employees spend billions in the economy annually.

As I set out in my comments earlier, small and medium businesses are the ones taking the brunt of the hit, along with individual Canadians in the hon. member's riding, in my riding and in ridings in all 10 provinces and the territories. This is a matter that needs to be addressed now.

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I fully understand that the workers will eventually have to return to work. However, why is the government so intent on using this special act to give workers less than what Canada Post’s management sought to offer its own employees, and opting instead to set its own limits?

On Facebook today, I was asked whether there might be a conflict of interests, given that Canada Post is a crown corporation, whose profits go to the Conservative-led Government of Canada.

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, over the past five months, there have been proposals and counter-proposals exchanged. As the minister said earlier, unfortunately, the parties are still far apart. Therefore, it is time for our government to act.

As I stated earlier, the wage rate increases that are being proposed are the result of concessions in the public sector negotiations and take into consideration the future economic liability of Canada Post, which is an enabler and a large part of our Canadian economy.

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, sometimes debate influences a government’s actions and also public perception.

If Canadians initially had the impression that the Conservatives were a heartless and untrustworthy bunch who flouted human rights and freedoms, well, the government's actions are now giving credence to this perception.

If there is one area where good faith must prevail, it is labour relations. The Supreme Court has told us that labour relations are guaranteed by the charter because they constitute a subset of our economic rights, our freedom of expression, and our freedom of association.

What have we seen over recent weeks from this Conservative government? Why does Canadians’ mistrust of the Conservatives now appear justified?

Let us consider the government’s concrete actions, and the response we have heard here today. To begin with, this is a crown corporation. The government owns the corporation on behalf of all Canadians, and it has the last word when it comes to what Canada Post Corporation does. Throughout the bargaining process—with the government on one side, and employees and their union representatives on the other—everything was going along swimmingly. There were a number of attempts by the employees—legitimately and according to their rights—to voice their point of view through rotating strikes, for example, which did not significantly affect service to the public.

That was one way for the employees, who had the right to strike, to say that the bargaining process had gone off track, and to give us a sense of the steps they intended to take to make management see reason.

What happened then? The very same Canada Post Corporation, owned by the government, locked out its own employees. They locked their doors, with the employees on the outside. The government, through one of its own bodies, a crown corporation, has shut its employees outside and is keeping them there. Then they turn around and look at the situation they just created and pretend to be surprised, saying, “For God’s sake, this cannot go on like this. Look, these people have stopped working.” That is how one of the Conservative backbenchers just put it.

“We have to bring these people back to work”.

Those creeps, those things, as if they were not citizens endowed with all due rights, which they are exercising in a calm, practical way under legislation duly passed by the House of Commons. That is what we are talking about here. These are people who exercised a right guaranteed by legislation passed by this House. Not content just to trifle with this, showing their usual bad faith, the Conservatives are going so far today as to tell us that they are not only going to throw these people out but they are going to lock the doors and come up with a solution to the problem they just created themselves by throwing these people out. Special legislation will be passed to deprive them of their rights, even though those rights are guaranteed under the Charter and in legislation passed by the House of Commons.

This is not a new way of doing things. My colleague from Vancouver East already showed us how the very same thing was done in 1997 by a Liberal government. It was very interesting the other day to hear certain leading lights of the Liberal Party pretending to be outraged by the tactics employed by the Conservatives when they are a carbon copy of Bill C-34 passed by a Liberal government in 1997.

Governments change but the tactics remain the same. When it comes to showing respect for working people and their rights, what the Conservatives are doing is clearly in line with all the social and economic policies of the Conservative government. It is as if we were in the early 1980s, in the Reagan era with the air traffic controllers. What could be better for a government of the far right than to flex its muscles at the expense of working people, look at its Reform Party base and say, “Finally you can see why you supported us from the beginning. We will put working people in their place”. The Conservatives will do that, even though the bad faith is as obvious as it is right now.

It is the Conservatives who are imposing a lockout, bolting the door themselves, throwing everybody out, and saying how terrible it is that these people are not working anymore. But it is the Conservatives who locked them out, and now because they are not working any more, the Conservatives want special legislation to force them back to work. The funny thing is that the Conservatives are even going so far as to copy from the Liberals’ legislation the part where the Liberals lowered the salary offers already on the table. Several of my colleagues, including the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, asked about this. But as we all heard, there was no answer.

They cannot answer because this makes absolutely no sense. If the objective is to settle a dispute between an employer and its employees, they would have at least put on the table what the two parties had already agreed on. But no, the Conservatives are rubbing salt in the wounds of workers who were just locked out and telling them not only that they are the bad guys for getting locked out, but also that they are being punished and getting less than they managed to agree on with the employer. They are being told they should have been happy with the crumbs they had been offered. Now even the crumbs are being taken away, because they did not appreciate the fact that their employer is a good employer and they should have accepted whatever they were offered. So it is their fault.

To understand what a mistake this is, both economically and socially, one only has to look at everything the Conservatives have done over the past five and half years since they came to power. This is part of their right-wing ideology, which is at odds with the impression they like to give, since they always talk about families and future generations. In reality, however, all of their actions have been harmful to future generations, no matter what rhetoric they like to spew.

Let me put this into context. As this time, by eliminating all guarantees of a decent pension, the Conservatives are dumping a huge social debt on future generations. Who is going to pay for the people who cannot afford to meet their own needs once they retire? Future generations will pay.

What has been happening since the Conservatives have been here? They are in the process of leaving future generations with the most significant environmental, economic and social debt in our history. These three elements are interconnected and constitute the three pillars of sustainable development. This bill and all the Conservatives' actions are the antithesis to sustainable development. What they are doing is not sustainable.

Let us take a close look at what their approach to developing our natural resources means. Take the oil sands for example. They have decided to take everything they can immediately and export the jobs. A pipeline like Keystone exports 16,000 jobs to the United States because we do not have what it takes to do the processing and refining here. We are exporting crude. With the Keystone pipeline alone, we are exporting 16,000 jobs to the United States without internalizing the environmental costs. Cost internalization is one of the basic principles of sustainable development. We are leaving it up to future generations to clean up the soil, water and air that we are polluting with the way in which the oil sands are being developed. The Conservatives likes to exaggerate things and say that we are against the oil sands development. That is not true. We are against the way in which the oil sands are being developed because it is disrespectful of future generations. As a result of this failure to internalize the environmental cost, we end up importing an artificially high number of U.S. dollars since the cost has never been included. This artificially high number of U.S. dollars is raising the value of the Canadian dollar, which, for a while now, has exceeded the value of the U.S. dollar.

Such a high Canadian dollar makes it increasingly difficult to export our manufactured goods. The result is that, since the Conservatives came to power in January 2006, Canada has been experiencing what economic textbooks and writings refer to as the Dutch disease, named after what happened in the Netherlands in the 1960s. The Dutch were thrilled to discover large offshore gas deposits. It was a windfall. It was going to be good for the economy because everyone was going to buy gas from them. They were right, except that this occurred before the euro. Every country in Europe had its own currency. The Netherlands used the guilder, which began to shoot up in value because everyone was in fact buying gas from them and other countries' currencies were coming in. The value of the guilder spiked and completely destroyed their manufacturing industry.

Statistics Canada has indicated that we are experiencing exactly the same thing here in Canada right now. Our manufacturing industry is being gutted. Since the Conservatives came to power, they have been gutting our manufacturing industry because they are not applying the basic principles of sustainable development. The Conservatives will deny it and say that they have created so many hundreds of thousands of jobs since the crisis began. And that is true. However, they are replacing jobs in our manufacturing industry with jobs in the service industry, which are often part-time and insecure. I do not wish to take anything away from someone who works in a shopping mall and sells clothing for $12 an hour, but someone who worked for GM, which used to be on the west side of the Laurentian Autoroute in Boisbriand before it became a mega-mall, earned enough money to take care of a family. That person also had a pension to live on after he or she retired. Simply put, what the government is doing is replacing these well-paid jobs that had retirement pensions—and this is yet another attack on retirement pensions—with lower-paying jobs in the service industry that do not give employees enough money to take care of their families and, of course, do not provide them with retirement pensions.

The government is responsible for sustainable development every time it makes a decision. It must look at the environmental, economic and social aspects of a problem. If basic environmental principles are not respected, there is a negative impact on the economy. We have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in the manufacturing sector. The social issue is that hundreds of thousands of people will retire without enough money to live on. What will happen? They will have to be supported by the government. Who will the government be then? Today's young people. They will be stuck paying for these people because we did not abide by the basic rules of intergenerational equity, our obligations to future generations.

That is exactly the philosophy that is on the table today. The government is going after not only existing benefits, but also wages and working conditions. I urge everyone here to speak to a letter carrier, with someone who delivers the mail, with someone who does that job. They have been pushed to the limit. There is nothing left to squeeze out of them. Hours of work, working conditions, occupational injuries: everything will get worse because from now on, they must sort for themselves as they go. What they are being asked to do is unbelievable. But the government, still riding the same general wave that they created themselves—an anti-worker, anti-union one—says that it is no big deal, that they can surf the wave and that the public will support them. That is a lesson they learned from Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s. The more you go after the unions, the happier you make a certain segment of the population, particularly the Conservatives' base. They are playing this game for the benefit of their Reform base.

They have never delivered anything. What is being left for future generations is very serious in terms of the economy. They are simply gutting the industrial and manufacturing sector. Look at what they are doing with the largest deficit in history. The largest deficit in history has been delivered by the Conservatives. They just beat the record set by the Mulroney Conservative government. They hold the deficit record and yet they claim to be such great managers of public assets. We saw that again this week.

Auditing services within the government ensure, on our behalf, that government spending follows the rules. When it came time to trim excess fat from the government, where did they start? With the 92 people who audit and monitor government spending. How on earth are we supposed to monitor spending when they fired the people who monitor that spending? It is absurd, but that is where the Conservative logic leads.

They are telling us that there are serious issues with government spending and that cuts will have to be made. It is funny: since these same people—who claim to be such wonderful public administrators—came to power five and a half years ago, the annual rate of inflation has been about 2%. Plus, government spending has increased at three and a half times the rate of the cost of living. Did you hear that? Annual spending has increased by 6% to 7% each year since they came to power. Now—and this is similar to what they are doing to postal workers—having created the worst deficit in history, never having managed to control government spending, they are saying that it is terrible, that there is a deficit, that there is waste, that public money is being thrown out the window, and that this needs to stop.

Can we have a reality check here? They are the ones who have been running the country for five and a half years. Every time they say that public money is being wasted in government administration, they are criticizing themselves. They are the ones who have been managing this money for five and a half years. They are the ones who are responsible for the situation they are currently criticizing; however, that will not stop them. They are unable to take an honest look in the mirror. They are convinced that they are always right about everything.

It is no different here today. The government's only problem is when they are asked clear and specific questions. They are never able to answer them. The system for negotiating working conditions must be based on good faith. How can they justify the fact that they are the ones who locked the doors? How can they justify their complaints that the employees are not working when they are the ones who locked out the employees?

They do not have an answer. We are asking them how they can make an offer that is not as good as what management was prepared to offer, if the system is in fact based on good faith and if they are not playing a political game.

At the beginning of my speech, I said that the right to negotiate working conditions, the right to join forces with other workers to negotiate working conditions, and the right to collectively withdraw the offer of work in accordance with the law when the collective agreement has expired and all other conditions have been met are rights that are guaranteed under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and recognized by courts across Canada.

There was initially some indecision in this regard, particularly in terms of the RCMP's right to unionize, but all these issues are currently being upheld by the courts. These rights are a subset of the rights guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I am thinking of our freedom of association, our freedom to work with others to ensure that these same rights are respected and our freedom to speak out when those conditions are not met.

The moment the government enters into the negotiations, a major conflict of interest is created. When that same government controls the employer and the tools through a majority government in the House, it is a complete conflict of interest. The basic obligation to demonstrate good faith in all negotiations is even more important when this clear conflict of interest exists.

Rather than rising above the fray, the Conservative government is playing a shamelessly partisan game. That is why the New Democratic Party, which has always understood the role it plays in defending the rights of workers, will stand up and do everything in its power to stop this despicable and draconian bill from passing.

1:45 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the member's speech. While I am sure he feels he has given a very thoughtful speech to the House, there is a major chunk missing when he talks about workers. He does not talk about all workers such as all workers in my riding, all workers in his riding, all workers in anyone else's riding in the House. He is talking about a very select group.

All these other workers, by the way, are not at the bargaining table, but they are paying a price and that price is going to impact them at home. It is going to impact whether they can pay their bills. It is going to impact whether they can have a summer vacation with their kids this year because they are going to be concerned about the effects of the Canada Post stoppage.

He has not thought about that at all. He has not thought about the impacts on the economy. That is why Canadians entrusted the Conservative Party with the leadership of the 41st Parliament. They know that only we will be responsible to act in the best interests of all Canadians.

Does the member know that CUPW has refused to allow Canada Post workers the opportunity to vote on Canada Post's most recent offer? Does he support that? Does he think that is democratic? Does he really think he is standing up for those workers?

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, sometimes Conservative demagoguery goes beyond the limits.

When the member says “Canada Post stoppage”, what he forgets is that the workers have been locked out. It is not the union that has walked out. The workers have been locked out and they have been locked out by their employer, which is a crown corporation, and crown corporations are run by the government.

The government has locked the workers out to allow the member to stand, rend his garments and say, “This is terrible, they're not working, let's force them back to work”. The problem is the Conservatives are the ones who have stopped them from working.

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.

We have to remind Canadians watching this debate that this is a lockout. CUPW has been engaged in something that is absolutely legitimate and has been part of bargaining for years in our country, and that is rotating strikes, bringing attention to their cause and issues.

For Canada Post to go to the lockout, and I know this may be conjecture but I would appreciate the member's opinion on this, does he not think Canada Post would have had some indication from its insider sources that the government would support this by coming forward with back to work legislation?

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, the question is well posed, but I will take a slightly different tack in answering it.

What incentive remains for an employer to settle? What incentive remains for an employer to act in good faith? What incentive remains for the employer to sit down, bargain and get a result in the public interest, because that is what we are all here to defend?

However, Canada Post has their gang on the other side saying not to worry, even though the union has not broken a single law. On the contrary, it has respected every letter of every law, but we should not worry about that. It locks the workers out, then blames them and then special legislation is brought in because it is good for its base.

This is Ronald Reagan politics 101.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question about the position in which the workers have been put.

The intervention that the government has taken is like using a sledgehammer on the workers. These men and women have served ably under a government-run business for a number of years. They have been committed to our country and to their work. We actually have one of the best recognized postal services in the world. The government has decided to use this approach to undermine the bargaining process and reduce it to the point where they are in the back seat. Would my colleague expand upon that?

Not only has the government not allowed the workers to have the process take place, it has interfered to ensure their wages, their values and also their pensions are diminished. It is a strategic plot by the Conservatives.

Again, it is important to recognize that these workers are locked out. They want to be at work, but they need a fair and just agreement.

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Windsor West makes the point extremely well. In fact, the workers had been using their rights under their collective agreement, under existing legislation. They had been showing their determination to get a settlement that would work for everyone.

At the same time, not only is the member right when he says that Canada Post employees are among the best of any post office in the world, which is a subjective evaluation, the objective fact is the price of a stamp in Canada is a lot lower than in most comparable countries with an economy similar to ours.

It is an extremely well-run operation, and that is thanks to the men and women who do the work there.

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have very simple questions, and I would hope that democracy within the NDP works better than it does within CUPW.

Is the member aware that there have been three contract offers made by Canada Post over a series of months and the workers were not allowed an opportunity to vote of any of them, and that includes Canada Post's most recent offer? Is the member aware that there are salary increases in there for the workers? Is he aware that there is pension security in there for the workers? Is he aware that the issues that matter to the members of CUPW are addressed in that contract? Is he aware that they have not, as workers, been given the opportunity to vote on that contract offer?

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, is the member aware that we will not get a chance to vote on those salary and pension increases because the government has lowered them and removed them from the specific legislation that is before the House?

CUPW has respected every article of every statute. All the workers' rights are being defended by CUPW. The problem is that the employer's offers are being lowered because of the interfering, manipulative government that wants to pick a fight with the workers.

The workers were locked out and the government pointed to them as being the problem. It is lowering the offers of the employer and pointing to the workers as being the problem, but it is the government that is the problem.

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have some concern as I listen to the Conservative's attempt to turn the postal workers of Canada into the kicking dog of their ideological campaign.

I ran a small business that was dependent on mail service. I ran a magazine for 10 years. Every day I was at the post office to see if cheques had come in to get our product out.

A number of magazine owners have contacted me. They said that they did not want this lock out to be used as an excuse to attack the postal workers, even if it affects their business. People at various magazines are saying that they trust the workers at Canada Post. They understand that the government has picked a fight and it figures the public will turn away from the postal workers.

If the government gets away with this with the postal workers, then folks back home should know that it will come after every other bargaining sector and do the same thing. This is the line in the sand.

Could my hon. colleague comment on that?

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is precisely right. If Canada Post gets away with locking out its workers and then blaming the same workers for not working, if the government gets away with tabling a lower offer than was already negotiated and then turns around and wonders why the workers are not voting on it when the workers are not able to vote on it because the government has just lowered the offer, then that is their goal.

The government's goal is to put so much pressure on honest working men and women in this country that no one will stand up for their rights any more.

I can guarantee one thing. There is one party that has been standing up for workers' rights for the past 50 years and will continue to do so. It is the New Democratic Party of Canada.

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would view that last statement somewhat differently. There is one party beholden to big union bosses in this country. That happens to be the New Democratic Party of Canada.

When it comes to being responsible, when it comes to being accountable to Canadians, I would note there was virtually identical legislation brought to bear in this House in 1997. There is precedent for this.

However, I would argue that if the member feels that what is being proposed is so outrageous, how can he sit in this House and claim that he supports CUPW when it will not even allow its own members to vote on contract offers?

Is that what he supports, an organization--

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Outremont.

2 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, here are the facts.

The union respected every single rule every step of the way. The union is using a right guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, something that the Conservatives apparently know nothing about. The workers were unable to get the same offer in this legislation.

What is happening is this. We have an employer that has locked out the workers. They are pointing to that as being the problem. It is a problem created by the government.

When one deals in good faith, one negotiates in good faith, visor up and takes it straight on. When one is a bully, one does not respect the law and then changes it on behalf of the boss who is not negotiating in--

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order please. It being 2 o'clock, we will move on to statements by members.

The hon. member for London West.

Women of Excellence Awards
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, each year the YMCA of Western Ontario awards the Women of Excellence Awards to some of the many outstanding Canadian women who call London home.

This year, as in all years, its decision has not been an easy one, but I congratulate it on choosing an exceptional group of women to honour. Each of these women has worked tirelessly to improve the London community. They include: Ramona Lumpkin for education, training and development; Judith Rodger for arts, culture and heritage; Helen Connell for business, professions and trades; Ruthe Anne Conyngham for community, volunteerism and humanity; Donna Bourne for sport, fitness and recreation; and Sandy Whittall for health, science and technology. Moreover, the Olympians Tessa Virtue and Christine Nesbitt were celebrated for their outstanding achievement.

This annual event is a celebration of excellence and a small way in which Londoners can thank these remarkable women for their contributions.

On behalf of all Canadians, and especially those in London, let me thank them once again for making a positive difference to so many lives.

Food Security and Sovereignty
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, along with farm groups from 66 countries, Canada's supply managed sector is calling for coherence between trade agreements and international treaties on poverty, hunger, climate change and biodiversity so that countries can better meet food security requirements.

Our farmers are saying that trade agreements must not take precedence over food security.

It is no secret that the Canadian Council of Chief Executives has formally called on the Prime Minister to sacrifice the Canadian Wheat Board and our supply managed sector. We see the government already moving to destroy the wheat board by 2012. We also know that if the current WTO Doha round is signed, each dairy farmer stands to lose approximately $70,000.

I am asking the government to respect the underlying principle of food sovereignty as laid out in the international call for coherence. It could begin by rejecting any proposal that would weaken our ability to maintain supply management or our Canadian Wheat Board, both of which are vital to our long term national food security interests.

William Teleske
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, William Teleske fought with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment in the Italian campaign. In late 1943 he was in the Battle of Ortona, called the Stalingrad of Italy for its ferocity. Christmas was a short reprieve from the front lines to a bombed out church for dinner.

In Christmas 1998, Bill returned to Ortona with 30 veterans of his regiment and of the Three Rivers Regiment, Royal 22nd Regiment, Provost Corps and the Seaforth Highlanders. They visited their 1,400 fallen comrades resting at the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery and wondered: “So why not me?”

Then they shared Christmas dinner in the rebuilt church, this time with their foes of old, a wonderful expression of the hopefulness for world peace in the season of Christ meant for such reflection.

Bill passed away on Sunday, June 19.

Bill Teleske was respected for his service to his country and will be missed by his family and his many friends. We will not forget.

Special Olympics World Summer Games
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Special Olympics World Summer Games begin on June 25. Some 151 Canadian athletes and coaches will be in Athens to represent our country. They will do so with dignity and in the Olympic spirit.

Dignity, acceptance and a chance to reach one's potential, these are human rights that will drive our young Canadians through this competition.

For more than four decades, the Special Olympics has been bringing one message to the world: people with intellectual disabilities can and will succeed if given the opportunity.

I would like to congratulate our athletes for making it to Athens and I wish them great success at the games, but most of all I thank them for representing us well and making us so very proud. Go Canada go.

Lethbridge
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Hillyer Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the people of Lethbridge and Southern Alberta for electing me as their new member of Parliament. They put their trust in me because they have grown to trust the Conservative Party. They know that we are the party of the hard-working working class.

They know that they can count on me to work hard to reduce taxes and to strengthen the economy, to continue to let parents choose for themselves how to care for their children and to work toward a more just justice system.

Southern Albertans also know that Conservative policies are the only sure way and the most compassionate way to help the poor and lift the downtrodden.

We offer families real choices, real assistance and real results.

I am here to listen and to serve and to ensure that Southern Alberta remains a place of rich diversity and independent thinkers who work together within a strong, vibrant community.

Ragweed
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise here today to commend the entire community of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield for its involvement in the fight against ragweed. Over 400 partners, including the City of Valleyfield, public health workers, the health and social service centre and the people of this city in my riding, have all joined forces for the past three years to take part in a study on pollen concentrations.

Ragweed is systematically cut down every year in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, and as a result, the intensity of allergy symptoms has dropped by over 58%. This goes to show that, by working together, it is possible to positively influence people's health. I would remind the House that 25% of Canadians suffer from this kind of allergy. I therefore invite all communities in Canada to follow the example set by Salaberry-de-Valleyfield in order to improve air quality and everyone's health.

I would also like to take this opportunity to wish the people of my riding and everyone in Quebec an excellent Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.

Prince Albert
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, on May 2, the constituents of the federal riding of Prince Albert honoured me by re-electing me as their member of Parliament.

I want to thank them for the trust and confidence they have placed in me. I also specifically wish to acknowledge the commitment and hard work of my campaign manager, Larry Brewster, and my entire campaign team, who are too many to mention in this short statement.

Most of all I would like to thank my wife, Jerri, and my children, Broc and Alicia, for their continued love and support.

The voters of Prince Albert sent a clear message on May 2. They want to see the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry repealed. They want the ability to market their grain as they fit, just as producers in Ontario have the right to do. They want to see a Senate that is democratically elected. They want to see the economic policies of our Conservative government continue, polices that kept Canadians working during the global recession, and a balanced budget by 2015.

Most of all, they want Canada to be governed by a Conservative majority led by the Right Hon. Prime Minister, and thanks to the leadership of our Prime Minister, their wants will be our realities.

Anniversary of Ukrainian Settlement
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, on May 2 the voters of Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette bestowed on me the honour of representing them in the House of Commons by re-electing me.

On June 14, parliamentarians from all parties elected me as the chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group. I succeeded the former chair, the member for Langley, whom I thank for his distinguished service.

In 1891, the first wave of Ukrainian settlers arrived on Canada's shores, and the rest, as they say, is history. This year marks the 120th anniversary of that settlement.

Western Canada was a destination for many of these settlers who yearned for a farm of their own. The Ukrainian culture is alive, well and thriving in my constituency, as is the case in many regions of Canada. The many manifestations of Ukrainian culture in my constituency range from beautiful churches to lovingly tended cemeteries, thriving dance groups, beautiful gardens and, of course, productive farms.

I am honoured to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the Ukrainian settlement, a testament to our great land of hope and opportunity.

Quebec National Holiday
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this first opportunity in the House to thank my constituents for the confidence they placed in me on May 2. I want to wish them and all Quebeckers a happy Quebec national holiday and tell them I will be with them in spirit, as I will not be joining the festivities. Let us face it, the Prime Minister refuses to respect the holiday of a nation he claims to recognize.

I look forward to returning to my riding and taking part in many summer activities with the extraordinary people who live there.

I also want to add that I am proud that the NDP, unlike the current government, supports workers. I chose this party for its values, which I share, as do a vast majority of Quebeckers. I will continue to represent these values when it comes to social and affordable housing, for which I am the critic, because every citizen, without exception, has the right to have a decent roof overhead.

Camp Nathan Smith
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday was a momentous day in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.

The Canadian flag was lowered for good at Camp Nathan Smith, where Canadian civilians have been serving for the last six years.

This solemn moment marks both the achievements and sacrifices of all Canadians who have served in Afghanistan. It is a step forward in the transition of that country's future to the Afghan people. It is also a chance to pay tribute to all those who have sacrificed, some with the ultimate price, in the fight against the Taliban and terror generally.

Afghanistan today is a better, freer place than Canadians found it when they first arrived at Camp Nathan Smith. The people who have used the camp as a base for their work have helped tangibly to improve the lives of people in the region and the country as a whole. Canada's commitment to Afghanistan's future continues.

I would ask all hon. members to join me in saluting the men and women who have served with honour and distinction at Camp Nathan Smith. Theirs is an impressive legacy, indeed.

Riding of Trois-Rivières
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, one minute to talk about the important events in my riding is not very much. But I would like to mention a few situations that reflect the best things, and in some instances the worst, that are on the minds of the people of Trois-Rivières.

First, I would like to wish all Quebeckers a happy national holiday. I apologize for not being able to participate in the festivities for reasons known to everyone and approved by very few.

After the bundle of English-only documents that were presented yesterday, the battles to be fought in Ottawa are more urgent than ever.

I also wish to reassure Claude Mercier and Louis Poisson of CUPW in Trois-Rivières that I will work relentlessly to defend their rights to fair and equitable bargaining.

In another vein, I would like to congratulate Marie-Ève Nault and the entire Canadian women's soccer team, who are bringing us honour in the final round of the tournament in Germany.

Violence Against Women
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians were horrified to learn of the savage beating inflicted on Rumana Manzur, a barbaric act of violence. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Manzur and her daughter, but prayers are not enough.

Violence against women destroys families and weakens the fabric of society. Canadians know we are addressing violence against women and girls.

Since taking office, our government has invested more than $30 million in projects to end violence against women and girls in communities across the country. We have increased funding to end this violence to its highest level ever.

We are addressing these barbaric crimes by supporting programs like the Indo-Canadian Women's Associations' elimination of harmful cultural practises project. This initiative will empower immigrant girls and young women.

Violence should not be and will not be tolerated.

Air India
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, early this morning, on the coast of Ireland, a few families will be lighting candles and sending them into the water.

In Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver today, people will come together and reflect on the terrible events of June 23, 1985 when hundreds of people were killed by bombs that were built and set in Canada.

The Air India bombing stands as a terrible act of violence and terror, an event that took Canadians far too long to recognize in its full significance.

We recognize the courage and dignity of those who died and those who lived. We dedicate ourselves to the struggle against extremism and against violence, and we remember the words that are found on each monument memorializing these lives:

Time flies, suns rise and shadows fall,
Let it pass by, love reigns forever over all.

The Budget
Statements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, in June we laid out the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a positive plan that will keep taxes low and stimulate jobs and growth.

Canadians supported this budget and the important economic measures it contains. We are asking the NDP and the opposition to work with us to support Canada's forestry, mining, manufacturing, agriculture and aerospace sectors; to increase the guaranteed income supplement for Canada's poorest seniors; to bring health care and social transfers to record levels; to provide tax breaks to family caregivers, families with children involved in arts activities, and volunteer firefighters; and to attract doctors and nurses to rural areas.

But the NDP voted against all of these measures. Let us work together for a strong Quebec within a united Canada.

Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day
Statements By Members

2:15 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to wish my dear friends in Quebec a happy national holiday. It is a time to celebrate our language, our culture, our heritage, our history and our nation.

Quebec has a great deal to offer and many reasons to celebrate. On behalf of the entire NDP team and caucus, and especially the 59 members from Quebec, I wish all Quebeckers an excellent national holiday.

I would also like to take this opportunity to point out that francophones across Canada will be celebrating Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day tomorrow. May the French culture, history and language be at the heart of our celebrations from coast to coast to coast.

The Budget
Statements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, in June, we presented the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a positive plan to keep taxes low and support jobs and growth. Canadians supported the budget and its important economic measures.

We asked the NDP and the opposition to put aside politics and to work with us to support Canada's forestry, mining, agricultural, manufacturing and aerospace sectors; to increase income support for Canada's most in need seniors with a GIS increase; to bring health care and social transfers to record highs; to provide tax relief for family caregivers; to provide for families with a children's art tax credit; to provide for volunteer firefighters; to help attract doctors and nurses to rural areas; and much more.

The budget won praise among many Canadians but the NDP voted against it all.

Why did the NDP and the opposition members vote against seniors, vote against forestry, vote against record money for health care and much more? It is because they are in it for themselves and not for Canadians.

Canada Post
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Toronto—Danforth
Ontario

NDP

Jack Layton Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, negotiations between Canada Post and its workers have broken off. After locking the doors of post offices and sorting stations, Canada Post has no reason to negotiate in good faith because the Prime Minister is doing the dirty work on its behalf. He is preventing a healthy bargaining process, and imposing a labour contract with lower wages.

Where is the Prime Minister's good faith?

Canada Post
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the role of the federal government is to act in the best interests of the Canadian people and the Canadian economy, and not in the interests of those at the table. The reason for the legislation is to put an end to this situation that threatens our economy. The wage rates being imposed are identical to those offered in negotiations with our federal public servants.

Canada Post
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Toronto—Danforth
Ontario

NDP

Jack Layton Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, we know that the Prime Minister likes padlocks. He locked the doors of Parliament when things were not going his way. He has locked the post office doors. He is punishing the workers who were trying to get better conditions while continuing to deliver the mail.

Why is the Prime Minister punishing the workers for the decisions made by his government and his obedient servants at Canada Post?

Canada Post
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it was the opposition that decided to padlock Parliament for months for an election. For that reason, the Canadian electorate decided to give this government a majority so that it can govern this country and act in the interests of the electorate.

Canada Post
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Toronto—Danforth
Ontario

NDP

Jack Layton Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the government shut down the post office and is now trying to impose wages that are lower than the management was offering the workers.

The Prime Minister has rendered collective bargaining pointless in this country. He is signalling that if employers cannot get what they want at the bargaining table, never mind, Ottawa will legislate it for them. Why bother to bargain? It is a terrible precedent.

Will the Prime Minister at least remove the wage section from this bill and let an arbitrator decide on this particular important matter? It is only fair.

Canada Post
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the wage rates, as set in the bill, are only fair. They reflect what we have negotiated with federal public servants.

However, we need to be absolutely clear on the difference here. The government, unlike the NDP, is not beholden to one of the parties at the table. The government represents the wider interest of the Canadian economy. This strike is bad for the economy and we will act.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the surface, the documents revealed by the Afghan detainee committee yesterday contain little new information.

After all this time and money, we are right back where we started. Torture and extrajudicial executions are not unusual in Afghan prisons, and Canada has handed prisoners over to these torturers.

Why does the government not do what is right and demand a public inquiry?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, our government is and has always been committed to handling Afghan Taliban prisoners in accordance with our international obligations. We have just been through a 12-month $12 million process where an unprecedented amount of information has been put before a number of parliamentarians of this place. It has been ruled upon by former members of the Supreme Court who have done an outstanding job for this country.

I think Canadians have a clear picture that our men and women in uniform fully accepted all our international obligations and have done a heck of a good job representing this country.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, the minister is clearly grasping at straws here.

What the government spent $12 million on was trying to suppress the truth. Less than one-tenth of the documents were reviewed by the panel of ex-judges and less than half were even looked at by the back-room committee of MPs. For what? It was so the government could put this off for a year and now falsely pretend that judgment has been rendered.

Why did the Conservatives choose a process that hid the facts from Canadians and why not hold a public inquiry now?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I was, as I am sure many members in this place were, tremendously disappointed when the New Democratic Party refused to participate in this committee of parliamentarians.

Yesterday some 4,200 pieces of documentation on this important issue were released. We offered a briefing to all three of the opposition parties and let me say that I was even more disappointed that not one person from the New Democratic Party bothered to show up for that briefing to have this information explained.

Canada Post
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

We would have come if we had been invited, Mr. Speaker.

With respect to the current postal dispute, I wonder if the Prime Minister would—

Canada Post
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Canada Post
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I cannot even hear the question there is so much talking going on from that end of the chamber.

The hon. member for Toronto Centre.

Canada Post
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

They are an unruly bunch, Mr. Speaker, and there is not much we can do with them.

I wonder if the Prime Minister would recognize that one feature of the legislation that he is proposing is in a sense unprecedented. The way in which the arbitration process is set up is extremely interventionist. I wonder if the Prime Minister might consider, even at this late hour, some modification of the arbitration clauses in the legislation which might in fact provide us with the possibilities of a resolution of this conflict.

Canada Post
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Once again, Mr. Speaker, I certainly do not accept that there is anything unprecedented here, but what I do stress is the fact that this is a dispute that has gone on for some time. It is increasingly damaging to a wide interest of the Canadian economy, small business, charities and ordinary working people. This is not acceptable and the government is acting to ensure that postal services resume for Canadians.

The Senate
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, on another topic, the question of the Senate, the Prime Minister seems to be fixated on continuing with a proposal which has now aroused the opposition of the province of Ontario, as well as the province of Quebec, as well as former Premier Getty of his own province, who points out that having an elected Senate in Alberta with only six members in fact seriously discriminates against that province.

I wonder why the Prime Minister is persisting with a proposal that is unconstitutional, that is opposed by major provinces in the country and that does not have a hope of success?

The Senate
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, of course, the election possibility raised in the legislation is an option for provinces. Some may choose to participate, some may not, but it is important in this day and age that we move forward with reform.

I know the Liberal Party will go to any lengths, including making completely false statements, to try to justify the status quo in the Senate of Canada and that is simply not acceptable to Canadians.

The Senate
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will take the Prime Minister's insulting comments they way he intended.

The reality is that it is not the Liberal Party; it is the Province of Ontario, the Province of Quebec and the other provinces. It is also the former Alberta premier, who clearly shows that this proposal discriminates against his own province.

The question remains. The Constitution protects the status of the Senate; not a party in the Parliament of Canada.

What does the Prime Minister have against the Constitution of Canada?

The Senate
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it is perfectly clear that the changes proposed by this government fall under the constitutional authority of the Parliament of Canada, the federal Parliament.

It is very clear that the changes are within federal constitutional authority. I know that the Liberal Party, in both chambers, believes it is entitled to its entitlements, but we believe it is time to move forward with some reform.

Asbestos
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, the finger is being pointed at Canada for its indefensible position on the Rotterdam convention.

Two days ago, the minister explained that Canada's position was justifiable since other countries were preventing chrysotile asbestos from being included on the list. A number of those countries have since changed their minds and now Canada stands alone.

Will this government explain once and for all why it is bent on refusing to add chrysotile to the Rotterdam convention?

Asbestos
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, for more than 30 years, the Government of Canada has been arguing for the safe and controlled use of chrysotile at home and abroad. What is more, recent scientific studies clearly confirm that the fibres can be used safely in a controlled environment. Our position on the convention reflects the position adopted in Canada.

Asbestos
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, former Conservative cabinet minister Chuck Strahl recently said that it was “logical and right” to list asbestos as dangerous.

Tuesday, the minister stood and told Canadians that there was no need for Canada to get up in opposition to the listing because other countries would do our dirty work for us. However, when India and Ukraine stepped away, Canada was left alone in the spotlight, defending what the world knows to be wrong.

Will the minister stop defending the asbestos lobby and realize that the time has come to do the right thing, to list asbestos as dangerous, as the world has come to agree?

Asbestos
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the International Trade Union Movement For Chrysotile represents hundreds of thousands of workers who have taken a position in favour of the safe use of chrysotile because they know recent scientific studies show that chrysotile can be used safely in a controlled environment.

Asbestos
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, India, which is the main importer of asbestos from Canada, has thrown its support behind adding chrysotile asbestos to the Rotterdam convention. India could thereby control the harmful effects of asbestos and guarantee that the risks associated with using this product are clearly identified.

Why is this government putting its energies into opposing a convention that could save lives instead of implementing a plan that would allow asbestos workers to move toward industries of the future?

Asbestos
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, for more than 30 years, the Government of Canada has been arguing for the safe and controlled use of chrysotile. According to recent scientific studies, this can be done in a controlled environment. Canada's position on the convention reflects the position adopted here in Canada.

Asbestos
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, asbestos is the greatest industrial killer the world has ever known. More people die from asbestos than from all other industrial causes combined, yet Canada continues to be one of the largest producers and exporters in the world.

Without exaggeration, we are exporting human misery on a monumental scale and yet we are taking active steps to ensure that companies do not even warn their customers, the third world and developing nations, where we are dumping hundreds of thousands of tonnes of asbestos. Conservatives do not think it should even have a warning label on it.

Our position is morally and ethically reprehensible. Do they not realize the black eye they are giving our country--

Asbestos
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. Minister of Industry.

Asbestos
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, we know that recent scientific studies clearly show that chrysotile fibres can be used safely in a controlled environment. Today, the International Trade Union Movement For Chrysotile, which represents hundreds of thousands of workers—again, hundreds of thousands of workers—reiterated this position in support of the safe and controlled use of chrysotile.

Household Debt
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada's debt represents 34% of its income, but household debt represents approximately 150% of household income.

The government is constantly talking about its own debt, but it is not helping Canadians deal with their debt. The best cure for this is a good job.

When will the government create real jobs instead of part-time solutions and help Canadians get rid of their personal debt?

Household Debt
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am proud of the job creation record of our government: nearly 560,000 net new jobs created since July 2009, of which more than 80% are full-time jobs. This is the best record of any country in the G7. Our country has been through a difficult time, a recession that came from outside our country, but we have managed our way through it and Canadians are doing well.

Household Debt
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is just not credible. The government talks about an economic recovery, but it has no plan to end the jobs crisis. That is not a recovery. We still have hundreds of thousands more unemployed than before the recession, a recession the government did not even see coming.

Today, we learned that only 42% of the unemployed can access employment insurance, the insurance they paid into.

Why is the government continuing to make working families pay for its failure to create jobs?

Household Debt
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, Canada's economy has grown for seven straight quarters now since the recession ended in July 2009. I do not know where the member opposite gets her information, but not only have we recovered all of the jobs that were lost during the recession, we have also restored all of the economic output that was lost during the recession. Only one other country in the G7, that is Germany, has a comparable record.

Poverty
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, this government's lack of compassion for people living in poverty is shocking.

The Conservatives want to cut nearly half a billion dollars from the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development, but they are refusing to say which programs will be affected.

Canadians have a right to know.

Which programs does this government intend to cut?

Poverty
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, Canadians gave us a clear, strong mandate. They want us to respect the money they make, the money we receive in taxes, and they want us to spend it very wisely. That is what we will do. We will eliminate waste.

Poverty
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is simply not good enough. Twenty years after Parliament passed a New Democratic motion to end child poverty, Canadian children are still being left behind.

Statistics released yesterday show that over 100,000 children in British Columbia are still living in poverty. That is 100,000 kids who are not getting a fair start in life. This is an urgent national problem.

How can the government waste millions on gazebos and billions on tax giveaways to profitable corporations while leaving families to fend for themselves?

Poverty
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, our government really is reaching out to help families right across this country, especially those in need. That is one of the reasons that we introduced the universal child care benefit. We have increased the national child benefit as well.

These are all initiatives aimed to help low income families get over the welfare wall, just like the WITB that we introduced and then increased.

Sadly, the NDP voted against every one of those initiatives to help the most vulnerable families.

Persons with Disabilities
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities more than four years ago.

The Conservatives have yet to do anything to implement the principles of this convention.

Considering that there are more than four million people in Canada living with disabilities, when will the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development submit an action plan to implement the convention?

Persons with Disabilities
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome the hon. member to the House.

However, she should know that we have done a lot for persons with disabilities in Canada. We have introduced a number of programs.

For example, it was our government that launched the registered disability savings plan, one in which some 45,000 families are now perpetuating their ability to look after their disabled loved ones.

Not only was it our government that signed the convention, but we also launched the enabling accessibilities fund that has made over 600 new facilities across Canada accessible. Her party should have supported--

Persons with Disabilities
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie.

Asbestos
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, a pack of cigarettes very clearly warns us that tobacco causes cancer. Asbestos also causes cancer and yet this government refuses to put it on the Rotterdam Convention list of carcinogens.

Nevertheless, other exporting countries, such as Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam and Kazakhstan have done so. India, which imports our chrysotile, has done it.

Why is this government not doing the right thing?

Asbestos
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, for over 30 years, the Canadian government has been promoting the safe and controlled use of chrysotile fibre, not asbestos in general as the hon. member mentioned, but chrysotile fibre. Recent scientific studies have shown that this fibre can be safely used in a controlled environment. This is the position that was taken by the previous government.

Asbestos
Oral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister knows full well that it is very difficult to use chrysotile in the proper working conditions. The procedures, training, complex equipment are all needed to be able to use it in a safe way so that fibres are not accidentally breathed in. The minister knows this full well. He cannot assure us that it is not being used improperly in third world countries that import it.

Why is the government deceiving Canadians and pretending that there is no problem? This is wilful blindness. The government is washing its hands of its responsibilities.

Asbestos
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, we are talking here about risk management. We know that chrysotile fibre can be safely used in a controlled environment. I would like to remind the hon. member that the International Trade Union Movement for Chrysotile, which represents hundreds of thousands of workers, supports the safe use of chrysotile. These people know what they are doing. They are experts in the field and are supported in the safe use of chrysotile. Canada's position with regard to the convention therefore reflects the country's position.

G8 Summit
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, according to its mission statement, Treasury Board Secretariat is supposed to ensure that “resources are soundly managed across government with a focus on results and value for money”.

By that criteria, the first program that should be audited is the G8 legacy fund where $50 million which Parliament authorized for border infrastructure ended up in gazebos and washrooms that had nothing to do with the G8.

Is the President of the Treasury Board refusing to call for a value-for-money audit because he knows it would lead right back to him?

G8 Summit
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General looked at this initiative and made some helpful observations about how we could move forward in a more transparent and clear way in terms of the estimates presented to Parliament. The Auditor General also made some observations with respect to the administration of the program.

The good news is every dollar is accounted for. All 32 projects came in on or under budget. In fact, the program itself was underspent by some $5 million.

G8 Summit
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka approved $50 million worth of projects that benefited his friends. This is so suspicious that the RCMP is investigating. Today, members representing ridings that did not benefit from this preferential treatment are asking legitimate questions.

Can the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka stop hiding behind his spokesperson and explain to the members from other ridings how and why the projects were approved in his riding?

G8 Summit
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to correct the record. Those projects with which the member opposite claimed were approved by the now President of the Treasury Board were in fact approved by the minister of infrastructure. I am happy to correct the record.

G8 Summit
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a figure that is of interest to all of us. Had the President of the Treasury Board approved $50 million worth of projects in all of the country's other ridings, it would have cost the public treasury $15 billion. This gives some idea of the extent of the dubious spending that occurred in his riding.

But, above all, does the President of the Treasury Board understand that by favouring his friends, he is creating a two-tier democracy—one for his friends and one for other Canadians?

G8 Summit
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, let us look at what some of these infrastructure funds were spent on.

They were spent on rehabilitating the airport in North Bay. They were spent on fixing up a provincial highway. They were spent on building a community centre that was used during the summit. These are all public infrastructure projects which add great value to the municipalities that recommended and submitted these projects.

G8 Summit
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General's report shows how the member from Muskoka got away with giving out $50 million without any oversight. He deliberately froze out any accountable body. He blew off the checks and balances of Parliament. That is why we are having a police investigation.

Do the Conservatives really think it passes the smell test that three amigos-- the minister, a mayor and a hotel manager--were allowed to lord over 242 projects without any documentation? When will the minister stand up and produce the real paper trail?

G8 Summit
Oral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, much of what the member opposite said is not true. It is not fact. The fact that he has to exaggerate suggests that the facts cannot present a powerful enough argument.

The reality is there were three individuals who reviewed the submissions, but in fact they had no decision-making authority in this regard.

The good news is that all 32 projects were completed on time. We did get some very helpful observations from the Auditor General. We thank her for her work and are fully accepting the good advice and counsel that she has provided.

G8 Summit
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, they pilfered $50 million from border infrastructure and the police have been called in, but that is just a start. The member raided FedNor. He raided the community adjustment fund. He raided the stimulus fund. He created a $100 million personal legacy project that was blown on sunken boats and paving the bunny trail.

Now the guy is in charge of Canada's treasury. Why are the Conservatives showing such contempt for Canadian taxpayers by putting him there?

G8 Summit
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I have accepted the challenge of the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Winnipeg Centre to make this place more civil, to debate issues and not bring about insults.

The reality is that the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka, the Hon. Tony Clement (President of the Treasury Board, CPC), has provided great leadership over 14 years in public service. He has done a heck of a job for the people of Ontario, a great job for the people of Canada. He has a lot to be very proud of.

Air India Flight 182
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, today our Prime Minister marked the seventh annual National Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Terrorism.

We honour and remember the victims of the Air India Flight 182 atrocity which occurred 26 years ago today.

Would the Minister of Foreign Affairs give the House an update on what the government is doing to combat terrorism and mark this important day of remembrance?

Air India Flight 182
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his interest in this regard.

On this day we pause to remember those who lost their lives through acts of terrorism here in Canada and around the world.

On June 23, 1985, as my colleague has said, Canadians experienced the worst terrorist attack in Canada's history when a bomb on Air India Flight 182 killed all 329 passengers and crew members on board, most of them Canadian.

Earlier today the Prime Minister unveiled the fourth and final memorial for the victims of this tragedy. This memorial and three others in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver will ensure that their deaths and the loss experienced by their loved ones will not be forgotten.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government's record of deporting refugees to torture is troubling. The Benhmuda family, including two Canadian-born children, lived in Canada for eight years. The family was deported into the hands of Moammar Gadhafi and the father was tortured for six months.

The family was able to escape to Malta. They are not safe there, and the UN has asked the government to repatriate them.

Will the minister bring these Canadian children and the family back to Canada, where they belong?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

First, Mr. Speaker, I have to take serious objection to the preamble of the hon. member's question. He knows full well that no Canadian government of any political stripe deports people to torture. We have the fairest asylum system in the world. Any one who our courts, our IRB or decision makers determines could face risk overseas is not returned to face risk.

Having said that, this is a particularly complicated case. I cannot comment on the details because of the Privacy Act. If we receive an application from that family, I can assure the member it will be given every humanitarian consideration and dealt with on an accelerated basis.

Libya
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Paulina Ayala Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the people of Libya are currently under a huge amount of stress. Right now, there are a number of students of Libyan origin studying in Canada. The freeze on trade relations with Libya is putting their scholarships and student visas in jeopardy.

Will this government extend the temporary exemption granted to Libyan students living in Canada, and will it ensure that they receive financial assistance immediately?

Libya
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, Canada has acted quickly and decisively to approve an exemption from the sanctions so students would not suffer.

It is now time for the Libyan government to release the necessary funds to support the students and their families. We will continue to press Libya to provide the funding as soon as possible.

We will continue to work with these students to ensure they can complete their education in Canada.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, 34 immigrant settlement agencies have lost their funding after $43 million was cut. It hits places like Toronto and Scarborough the hardest where 80,000 new Canadians are hurt by these service cuts.

These cuts come at a time when Toronto schools are also cutting settlement staff, further eroding available services. Both the House and the immigration committee have voted to reverse these funding cuts, but Conservatives have ignored this.

Why is the government putting up barriers to the integration of immigrants into Canadian society and our economy?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on his election, but not on his question, because every single assertion was false.

In point of fact, this government has more than tripled the federal investment in integration and settlement services for newcomers. It was $200 million five years ago. It is now over $600 million. It has increased in Ontario.

It is true that there are now more newcomers settling in places like Atlantic Canada and western Canada than in Ontario, and the dollars are following them, because we have a responsibility to make sure that all newcomers get an equal chance to succeed in Canada.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister's answer shows that he either does not get Toronto or he does not care.

When he cut this funding, not only did he abandon new Canadians, but he took decades of on the ground knowledge and tossed it out the window. In my riding of Davenport, the South Asian Women's Centre and the Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Centre lost $1 million in funding, despite passing their official assessment.

If these agencies are getting a passing grade, why is the government steamrolling ahead with cuts and ignoring immigrant families in Toronto?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, let me make this very simple for the NDP. We have tripled the federal investment in settlement services for newcomers. There are hundreds of organizations that deliver those services on our behalf, but we receive applications from thousands of organizations.

I know the NDP believes that money grows on trees. I know the NDP thinks we can keep raising taxes to spend money without any limit. However, we cannot actually fund every one of the thousands of organizations that make an application. We have to make an assessment on their track record and on the quality of the applications and fund the best ones. That is exactly what we do, giving taxpayers value for the money.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the newly released Afghan detainee documents have much to reveal. Transfer notifications to the Red Cross took up to a month. We lost track of hundreds of detainees. When the Afghan authorities claimed detainees were released, we did not verify. Our own monitoring was erratic and allegations of torture were numerous.

How can the Prime Minister say nothing is wrong, knowing he failed to protect people under his watch?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we spent 12 long months providing a significant number of documents to the parliamentary committee. We spent a considerable amount of money, $12 million. Regrettably, the member opposite did not find the damage he expected to find.

What I was terribly disappointed about was with these 4,200 pages of information we had from professional people in the public service, from the Department of Foreign Affairs, from men and women in uniform, from the Department of National Defence, why did the Liberal Party and the member not take advantage of the briefing? There was only one single member who--

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I will ask hon. members to allow the minister to answer the question. There is not much point in asking a question if you do not listen to the response.

The hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the next time the minister wants to invite me, he should tell me.

Among the information in these documents, there are allegations of torture, such as a case in which a detainee we transferred for interrogation by the Afghan secret service may have been subjected to abuse and death threats; yet we did not follow up.

What will this government do to ensure that in the future, our mechanism for protecting detainees is transparent, effective and worthy of Canada?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it was likely. There were no facts that brought the conclusion that any Canadian transfer detainees were. Let us look at what certain detainees had to say.

One detainee, whom I will call Bob, indicated that the food and water he was provided and the things he was given to eat included meat, rice, fruits, bread and beans. He indicated that he was treated well. That is what some of the documents released yesterday said.

Disaster Assistance
Oral Questions

2:50 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very sad to say that floods and forest fires continue to devastate large segments of western Canada. Millions of acres of farmland have been flooded or have gone unseeded. Cattle producers may have to reduce their herds because of pasture damage and entire communities lay devastated.

The western provinces cannot handle this alone. What will the government do to help western farmers, businesses and workers deal with the aftermath of these natural disasters?

Disaster Assistance
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, we are following, together with the provinces, with great interest the difficulties many are facing in the west due to these floods. Canadians can count on us to assist when disaster strikes. Because of this year's unprecedented floods, we have also offered to pay for half the costs of permanent mitigation measures constructed ahead of this year's floods that are not otherwise eligible for disaster financial assistance arrangements. We think it makes a lot of sense to put in place permanent mitigation measures to prevent damage like this from happening again, where possible.

Disaster Assistance
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, what the provinces are saying is that they are looking for leadership and the government is not stepping up to the plate.

Western premiers are calling for the federal government to have a national disaster mitigation plan and extra help for those whose livelihoods have been damaged. They see the need for federal help but the Conservatives seem content to stand idly by.

Will the government listen to the premiers and develop a plan that includes a special compensation program for families and communities devastated by the floods and forest fires?

Disaster Assistance
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I really must disagree with the hon. member. We have been quite impressed by the leadership the western premiers are taking in their jurisdictions where it is their primary responsibility to manage these affairs. We think they are doing a pretty good job.

We are certainly willing to do our bit to assist with permanent mitigation measures arising out of this incident specifically, and to discuss a national mitigation plan in the long term.

Again, we think it does make sense to put in place permanent measures to avoid problems from happening again when we have the opportunity to do that.

Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, a holiday celebrated by all descendants of New France. I would like to take this opportunity to send greetings to all proud Franco-Ontarians, who, like myself, celebrate this day with love and dignity.

For our cousins in Quebec, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day is celebrated as a national holiday, a day off on which people get together with family and friends to celebrate the rich language of Rabelais and the French culture.

Can the Minister of Industry, the government's Quebec lieutenant, tell us what the government has in mind for Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day?

Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, since arriving on this continent over 400 years ago, we have been fighting to preserve our language, our culture and our values. One of our most cherished values is democracy.

That is why I ask the Leader of the Opposition to let democracy prevail in the House, because by voting sooner rather than later, instead of sending good wishes for Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day from the House, we could return to our constituencies to celebrate Quebec, to celebrate our culture, to celebrate our nation and to celebrate French Canada.

Rail Transportation
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, for the second time in this young Parliament, I would like to ask the minister of transport about the federal rail service review.

After four years of study, that review was completed last October. It identified the key problem as an unfair imbalance in market power favouring railways, harming shippers and resulting in globally inferior service.

There is no excuse for more delay. Will the minister guarantee that the legislation to meet the needs of shippers will be presented in this House and enacted before the end of this calendar year?

Rail Transportation
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, the rail freight review is an important part of the overall economic potential growth of western Canada. The government has received the review and will be taking a close look at its recommendations.

We look forward to working with all parties and stakeholders to ensure we get the best results for Canadians.

Search and Rescue
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, last night, the Prime Minister spoke with the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and, despite objections from everyone, except, it would seem, the hon. member from Labrador, the Prime Minister confirmed that he has no intention of reversing the decision to close the search and rescue centre in St. John's.

This so-called decision reduction measure will reportedly save $1 million a year.

Could the Prime Minister tell us exactly what price he is putting on the safety of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians?

Search and Rescue
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Fredericton
New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated on more than several occasions, this decision in no way will compromise the safety of mariners whatsoever.

I must say that we have invested heavily in Coast Guard resources in Newfoundland and Labrador with a 33% increase in personnel alone and the deployment of two icebreakers to Newfoundland. We are very proud of the investments that we have made.

Canada Post
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, hard-working Canadians across the country are calling for an immediate restoration of mail services.

I have heard from many of my constituents who are strongly supportive of the government's clear and decisive action to proceed with back to work legislation and bring an end to this unfortunate work stoppage.

Could the Minister of Labour please update the House on the status of this important bill?

Canada Post
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Halton
Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his unique input and insight into the matters regarding labour issues here in our caucus.

The government received a very strong mandate from Canadians with respect to ensuring that we had an economic recovery. The parties at the table were unable to reach a deal among themselves toward a resolution. As such, we have introduced this legislation.

That is why I am calling on all members to support and join me on the quick passage of this very important piece of legislation to get--

Canada Post
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Windsor West.

Windsor-Detroit Border Crossing
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, a year ago, the then minister of transport said that the Windsor-Detroit border crossing could no longer wait, that it had to move forward. The minister acknowledged the importance of this infrastructure and also acknowledged that it was actually one of the most historic opportunities to build infrastructure for the prosperity of our country.

However, now it hangs in the balance. It will cost thousands of jobs, affect the viability of our economy and put one of our most important trading partners at risk.

I want to know why the Minister of Transport has not addressed this issue. Why has he not publicly backstopped the problems in Michigan and ensured that the time, money and effort to solve this problem do not go to waste?

Windsor-Detroit Border Crossing
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean
Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this is still a very important issue for us. We are working with our American partners on this issue and with MPs in the area. It is a very serious issue and we will manage it as such. Hopefully the member will help us and we will be in a better position in the future.

Asbestos
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share with all members an excerpt from an international newspaper about what happened yesterday in Geneva.

As opponents to listing chrysotile became sparse, the elephant was left with nowhere to hide. Tempers flared as Canada confirmed it would not join any consensus on listing chrysotile.

When will, in the name of God, the government change its mind? I ask you in the name of your friend Chuck Strahl. Twenty-four hours remain. Change your position.

Asbestos
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I would remind the hon. member to address her comments through the Chair and not directly to colleagues.

The hon. Minister of Industry.

Asbestos
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable
Québec

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, for more than 30 years, the Government of Canada has promoted the safe use of chrysotile, which can be used safely in a controlled environment. Today, the International Trade Union Movement for Chrysotile, which represents hundreds of thousands of workers, came out in support of this position because it believes that chrysotile can be used safely. That is the position reflected in the convention.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Right Honourable John Turner, 17th Prime Minister of Canada.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I would also draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Premier of British Columbia and two ministers: the Honourable Christy Clark, Premier; the Honourable Barry Penner, Attorney General; and the Honourable Shirley Bond, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Canadian Forces Ceremony
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning around 10:30, I happened to be in the foyer of the Centre Block and I saw a wonderful ceremony whereby three ministers of the government, surrounded by about 20 Conservative colleagues, were honouring our armed forces on behalf of Parliament and transferring a flag to, I believe, a chief warrant officer. There were a couple of other members of the armed forces as well.

I am also a very proud member of the armed forces. The Liberal Party also believes in honouring our men and women. I would like to know why we were not notified and invited to this ceremony.

Canadian Forces Ceremony
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Unfortunately, question period is over. The hon. member had a chance to ask that question during question period. It is not a point of order. Perhaps it is a matter he can ask the minister.

1997 Postal Mediation Costs
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Halton
Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, this morning, in my remarks, I indicated in the question aspect of my debate that the cost of the 1997 mediation arising from the legislation at the time was in the millions. I was asked for further clarification and I have that now.

The cost of the mediation arbitration process in 1997 was $2,321,952.65. Each party was charged half. In this case, the employer paid its half. However, litigation had to be resorted to by the Government of Canada in order to obtain a decision rendered in 2004 to recover the monies from the union.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, this would normally be the end of the current session. As we know, the Parliament of Canada can do as it pleases. Last Thursday, we sat as though it were a Friday. Tomorrow, Friday, we will sit as though it were still Thursday. In fact, this could end up being the first-ever week of four Thursdays.

The government has mastered the art of this type of transformation. It can turn losers into winners. If someone loses in an election and is not chosen to create legislation in the House, they can always be appointed to the Senate and sit as a parliamentarian. During question period, the Conservatives spoke about the importance of respecting the Quebec nation. Yet tomorrow is Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day and they still want us to sit.

With all of these contradictions—in particular, the fact that they decided that the best way to monitor public spending is to fire those who monitor public spending and that they locked out workers and are now blaming the workers for not working—are there any more surprises like this in store for us this summer?

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments from the member for Outremont. He did speak of respect. I hope he will take a look at his comments, have in mind Standing Order 18, and reflect upon how his comments fit into Standing Order 18.

Since today is the last scheduled sitting of the House before members return to their constituencies for the summer, my answer will be relatively brief.

When this bill is passed, the House will adjourn until September 19.

As for the business of the House upon our return in September, I will advise my counterparts of the government's plans closer to that time.

In case this is the last time I am on my feet this summer, let me thank the staff of the House and the clerks at the table for their support and their usual kind assistance, in addition to the pages, who I acknowledged fully yesterday.

Finally, I thank all hon. members for the very productive sitting we have had this month. A great deal has been accomplished in just about 12 sitting days. I hope they will all have happy and productive summers with their constituents.

Documents Regarding Afghan Detainees
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to know from the House leader why he did not invite me to the technical briefing yesterday when he communicated to me about Afghan detainees?

Documents Regarding Afghan Detainees
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

That is not quite a point of order, but I see the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs is rising to respond. I will allow that.

Documents Regarding Afghan Detainees
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am told that he and his party were invited to a briefing held yesterday by senior officials responsible for the transfer of Taliban prisoners.

I am told invites were in the opposition lobby. One member of the opposition did attend the briefing, the member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia. We had an ambassador there who was familiar with the file. We had members from the Canadian Forces to provide detailed briefings for the members.

Regrettably only one member did attend.

Documents Regarding Afghan Detainees
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

If there are any further questions, I encourage members to take that up with the minister. It is not a point of order.

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to represent my government in its support of Bill C-6, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services.

This legislation, once enacted, will bring an end to the work stoppage at Canada Post. The labour dispute between Canada Post and CUPW relates to the renewal of collective agreements covering some 50,000 workers, including plant and retail employees, letter carriers and mail service couriers.

It is always better when two parties can reach a collective agreement at the bargaining table without the need for Parliament's intervention. The best solution in any labour dispute is one where the parties resolve differences on their own.

The Minister of Labour has been clear and has, at every occasion, encouraged both parties to reach an agreement on their own. In this case, however, the parties are too far apart, and that is too bad. The last thing we want to see is the situation deteriorate and see business—

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Documents Regarding Afghan Detainees
Points of Order
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the member for Brant. I am told that the copies that were provided to each party in the House, the 4,200 pages documents, included an invitation to attend the briefing. Officials were there. It was on top of the binders that were provided to each party.

I thought that would add further clarification, and I thought you, Mr. Speaker, would want to know it, too.

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was at the point of saying that the last thing we would like to see is this situation deteriorate any further and see businesses fail, unemployment increase and our economy go into a tailspin. Canada Post, a crown corporation, has more than 70,000 full and part-time employees. It is one of the largest employers in Canada. Every business day, it delivers service to 14 million addresses. Canada Post spends about $3 billion a year on goods and services and it contributes $6.6 billion to the country's GDP.

The Canada Post direct marketing sector accounts for $1.4 billion of its revenue. During the recent economic recession, this sector suffered financial losses. So many businesses still rely on Canada Post to get their business done and connect with their clients and customers across the country and internationally. While many aspects of business can often be accomplished online, not everything can be done in the absence of the mail. Mail service is still essential to the functioning of many small and medium-sized businesses and even large corporations.

Canada Post provides a crucial connection for Canadians in rural and remote areas.

Seniors are finding this work stoppage very difficult to deal with. Many of my colleagues have heard from seniors in their constituencies who would like to see an end to this work stoppage. A prolonged work stoppage at Canada Post may well affect some of the most vulnerable sectors of our economy.

How would Canada Post be affected as a viable business? Over the past decade, with the growth of the Internet, email, electronic billing and electronic funds transfers, there has been a corresponding decline in personal mail. However, small and medium-sized businesses still rely on the postal service for direct marketing, billing and filling orders. It is this sector of the business that could be jeopardized with a long-term work stoppage. Right now there is co-dependence. Now is not the time to put them at risk.

What is at stake is our economic recovery. All the job losses incurred during the global economic recession have been recovered. Our government has a responsibility to act on behalf of all Canadians to ensure the momentum continues. We have a process in place to deal with labour conflicts in the federal domain. It is called the Canada Labour Code and it has been followed each step of the way in this conflict.

The collective agreement covering CUPW and Canada Post expired on January 2011. Both parties have been bargaining since October 2010.

When those talks stayed at an impasse, a reconciliation officer was appointed. Throughout the month of May, a mediator from the labour program's Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service met frequently with the parties. The Minister of Labour even met with both party leaders. Despite all these efforts at mediation and conciliation, CUPW announced, on May 30, its intent to strike. On June 3, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers walked off the job. On June 15, 2011, the employer declared a lockout.

The postal workers have now been without a contract since January 2011, despite many rounds of bargaining. Of course, there are always cases when collective bargaining hits an impasse and the parties involved reach a stalemate. When this happens, the parties can request the Minister of Labour to appoint an arbitrator.

It is certainly not the preference of the government to intervene in labour disputes. Our government respects the right of free collective bargaining, which includes the right to strike or a lockout. However, when employers and unions choose a course of action that has harmful effects on the economy and the country as a whole, then it is incumbent on Parliament to stand up for the country and to protect our economic recovery.

That is why our government has introduced Bill C-6. We are taking decisive action on behalf of all Canadians.

What would the act do? It would impose a four-year contract and new pay rate increases. That 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 also means, for final offer selection, a binding mechanism for all outstanding matters. 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. It will also strive to ensure the short and long-term economic viability and competitiveness of Canada Post Corporation, maintain the health and safety of its workers and the sustainability of the pension plan.

The terms and conditions of employment must also take into account: (a) that the solvency ratio for the pension plan must not decline as a direct result of the new collective agreement; and (b) that the Canada Post Corporation must, without recourse or undue increases in postal rates, operate efficiently, improve productivity and meet acceptable standards of service.

As we recover from the economic downturn, it is more important than ever that we encourage co-operative and productive workplaces.

Let us recognize that this has not been an easy situation for the postal workers and for Canada Post. Our hope is that both parties can now turn this around and make the most of this agreement. I would urge them to focus on making Canada Post relevant to Canada for the 21st century.

I also ask my hon. colleagues to join us in supporting the bill.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my good friend from Brant for speaking very calmly and rationally about what Parliament is being asked to deal with today. We have a situation that none of us, I believe, wanted. We certainly do not have a situation that the government wanted to step into.

However, we do have two parties that clearly cannot come to an arrangement. They have been negotiating since this contract expired in January. We have a very difficult situation on our hands today, with millions of Canadians clearly affected by this.

Perhaps my hon. friend could share a bit more from his riding's perspective. I have been to Brant, but I do not know the riding particularly well. Perhaps he could give some more specific examples of the types of individuals who have been directly affected by the fact that mail is not flowing.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, many of us in the House would prefer not to be in this situation. I think that is the case on all sides.

However, we must take action to protect especially the small and the medium-sized businesses, like the ones in my community.

I have heard from, and many MPs have heard from their constituents, the owners of these companies. One in particular is a small rural weekly newspaper. This particular newspaper, the Burford Times, relies on the post office for the delivery of its revenue from advertisers. Also the businesses of that small community rely on getting their word out. Therefore, they are suffering as well. These are the one, two, three or five-person operations, which are affected the most.

I received another interesting email from another individual who totally relies on the postal service for his revenue into his company. He said that if this went on for another seven days, he would be out of business.

This is especially hitting the small operators.

Yesterday, we heard about the call for respect of the workers. We are calling for the respect of all small and medium-sized Canadian businesses.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, does the member opposite know the names of the postal workers who deliver the mail to his home? Does he know their families and their situations? Does he know how they live their lives? Does he know their families and the condition of their families?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member's question is completely relevant to my personal situation. I have two nephews and a niece who are postal carriers. I also understand that many postal carriers prefer that this situation had never arisen. They would like to have more control of their own job situations.

I do have a relationship with a lot of people. I was a small employer and I know what makes for success. It is the people who are on the ground and are actually doing the work.

A lot of people in this country, including postal workers, would prefer not to be in this situation. I do know their situation personally. They are somewhat upset that we must be here to face this for our economy. However, we must do this to protect their rights.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the former speaker would know that we are talking about a lockout as opposed to postal workers going on strike, and many believe that the government had a good idea that the lockout was going to happen.

Could the member give the House any assurances that cabinet had no idea that Canada Post was going to lock out its workers, or did the government have an idea that this was going to occur? Could he provide some information on that point?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not in a position to have any of the information the member is asking for, but I do know many of the people in my community who are being directly affected by this, as I mentioned earlier. In fact, I have received numerous emails not only from businesses but also from seniors and people who live on disability allowances from government sources, who are being greatly affected by this.

This is a situation that is untenable for a lot of the individuals who rely on mail service for the money they need to sustain themselves. Frankly, right now there are certain people who are panicking because of this.

This government must take action. We are being decisive and we will pass this legislation.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, since this morning, our Conservative Party colleagues have been shedding crocodile tears over the fate of small and medium-sized businesses, while forgetting the fundamental fact that the current dispute at Canada Post is a lockout. That makes all the difference in the world. The unions had planned to use moderate pressure to raise public awareness, by taking action for just 24 hours in one city at a time. Canada Post was told to put an end to the dispute and only aggravated the situation by imposing a lockout. It got out the bazooka and shut everything down across the country.

I would like to ask our hon. colleague if he cares at all about the interests of the small and medium-sized businesses that are suffering because of the lockout imposed by Canada Post. Would he be willing to stand up and ask Canada Post to lift the lockout?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, even before the lockout I was receiving emails from business people, the ones who own the three or four person operations, about the rotating lockouts that were happening. In my community we rely--

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Strikes.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Yes, they were strikes, Mr. Speaker. There were walkouts by employees or strikes in various centres, meaning that the mail was not moving. Invoices and things that people needed to get out were not being received at the local rural post offices.

There was such disruption to the system at that point before the lockout happened that this government had to do something decisive to make sure that our economy was protected, that the jobs in those small companies were respected and that we got this country back to work.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, would the hon. member for Brant agree with me that the rotating strikes before the lockout were just as crippling to the system as the lockout itself?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question underscores what I said previously, that this is not just because of the lockout, as the opposition would now characterize the situation, but of an ongoing series of disruptions right across the country.

The issue then from a management point of view is, how do we prioritize? How do we tell some people that we will get mail through and others that we are not, and to give those directions to the people on the ground?

If one has a sense of business and knows that one has a responsibility to all business customers, not just to a certain few that are regarded as more important than others, a decision must be made to deal with the larger picture in a quick and decisive fashion. That is what our government is doing.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, what I find most irritating is that the Conservatives do not seem to realize that they are violating the rights of workers. Over the noon hour today, I spoke with a Canada Post union steward who turned up in my office on the Hill. He told me that the workers feel as though this government has sided with the employer. The workers want to negotiate. They were locked out by the employer and, more importantly, they are saying they that contribute to the profits.

Why punish the workers when their duties are constantly increasing and they have already gone through staff cutbacks?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, nothing can be more distorted than that comment. Obviously, the member did not listen to the fact that although the workers have the right to strike, the employer also has the right to a lockout.

By all means, let us get them back to the table. We are not siding with one side or the other. We are saying, let us get both parties back to the table, let us make sure that we can get this resolved, hopefully without this kind of legislation. We have been saying that for a long time.

The member needs to get her facts straight.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like first to say I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Vancouver East.

Today is a dark day for Canada. The tabling of Bill C-6 is a blot on respect for democratic rights and workers’ right of association. This day will not go down in history as one where the government showed great respect for Canadians and for the rights of union members. The good news is that maybe the Conservative government has finally been unmasked. The mask has fallen away, revealing its true face. Unfortunately, it is not a pretty sight to behold. What we see is a government that is authoritarian, arrogant and contemptuous of working people, who just want to do their jobs in a reasonably healthy, safe environment. Instead of extending them a hand and pushing for real negotiations with the postal workers’ union, the government gets out its bazooka and bludgeon and tries to force the employees back to work by means of a special act, which even imposes salary conditions while not allowing the arbitrator to make a decision in full knowledge of the facts after drawing comparisons with the market and the economic situation at Canada Post.

I want to emphasize that this is a crazy, surrealistic, even Kafkaesque situation. I would encourage my colleagues to read The Trial by Kafka. It is very interesting and there are some strong parallels with the situation in which the postal workers now find themselves.

Since their negotiations were going nowhere and the employer was insisting on cutbacks in the collective agreement—I will talk a little later about the health and safety problems and the discriminatory treatment, especially in regard to the pension plans, which are a topic of great concern to many Quebeckers and Canadians these days—the union wanted to start applying gradual pressure. It did not want to launch a general strike because it did not want to paralyze the system. It wanted to use gentle pressure tactics at first, affecting one city at a time for 24 hours. The rest of the country would continue to function. This would get the employees talking and raise the awareness of Canadians, and the media would take an interest. That is how a dialogue is started with the public to move the issue along while pressuring the employer in a way that is legal, peaceful and progressive.

After only a few days, what did the employer do? The employer is a crown corporation and the government is ultimately responsible for it. The employer imposed a lockout. It shut down Canada Post across the country. It created the problem itself. The Conservative government is telling us that this is a terrible situation that is jeopardizing the economic recovery and the economic health of the country. But it is the one that created this situation by locking out the employees. If it is responsible for this paralysis, why is the government now riding in like a knight in shining armour to save the day and solve the problem, saying that everything will be fine, that it will bring in special legislation to force workers back to work? That is absurd. The Conservatives are the ones who stopped the delivery of regular mail across the country. Why do they not stand up and urge Canada Post to put an end to the lockout and to return to the bargaining table? This would enable members from Quebec to return to Quebec to celebrate Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day tomorrow with their constituents.

I would imagine that Michel Chartrand is rarely quoted in the House of Commons, but the Conservative government cannot invoke its own turpitude. It created this situation. It must take responsibility and put an end to the lockout in the interests of the unionized workers and their rights, and also in the interests of the people and the small and medium-sized businesses of this country.

The situation is even more absurd, since Canada Post is a remarkable, efficient, economical and profitable public service. Let me be clear: the private sector does not offer an alternative way to move such a high volume of mail every day from coast to coast. This is the best way we have to ensure that Canadians can send mail to other Canadians and to people around the world.

As well as being efficient, it is economical, because it is a public service that does not cost a lot of money. If we draw comparisons with many other countries, like Finland, Germany and the Netherlands, the price of regular stamps to send a letter in Canada is lower than in most other OECD countries. Furthermore, and this needs to be emphasized and repeated, last year, Canada Post made about $281 million in profits.

Why attack the rights of workers? Why create a pension plan that will be less beneficial for new employees? Why risk the health and safety of workers when we have a public firm that works well and makes money to boot? Where is the problem? Why does the Conservative government want to force these people to take a step backwards? Why attack the working conditions of 50,000 people across the country? Why attack the living conditions of 50,000 families across the country? Is that how the Conservatives plan to treat workers and their families over the next four years? Is this how the Conservative government envisions the future for workers and the working class: moving further and further backwards? That is unacceptable.

Another very important aspect of all this, beyond working conditions, is that we are dealing with the fundamental issue of respecting people's rights. In the Canadian federation, certain rights are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I think it is important to remember this. Canadians have the right to associate. They have the right to organize. They have the right to express themselves. They have the right to negotiate freely and to exert pressure, as set out in the Canada Labour Code. And that is what the Conservative government is attacking. It wants to destroy these rights. It wants to sweep them under the rug and tell people, “Hey, you have no choice; now get back to work”.

This is a threat to respect for the rights of all Canadians. All of the groups that are making demands, talking, protesting, getting organized and trying to peacefully improve things are worried today. Has history taught us that this is how progress is made? Is this how we moved past the middle ages, the industrial age and the widespread exploitation of workers? No, those things happened because people got together, joined forces, organized themselves and defended themselves, which resulted in social policies, social rights, the right to unionize, to bargain collectively, to have a labour contract that the employer must respect and to strike. That is why today, workers and Canadians are better off than they were a century or a century and a half ago.

The Conservative bill does not give the arbitrator the freedom and opportunity to decide on the best salary increase for Canada Post employees. This is unusual, new and very, very strange. We think that it adds insult to injury by setting salary increases that are lower than the employer's last offer. Should it not be the arbitrator, along with the two parties, deciding on the appropriate salary increases? How is it that the government is trying to save money by using special legislation that strips an arbitrator of the powers he usually has to settle this type of dispute?

If the employer felt it could offer these salary increases, then why is the Conservative government getting involved and imposing lower increases than the employer was offering? The employer itself acknowledged it could offer more and show more respect for the workers. Forcing the arbitrator to decide on lower salary increases is akin to stealing $35 million out of the pockets of Canada Post employees over the next four years. Just imagine what future labour relations are going to be like in that sector. Imagine how motivated these men and women are going to be if a labour contract is shoved down their throats. Is that how the government shows respect for those who provide good service across the country?

I think the government should react and respect the Canada Post employees, forget this special legislation, lift the lockout, ask both parties to negotiate and allow Quebec MPs to celebrate their national holiday.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has said much about the rights of workers today and I would like to raise a concern of a constituent in my riding who is also a worker who said:

I strongly encourage you to legislate an immediate end to the postal strike. I am the head of finance for a business which employs approximately 80 people across the country. The nature of our business is such that we supply our products to many smaller and owner operated businesses who pay us by cheque and utilize the mail. In the first three days of this strike/lockout we have delayed sufficient receivables that we have now maxed out our credit line...We are in serious risk of going under if this situation is not resolved immediately.

Why will the member opposite not acknowledge that this legislation is needed to protect the rights of all Canadian workers?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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3:40 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her question. I appreciate the message she just read. I understand how difficult the situation is for that person's business. Indeed, it is not funny.

I just want to make a correction: I take issue with a word that was used in that constituent's message. It is not a strike; it is a lockout. The employer is responsible for this. The Conservative government is responsible for this. The government should do that constituent a favour and lift the lockout.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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3:40 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his presentation on Canada Post. The corporation posted a $281 million profit last year. Its postal system is one of the best in the world. In his opinion, why did the Conservative government wish to create a crisis with Canada Post employees? Did it do so on purpose?

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3:40 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the excellent question.

This is a very troubling start for this new Conservative majority government, which seems to be very proud of the strong mandate it was given, as it likes to repeat when answering every other question. They are off to a bad start. Confrontation has been their first response to dealing with labour relations, unions and workers. They do not show any respect.

The Conservative government, which is a right-leaning government, is sending the following message to all workers, and to the country's union, association and rights movements: be careful over the next four years; we do not like you; we will be breathing down your necks and we will try to break you.

However, the NDP knows which side it is on. We support the workers, families and ordinary people. We will continue the fight to defend and ensure respect for their rights.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to New Democrats in the House wax poetic about what great champions of democracy they are, that they believe in the true democratic spirit, that everyone should have a right to vote and that everyone should have the right to self-determination. Yet I have not heard New Democrats stand in the House and suggest to the president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers that his own members have the right to vote on any one of the three contract offers that Canada Post has made to the union.

The union bosses have refused to let their own members vote on any contract that is being offered. I happen to know that other members have indicated to me that they have had emails and phone calls from those workers who are very upset that their own union membership will not let them vote on the contract.

Would the member stand in his place and say that the union members deserve the right to vote on a contract?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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3:45 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I greatly appreciate this very pertinent question which allows me to set some things right. Perhaps my colleague is not very familiar with labour relations.

For the past nine years, I served as a union representative with the Canadian Union of Public Employees. I can assure him that unions, as democratic institutions, are still very vibrant and dynamic and they respect their members' freedom of expression.

In the normal bargaining process, members have had input into the list of demands, they have been part of the process, they have been consulted, they have voted on their executive, on the negotiating committee and on the strike mandate. Then, it is up to the negotiating committee to determine if it is in the interest of their members to present management's offer to a general assembly. It is their strategy, their decision, and it is respected. They have a legitimate democratic mandate.

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3:45 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to follow our member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie to speak today to this motion.

I want to say right at the outset that I feel shameful that we are here having to debate this motion regarding back to work legislation and that the first order of business that has come from the Conservative government is to force workers back to work and not give them a fair shot and a fair chance at collective bargaining.

I was first elected in 1997 and in December of that year we faced a similar situation of back-to-work legislation for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. What is ironic though is that at that time it was a Liberal government. The legislation that we are dealing with today is very similar to the legislation that we dealt with in 1997. The same incredible, outrageous fines, $50,000 for union leaders and $100,000 for the union as a whole, were in the Liberal legislation, and the same kind of restraints on the arbitrator that we see in the legislation today. Back then it was also a lower wage that was legislated, a wage restraint, than what had actually been at the bargaining table. It has been ironic to hear some of the Liberal members rise to say how they feel about this legislation when they forget their own history of what they did in 1997. I just wanted to remember that because I was a new member at that time and I remember that debate also went through the night.

I want to begin by thanking postal workers. I think they have had a really rough ride from the Conservative members in the House. They have been vilified, demonized and have been set up as the bad guys when, in reality, what the union and the members of the union want is a fair collective agreement. They do not want to see back to work legislation. They are willing to go back to the table.

Look at the circumstances that are now unfolding. We have a Conservative government that is using a sledgehammer and putting forward legislation, Motion No. 3, that we are now debating, that would actually put workers in such a constraint in terms of any collective bargaining that we might as well say goodbye to collective bargaining.

I want to reference that because some of the Conservative members have said that this is only about this situation, that it is only about the postal workers, that it does not affect anybody else other than, of course, the various people whose messages they are reading. But the fact is that the back to work legislation affects all workers in this country.

It may surprise members to know that even today Canada is not a signatory to one of the very important International Labour Organization conventions, ILO Convention No. 98, the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention and so, that right is not even enshrined in terms of Canadian practice. Is it any wonder that we see this assault on Canadians workers? What happens to these workers is a signal of what is yet to come. For that reason we should be deeply disturbed and concerned about the legislation and how it would affect other workers, whether they are under a collective agreement or not.

The other issue that we have to be very concerned about is the implication and impact on pensions. Every Canadian is concerned about what is going to happen to their pension system. One of the issues in this particular round of bargaining is the employer trying to change the pension system so that workers would no longer have an assurance of what it is they can expect from their pension when they retire

This is a very basic value to all Canadian workers, again, whether they are unionized or not. For the employer, which happens to be a crown corporation controlled by the government, to run the gauntlet, lay this down and say it is going to change the pension system is really a warning sign of what is to come.

As New Democrats, we know that we have to fight this tooth and nail with the labour movement, with progressive people in this country, because we can see the signal and we see the direction that the government is taking.

In addition, one of the proposals that the union has had to deal with is facing a two-tiered wage system. Again, this is about an employer now supported by a government that is trying to put in a wage restraint through legislation.

It is pretty outrageous when the government itself tables a proposal in the legislation that would actually decrease the wages that were put on the table by the employer, which in itself would start workers 20% lower than existing postal workers. We can see where this is going.

I find it very ironic that the government says it is interested in economic recovery and stability on the one hand, but on the other hand everything it is doing is driving wages and working conditions down and making things less secure and more difficult for workers whether they are unionized or not.

These are all elements of this back to work legislation. The idea is that this is a one-off piece of legislation and we do not have to worry about it. In the debate unfolding today, which will go on for several days, it will become very clear that there are much broader implications for all workers in this country and it is something we should be concerned about.

Today in the House I tabled two private members' bills relating to what we call social condition, which is a recognition that people who are poor and have low incomes face discrimination based on their economic circumstances. I see a relationship between the tabling of those bills and what we are trying to do by removing discrimination from people who are economically disadvantaged or living below the poverty line and what the government is trying to do in this back to work legislation.

The fact is that when public policy goes in a direction that takes away people's rights, drives down wages and says collective bargaining will not be tolerated, that affects everybody. When unions do well and minimum wages go up, it benefits all workers in this country, including people who are living below the poverty line and struggling on minimum wages, whether it is $8, $9 or $10 an hour depending on where they live.

These issues are related. We can see that the legislation that will be coming forward after we vote tonight, presuming this motion passes, will have a huge impact not only on CUPW members but on workers as a whole. Those in the labour movement are watching this with very keen interest. They are very concerned about what is taking place.

I noticed that one such union member, Fred Wilson who works at the CEP, noted in a blog on rabble.ca:

—the Conservatives have rigged this game completely. The outcome is now determined; there is nothing left for free collective bargaining to accomplish.

I would certainly echo those comments. I feel the sense of shame and distress about the road we are going down.

The government did not have to intervene. We often hear that the Conservatives do not like to intervene in the marketplace. Why is it in this case they decided to intervene on the side of Canada Post? Why is it that they have not said anything about the lockout of the workers that is taking place?

We have heard Conservative member after Conservative member attack the union and those who are trying to get a fair deal with their employer, and yet I have not heard one word from any of those members about what the employer has done. The reality is the government is backing the employer. The government is saying it is onside with Canada Post 100%. Where is the balance? Where is the idea that fairness should exist?

We are very opposed to this motion. We are opposed to the process of bringing in closure on the bill that will be before us tonight.

We believe in collective bargaining. We stand for the rights of workers to get a fair deal as outlined by the International Labour Organization. We support convention 98 as all people in this country should do. We demand that the government respect those rights, that it think about the position it is taking and what it is imposing in such an unfair and discriminatory manner.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is a veteran of this House and I greatly respect her thoughts and comments on this piece of legislation.

I am quite concerned about the position of the New Democrats. They never talk about the viability of Canada Post as a company, as a service provider to Canadians.

A first class stamp costs 59¢ now. The cost seems to go up every year. I think the cost of stamps is likely hurting lower income people. I never hear a comment about that from the NDP.

I never hear the New Democrats say they are concerned that Canada Post can be viable for the long term. It is to some degree a monopoly. Many Canadians do not have an alternative service provider other than Canada Post for basic mail delivery.

We have heard about the impact on small business and on community groups specifically that rely on the mail for fundraising and much needed donations that come in the mail.

Why is it that we do not hear from members like the member for Vancouver East about their concerns regarding the long-term viability of Canada Post?

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3:55 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is possible that the member has not been in the House all day, but I have been because I have been on duty today. I have listened to the debate and I have heard NDP member after NDP member get up and actually talk about the viability of Canada Post and the fact that last year it made $281 million in profits. This corporation has made profits year after year. That money has gone back into general revenue. Surely at least some of that money should be reinvested in the corporation to allow it to improve the working conditions and the environment for its workers.

We believe very much in the viability of Canada Post. In fact, we have been saying just the opposite of what the member is saying. It is a viable operation. Why is the government trying to knock it into the ground? Why is it trying to knock into the ground the workers who go out day after day delivering our mail, sometimes in incredibly difficult environmental circumstances?

In terms of the rates, again NDP member after NDP member has pointed out today that our postal rates are among the most affordable in the world. There are many countries where the rates are much higher.

I do not think the member has his facts correct.

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3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was a bit disappointed in terms of what the member for Vancouver East had to say.

We in the Liberal Party do not support the legislation that is being proposed by the government. I must say that she is not alone. The NDP attempts to say there is no difference between the 1997 legislation and the current legislation. Surely she can understand the difference between a lockout versus a strike. Today it is a lockout. Back then it was a strike.

Surely she can understand the difference in the legislation. All she has to do is read the legislation that was proposed back in 1997 compared to the legislation today.

I care about the workers. I care about the Canadians who are receiving the mail. I think it is important that we have some facts on the record.

Are there any circumstances whatsoever that the member could possibly imagine where the NDP would support back to work legislation?

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4 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was only responding to what I heard from Liberal members both on Tuesday and today in debate. I heard the Liberal House leader say earlier today that he believes the bill makes a mockery of arbitration, and I would certainly agree.

I was just pointing out that in 1997 very similar legislation also restrained the arbitrator in terms of what he or she was able to do. I find it ironic and surprising that the Liberals thought it was okay then but they do not think it is okay now.

When we started debating this motion on Tuesday, I heard the interim leader of the Liberal Party express his concerns about the wages and the fact that the wages in the legislation are lower than what was on the table. I agree with that too. Again in 1997 the same situation existed and apparently the Liberals were not concerned about it.

I am only responding to what the Liberals said and pointing out their inconsistencies.

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4 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak to this issue. I wish that we were not here having to deal with this, but unfortunately we are.

I would like to thank the Minister of Labour for bringing forward the legislation on Monday evening. This measure is certainly necessary under the circumstances to restore an essential service to all Canadians.

I have a very rural riding. Since the start of the rotating strikes and then the lockout, I have been inundated with comments from rural constituents of mine, particularly those who run small- and medium-size businesses. That is the heart of Canada.

Before I carry on, I just want to read an example of the kind of comments I am getting. This comes from Rebecca, who said:

As a small business owner of a fledgling internet store, I can very honestly say that this stoppage of mail has almost killed my business.... I am receiving zero orders, and my customers are taking their business elsewhere. Using a courier for delivery is far too costly for me at this time. I hope that your majority government can bring this dispute to a timely completion.

That is a prime example of the kind of comments I am receiving.

After the minister tabled the legislation on Monday, that evening a poll done by an independent source found that 70% of Canadians are in support of this legislation. Many of the residents in my riding share the same sentiment.

I ask my hon. colleagues to think about the last time they experienced a power failure, a temporary loss of water, a shutdown of the elevators in their building, or a problem with their computer networks. We have all been through something like that. Even a very brief loss of a service or a system we depend on can cause a lot of stress. The longer that service is unavailable, the more it affects our quality of life.

When any crucial element in our infrastructure breaks down or is put out of commission, some people will suffer more than others. The poor, the elderly and people with disabilities are less able to adapt. They have fewer alternatives. There are even fewer alternatives for rural Canadians, like my constituents in my very rural riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.

When a basic service or system breaks down or is withdrawn, everyone looks to the government to respond as quickly as possible to restore it, even if drastic action is necessary.

Our government believes that this work stoppage, if prolonged, has the potential to cause a lot of economic hardship. It will cause a lot of damage to our economy as many businesses in this country are just beginning to get back on their feet and the loss of postal services will just knock them down again. It will also cause grief to ordinary people who depend on the mail.

There are some who say that we can live without postal services for a while. This may be true, because there are always alternatives. Yes, there are some people and some businesses that will be able to weather this situation in relative comfort because they do have those alternatives. But those alternatives are not available or affordable for everyone, especially rural Canadians. There is no reason ordinary Canadians who are not involved in the dispute between Canada Post and CUPW should have to suffer.

Lightning or a surprise strike is unpredictable; nobody can really prepare for it. However, this work stoppage was not unforeseeable nor was it inevitable. Our government certainly did everything possible to prevent a strike or a lockout. We worked with Canada Post and CUPW for months to try to help them reach a settlement. Our efforts were unavailing.

Now Canadians want us to act, because the cost of this strike to our economy and to our society have become unbearable. The Government of Canada is not helpless. We have the means to solve this problem. I want to emphasize that we have legal means provided for in the Canada Labour Code. We have the right and the responsibility to use our powers to legislate an end to the work stoppage and to appoint an arbitrator. It is time to act.

That is why our government has introduced Bill C-6 and we are taking decisive action on behalf of all Canadians.

The bill imposes a four year contract and new pay rate increases; yes, increases. That will 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 also provides for final offer selection, a binding mechanism on all outstanding matters.

In making the selection of a final offer, the arbitrator would be guided by the need for terms and conditions of employment that are consistent with those in comparable postal industries. The arbitrator would also strive 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 maintain the sustainability of its pension plan.

The terms and conditions of employment must also take into account that the solvency ratio of the pension plan must not decline as a direct result of the new collective agreement and that the Canada Post Corporation must, without recourse, undo increases in postal rates, operate efficiently, improve productivity and meet acceptable standards of service.

Canadians have been patient but enough is enough. Canada is recovering slowly but steadily from the deep recession. That is why I am asking my hon. colleagues to join me in supporting Bill C-6. Let us help Canada Post refocus and build a postal service for the 21st century. Let us keep Canada working. Let us protect rural mail delivery.

I want to point out to my hon. colleagues that this has a far more adverse effect on rural mail delivery than any us may be realizing. I want hon. members to think long and hard about that. It is rural mail delivery that will suffer the hardest and the longest because of this. That is another reason that we need to pass this legislation.

I talked about many of the people I have heard from in my riding. The other people I have heard from are seniors on a very fixed pension. I will not get into the details of their pension, but Joel and Greta write:

For elderly people on a fixed income...it is hard to comprehend that people making in excess of $50,000--are not happy. I have a grandson who was tickled pink to find a summer job, 3 days per week @ $12.00 per hour.

They point out the hardships, but basically, if we read the underlying facts, it points out the fact that their grandson, who is just entering the workforce, realizes how lucky he is to have a job in these times.

I have another one from Kathie, who writes:

I am very much looking forward to the end of the postal problem. I have a very small business and I have $2000 in invoices not received. If I am one sample of small business in Canada, we cannot afford to continue the labour problem.

I do try to side with the working people.... But small business in Canada needs their service.

So I urge parliament to legislate the end of the lockout....

In another one I have, Lisa talks about urban versus rural, which I spoke about. She writes:

It's easy to get to an Urban group box they are on every corner it's not in Rural areas. People would have to drive miles to get their mail. This isn't fair. Thank you for your support.

The reason I read those is to point out, not only the problem with this work stoppage and the problem we are having overall, but to point out the difference between urban and rural. Many of my colleagues on both sides of the House come from very rural ridings just like I do, and their people will suffer long term.

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4:10 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am wondering where this member is coming from. This is a lockout. It is not a strike. It is the company that put the workers on the street permanently and interrupted full mail service.

During the negotiations, the union did institute rotating strikes, which did not shut down the mail but drew attention to the issues. It even had an agreement to deliver pension cheques for seniors and other cheques. This is being characterized that somehow these union workers are doing this. It is not their fault. They were locked out by the company, backed by the government.

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4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague speaks a little bit in half truths. The fact is that this started with rotating strikes. I heard, right from the very start of this, from my constituents about how it was affecting them. Sure, there was still some mail trickling through, but we should not think that it did not disrupt services in different parts of the country.

When I heard about the rotating strikes, I knew it would lead to a lockout, or I suspected it would.

I am not taking sides here. The bottom line is that they need to get back to work, sit down and talk about this and come up with a suitable resolution.

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4:10 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, we have been hearing a lot about the workers and, of course, the opposition seems to forget the 34 million Canadians who rely on the postal service. The opposition does not want to talk about that. In my hometown of Stouffville, the workers have a sign that says that all they want to do is get back to work. We know what the NDP is doing. It is supporting the union. It is not actually supporting the workers of Canada Post because it has never actually had the interest of the workers in mind. If the NDP did, it would be encouraging its union friends to allow the workers to vote on the contract that they wanted to accept so they could get back to work delivering the mail.

Could the hon. member comment on why he thinks the NDP is so focused on supporting the union bosses over the people who actually want to deliver the mail in this country?

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4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is what I will call the eighth wonder of the world. Maybe none of the names of the union leaders were on the NDP ballots, at least not in print, but I think we know they were there.

The bottom line is that we are here to support people as a whole in this country. There is a dispute out there that is affecting everyday Canadians. The postal system is a public service and, with our economy in the still fragile state that it is right now, it cannot afford this work stoppage and strike. It is a combination. We can try to cut hairs on it but that is what it is.

We are to a point where we need to pass this legislation and get these people back to work so our small and medium-sized businesses and people in general can survive and get on with their life.

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4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my friend from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound and the point trying to be made by the member for Oak Ridges—Markham, talking about the workers going back to work.

In fact, when the workers met with Mr. Chopra, they clearly indicated that they would go back to work, that they wanted to go back to work and that they would go back under the conditions of the past contract. They were very clear on that. They do not want to be off work. We have injured workers who do not have access to benefits packages. They have medication that has to be bought. They have children who have to be fended for. All these benefits are gone as long as they are locked out. They did offer to go back to work.

However, knowing that the government would bring forward this legislation, does my friend not see that they did not walk down the middle of this one, that it has put this squarely in favour of the corporation on this particular piece of legislation?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my good friend and colleague from Cape Breton—Canso. I have been in his riding before. It is a very beautiful part of the world but it has a distinction very similar to mine, which is that it is very rural. Therefore, I am sure he understands how the people and constituents of his riding will suffer because of this stoppage.

With regard to the workers wanting to go back to work, I have had many Canada Post employees also tell me that they would like to go to work but it was after they realized that going on rotating strikes would force a lockout. I think a lot of them, in so many words, are regretting that.

The bottom line is that yes, we all want them back to work, but we do not want them to go back and start their rotating strikes, which is quite likely to happen.

We are here with Bill C-6 and I again urge my colleagues to support it today.

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member opposite if he could tell us more about the importance of division in the Conservatives' strategy: rural vs. urban, unionized vs. non-unionized workers, those with pensions and a decent salary vs. those who struggle to survive.

I would like him to explain to me just how important it is to divide people in a debate like this. Would it not be better to try to level the playing field rather than taking benefits away from those who have them? Can the government not try to establish some equality in society rather than seeking to divide?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome my colleague to this great place, the House of Commons of Canada.

I will throw the member's question back at him. We have a democracy in Canada and right now 70% of Canadians have shown over and over that they support this legislation. I think what the member is telling all of us in a roundabout way is that 30% of the people should win in this and the other 70% should be overlooked, and that is not the way it is. In a democracy, the majority rules. Seventy per cent of Canadians want this work stoppage ended and that is exactly what we intend to do.

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4:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it had not been my intention to mention the ongoing bombing in Libya, but 70% of Canadians oppose that as well.

I agree that Canada Post is more essential to the lives of rural residents. I am from a rural community myself. A larger concern around Canada Post is whether the federal government is really committed to keeping a public service for all regions of the country.

Canada Post has lost some of its most profitable divisions to t companies like UPS and FedEx. I think this debate about the back to work legislation could rise to a level of analysis. How do we protect Canada Post? How do we keep it public? How do we ensure that we have rural services?

Can we not compromise in this place to have back to work legislation that does not undermine the workers in that great union?

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4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the member and I, who has been to my riding a few times, may agree on one thing, which is that we do care about these workers. Today they are not getting a wage at all as they are locked out but they started with rotating strikes. Again I will not pick sides in that, but both are at fault here and it has led to a certain point. We are going to tell them to sit down at the table and resolve this.

The member talks about rural mail delivery and saving it. I have been fighting to save rural mail delivery for all of my seven years here in the House of Commons. Canada Post employees, management and non-management, should understand that the work stoppage and rotating strikes, the whole shooting match, is long term hurting the viability of rural mail delivery. The main reason that I support getting these people back to work is so that my businesses and constituents do not have to suffer through this any longer.

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4:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

This is my first speech in the House since the 2011 election. I am very proud to represent the great riding of Timmins—James Bay. I would like to wish the Franco-Ontarian community a happy Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day. I have a great deal of respect for the Franco-Ontarian community, for its identity and for its language.

I wish I were there with them but they know why we are here. We are here for a principle that was wonderfully articulated by the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound who, I think, finally told us the Conservative viewpoint.

He talked about the senior citizens in his riding who told him that they were tickled pink that their son got a job at $12 an hour for three days a week and that he should be lucky he has a job. I have heard that language before from that kind of Republican Tea Party mentality, that one should just be lucky enough to get whatever they give you.

I have never had a senior citizen come up to me and say that they were tickled pink that their adult son could only find three days of work a week. The senior citizens in my riding are asking what has happened in our country that their 28-year-old son or daughter is still living at home because he or she is getting by on minimum wage. They tell me that when they were younger they built up a pension plan in Canada, but they know that their children will not have the kind of pension or the kind of life that they fought for. What has happened in our country?

One can hear it from the benches over there with the smug comments about the union bosses and that this is somehow rural people being picked on by urban people, the division and wedge issues.

I did hear my hon. colleagues from the Conservative Party on the bus talking about the SOBs, the workers. That was their attitude. They came in and they were all smug. They need someone to blame so they come in here and pretend that they are not picking sides. The message was clear: a crown corporation shut down service--

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4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. You may want to check on this and rule on it, but I am not sure that “SOB” is appropriate parliamentary language, whether it is being said directly or being attributed indirectly.

Second, I hardly think it is fair to attribute something to people who may not be here to defend themselves. The member should observe some decorum in the House.

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4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I will note the concern raised by the member for Essex and would caution the member and all members to—

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4:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have such great respect for the House that I would never call one of those members an SOB. Out of decency to them, I would never point out the members who would use such words. I take that under advisement and think it is really important.

However, it speaks to the underlying contempt that this is a manufactured crisis. I look across the way and I see the old Mike Harris wrecking crew. The members of that crew are all sitting there. I saw what they did in Ontario. The only one missing from the gang is the famous John Snobelen. John Snobelen was quite the character. He got a hold of the education system and, while not knowing he was being filmed, said that the government had to manufacture a crisis in order to act. That was the old Mike Harris wrecking crew gang.

What did we see? There was ongoing debate between the postal workers, in their right to collective bargaining with management, and those guys saw the opportunity to manufacture a crisis. What did they do? They locked out the workers. They shut down postal service.

Then Conservative backbenchers start saying, “Look what those bad posties and their union bosses are doing to senior citizens”, even though the postal workers were willing to deliver pensions, “Look how they are destroying business”. Conservatives shut down Canada Post and now they are intervening with legislation that is stripping rights that have been negotiated at the bargaining table.

They say that they are not picking sides. We know on what side those guys have been. They have always been on the side that will undermine the pension system in Canada. They have ridiculed defined pension benefits ever since they have been here.

They are against the right of workers to defend themselves. They tell us in the House that young workers today should be tickled pink that they work three days a week for $12 an hour. My grandfather worked for three days a week at the collieries in the coal mines in Cape Breton. The workers were told that they were lucky they had jobs. Then they started to organize unions because men died so young. It was so bad in Cape Breton, they actually had to go to Timmins to work in the mines. The mines in Timmins were nicer than the mines in Cape Breton. That is how bad it was. The right to collective bargaining was won in Kirkland Lake in the 1941 strike.

The gang of people who have always been on the other side were calling the workers communists and telling them they were lucky to have jobs. They tried to intimidate the miners in Kirkland Lake. Another gang from Ontario sent up 500 police officers with machine guns and marched down the main street of Kirkland Lake in -40° weather. The next day 500 women and children marched back to show the cops that they would not be intimidated.

That is where the right of collective bargaining was won. It was won by people who were blacklisted later, who lost their jobs and homes in that strike. However, they won the principle that people should be able to negotiate legally.

This manufactured crisis by the government is the first step. This is the Wisconsin principle being brought into our country. When a government is allowed to lock out a service, blame the workers and then impose a wage agreement that is less than was negotiated at the table, it has taken the fundamental principle that people in my community and others fought for and literally died for and thrown it out the window.

Do members know why the government thinks it is going to get away with it? Because it thinks the Canadian public is stupid and would love to rise up and kick the local postie. I do not think so. I come from a rural area and know the importance of rural mail. I will tell everyone what people back home have been saying. They have been waiting for these guys to take a run at Canada Post because they do not believe in public institutions.

The cost of a stamp in Kenabeek or Matachewan, Ontario is the same price as it is in downtown Montreal because it is a public system. However, it is not that profitable. It is not profitable to keep little rural post offices. The only reason those guys have not started to cut there is because they know there will be a backlash, so they manufacture a crisis and say that they will fix things. Then they will start hiving off where the easy money is and give it to their friends. That is the neo-con agenda.

Then the Conservatives will say Canada Post really is not all that viable and, of course, union bosses will get blamed again. By that time, what they will have done is sell off the money stream. They have not been able to get away with that because they know rural Canadians will fight for their post offices and would throw any Tory out who tries to mess with it. They needed a crisis and now they have one.

NDP members will debate this as long as it takes. We and our colleagues from Quebec, who are giving up their national holiday to be here, are doing this because we are sending that gang a message. If the Conservatives get away with this one, we will see them go after every collective agreement. Every time there is a strike, we will see them go after the fundamental rights of pensions and defined benefits plans, so we have to stop them.

I was kind of crying on my own shoulder, thinking I would be on the all night shift. I am getting kind of old and do not want to be here at 5:30 in the morning. I was thinking that I wished this would be all nice and we would settle. However, then I thought of the strike at Vale Inco, when those men and women were out for over a year because they were sold out by the government. The government allowed two of the greatest mining corporations in the world, Falconbridge and Inco, to be sold off to corporate raiders. I watched how those workers at Local 6500 stood up because it was the same plant that destroyed their defined benefits plan, that destroyed what they had done for 50, 60 years in the union. The workers at Local 6500 stayed out for over a year.

I remember being out there in January in the cold and their slogan was “One day longer, one day stronger”. They held the line and they pushed back one of the most brutal mining companies in the world. Vale got a black eye, but Vale was aided every step of the way by that gang and the then president of the Treasury Board, who was their friend.

There is a principle here. We are not kidding around. We will be here as long as it takes because we are drawing the line in the sand. The government's world is wrong and we will defend the rights of people to have pensions and decent wages in our country.

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4:30 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it has been quite funny listening to the debate today. We have the Liberals claiming one thing, but when they were in government they brought in similar legislation. Now it is all different.

Then we have the New Democrats who have the nerve to get up in the House and say that somehow they are the great defenders of the public service and of the union.

What about the workers in Ontario who had to suffer the Bob Rae years when he was the NDP premier of Ontario—

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4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order please. The hon. member should recall that he may not use the name of a sitting member of Parliament while he is speaking in this place.

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4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, you are right. I would rather refer to him as the NDP premier of the province of Ontario who imposed the social contract on the workers of Ontario.

What was the social contract? It was the NDP government of Ontario reopening the collective bargaining agreements that those workers had signed in good faith and deciding that they should take 12 days off a year and cutting their wages.

Who did that? That was the NDP. Some of the members of that unruly gang at that terrible ministry are in the NDP caucus today. Its members are so embarrassed by it that they shuffled that leader, who is now currently the Liberal leader, off to the Liberals.

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4:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, is that as good as it gets in the House?

I would answer that question. It is really so ridiculous and so beneath me to engage that guy in mudslinging that we have to get us back to where he was before when he was heckling about the union bosses.

That is the Mike Harris wrecking crew. We saw what its members did in Ontario. I will not defend or attack what was done by the Liberal leader when he was in Ontario. However, what was done by the Conservatives in Ontario people will never forget. Look what they did to the education system, to the health system and to natural resources and how they brought their gang of buddies in and sold things off. What is it always about? It is always about who will benefit and it is always their pals.

I would love to sit and debate Ontario history with my hon. colleague, but we have a bigger issue here, which is defending the pension benefits of Canadian working families.

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4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple question, which I have attempted to get answered from other members of the New Democratic caucus.

Does the member believe there are any circumstances whatsoever in which the NDP could envision themselves supporting back to work legislation?

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4:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find that an odd question. Previous Liberal governments were always against the working rights. Now the Liberals are onside with us, but want to know if there could be a hypothetical situation down the road where they could jump ship. I am sure we will jump ship from them as soon as we can down the road from this legislation on many things. I will not get into whether there could be a hypothetical situation.

I am glad to hear my hon. colleagues in the Liberal Party speaking up for working rights. I am certainly glad to hear that they will be with us as we stay up night after night in the House. Maybe as we talk all night, we can find some hypothetical situations where he might find a reason not to support the legislation.

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4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about the union's rights and workers' rights, but one of the great principles of collective bargaining is the obligation on both sides to bargain in good faith.

I wonder if the legislation, the lockout, the order back to work and then the imposition of a wage less than what was on the bargaining table will have any impact on good faith bargaining.

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4:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue of bargaining in good faith is fundamental to union and management negotiations. When a government intervenes, locks out workers, forces a crisis and then imposes a new wage agreement that is lower than was negotiated, that sends the signal to management and all other sources of work.

The government has taken sides and intervened above and beyond its right. A very bad precedent is going to be set by the government.

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4:35 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Timmins—James Bay for reminding this House and explaining to it some of the history and tradition involved in free collective bargaining and the struggle working people went through to enjoy what we now consider fundamental rights and freedoms, the right to free collective bargaining and, when that bargaining reaches an impasse, the right of working people to withhold their services as a legitimate economic lever to apply pressure to a bargaining relationship that is imbalanced at the outset from the obvious advantage that management has.

I want to begin, though, by clearing up some misinformation that the Minister of Labour has been sharing with this House. She keeps coming back to the point that she believes that what the government has imposed here by its legislation is somehow final offer selection, or FOS. I happen to know something about final offer selection, because it was in fact law in the Province of Manitoba for a period of time, and as a former trade union leader, I have negotiated dozens of collective agreements. In some of those collective agreements, the parties I was representing chose to settle their bargaining negotiations through final offer selection.

This has nothing to do with FOS, which is only effective when both parties voluntarily submit themselves to it as a form of arbitration to settle their differences. The fact of the matter is that both parties present their last best offer and then an arbitrator chooses one or the other. This does not resemble FOS whatsoever, which had its origins in major league baseball to settle wage disputes between teams and players. Once the two parties have stripped away all the other language issues and are down to just money and cannot agree on the money, they put their best offer forward and an arbitrator chooses one or the other, but not a combination of the two.

Therefore, the minister is misleading the House if she is trying to sell this package as a form of final offer selection.

The second thing I would like to raise is that if we scratch the surface of this impasse, its root cause is Canada Post's saying that it is unwilling or unable to maintain fair wages or to meet the wage demands of its employees. However, in actual fact, for the last 10 years or more, Canada Post has been paying a dividend to the Government of Canada to the degree of $200 million to $300 million per year in profits.

If one reads the mandate of Canada Post, and I used to be the critic and know it quite well, nowhere in its mandate is Canada Post supposed to be a cash cow for the government of the day. Its mandate is to provide the best possible mail service to the most people at the lowest possible cost. If there ever is a surplus, it should perhaps go to expanding Canada Post's delivery service to Canadians, or lowering the cost of stamps or buying new vehicles or sorting stations, but not to putting $200 million a year into the general revenues of the federal government.

If we add up the 10, 12 or 15 years that it has been putting $200 million to $280 million a year into general revenue, we would have $2 billion, $3 billion, $4 billion a year worth of accumulated surplus. With that, Canada Post would have no problem meeting the reasonable wage demands of a reasonable settlement. I am not going to judge what is reasonable or what is not. However, it could not claim poverty or inability to pay, if it were actually following its mandate instead of handing over all this money.

We can scratch the surface of this assault on pensions and get back to its root cause. I think the root cause is the unofficial prime minister of Canada, Thomas d'Aquino, and I do not hesitate saying that, and his new incarnation, John Manley. I say this because 12 years ago, Thomas d'Aquino stood and listed 10 or 15 things that he thought Canada had to do to move forward. What he really meant was what we had to do to re-create our country in the image of the United States, but in his mind it was to move forward. One of those was legacy costs. He flagged those as an unsustainable expectation of Canadian workers for the pensions that had became the norm in the post-war years.

Then the modus operandi kicked in. First, a bunch of right-wing think tanks validated that notion. Then a bunch of lobbyists started chatting up this notion on talk shows and wrote articles in newspapers. Then those lobbyists were dispatched to Parliament Hill and a neo-conservative government dutifully fell into line and did exactly what it had been told to do a decade before by the Business Council on National Issues, or now the CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, John Manley. That is where this comes from. They are hell-bent and determined to re-create Canada in the image of the United States.

Let me point out the folly of that in the context of union rights and fair wages. The greatest strength of the United States and what made it the economic powerhouse that it was until recently was its burgeoning middle class, a middle class that could consume. The United States got that because of free collective bargaining and the rise of the trade union movement from World War I through to the World War II and post-war eras, when unions negotiated fair wages. People want to dump on guys like Jimmy Hoffa, but the one thing that people should remember him for is that he took the lowest-paid occupation in the country and within a decade had turned it into one of the highest-paid blue collar jobs in the country.

Fair wages benefit the whole community. How can people not get that through their heads? When working people have a dollar in their pocket they spend it and they spend it again. In fact, a dollar is usually spent four times before it reaches its natural state of repose in some rich man's pocket. However, in the process on the way to the rich guy's pocket, it benefits a lot of people.

During the Reagan years, they set out to squash the unions in the United States and they succeeded. They went from 35% unionization to 20% to 15% to 12%. The Americans are now down to 9% unionization, and believe me, wages followed, because free collective bargaining had been the only way to elevate the standard of wages and working conditions of the people of the United States. Now they are wondering where all those good union jobs have gone that paid $20 an hour and provided a pension, the jobs that people could raise a family on. Guess what, they do not exist any more. The Americans effectively stamped out the unions because their right wing think tanks told them that it was the way to prosperity.

Our right wing think tanks are telling the government that the road to prosperity means stamping out unions and pushing back and that the notion that people deserve a fair wage and a decent pension is a wild expectation that we can no longer afford. If we buy into that bill of goods, we will be following the Americans right down that same path, because it was middle class consumers who were the United States' greatest strength.

We have not followed the Americans there yet. We are still about 30% or 32% unionized. However, we can see it in the eyes of the guys across the floor that they hate unions. They would love to stamp out unions if they could get away with it. Also in their eyes is the notion of those fat pensions. What is fat about them?

When Marcel Massé stole the $30 billion surplus in the public service pension plan, which I do not hesitate to say he did, we did some research. The average public service pensioner is a woman, aged about 68 to 70, making $9,000 a year from her pension. That $30 billion the Liberal government stole from the public service pension plan and gave in the form of corporate tax cuts to its friends could have doubled the pension of every person collecting a public service pension benefit and we would still have change left over.

There has been a successive assault on fair wages and the notion of pensions, which can be traced right back to Thomas d'Aquino. The unofficial prime minister of Canada dictated that is what they needed to do and a bunch of toady governments, from the Liberal toady government to the Conservative toady government, fell successively into line and implemented and executed just about every single thing on his wish list. They ticked them off one by one, and if we keep following them they will want to re-create Canada in the image of the United States, and it is not a pretty sight south of the border, believe me.

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4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Hillyer Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, if we want to make comparisons between countries and what they have tried, the roads to prosperity and bondage have both been proven through 5,000 or 6,000 years of human history. We may look to the south sometimes for examples of free markets, but we do not have to look south. We could look east and west for the examples of free markets versus socialism. I do not know what our handbook is but we know about some of the planks written by Mr. Marx on socialism and the redistribution of wealth. It is very clear that socialism has always led to poverty and despair.

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4:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, fair wages benefit the whole community. I do not know if anyone could argue with that.

There are low-wage, low-cost economies, like the United States and even like some provinces. They advertise themselves as this, thinking it will attract investment if they say they are a low-wage, low-cost economy. Frankly, the product of that leaves a lot of social consequences.

Then there are places like New Zealand and Australia where a coffee server in a coffee shop makes $22 an hour. People working at London Drugs or whatever their equivalent is make $25 an hour. I have been to Denmark, Sweden and Norway, where, again, a coffee shop worker makes $20 to $25 an hour.

Here, for some reason we have convinced ourselves that it is a good thing to have low wages. How can that possibly be a good thing? In the richest and most powerful civilization in the history of the world, how is it a good idea to pay people a wage they cannot live on?

The rate of child poverty in Norway, Denmark and Sweden is zero. There are no poor children there because they believe in fair wages for people.

What is wrong with this country?

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4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the member for Winnipeg Centre is quite aware of one of the saddest days I ever sat inside the Manitoba Legislature. It was in committee when I had retired teacher after retired teacher come to the committee until past midnight, asking the NDP government why it was not giving them any form of COLA increase and to allow their pensions to go up.

The member for Winnipeg Centre loses his focus in trying to take shots at the Liberal Party on pensions. The Liberal Party has been a long-time advocate of decent pensions.

The issue here is Canada Post and why there is a lockout today, as opposed to the government trying to resolve this so that the postal workers can have that collective agreement.

Would the member for Winnipeg Centre not agree that the government was wrong in allowing Canada Post to enforce a lockout? Would it not have been better if there had not been a lockout and we had allowed the negotiations to take place in a much better way?

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4:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was the labour critic during the 1997 Canada Post lockout.

The member for Cardigan was then the minister of labour. I believe it was a guy who became the ambassador to Denmark, or was it Hans Island that we sent him to, Minister Gagliano, who was the minister for Canada Post. That was when the Liberals imposed an almost equally draconian back-to-work legislation package on the workers of Canada Post.

The fact is, these impasses often come down to the ability to pay. In the private sector there is often a legitimate inability to pay the workers' demands. In this case, Canada Post has been showing a surplus of $200 million to $300 million a year for the last 10 to 15 years. There was no inability to pay. There was no reason it could not tolerate the rotating strikes, which in fact left the mail still being delivered. There was no reason to lock them out.

If we took the total accumulated surplus over the last 15 years, there would have been $2 billion to $3 billion, more than ample room to provide a fair cost of living increase while leaving their pensions alone. In other words, do not start an assault on pensions based on the inability to pay if the numbers do not bear it out.

Message from the Senate
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Before we resume debate, I have the honour to inform the House that messages have been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bills:

Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (mega-trials); and

Bill C-3, An Act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget as updated on June 6, 2011.

I also have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following private bill to which the concurrence of the House is desired:

Bill S-1001, An Act respecting Queen's University at Kingston.

The bill is deemed to have been read the first time and ordered for second reading at the next sitting of the House.

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the motion that this question be now put.

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4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it will not come as a surprise to anyone in the House or even in this country that our government has had to bring forward back-to-work legislation to end the work stoppage at Canada Post. We were fully prepared to use back-to-work legislation in the case of Air Canada and I must say I am particularly relieved that we did not have to take that step. I congratulate and thank both Air Canada and the Canada Auto Workers for finding a solution on their own. That is always the best way.

We would all be immensely relieved if the crisis at Canada Post could also be resolved as quickly and without the need for the government's intervention, but unfortunately it does not look like we will be that lucky. As I speak, the postal workers are still locked out, and there is no sign of a real and constructive move back to the bargaining table. Therefore, the government is obliged to invoke our powers that we have under the Canada Labour Code to end the work stoppage and appoint an arbitrator to impose a settlement.

The pros and cons of back-to-work legislation have already been thoroughly discussed in the media and of course, by the various stakeholders. The reactions have been entirely predictable.

If I may summarize all the objections I have heard, I would say that they seem to come down to three points: one, that the government is acting too forcefully; two, that the government has intervened too quickly; and three, that the government is exaggerating the effect on the national economy.

Let me take a few moments, if I may, to respond to each of these objections. A significant number of people believe that imposing arbitration in a labour dispute is inherently unjust and dictatorial, even if it is a perfectly legal option enshrined in the Canada Labour Code. These people believe that the right to strike or lock out is absolute and that it trumps all other rights.

In a democratic society, there can be no absolute rights because there are circumstances where the rights of one group will inevitably conflict with the rights of another group. Some degree of compromise is always necessary. When people will not co-operate with each other and their co-operation is vital to society, the state must step in and use the law. I will readily admit that the law can be a blunt instrument, but it is sometimes the only tool we have.

Let me address the second most common objection. Some people who accept the use of back-to-work legislation in principle are still convinced that in this particular case, the government is acting too hastily. In this country, the great majority of disputes between labour and management are resolved at the bargaining table, often with the help of mediators and conciliators from the labour program. These mediators and conciliators typically work behind the scenes and where their efforts are successful, they do not hold press conferences or media opportunities to boast about it, they get the job done. Because they keep such a low profile, the general public may not appreciate how hard these women and men work and how much they contribute to good labour management relations in this country.

When collective bargaining fails and a strike or a lockout occurs, the spotlight suddenly shines on the government, and it looks like we have somehow suddenly arrived on the scene, even though we have been there all along the way.

Many Canadians are simply unaware that the Canada Post negotiations have been going on for quite some time and that the Government of Canada has been involved almost from the beginning. The Minister of Labour has already described at length all the steps we took over a period of many months to avert this work stoppage.

In the Canada Post dispute the mediators and conciliators used all their skills and resources, but unfortunately, to no avail. Naturally, we prepared for the possibility of a strike or a lockout. We gave this situation a lot of thought.

The decision to table this back to work legislation was not made recklessly or impulsively. Some say we should sit and wait a little longer to see how events play out, but every day that this lockout continues is another day of losses to our economy, losses we can ill afford.

That brings me to the third most common objection to our back to work legislation and that is that this government is exaggerating the danger to our economy from a prolonged postal strike.

For several months now we have been telling the Canadian public that our economy is emerging from the global recession but that our recovery is still fragile. People who doubt the second part of this statement should read the financial section. Better still, they should talk to business owners who are just beginning to get back to profitability, or the many Canadians who have just recently started collecting a paycheque again. Ask them if they feel our economy is already so strong that it can afford to endure a major disruption in basic postal service.

In this situation our government is not being unduly alarmist. The threat to our recovery is real. The objections to back-to-work legislation, which might have some force under different circumstances, are not really valid right now. My hon. colleagues must recognize this reality. We need to get the mail moving again and the only way we can do that is by passing this bill.

I have been participating today and listening to many colleagues in the House express very eloquently and passionately their views on this. I really believe that there is a bigger and wider issue here, which is that we are a very large and vast country geographically and not so large in our population. We are very much spread out as a country. We have one mail service. I have heard members who represent rural ridings talk about the major impact even a day or two of mail not being delivered can mean to those communities.

I represent a fairly urban municipality, certainly a suburban city from the City of Toronto. Residents have said to me that any disruption of mail delivery significantly impacts them, their families and particularly seniors and our most vulnerable citizens who rely not just on cheques and pension money and so on coming to them on a timely and regular basis, but correspondence from family members who may live far away from them. They rely on getting that letter. It is that important connection they have with their family and sending a letter is the best way for them to communicate. I am speaking of people who get well wishes cards, birthday cards and other things that mean so much in their life that they count on each and every year. I think of my daughters who are 11 and 7 and if they did not get a birthday card from grandma and grandpa who live in Peterborough and we live in Mississauga, they would be very disappointed. An email does not cut it for that kind of thing. People rely on our postal service to do that.

Governments have to make tough decisions and I think we were elected to make tough decisions.

Like all members of this House, I spent 36 days knocking on thousands of doors. I heard very clearly from my constituents what they wanted from their government. They wanted reliability and responsibility. They wanted a strong government that was going to look after the economy and continue to work to create jobs. They wanted a secure economic future for all kinds of Canadians, not just those Canadians who might have the benefit of working in a unionized environment. There are millions of Canadians who do not have a union. They still make a contribution to the country. They have well-paying jobs in many cases, certainly in my community, and they want to continue to do that. They want to continue to work for companies that will invest in our community.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have the Canadian postal service working each and every day, contributing in a very significant way to the economy.

The last point I will raise is on the impact I believe a prolonged postal strike will have on charities. I was very proud that for close to 30 years I was a very strong volunteer in the city of Mississauga. In fact, the mayor and members of council recognized me with an award for 30 years of community service just last year. I have served on many boards that count on individual donations that come in through the mail to keep those organizations running. Food banks and other community service programs rely on individual donations.

Many of the people who donate to those organizations are not sophisticated online donors who use credit cards and Internet. They write a cheque out of the goodness of their heart and they put it in the mail. When that cheque is received at the food bank, it is deposited and it makes a huge difference in those people's lives who have to use organizations like the Mississauga Food Bank, whose board of directors I have served on for many years. We rely on that. Other charities rely on that. If we were to allow this labour dispute to continue through the summer, organizations that count on annual donations that normally come in May and June would be in deep trouble because those cheques would simply not be delivered to these agencies.

There are millions of Canadians, thousands of agencies, thousands of small, medium and large businesses that count on mail delivery. There are children and others like my kids who count on getting that birthday card or well wishes. They count on an efficient and effective postal service.

Our government has a responsibility. It is responsible to oversee the operation of Canada Post on behalf of Canadian taxpayers who ultimately own the crown corporation. In essence, the government has that fiduciary responsibility to step in only when necessary.

I certainly would not advocate this in every case and clearly we have not done this before; the last time it was done was in 1997. Obviously, most of the time the parties are able to come to an agreement, which is the preferred solution in all cases of collective bargaining, such as Air Canada has been able to do. The parties have been able to sit down and negotiate a tentative agreement which hopefully will be ratified and Air Canada will continue to serve the public.

Unfortunately, it looks like in this situation the parties simply cannot get together and read from the same songbook as to how they see Canada Post as a corporation moving forward. It is unfortunate, but I think we have a bigger responsibility to the citizens of this country to ensure the mail continues to flow.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak in the House today and I would be more than pleased to entertain any questions from hon. members.

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5:05 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member and I think he is missing the real issue.

The problem is not the services provided by Canada Post or Air Canada. It is not production at Nortel or AbitibiBowater. The problem is the workers' right to keep an effective pension plan, a defined benefit plan. That is the problem. We cannot expect people to agree to live in poverty in their senior years. That is what the government is asking.

That is what was happening with Air Canada. They came to an agreement because they decided not to include this issue. They decided not to talk about the pension plan and, in two days, the whole thing was settled. The issue of wages at Canada Post was settled. The issue of working conditions was settled. Everything was settled except the pension plan and the disability benefit plan. What this government is essentially asking is to recognize people's right to give up a viable pension without access to the food banks in which the hon. member told me he is actively involved.

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5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly did not expect to be involved in the collective bargaining process as a member of Parliament. However, I have been asked to comment on pensions. Obviously in the collective bargaining that has taken place, there are a number of issues that are on the table. I am certainly not in a position to determine what pension levels are appropriate or not in the case of a collective agreement between a union and management, whether it is a crown corporation or a private sector company.

However, the one thing we have to be realistic about is if we are going to have a pension system for people in the future who work for companies, whether they be in the public sector or private sector, those companies and crown corporations have to be economically viable in the longer term, not the immediate term but the longer term, because these agreements often stretch out for many years. If we do not have a situation where Canada Post, Air Canada, and any of those other organizations are economically viable, there will be no pensions for anybody because there will be fewer jobs and there will be less service. They will not be viable.

I am concerned about pensions, too, but I think it is a two-way street. The union has to be realistic with the company's ability to pay and management has to be realistic as to what is a fair pension for the employees.

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5:05 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for a very informative commentary on the subject at hand. He has tremendous experience in the charitable sector and the volunteer sector, for which he has been recognized by his community in Mississauga.

I would like him to talk about the impact of work stoppages at Canada Post on the charitable sector. I would also like him to comment on the fair and reasonable approach the government has put forward in the legislation that would align the wage increases that Canada Post personnel would receive if the bill passes with the increases that were negotiated with the broader public sector at the federal level.

Those are the two questions: one, the impact on the charitable and volunteer sectors; and two, the government's decision in the legislation to increase salaries and wages at the same rate as that in the federal public sector.

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5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary very much for the opportunity to comment on two areas. One area I am very passionate about is the charitable sector. Where would we be if there were no charitable and social service organizations doing great work on the ground in all of our communities and making a real impact on people's lives?

Quite frankly, I find the smaller and leaner the organization, the stronger it is in actually delivering much needed services in communities. The problem is that charities rely on cheques that are most often mailed. They are not big highfalutin volunteer organizations with fancy websites and online donations. They are small community agencies that make a big difference, and a $10, $25 or $50 cheque in the mail to those agencies makes a big difference.

With respect to the wage increases that are being proposed in our bill, we have to be reasonable. I remind everyone that what is being proposed are wage increases, not wage rollbacks. We are not cutting people's wages. Wages would go up under the bill or if the union had settled with the last offer. The employer offered an increase in wages.

It is a balancing act, but the fact is we are increasing wages in the bill. We are asking the arbitrator to do some work. Arbitrators often side with union requests rather than management. That is a fair and appropriate process. Our government is acting very responsibly in these times.

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5:10 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Don Valley East. Today, we were supposed to return to Quebec. I must say that my heart is in my province more than it is here, but my mind remains here.

There is a lot of pathos surrounding what I have been hearing for the past few hours. I have been familiar with a number of community and charitable groups for a long time. They have been using the Internet to collect donations and grants for a long time.

My in-laws are 94 and 90 years old and they receive their pensions by direct deposit. Not every single Canadian from coast to coast is affected by this strike. We had rotating strikes that affected a small number of people, but the lockout is what made all the difference.

The government is complaining about the damage being done to small businesses, damage that it caused itself with the lockout. A lockout occurs when the employer shuts down a business in response to a strike or the threat of a strike. It just decides to shut down the business.

Who locked out the letter carriers? I will let my colleague answer that. Who is harming small-and medium-sized businesses? When the government talks about protecting the best interest, it is no doubt referring to the interests of major corporations, the banks and oil companies. When we talk about best interests, we are referring to those of the population, our constituents.

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5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raised the issue of rotating strikes. I was in the small business world before I came to this place. If half of my employees decided not to show up or picket outside my business and the other half came to work and at another branch location half of them showed up and the other half did not, I could not run my business like that.

How could Canada Post be expected to run its business when it never knew who was going to show up on which day? Of course it had no option other than to shut the system down and protect the health and safety of the workers who did show up, because God knows that they were going to be asked to do. Who knows what they would be asked to do when half the people are out or the Halifax branch is out but Montreal is working and Vancouver is out and there are rotating strikes.

One cannot run a business that way. The union made it very clear, in my view. I really do not want to pick sides, but the union made it very clear the rotating strikes were going to continue ad nauseam. They were not going to stop. It was not just a protest for a couple of days; it was going to continue on and on, I assume until a collective agreement was reached. Nobody can run a business like that. It is impossible.

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5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. If you put it to the House, I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion: “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”.

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5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

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

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5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, after 12 days of rotating strikes, Canada Post initiated a lockout. This work stoppage comes after many rounds of collective bargaining, during which Canada Post and the postal workers union failed to close a gap between the positions and reach a settlement.

For many months now, federal mediators have worked with the two sides to find a solution. Unfortunately, the employer and the union have been unable to finalize a new collective agreement. Accordingly the government has decided to take action and tabled legislation that would bring an end to the work stoppage. The motion before us will give the House a chance to consider the labour minister's bill in an expeditious fashion.

As all members know, the procedures before us are reserved for special urgent situations. This is the case with the current work stoppage at Canada Post. Just when our economy is in the early stages of recovery, and in view of the serious consequences of paralyzing the postal service, the country can ill-afford a work stoppage. This legislation, once enacted, will bring to an end to the lockout at Canada Post.

What is at stake is our economic recovery. Right now, our country has reason to be optimistic. Our country has experienced the strongest economic growth among the G7 countries since mid-2009. All the job losses incurred during the global economic recession have been recovered. Now is not the time to jeopardize our momentum.

Our government has a responsibility, nay a duty, to act on behalf of all Canadians.

It is always better when the two parties can reach a collective agreement at the bargaining table, without the need for parliamentary intervention. The best solution in any labour dispute is one where the parties resolve the differences themselves. In this case, unfortunately, the parties are too far apart.

We could let the situation deteriorate and see businesses fail, unemployment increase and our economy falter, or the government could take decisive action on behalf of all Canadians. That is what we have done. We have taken decisive action which is in the best interests of the country and the Canadian public.

The bill would impose a four year contract and new pay rate increases. That would mean a 1.75% increase as of February 1, 2011, 1.5% increase as of February 2012, another 2% as of February 2013 and as of February 2014, 2%. It also provides for 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.

The arbitrator will also provide the necessary degree of flexibility to ensure the short-term 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: (a) that the solvency ratio of the pension plan must not decline as a result of the new collective agreement; and (b) that the Canada Post Corporation must, without recourse to undue increases in postal rates, operate efficiently, improve productivity and meet acceptable standards of service.

Let us remember that the last postal strike happened in 1997 and it lasted for 15 days. Since then, reliance on postal service has experienced a decline in personal mail due to the growth in the use of the Internet, email, electronic billing and electronic funds transfer.

However, small and mid-sized businesses still rely heavily on the postal service for direct marketing, billing and filling orders.

Business owners, seniors and other constituents of mine have contacted my office and have expressed their support for this motion and the need for the service to resume as soon as possible.

Small and medium-sized business owners are feeling the pinch. Their businesses are being affected. Business is slowing and the cost of shipping is starting to soar.

The people of Don Valley East elected me to be their voice in Parliament. Today, I am doing that by rising and speaking in favour of this motion.

Canada Post is a crown corporation. It is one of the largest employers in Canada. It employs more than 70,000 full-time and part-time employees. Every business day, Canada Post delivers about 40 million items and provides services to 14 million addresses. Canada Post, like any commercial enterprise, has to offer dependable service, generate revenue, control costs and maintain an efficient operation.

By the same token, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers is trying to gain the best salary and working conditions for its members.

The labour dispute between Canada Post and CUPW relates to the renewal of collective agreements covering some 50,000 workers, including plant and retail employees, letter carriers and mail service couriers.

We have a process in place to deal with these labour conflicts in the federal domain. It is called the Canada Labour Code. It has been followed each step of the way in this conflict.

Let me take a moment to outline the steps in this collective bargaining process, which has brought us to the situation we are faced with today.

Collective agreements covering CUPW and Canada Post expired in January 2011. Both parties had been bargaining since October 2010. When those talks reached an impasse, a conciliation officer was appointed and the conciliation period was extended until early May. During that time, the conciliation officer met 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.

Despite all these efforts in mediation and conciliation and the Minister of Labour meeting with both party leaders, CUPW announced, on May 30, its intent to strike. On June 3 the Canadian Union of Postal Workers walked off the job. On June 15 the employer declared a lockout.

To recap, the postal workers have now been without a contract since January 2011, despite many rounds of bargaining. In fact, the parties have been bargaining for eight months.

Sometimes collective bargaining hits an impasse. It is unfortunate when the employer and the union cannot hammer out a mutually agreeable collective agreement. Unfortunately this is the situation facing the government today. When that happens, the parties can request the Minister of Labour to appoint an arbitrator.

Under normal circumstances, the Government of Canada does not intervene in labour disputes. Our government respects the right to free collective bargaining, which includes the right to strike and/or lockout. Parliament will not intervene if there is no serious harm to the national economy or public health and safety. However, when employers and unions choose a course of action that would have a negative effect on the economy and the country as a whole, then Parliament has the right to step in and protect the economic interests of the country and public interest as a whole.

What would be the effect of a prolonged postal disruption? Canada Post is a major employer across the country. It spends about $3 billion in goods and services. It contributes $6.6 billion to the country's GDP. Canada Post's direct marketing sector accounts for $14 billion in its revenue. During the recent economic recession, this sector suffered financial losses.

Canadian retailers depend on Canada Post to reach their customers. The Canadian magazine industry relies on Canada Post for most of its distribution.

Charities depend on Canada Post to receive donations and the funding to assist them to work. In fact, the National Institute for the Blind is now facing an estimated loss of $250,000 in funding because more than half of its regular donations are received through the mail service.

Canada Post also offers an essential lifeline to Canadians in rural and remote areas. Often the Canada Post offices are the centre of a community's daily life. While rural letter carriers are not part of the current bargaining dispute, rural communities have been affected because sorting has ceased operations.

People with disabilities have transportation and accessibility barriers that may well effect their ability to receive goods and services.

Are we going to stand by and see some of these most vulnerable sectors of our economy affected by a prolonged work stoppage by Canada Post? What would be the effect on Canada Post as a viable business? As we recover from this economic downturn, it is more important than ever that we encourage co-operative and productive workplaces.

Let us support Canadians who have recently gone through a recession and are hoping to make some gains for their families. Let us support a back to work legislation. Let us keep our economy working. Let us look to the future.

I ask my honourable colleagues to join me in supporting this bill.

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5:25 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the hon. member to this place.

I listened to his comments with great interest. He talked about vulnerable people. He may or may not know that I spent a lot of time in the last session dealing with pensions and trying to ensure that all Canadians received the pensions that were due. One of the big elements that has not been talked about very much in this dispute is pensions, just as it has been in the past couple of years with the recession.

We all know what happened to the Nortel workers. We all know what happened to Buchanan Forest Products workers in my riding. When it went bankrupt, the pension funds were underfunded and a lot of families suffered, and continue to suffer right now.

In large part, the Air Canada incident that has been solved, at least for now, revolved around pensions.

This too is about pensions, but there is a big difference. In this case, for the last dozen or so years, Canada Post Corporation has shown a profit, well over $2 billion in the last 12 years, yet it has left its pension funds underfunded. It did not do it on its own. It is allowed to do that. That is one of the sticking points right now.

I have a very quick question for the member. Does he think it is fair that corporations that are making money, like Canada Post, should be trying to change a pension system that has been agreed to in collective bargaining? Does he think it is fair that it can leave it underfunded for years and years and then cry wolf and say that it does not have enough money for its pensions?

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5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments by my colleague.

Clearly, part of the agreement will take care of the pensions, but it also protects Canadian taxpayers from increased tax liabilities. The legislation also includes guiding principles on providing direction to the arbitrator such as the desire of the government to see no increase in the unfunded portion of the Canada Post pension plan.

Our government's desire is to ensure that Canadian taxpayers are not left with the bill for Canada Post's pension plan.

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5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting the way the government characterizes the state of the economy. It goes from saying that the recovery is very fragile to saying that the economy is very strong, that we have recouped all the lost jobs since the recession and that we have had strong growth since 2009. It chooses one characterization over another, depending on its agenda and its strategic political objectives that particular day.

Since the hon. member views Canada Post as an essential service, even as its share of the market erodes over time because of new technologies, is there a kind of minimum threshold over which the government would allow Canada Post to go on strike? In other words, is there some kind of magic annual real GDP growth in the Canadian economy over a period of time at which point it would be acceptable to allow a strike at Canada Post?

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5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is any point where it is an acceptable position to go on strike. Clearly, the mandate is to negotiate a settlement between disputing parties. In this particular case, Canada Post actually has $6.6 billion of business in this country and it affects our GDP directly. A situation affecting Canada Post will directly affect what we are doing.

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5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for the great speech and for outlining very well the concerns on this side of the House as they relate to the survival of thriving small businesses in our country.

I am sure that he, like many of us, has received numerous emails from constituents. Just this morning I received an email from a constituent who said:

I want to take this opportunity to express my complete displeasure and impatience with the length of and the handling of the Canada Post strike by the federal government.

I strongly believe that Canada Post should be deemed an essential service in this country.

I cannot believe that we can allow this corporation to hold hostage, and in some cases, destroy businesses within this country.

Our economy is still barely lifting its head out of the valleys of the most recent recession, and there are companies that were fighting to survive.

He went on at some length and I will not read the entire email.

Has my colleague also received communications from constituents who are very concerned about the survival of small businesses? Also, does it not seem ironic that the NDP, which seems to champion small business, in this situation seems to be ignoring the needs of small business and, in some cases, actually is causing their demise?

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5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly I have received numerous emails from people in my riding who support the action the government is taking to relieve the tension on not just small businesses but workers as well.

I have had a call from one company that has had to close its doors because it has not received the cheques to pay its workers. The effects have been much wider than just the things that are going on.

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5:35 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, since the members of the government have been quoting emails constantly today, I would like to quote from an email that I got just a few minutes ago.

The email is from George, who said, “Since Canada Post has locked out the workers and thus stopped the mail service in Canada, creating great hardships on businesses and families, does it seem just for the Government of Canada to punish its workers with Bill C-6? Indeed, since the full mail stoppage is caused by the management of Canada Post who directly answers to the Government of Canada, should the Government of Canada not be directing Canada Post to remove its lockout?”

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5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

Madam Speaker, clearly the whole business started with the strikes which started with the workers. Eventually, a business cannot be run when these sorts of strikes occur.

The lockout is also part of Canada Post's requirement to get things going. In a way, it pushes us to make some decisions and help businesses get going again.

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5:35 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, that was a very well-prepared speech the member for Don Valley East gave. I was struck by the fact that he was talking about how the government believes in free collective bargaining. The member also talked about a situation where the workers followed the rules, they got to the point where they started rotating strikes, but they offered to the company to return to work under the old contract rules. Then the company locked them out.

The government is legislating a settlement that is less than what the company was offering. Will the government remove that portion of the bill?

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5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

Madam Speaker, clearly the offer that is on the table is in line with the rest of the public sector that we are working with. There is absolutely no need to have it removed from the legislation.

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5:35 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, I received some emails, and I quoted one, but I also got a phone call from a small business owner in a small community in my riding. She obviously is a very well-informed small business owner, but she is suffering because of this strike. She asked me why the Government of Canada through Canada Post has locked out the workers.

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5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Daniel Don Valley East, ON

Madam Speaker, the answer is relatively straightforward. As a result of the rotating strikes, a business cannot run successfully. As such, it might as well be closed down while it is negotiating.

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5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, it is great to add some comments on this subject which is something I feel quite passionate about. I have always been very fond of Canada Post. I have used it personally in many different ways and I have an immense amount of respect for postal workers. I truly appreciate having the opportunity to add a few comments in this debate.

Having said that, I look at Canada Post from the perspective of putting people first. I have had the good fortune of being able to knock on thousands and thousands of doors, possibly a few more than others here because of the byelection that was held last November. We need to bring this matter down to what people in our communities have to say about Canada Post.

During the byelection, I was at a community function at the St. Josaphat Selo-Villa on McGregor just south of Selkirk Avenue. The first question asked was with regard to Canada Post. Residents were hoping to get a mailbox located at the base of the seniors complex. They felt this would be of great value because the mailbox was quite far away and they did not feel safe enough, especially at night, walking out to Selkirk Avenue to deposit their mail. It was a very important issue for them. Of all the issues that were being talked about, this was an issue that they wanted to talk to me about. I indicated that I appreciated that and that I would raise the issue when provided the opportunity to do so.

Fortunately, things went well for me in the byelection and, lo and behold, I believe it was in January, who comes calling at my office but a Canada Post representative. Canada Post wanted to meet with me and other members of Parliament. I believe representatives went to different caucuses.

I was quite pleased with the timing because I had mentioned that story to someone else. It was nice to be able to engage the crown corporation and share some of the other issues I had heard about from seniors, such as graffiti. Graffiti is a serious problem in certain areas of Canada. There are pockets in Winnipeg North where there is a great deal of graffiti. Mailboxes came up at that time also.

I was able to have discussions with people at Canada Post Corporation. I was really pleased with the responses they gave. They mentioned the new postal boxes. I have since seen them and can appreciate why there will not be as much graffiti on them.

I cannot recall the person's position in the corporation, maybe corporate secretary, but she appeared to take my concern quite seriously in terms of wanting to do some follow-up. She was going to look at where other mailboxes were located for that seniors complex. I was quite impressed with the overall presentation that Canada Post Corporation provided.

The Liberal Party does not have a problem with the idea of a corporation making a profit. There are things that could be done with that profit that would be better than putting it into general revenues. For example, it could be invested in unfunded pension liabilities, as has been pointed out. Innovative mailboxes could be designed, as was pointed out at that meeting. Maybe it could be used to provide better services. The member across the way talked about the importance of mail services in rural communities. These are all wonderful ideas.

I would like to think with the revenues and profits Canada Post is generating that it is not only there to provide money to the government, but also to provide a basic service to all Canadians.

There are things we could be doing within Canada Post that would see us reaching into our communities in a much more positive way. I am not overly concerned in terms of whether Canada Post makes a profit some years. It is more a concern in terms of what it is that it is actually doing with that money.

We often talk about the public. I have heard from New Democrats and Conservatives of the importance of having continuity in that service and that it be there for the public.

I too have had the opportunity to have some discussions. One lady met me at the local McDonald's restaurant. I try to get there every Saturday. She had a problem because she wanted to go back to the Philippines, but she was waiting for a document to arrive from Buffalo. I checked with Buffalo and was told that it was in the mail. In this particular case, I can appreciate why there would be anxiety.

We can talk about seniors pensions and other things that are of critical importance and in which Canada Post is heavily relied on to deliver. Many members talk about how small businesses need Canada Post in order to reach out to the communities and generate the necessary revenues for them to employ people. They depend on Canada Post in order to get their products out to the market. I am very sensitive to that.

I mentioned at the beginning that I am very dependent on the post office. There are petitions circulating in my community. Like all members, I send out mailers. Constituents communicate with me. I have used the post office for many years as an elected official. I have been through two elections. Trust me, I have used Canada Post a lot in the last eight months. I am very dependent on Canada Post and the wonderful work the letter carriers, sorters and others do in providing what I believe is the best quality service in the world.

In terms of what has taken place, we need to act on what is in the best public interest. We need to ensure as much as possible that the public interest is being served, but I also passionately believe in the rights of workers.

I did not get a phone call from the union, nor would I expect one, but I can say that after a spontaneous meeting with Canada Post Corporation I did take the time to talk to some letter carriers. I know my letter carrier, maybe not by name, but I have said hi to him on several occasions. I have had the opportunity to get to know a few letter carriers. I know the people at the local post office. I have had the opportunity to serve postal workers in different ways.

I have done what I can in terms of making sure that I am in touch with the important issues. Canada Post told me that it had a much better system and my constituents would benefit from it. Areas would be assigned certain delivery times. An area would be serviced by one postal worker who would have a vehicle and would be able to cater to that area. I took that to the letter carriers.

I talked to a few letter carriers and they were not necessarily happy with what Canada Post was saying. They talked about the problems of having double packages on their arm and the inconvenience of doing that. It was not as wonderful as Canada Post tried to portray when we had that discussion. I can honestly say that I valued the discussion I had with Canada Post. However, I also valued the talk I had with some of the postal workers because there are two sides and one needs to listen to both sides.

What put us in this position? I think we should all be concerned about what we are being asked to do today. This is not a victory. In my opinion, this legislation should not even be here. If the government really wanted to have more harmony within management and the employees of Canada Post, there was another way.

There is no way the government could ever convince me that it had no idea that Canada Post would lock out the workers. I do not believe that for a moment.

Sitting in this chamber, I have had the opportunity to talk to a number of members on that particular issue. I posed the question two, three or maybe even four times, I am not sure, but I asked government members if they had any sense that Canada Post would do the lockout. They kind of skated around it. I received no direct answer and I believe that was because the answer was yes, that they did know Canada Post would have a lockout. I do not believe for a moment that Canada Post did not inform the government that it would have a lockout.

In essence, I believe the government might have even suggested or, at the very least, was comfortable with what Canada Post Corporation was suggesting in terms of having a lockout. Yet. no one on the Conservative benches has come forward to say that is not the case.

I think it is a fair assessment that we should believe the government was aware of the fact that Canada Post would be locking out its employees. The government had the opportunity, and I must say, still has an opportunity, to ensure that there would be more harmony by sitting down with Canada Post and saying that it is not appropriate to locking out at this stage.

Yes, we know that rotating strikes were taking place. However, I believe that the workers of Canada Post would have taken responsible action to ensure that issues of urgency in getting mail made it into the homes where it was important. I am convinced that would have taken place.

I believe that when we talk about collective bargaining, we really did not provide the incentive for Canada Post and, to a lesser extent, the union to sit down and negotiate in good faith and come to an agreement.

Instead, what I believe happened is that the government knew what was taking place at Canada Post and preferred to take us down this particular track. It was not interested in harmony between management and the union. I find that to be most unfortunate.

It has been pointed out by the Leader of the Liberal Party and many others that we should look at what the wage is in the act. I have heard members talk about it, whether they are debating the bill or answering questions, where the government is saying that there is a wage increase. Technically there is a wage increase from what it was. However, what the government forgets to say is that there was already an offer for an increase that was higher than what is being suggested in the legislation. It was agreed to by the management earlier.

I have a sense of what the Minister of Finance said but I will not repeat it. He suggests from his seat that the employees should have taken it. That is a terrible way of looking at it, I would suggest. In the Minister of Finance's generosity from his seat, why does he not say that we will allow them to have that back?

We are very open-minded in the Liberal Party. We are an open-minded group of members of Parliament. We see this as an opportunity to take action on what the Minister of Finance has suggested. Let us give it back to them. Why not?

Instead, the government has legislated a decrease from something that was being proposed earlier. I do call that highly suspicious in terms of how that speaks for good, future labour negotiations. I think we should all be concerned about that sort of a mentality of negotiations. I have never seen that before.

That brings me to the next topic. I believe the New Democrats could learn a great deal if they listened to individuals like the Leader of the Liberal Party and many others.

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5:50 p.m.

An hon. member

We tried for four years.

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5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Remember, no heckling. No heckling was your leader's rule, right?

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5:50 p.m.

An hon. member

It was.

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5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

It is okay. I do not mind if the member heckles.

I believe I was told that there were 33 occasions when there was back to work legislation brought to this wonderful chamber. I am told that the New Democrats have never supported back to work legislation.

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5:50 p.m.

An. hon. member

That is because we support workers.

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5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

No, it is not because of workers. It is because they have not been in government. The moment they are government, trust me, their opinion will change. All they need to do is look at NDP administrations at the provincial level. I have talked to union workers who have worked for MCI in Winnipeg. The point is that when I look for the NDP members to answer a question, they will not answer the question.

The question is very simple. Are there any circumstances members can foresee or imagine that is possible in which they believe that back to work legislation would work? Any imagination--

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5:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. Questions and comments. The hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga.

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5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague and he seems really convinced. He used that term multiple times throughout his speech. The problem is that every time he uses that term, it is based on speculation as to what the government may or may not have done prior to tonight.

I am wondering if my colleague would confirm that he has also heard from multiple constituents in his riding who are concerned about the negative impact that this prolonged work stoppage is having on the economy, especially as it relates to small and medium businesses.

I want to just complete some of the email that I was starting to read earlier. This gentlemen wrote an email to my office this morning stating:

Our economy is still barely lifting its head out of the valleys of the most recent recession, and there are companies that were fighting to survive. Our specific company happens to be in such a financial position that even though this strike is severely affecting our cash position, our survival is not at stake. I do know, however, of companies that I am dealing with on a daily basis, that could very well not make it. Because of the "strike situation", many companies are reluctant to put Payment cheques in the mail, and thus the money changing hands between corps has dried up to a trickle.

I would like my colleague to confirm that he has also heard from constituents in his riding who are very deeply concerned about the negative impact. Why would he not stand up for small businesses at a time when the economy is still on a very fragile recovery track?

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6 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I have. Just last Saturday I had someone in McDonald's talking to me about a very serious situation.

The hon. member kind of twists things around. He says that it is a strike and he refers to it as a strike but it is not a strike. It is a lockout. The government had a choice. The government did not have to support Canada Post locking out its employees.

I appreciate why government members are so persistent on calling it a strike. It is because they believe they can win the public debate on it. Let us make it very clear. It is not a strike. It is a lockout. There is a huge difference.

In fairness to the people of Canada, we need to make that point. We should not try to demonize the Canada Post employees because they are wonderful, hard-working people who have committed many years of tremendous work and we should be appreciating that work.

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6 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, when government members speak, they talk about the damage that this lockout is having on the economy. Would the hon. member not agree that if the government were so upset with the lockout and the damage it was doing to the economy, it would fire every one of the executives of Canada Post who were responsible for the lockout, for the intimidation of workers by denying health and disability benefits and get them back to the negotiating table. Would he care to pontificate on that one?

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6 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

In fairness, Madam Speaker, I must say that would include having to fire the minister responsible for Canada Post Corporation, because, after all, he played a very important role in the lockout itself.

I do want to put my NDP colleagues on notice that I am anxious to know if there are any circumstances in which the federal New Democratic Party would support bringing in back to work legislation. Are there any circumstances whatsoever? I would be genuinely interested in hearing that. It is a question that I will no doubt, if I get the opportunity, continue to ask.

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6 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Madam Speaker, I would like the member for Winnipeg North to elaborate a little bit more on the NDP's position on back to work legislation. In particular, he was just about to make a comment about some provincial NDP members who had supported back to work legislation. It appears that in this chamber the NDP would never support that, but the NDP has done it provincially.

I am wondering if the member could explain. He was just about to get to that point.

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6 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, the member asked an important question.

There seems to be a difference between the NDP in opposition and the NDP in government. When in government, NDP members tend to want to govern more like Liberals.

In fact, NDP administrations have brought in back-to-work legislation. I recall one incident that happened around 2002 at, I believe, MCI when the NDP premier became directly involved and upset a great number of union workers by recommending that they should vote again.

That was the NDP in power. I can appreciate the sensitivity and the differences.

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6 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Madam Speaker, I listened intently to the member across the way.

It was about half an hour ago that members of the NDP were praising Copenhagen. I have to give the NDP credit for being consistent. Those members have consistently, over the year, tried to do things that would not be good for the economy and would increase taxes for Canadians.

I think of the Liberals. Back in 2007 they wanted to have a carbon tax. In 2008 they praised the carbon tax. In 2009 they wanted a carbon tax, and again in 2010. We have heard from the NDP today that it would like to have a carbon tax similar to what Copenhagen has.

Those members are not happy with the gas prices now. Do they want them higher? Does the Liberal Party still want to have higher taxes for Canadians?

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6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, that was an interesting question to say the least. Let me try to answer it in this fashion.

I am very dependent on Canada Post to be able to circulate petitions and to get feedback from constituents on important issues, such as the issues that the member has raised. I look forward to being able to share well into the future many of those issues through mail that those letter carriers will be delivering to homes and that they ultimately will make sure gets back here to the House of Commons.

This chamber will always be somewhat aware, if not always aware, of those issues that are important, such as the retrofit program. It was a great Liberal idea, one that the government of today seems to take as an every-other-year type of thing. A good petition could potentially be out there trying to make sure that the program is on a five-year basis, which would generate more jobs and things of that nature.

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6:05 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, for my friend from Winnipeg North who asked what the NDP would do in such a situation, I have a simple answer. He should ask his leader, the member for Toronto Centre.

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6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, that is the nice thing. Our leader has an open mind. Our leader sees the benefits of a bargaining system. He recognizes the difference between a walkout and a strike. He is not as dogmatic as New Democrats in this chamber. He sees what is important to Canadians. I could go on, but I do not know how much time I would be allowed.

I could maybe better educate the New Democratic Party in terms of the merits of the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and the ways in which we could make a better difference if only a few of them would consider joining us with good ideas and supporting us, as opposed to flipping on different ideas such as budgets and so forth.

At the end of the day I am confident in the abilities of our leader in making sure that the Liberal Party takes the right position on the issues that are important to all Canadians.

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6:05 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry Jonquière—Alma, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

To know where we are going, we must know where we have come from. It takes two to tango. I was a worker in the Jonquière aluminum plant. I am a former union president and in 1976 I was locked out for six months. That experience leaves scars. After working for three years, we had a strike in 1979 and a labour dispute in 1995, trying to improve our pension fund, our living conditions and our wages. These are three important aspects for workers who fight to have something decent in their lives.

I believe that, in the union movement, both parties can find a solution if they want to, and if they must. They have to have the opportunity. The proof is that the union had started with rotating strikes. The legislation came down and there was a lockout even though the union was prepared to return to work and abide by the former collective agreement while waiting for the outcome of negotiations. It was a sign of good faith and they were locked out too quickly in that case.

Everyone is talking about the mail and email. I spoke with one woman, a letter carrier, who was on leave because of a work accident. All her documents were in limbo, her supervisor was in the dark, she was not being paid and no one was giving her any information. If that is how people are treated at Canada Post, I can understand that the employees are frustrated from time to time. This is not a normal situation.

A lockout is never a pleasant experience. The government, Canada Post and the workers have all lost money. For the head of a household, the impact is even greater. The rent is due at the end of the month and groceries are needed every Thursday, the same day the car's gas tank has to be filled. Thus, I am very cautious in this regard.

I spoke this morning with the union president. The member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and I, in my capacity as the member for Jonquière—Alma, sent a press release to our constituents informing them of the NDP's support and that we would be in the House, even if that meant that we would be here on the June 24 national holiday. It is our duty to stand by the people because it is a major problem. I would have liked the parties to sit down again to find a solution. When both parties want to, they can find solutions. It takes two to tango.

What also worries me is that everyone is talking about pension funds. The mayor of Montreal spoke about it in the newspaper. It is the same in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean for Rio Tinto Alcan. There is not enough money in the fund. What these companies are not saying is that they were given employment insurance premium holidays and now they are facing the consequences. That is where a nerve is struck and the hurt sets in. Workers and the company contribute to pension funds to ensure viable retirements. If these people start to see their pensions decrease, we will not need to pass legislation because they will be forced to work until they are 65. That is the difference. They should at least have a chance at a good retirement at 60 or 65. What is happening right now is terrible.

There is talk about Canada Post's profitability. It is the same for the forestry industry. Wood is not selling, neither is paper. We communicate electronically now, so it makes sense. There are no paper books anymore; they are all electronic. Of course that has an impact. But Canada Post made $281 million in profits. That is a lot of money. A stamp in Canada costs 59¢, but stamps in Austria and the Netherlands are more expensive, they cost 64¢. There has to be profitability somewhere.

I am proud of these people, because they work hard to deliver the mail through snow and rain. Today there are equal numbers of men and women who do this job and it is not easy to carry parcels. I cannot help but think of the scars this lockout will leave when they go back to work, if they are forced to do so. Consider the poisonous work environment that will prevail. I am very disappointed that people are being treated like this in 2011, when they were trying to find peaceful solutions and communicate in order to improve the situation, rather than stretching the elastic until it snapped, leaving us to deal with lawsuits.

The right to bargain is a legitimate right and the right to strike is the only action that workers can use, just as the employer has the right to lock out its employees.

Let me just say again that the government moved a little too quickly on this.

In closing, I would like to read a press release that was sent this morning. I took a few notes. As I said, it is a strange coincidence. Is the government trying to undermine pension funds? Will the private sector do the same thing to its workers and reduce their pensions? In that case, we will not have to pass legislation to make them work until the age of 65 or 70, because they will have to work that long, because they need the money.

I will read the press release and then give the floor to my colleague.

For healthy negotiation

The members of Parliament [for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and Jonquière—Alma] stand in solidarity with the postal workers and strongly oppose Bill C-6, which imposes an unfair ruling on thousands of postal workers.

Chicoutimi, June 23, 2011—As the House of Commons debates Bill C-6, introduced by the [Conservative] government to force the resumption of postal services in the country at the expense of working conditions for the postal workers, the hon. members for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord and Jonquière—Alma would like to announce their solidarity with the locked out postal workers; they are currently working on convincing the government to drop this bill and make room for bargaining in good faith.

“The Conservative government's current attitude is unacceptable. The fundamental right to bargain in good faith concerning working conditions at Canada Post is put in jeopardy by this special legislation. The Prime Minister is taking sides in this labour dispute and condemning Canada Post workers to double punishment: being thrown out in the street by a lockout and then being asked to return to work under less advantageous conditions than were being bargained for. I must say that my background as a union activist is motivating the position I am taking today as a member of Parliament: I support the postal workers and their right to negotiate”, said the hon. member for Jonquière—Alma...

“We are currently working in the House to make the government understand that this special legislation is unacceptable and that it must be withdrawn in order to allow both parties in the dispute to continue bargaining to end the lockout and resume postal services. The postal workers contribute fully to the success of this crown corporation, which offers an excellent service to the Canadian public that compares favourably with other postal services around the world and makes a profit. It is unacceptable that a frontal assault on our postal workers' pension fund or working conditions is being sanctioned by an exceptional provision. While the government is the guarantor of the country's postal service, it must also protect workers' rights. That is the principle we will defending until the end in this debate, even if we have to spend our national holiday in the House to do it,” said ..., the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

As a negotiator, I have spent long nights and weekends negotiating. I would be proud to spend the national holiday here with my colleagues working to settle this dispute.

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6:15 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's comments. He said that it takes two willing parties to negotiate such a deal. I believe he said, “We have to have a partner to dance”. I would agree.

Negotiations on this contract have been going on since October. One thing is clear. Whether through the rotating strikes that were occurring, which were having impacts on Canadians from coast to coast to coast in this country, or the lockout that ensued, this is punitive on the Canadian public, punitive on the millions of Canadians who are not at the bargaining table.

I wonder if the member has considered those Canadians or if he has thought about them. The NDP had a motion on small business yesterday. Has he thought about the impact that this impasse is having on small businesses, on seniors, on everyday Canadians? What about them?

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6:15 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry Jonquière—Alma, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very sensitive to that. I, too, think about the families that are deprived of their livelihood and about the fact that there will be no groceries on Thursday because there is no paycheque. I am sensitive to all of that.

I think we should have given people a chance to sit down or even asked other mediators to work on moving the issue forward. I still believe in that. It is too fast. It is disgraceful, although I hesitate to use that word in the House, since I am new here. I cannot use just any word, but I find this disgraceful.

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6:15 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, who gave a good summary of the current situation, with all the passion we expect from him.

I would like to know whether the steps undertaken in Bill C-6 create a dangerous precedent with respect to the erosion of public services and collective bargaining.

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6:15 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry Jonquière—Alma, QC

Madam Speaker, I did not hear my colleague's entire question.

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6:15 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my hon. colleague on the speech he made with all the passion we expect from him.

Could Bill C-6, which is before the House, not create a dangerous precedent with respect to the potential erosion of public services in the future?

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6:15 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry Jonquière—Alma, QC

Madam Speaker, yes, the danger is that this could have an affect on other movements.

If things like this become commonplace, others will use such measures in the future. Not just Canada Post, but the private sector as well. That is what bargaining will turn into. When a government starts interfering with laws and the legitimate right to bargain, and to strike if the bargaining does not work, when a government imposes laws like that, it leaves scars and creates a bad work environment. Things are very difficult in a factory or workplace when conflicts are ended this way.

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6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened quite intently to the hon. member and his comments. He makes it sound as if nobody else in the House cares about the workers or the impact that all of this has on all sides and on the citizens of our great country.

His party often exposes what its members would do if they were to form the government. If they were in this position, what would they do?

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6:20 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry Jonquière—Alma, QC

Madam Speaker, I would force the two parties to sit down, to work and to find a solution.

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6:20 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today because I consider this motion to be one of the most important this legislature has had to consider to date.

It is important because we are being asked to rush through the consideration of a bill that is every bit as important to the future of all Canadian workers as it is to that of the employees of Canada Post.

This bill, if adopted by the House, will be a major step backwards following decades of work by our Canadian unions. It will fly in the face of the legitimate right of workers to negotiate their working conditions, a hard- won fight waged by our ancestors who helped shape Canada’s labour history.

Here is what has occurred: Canada Post employees went on a rotating strike at 11.59 p.m. on June 2, 2011, giving the assurance that it would have no impact on the delivery of government cheques, thereby minimizing any potential adverse impact on the public, even though there was no legal obligation to do so.

Moreover, the Minister of Labour stated on the morning of June 14 that back to work legislation was not necessary since it was a rotating strike and mail delivery was continuing. On the morning of June 15, 2011, the minister announced that she had, in fact, received very few complaints regarding the rotating strikes at Canada Post.

On the evening of June 14, 2011, claiming it had suffered losses of $100 million, the employer, one of this government’s crown corporations, decided to impose a lockout, completely paralyzing the postal service, despite the fact that the rotating strikes continued to ensure the delivery of mail.

The government then decided that the disruption to postal services had gone on too long, and chose to introduce legislation to force Canada Post employees back to work only one day after the imposition of a lockout that it had itself created, on the pretext that it was in the best interests of the Canadian economy.

Worse still, the government has included working conditions in the bill that are worse than those proposed to workers under the employer’s most recent offer, as if they had not already been sufficiently insulted. The arbitrator will have to choose one of these proposals. There are no shades of grey; it is all black or white.

This bill may end up setting an incredible precedent in the history of Canadian workers. The implication is that the government could henceforth take it upon itself to intervene in a situation of its own making by forcing workers to return to work under worse conditions than those initially proposed.

This bill is clearly important, as it will draw a line in the sand in terms of workers’ rights in our country.

We have a motion before us today to limit debate on this bill, with no acknowledgement of its importance. This bill will violate the rights of workers, and yet the government has the gall to ask us to approve it as quickly as possible.

Given the importance of this bill, I feel it is crucial that we take the time to think things over and ask the questions that need to be asked. But it will be impossible to do that with a clear head if there is no adjournment until the end of debate on this bill.

Giving orders about working conditions can have disastrous consequences. In 2005, I had working conditions forced on me when I worked in the health sector in Quebec, and I suffered the consequences.

First, I felt as though it were an attack. People with no real concept of our day-to-day reality had decided for us, even though it is the workers who live that reality. My trust in the government that made the decision was shattered. And that feeling lasts and lasts.

Being left out of the talks that will govern your reality is the worst affront for a worker who is dedicated to the job. It is as though the worker has become nothing but a number to a machine that is too big to realize that people are affected by these decisions—mothers, fathers, young, motivated workers and others with more experience—all proud of the professions they have chosen.

Then there was the return to work. The workers were bitter and unmotivated after the ruling, their hope lost in light of a true evaluation of their worth. They lost their sense of belonging. When you are treated like a pawn, you are prone to act like one.

Many nurses deserted the public health system because they felt ignored after the ruling. The vast majority of them chose to go to private nursing placement agencies where they have the right to do what was refused them—negotiate their working conditions.

Private nursing agencies have had disastrous consequences for our health care system in Quebec. They have quite simply caused costs to skyrocket, when it comes to the salaries paid, to pay for these agency nurses. The agencies have been a contributing factor in major conflicts between employees in the public system, who then often have to work overtime, and private agency employees, who go home without suffering those consequences.

Other conflicts have erupted when hospitals had no choice but to assign additional day shifts to private agencies, since they refused to work the evening and night shifts. The hospitals then turned to their own employees and demanded that they work the night and evening shifts.

What point is there in staying in the public system if it means being saddled with lower wages and less favourable working conditions compared to private agency employees?

When the 2011 collective agreement was negotiated, the Quebec government did not make the mistake of legislating working conditions. There was real bargaining, which brought the two parties to a satisfactory agreement. Bit by bit, the feeling of sharing in the pride of a profession has returned, but the wounds take a long time to heal.

The damage done to our health care system by the intrusion of private agencies will take much longer than five years to heal. Those wounds would probably not have been so deep if the government had not legislated working conditions in 2006.

The reason I have brought all this up is that I am concerned about the potential privatization of Canada Post. What seems to be hidden in this bill is a desire to privatize Canada Post.

This motion wants to make me give the bill hastier consideration, even though it may bring about profound changes in the future of a corporation as important as Canada Post, a corporation, a system, that has left its mark on Canadian history.

Considering the hidden agenda to privatize postal services, it is crucial to point out that Canada Post is a very profitable concern at present: it had revenue totalling $281 million last year. The cost of sending a standard letter is currently $0.59 in Canada, while in all countries that have privatized their postal services it is always higher. In Germany, it is $0.77, and it is $0.88 in Austria and $0.64 in the Netherlands. Obviously our public system is benefiting. And the other thing is that if we move toward a private system, the competition will push a lot of businesses toward the major centres and there will be no one left to serve small, remote communities.

Who will come to serve the country roads and isolated communities in my riding? No one. What business would agree to come and serve the towns of St-Lambert-de-Desmeloizes, Belleterre, Saint-Nazaire-de-Berry and Bellecombe? None. Why? Because it would not be lucrative.

There are seniors in my riding who live out in the country and no longer have a driver's licence. They have made the decision to remain in their homes, many of which they built themselves. I wonder how they will get their mail.

Therefore, if I am asked to hurry up and pass this bill as soon as possible, despite all the consequences it could have, I will stand up and firmly oppose it. I would also like to point out the disrespect this government is showing for our Quebec nation. It is telling us that if we want to celebrate our national holiday, we must do so at the expense of the Canada Post workers.

I have missed Saint-Jean-Baptiste celebrations in the past, when I worked as a nurse in the hospital. It did not really bother me that much, because I told myself that my patients needed me. Today I know that the Canada Post workers need members who will stand up for them, as the NDP members will. I will miss my national holiday for them. It does not bother me, because I know they need me.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Madam Speaker, as I said earlier for one of the other members, bargaining on this current contract began last October. Clearly, the parties had a significant number of issues to discuss, and not the least among them is the fact that the Canada Post business model is changing dramatically. In fact, many Canadians, if they live in an urban setting and if they have access to broadband and Internet, have found ways to significantly replace a lot of their mail. In fact, Canada Post's own numbers indicate that postal flow is dropping fairly dramatically.

One of the things that really concerns me, and I wonder if it concerns the member, is this. From the moment in time that the rotating strikes began and then throughout the lockout period, it was clear that Canadians, financial institutions, utility companies and others had been encouraging people to move away from using the mail and to move toward use of electronic statements. This is damaging the post office's long-term business structure.

I am concerned that rural Canadians in my riding are going to have to pay inflated prices for mail because the Canada Post business model is being permanently damaged by these actions.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to tell my hon. colleague that, although the use of Internet services has increased, for paying bills, for instance, there is nevertheless a limit to everything. There are things that cannot be done online. Furthermore, in my riding, many people in the country do not even have high-speed Internet service. How can those people use that method to pay their bills?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, sometimes in these discussions we forget the realities of people's lives. I have an email from a worker in my riding. I will not read the whole email, but this is the reality for some of these letter carriers.

The email says that letter carriers start out as temporary workers and are told they are likely to be temporary for three to five years. In Nanaimo they are temporary for much longer. Mike in this case has worked for Canada Post as a temporary letter carrier since 2004. He receives no paid vacation, no paid sick time and no pension. Mostly he works full-time hours, but sometimes he finishes a work week and is told that there may not be work for him in the following week. In 2009, he spent five months in this situation, and out of that five months he only worked three weeks.

I wonder if the member could comment on the fact these letter carriers are often in precarious employment situations and that we need to do everything that we can to support workers in their right to bargain for fair and reasonable employment.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her comment. The working conditions for postal workers are often not every secure at first. One of my roommates started working at Canada Post and at first his job varied quite a bit. He had to work as both a security guard and a letter carrier. He tried to juggle both positions, never knowing when he was going to be called by either employer. I think negotiating this collective agreement could have helped these workers avoid such situations.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

6:30 p.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I just heard one of the member's colleagues talk about reality. Well, I would like to talk to her about the reality in my riding and some of the calls I am getting at my office.

I am getting calls from seniors who are worried about strike's effects on the cheques they need, if the strike is prolonged. I am getting calls from people with disabilities who are worried about having their cheques delivered. I am getting calls from small businesses that are relying on cheques coming into their offices so they can pay their employees.

We are just exiting one of the worst recessions in history. I would like the member to tell my constituents, the people who are real to me, what she is going to say to them when they are depending on that postal service to provide jobs in my community. What is she going to say to them?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, during the rotating strike, there were very few consequences for the general public. The government could have acted to prevent the lockout and to ensure that people in every constituency in Canada did not have to deal with lengthy delays.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

6:35 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Transport)

Madam Speaker, this is my first opportunity to present a speech to the House since the last election. I would like to take a moment to thank the people of Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia for re-electing me, the people of Winnipeg for electing several more Conservative colleagues, and the people of Canada for electing a strong, stable majority government.

I would also like to thank the Prime Minister for the opportunity to serve as Minister of State for Transport.

In this role as minister of state, I am responsible for a number of crown corporations. Canada Post is one of them. Therefore, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the importance of the legislation to resolve the labour dispute that we now see occurring between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

Canada Post and the urban component of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, otherwise known as CUPW, have been negotiating since October 2010. I am sorry to note that despite some eight months of discussions, the parties have made little progress in their negotiations.

Today, I will be focusing my remarks on the impact of the work stoppage on Canadian postal consumers and businesses and on Canada Post, both today and in the future.

The current labour action is damaging to the Canadian economy and to many small businesses and individuals who rely on the postal service. Canada's economy is still in a fragile recovery. In fact, if we look around the world, including at the situation in some European countries and the geopolitical instability in the world, we realize there are many forces that create uncertainty. This is not a pleasant reality but it is reality, and a reality in which Canadians must live.

The work stoppage will only slow our economic recovery if it is allowed to continue. Therefore, the government needs to take action. To mitigate the damage, our government is enacting back to work legislation. The economic downturn of 2008 has had a severe effect on the Canadian economy and on many businesses, including Canada Post.

As a result of the recession and the increasing competition from other channels of communication, such as email and the Internet, Canada Post has experienced declines in its domestic letter volume, as well as in its domestic parcel and ad mail volumes. The decline in letter mail to postal addresses amounts to some 17% over the last five years. That is a significant number.

Also, as the Canadian population grows, the number of addresses and delivery points increases, and so does the cost per piece of delivered mail. In other words, it costs more to send mail due to the increase in the number of addresses.

There are many pension plans in Canada. Canada Post has a pension plan, but it has lost substantial value following the economic downturn. I understand that the loss in value of the plan was more than 19% between 2007 and the end of 2008.

Since 2008, Canada Post has reacted strongly to the threats posed by the economic downturn and the increased competition. Canada Post has been seeking ways to position itself for the future. It is hoping to improve its business sustainability by working with its employees to bring about greater efficiencies and more flexibility in the way work is carried out. It has cut its management ranks by 15% and has reduced other costs in a bid to become more efficient.

Like other competitive postal service providers around the world, Canada Post is trying to become even more efficient and competitive. It has started a major infrastructure renewal project across the country called postal transformation.

In fact, on the boundary of my riding in my home city of Winnipeg, I was fortunate to have the opportunity, with my colleague, the member for Yellowhead and former minister of state, to see the opening of a fantastic facility with state-of-the-art infrastructure. The efficiencies were evident. Canada Post is obviously planning for the future.

It is through this project that Canada Post will replace obsolete and outdated plants, equipment and processes. It will implement technology that other postal administrations around the world are using successfully. It will renovate its plants to ensure safer working conditions for its employees. Canada Post has stated that without subsidies from taxpayers, these measures will not be enough for it to continue to deliver affordable mail to Canadians.

Since the postal business is labour intensive, most of Canada Post's costs are labour related. For example, Canada Post's pension plan has liabilities that are more than twice the company's annual revenue. At the end of 2010, the company had an estimated pension solvency shortfall of more than $3.2 billion. Canada Post is committed to meeting its pension obligations. The money it spends ensuring that its pension plan will remain solvent is money not available to be spent on operations or modernization.

Our government's position on these negotiations is clear. We would prefer a negotiated settlement. We have been encouraging Canada Post and CUPW to come to a negotiated agreement. However, there is a third party in these negotiations that our government cannot ignore. That is why we are here today. Canadians are that third party. They are the shareholders and customers of the important postal services that Canada Post and its employees provide. As a crown corporation, if Canada Post's profitability drops and it cannot fund its pension plans, taxpayers will be left with the bill.

The union's demands during this labour dispute do not reflect many of the economic realities that Canada Post is facing. A drastic increase in costs at Canada Post will only end in taxpayers footing the bill.

There are those who believe that back to work legislation is not needed. They claim that the postal service is no longer an essential one, as it once was. While it is true that Canadians are increasingly using a growing number of other channels of communication, it is not simply a question of replacing one mode of communication with another. Many modes co-exist and the postal service will continue to remain important for the foreseeable future. For example, parcel and small packet delivery by Canada Post is critical to Canadian businesses and consumers and to the economy in general.

Canada Post is working toward building a sustainable future. In developing other services that will complement traditional mail, Canada Post is adapting. An example of this is Canada Post's retail network, one of the largest in the country. It is leveraging its retail network to provide services to Canadians. Canada Post has recently set up a new secure online service for comparison shopping and online advertising to allow consumers to quickly find the best deal on the right product and, of course, to ensure it is delivered at a reasonable price.

Nonetheless, traditional mail remains an important channel of communication for businesses and consumers alike. Many small businesses are dependent on mail for advertising and the delivery of parcels. While it is true that couriers also deliver parcels, at least in urban areas, none can fully compete with Canada Post.

Many businesses are turning to other modes of communication due to this work stoppage, so the longer this work stoppage goes on, the greater the damage is to Canada Post's prospects for the future.

For some firms there are no alternatives to Canada Post. These are small businesses without the ability or technology to conduct their business online. Some small businesses are using other courier companies to deliver their packages but are finding they have to pay more than they had to with Canada Post. This is affecting those small businesses' profitability and competitiveness.

Also, small businesses and charities still rely on Canada Post for billing purposes and fundraising. This work stoppage is drying up their cash flow. The cash flow of charities, small businesses and individuals is what we are really talking about, grassroots Canadians.

In short, mail is an important enabler of Canadian commerce which is now being threatened by this work stoppage. I would like to share a comment from a small business owner in my riding, who said:

The bill must pass immediately. This must end. Our customers are used to receiving hard copy invoices by mail and customers return payment by Canada Post. That is not happening. Couriers are much more expensive. We cannot pass on the cost in today's competitive environment.

We have cheques that were caught by the stoppage. It has cost us $12 to stop payment on those cheques to our suppliers and more to resend them by courier.

This situation must end. It is damaging small business. Canada Post must go back to work as soon as possible.

In referring to Canada Post, I believe the small business owner is talking about the corporate entity and its entire workforce.

I give that as one example from Winnipeg which highlights the impact the stoppage is having not only on Canada Post and its future, but also on the ability of Canadians to do their business.

One of the more remarkable things about the postal system is how firmly entrenched it is in all facets of Canadian society, so much so that we take it for granted or even ignore it, but we notice when for some reason the mail is not delivered.

While it is true the occasional letter or parcel may go astray over the years, Canada Post has consistently averaged on-time delivery 96% of the time, as verified by third parties. That is quite impressive considering that Canada Post processes some 40 million pieces of mail for 50 million residential and business addresses every business day. The stoppage is obviously preventing that from happening.

Let us look at the international picture for a moment. Among other major postal service providers, only the United States Postal Service is marginally cheaper than Canada Post. The United States Postal Service does this with a multi-billion dollar deficit in a country with more than 10 times the population of Canada.

As I stated, our reliance on the mail only becomes fully apparent when it does not get delivered. Although the dispute is between Canada Post and the urban component of CUPW, rural Canadians and businesses across the country are also being hurt. As a result of the work stoppage, rural mail is not being delivered. The vast majority of rural newspapers and magazines rely on Canada Post for delivery. Rural residents rely primarily on Canada Post to deliver items that would otherwise not be available through other distribution channels.

Even competing couriers have arrangements to have their packages delivered by Canada Post in rural and remote areas. As a result of the vastness and impressive network of delivery that Canada Post has across our country, couriers use Canada Post for what is described as the last mile of delivery outside of urban areas. Naturally, that last mile is not being completed at present because Canada Post is not functioning, which leads to the obvious conclusion that back to work legislation is needed.

Certain segments of the population, including seniors and shut-ins, also tend to rely heavily on Canada Post and have limited alternatives during a mail stoppage.

The labour dispute is impacting Canada Post's profitability and its continued ability to modernize without cost to taxpayers in the short and long term. I will give the House some numbers. During the rotating strikes, Canada Post estimated that mail volume had declined by 50% and that it had cost over $100 million by the time the lockout occurred.

I suspect the work stoppage will have permanent effects. Companies and consumers have found alternative options to postal service for bill payments and communication. The fact that this work stoppage has occurred leads people to accelerate their switch from traditional mail to e-billing or e-banking, for example. This loss of volume of work due to the stoppage may never return, as businesses and consumers move permanently to electronic alternatives.

At stake is the future of Canada Post and affordable and efficient mail service for all Canadians. Canada Post must modernize if it is to remain profitable. The impact of the work stoppage on Canada Post's bottom line has impacted all of us. The longer this situation continues, the worse the long-term effects will be.

CUPW and Canada Post have had many months to resolve their differences and negotiate a new collective agreement. They have not succeeded and there is no sign that they will succeed any time soon.

We expect Canada Post to provide quality postal service to Canadians on which Canadians can count. The government has introduced the Canadian postal service charter, and I thank the member for Yellowhead for his leadership in that. Through the service charter, the government has clearly expressed its expectations that Canada Post provide postal service to all Canadians, especially those in rural areas and those who are vulnerable.

This work stoppage could have a permanent impact on the quality of postal service across Canada for a long time. After eight months of failed negotiations, it is time to consider the needs of Canadians and consumers, businesses and taxpayers. It is time for back to work legislation. The time is now.

Canada Post is a critical part of not only the Canadian economy, but the Canadian way of life. By introducing back to work legislation, we are ensuring that the Canadian economy has the ability to recover from an economic downtown. We are ensuring that Canada Post has a future. We are ensuring that Canadians have the best possible postal service today and in the future. Let us get it done so Canadians can get their mail.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member opposite on his re-election.

Surely, the hon. member would know that under the rotating strikes, birthday cards, well wishes cards and small business packages had the capability of passing through the system and getting to the person.

Would the hon. member highlight for members in the chamber and Canadians the difference between a lockout and a rotating strike and how during a lockout there is no possibility for people to get their mail whereas during a rotating strike there is? Would the hon. member also highlight why the government chose to lock out the workers and thus end the possibility of anyone in Canada getting their mail?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on his re-election.

The member will agree that despite differences, we live in the greatest country in the world and it is very good that we have the opportunity to debate these types of issues in this forum.

To answer the member's question, the challenge with the rotating strikes has been that they are very disruptive to Canada Post's ability to delivery mail. The rotating strikes went from smaller centres and rotated to very large centres. This caused uncertainty to the business community. Mail volumes decreased by 50% and the work stoppages were essentially almost as effective as a national strike. It is my understanding that this is why we are where we are. It is because of the impact the rotating strikes had, which was as effective as a national strike.

What we need to do now is to get things rolling, get CUPW workers and Canada Post delivering the mail to Canadians so we can all move on, and this is what the proposed legislation does.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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6:55 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, there is this misperception that the NDP really wants to project to Canadians. In fact, it is not truthful to say that the government locked out Canada Post workers.

In fact, did the minister, who is responsible for Canada Post, lock out Canada Post workers or was the decision taken by the executives, who have been appointed to run Canada Post on behalf of Canadians?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Peterborough on his re-election and for the community museum in Peterborough.

The very important point is that Canada Post, like all crown corporations, is arm's-length from government. We do not make the operational decisions. The lockout was a decision of Canada Post. The only stake the government has here is representing the people of Canada. The government has brought forward the legislation because the people of Canada want their mail. The people in Canada want Canada Post to sustain itself in the future and they are asking their MPs to please pass this legislation so they can get their mail.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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6:55 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the minister that in this matter, the government is playing firefighter but lit the fire itself.

We will not bother bickering over whether it was Canada Post or the government that really triggered the lockout, but one thing is certain: Canada Post triggered a lockout simply because the government threatened to pass special legislation. The employer thought it was free to impose whatever it wanted on the workers who, we admit, had decided to go on a rotating strike. This affected the public on a small scale. It was a pressure tactic. In a democracy, people have to be able to negotiate until the end.

Does the minister think that the government truly gave both parties a chance to really negotiate? I think with the special legislation, the employer got the upper hand.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, the premise of the preamble of the question is completely false. I remind the member that the parties had eight months of negotiations. In fact, there was even a federal election in that period of time. There was plenty of opportunity.

It is clear now that parties are not going to come to a negotiated settlement. A negotiated settlement is the strong preference of the government and if they were able to come to an agreement, we would not be here. However, they are unable to do that. This is why we are bringing forward the proposed legislation so we can get the mail to Canadians.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, a fellow Winnipegger, for his address. I wonder if he is aware, though, that the $3.2 billion shortfall in the pension can be traced back to its origins in the fact that it was an underfunded pension plan, and that for the last decade or more Canada Post has been generating a profit and submitting that profit to general revenue.

Does my colleague know that the mandate of Canada Post is simply to deliver mail to the greatest number of Canadians at the lowest possible cost? Nowhere does the mandate of Canada Post include giving hundreds of millions of dollars a year in dividends to the federal government.

Had Canada Post been funding its pension adequately with that money, instead of putting it into general revenue, we would not have an underfunded pension.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

An Act Respecting Queen's University at Kingston
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

An Act Respecting Queen's University at Kingston
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

An Act Respecting Queen's University at Kingston
Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time, considered in committee of the whole, reported without amendment, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the motion that this question be now put.

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7:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, given that display of unanimity one would hope that we would be able to get actual bills through the House that would deal with credit card gouging, gas price gouging and all the things the government has not been willing to take action on. We are always willing to work with the government when it actually works in the interests of ordinary people.

I would like to start by saying a few words to our Quebec colleagues, Canadians who live in the province of Quebec.

I would like to wish a happy Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day to all Quebeckers. As hon. members know, this day will be celebrated tomorrow all across Quebec.

I was a manual labourer in a previous life. I worked in a number of factories and went back to school eventually. I have never been a member of a labour union. Following my university education I went on to work as a negotiator from the management side on a number of collective agreements. I have been a long-time member of the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce and a proud member of the Burnaby Board of Trade. I have won a number of business excellence awards.

I am going to take a slightly different tack from a number of my colleagues in this wonderfully diverse caucus, which is the new official opposition, the NDP caucus of 103 members of Parliament, people who come from a variety of backgrounds. Some have been involved in the labour movement. Some have been involved in the business community. Some have been involved as professionals. Some have been involved in the trades. All of them have the interests of Canada at heart, and we are excited to take on our new role as official opposition and to bring a lot to Parliament because of our diversity.

In the case of every single member of Parliament in the NDP caucus, our focus is on the community. That is why we are very concerned about what the government has done in this particular case.

We saw this first with Air Canada and even more of increasing concern around the Canada Post negotiations. I would like to briefly go back a few steps to talk about the process because this is what is so profoundly worrying about how the government has reacted in this case.

There have been broad concerns about how the management of Canada Post has managed the negotiations in the collective agreement. What we have had is a very broad base of support from postal workers, 50,000 strong across the country who contribute enormously to our communities and to the strength of Canada. What we have found is, because of certain intransigence from Canada Post management, there was a series of very limited, rotating work stoppages in various parts of the county. There was some mild impact on mail generally.

We had postal workers playing the role that they do, going through rain, sleet and snow, making sure that the mail gets delivered, ensuring that cheques are delivered for seniors, ensuring that those most vulnerable in our society are taken care of. The workers took a very responsible and principled approach to what was clear intransigence from Canada Post management.

When we talk about Canada Post management, in the case of the CEO we are talking about an individual who receives $650,000 a year and has seen the salary for his position double over the last few years. There has been a massive increase in management salaries. It is a profitable corporation because of the hard work of the employees who, as usual, never receive the credit for the work they do for Canada. It is a very profitable corporation with extremely high executive salaries and intransigence from the management side.

In the midst of this, instead of reacting in a moderate way, which is what the government could have chosen to do, it reacted in a very immoderate way. We all know that as we came through the end of the month of April and to the May 2 election what we heard from the Prime Minister was repeated assurances that he would be moderate in government.

We have not seen many examples of that since May 2. Certainly we could talk about the appointments of failed Conservative candidates to the Senate. We could talk about this bill. We could talk about a number of other measures that have shown those commitments that were made to Canadians to have a moderate government, a government that would be balanced in its approach, have proven to be vain promises. In my riding I have met a number of people who voted for the Conservative Party who feel that they have been betrayed by the immoderate actions of the government.

What did the government do in this case? Management reacted by locking out the workers. The letter carriers across the country, in a very moderate, reserved way had limited, rotating work stoppages in various parts of the country that slowed down only slightly the overall delivery of mail.

Management reacted by shutting down the entire system. Far from reacting in a moderate way, what the government has done is twofold. It has taken the side of management. It has decided that it will aid management in its intransigence in negotiating what should be a collective agreement that would be relatively easy to negotiate given how moderate the requests have been from the workers working for the company.

It did much more. The government imposed what would be a collective agreement. I cannot call it a collective agreement when it is imposed by the government. In a free and democratic society, collective bargaining is one way where more of the resources and more of the profits that a company has actually remain in the community. It allows for a much more balanced approach in family income. It means that, in a very clear way, more of the profits that a company may have may actually remain in the community in which those profits are earned and benefit other businesses as well.

When I talk about my community, I know how hard hit the small businesses have been by many of the policies of the government. I just have to name the HST as one example. The idea of collective bargaining is to ensure there is moderation and balance. When there is a $200 million profitable corporation, the workers should receive money that at least meets the inflation rate. That is something that is a reasonable request.

The government imposed a wage settlement and, more important, it imposed what is very clearly a pension structure and framework that will be of enormous disadvantage to anyone else who works for Canada Post in the future. It means that younger workers will be treated as second class within the Canada Post system.

This is an important issue. When we look at the middle class and what has happened over the last five years under the present government and what happened under the previous government in the previous five years, we have seen a dramatic erosion in middle class earning power. For most families, their real income has declined somewhat dramatically, particularly among the poorest of Canadians. We have seen problems with pensions and seniors living under the poverty line. We have seen the debtload of the average family in Canada double over this period as well.

We have seen a dramatic restructuring of how families in Canada cope economically. Far from us being economically prosperous, as the government likes to pretend, the middle class is struggling. One of the ways that struggle can be addressed is through free, collective bargaining, which is the hallmark of any democratic system.

What the government has done by imposing this legislation is ensuring that bad management is helped, management that is stubborn and unwilling to sit down and negotiate an effective agreement. Having been on the management side in collective agreement negotiations, I can say that it is not rocket science.

In negotiating a collective agreement, parties need to be transparent, honest, sincere and willing to work for a solution. When parties do that, they get a collective agreement renewed. There are collective agreement negotiations. When collective agreement negotiations are approached in a meanspirited way, in a non-transparent way, in a way where the people who are working to actually build that firm or build that organization are being pushed back, then the parties will not get the same results.

What has happened here is that the government has helped bad management try to impose a bad agreement that is bad for Canadian communities.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, I was listening to the member opposite talk about this lockout. It is passing strange that there was no mention of what is happening to everyday Canadians who rely on their mail. There are cheques in the mail that have not arrived.

For instance, a young family in my riding was given $15,000 from the parents to put a down payment on a cottage. The family has never been able to afford anything but the parents helped them out a little and together with their siblings they are buying a cottage. However, the money has not arrived and the deadline to purchase the cottage has passed. There is an 81-year-old senior who has been waiting for a cheque and it has not arrived.

I am asking the member about everyday Canadians who are waiting for the mail and hoping it will come very soon so they will not lose their chance to—

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

It is inconceivable, Mr. Speaker. The member admits that there was a lockout and that Canada Post management is to blame and then tries to justify legislation that punishes the workers who approached this whole conflict in a very moderate, reasonable way.

The management shut down the system and yet not one Conservative member of Parliament has said that the government understands what a lockout is, that management acted inappropriately and that it will ensure that management is compelled to negotiate a collective agreement. The Conservatives have not done that. They have done exactly the opposite. They are punishing the workers who have been delivering the cheques to seniors, who had a very moderate and reasonable series of rotating work stoppages that slowed the system only slightly. Management came in with a sledgehammer to bust the system apart and Conservative MPs are saying that it is the workers' fault that management shut down the entire system.

I think any reasonable, fair-minded Canadian can see how immoderate the government is becoming. It blames ordinary middle class families for something that is management's fault. Management shut—

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Nanaimo—Cowichan.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for laying out so clearly what some of the issues are.

Numerous times in the House today we have heard, particularly Conservative members, talk about the economics of this and declining revenues from the post office. I want to put on the record that the Canadian Union of Postal Workers has actually had some proposals around increasing the business line. The article states:

Canada Post is at a crossroads. On the one hand, it faces significant challenges due to economic recession, electronic diversion and years of underinvestment in facilities and equipment. On the other hand, it is well placed to meet these challenges with its enormous, nation-wide infrastructure and trained workforce.

I would argue that part of this process really is about respecting the trained workforce and respecting the ideas it has put forward. I wonder if the member could comment on how important it is to have stability in that workforce so employees can continue to contribute to the bottom line for the business.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, every member of the opposition has approached this issue with respect for the ordinary workers who carry our mail every day. We are talking about people who work hard in the community. My letter carrier climbs 40 steps up the hill to deliver every day. Letter carriers work very hard, I know the kinds of hours they put in, and they are very thoughtful. Yet the government is attacking what has been bad management practices. There is no other way of putting it.

A business plan needs to be put into place to ensure the workers who understand the system best are keenly involved in bringing Canada Post to the next stage. These workers are the backbone of the system. Instead, management has been very stubborn and obstinate. What happens? The Conservative government rewards bad behaviour. We have seen that, whether we are talking about the banking industry or anywhere else, the Conservatives reward bad behaviour, and that is really too bad.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the legislation introduced by the Minister of Labour to bring an end to the work stoppage at Canada Post and to send the outstanding issues between the parties to binding arbitration.

A work stoppage is underway and a vital service is gone and Canadians have some urgent questions. How did this happen? How did things ever get this far? Do we not have mechanisms to resolve labour-management conflicts? We certainly do and, over 90% of the time, they work exceptionally well.

In this country, employers and the unions that represent their employees are able to negotiate the terms and conditions of employment through a process of collective bargaining. This usually involves some compromises on both sides. These negotiations almost always result in a settlement that is acceptable to both sides. We do not hear much about the proceedings because usually there is nothing very dramatic about the signing of a collective agreement.

What if the talks fail? This occasionally happens but all is not lost because the Canada Labour Code provides for a series of measures the government can take to help the parties in a dispute get past their differences and avoid a strike or a lockout.

What happened in the case of Canada Post? It is not my place to comment on the issues between the parties. I can speak only for the government. I can assure Canadians that we did everything within our power to help Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Urban Operations Unit to come to an agreement. We used every tool at our disposal.

I will go back to the fall of last year. Negotiations between Canada Post and CUPW began in October 2010 with the goal of reaching a settlement before the existing collective agreement expired on January 31, 2011. Despite some concessions on both sides, the two parties could not agree on some crucial points. On January 21, 10 days before the contract expiry date, the parties to the dispute informed the Minister of Labour that they were deadlocked. As I said, in a case like this, there are steps the government can take and the government has taken them.

Step one is to send in a conciliator. If conciliation fails, step two is to appoint a mediator. In the case of Canada Post and CUPW, the government followed the usual process as set out in the Canada Labour Code. and we spent a lot of time meeting with both sides. I want to stress, in case there is any doubt on this point, that the Minister of Labour does not play favourites and that the experts she appoints have to be impartial. Their job is not to impose the kind of agreement that would be most agreeable to the government. Their role is to help the parties find their own solutions.

I will now go to the chronology of events.

After 60 days of conciliation, there was still no agreement between Canada Post and the union. Considering the stakes involved, both parties agreed to extend the conciliation period for another 32 days. Even after 92 days of effort by the conciliator, an agreement in this case was not forthcoming.

On May 5, the Minister of Labour appointed a mediator. The parties entered into a 21-day cooling off period as prescribed by the Canada Labour Code but there was still no progress. Instead, on May 30 the union filed a 72-hour strike notice and, on June 3, the postal workers walked out. Finally, on June 15 the employer declared a lockout.

I said before that Canadians have questions and the next question they have is what will happen now. If the last postal disruption, which occurred in 1997, is anything to go on, the damage to the economy could be significant. Businesses that rely on the mail will be severely affected if the strike is prolonged. Some of these businesses could go under, jobs could be lost , and some of those losses could be permanent.

The question before us is whether we can afford this disruption at a time when our economy is still fragile and still in recovery.

It is important to remember that not everyone uses computers exclusively. Many Canadians still communicate by conventional mail as an essential part of their business operations.

Many of our citizens depend on the services of Canada Post to receive essential government information and benefits. People who are waiting for an important cheque or a package and cannot easily get to an alternative delivery site are suffering. Everyone will be affected by this work stoppage, but people with disabilities, the elderly and people who live in remote communities will hurt the most.

I will highlight some of the many organizations in my riding of Calgary Northeast that is adversely affected by this strike. Recently I was contacted by Fred Weiss, executive director of Samaritan's Purse Canada, as well as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada, both of which are headquartered in my riding. Between 65% to 75% of the donations to these organizations arrive through the mail. The recent postal strike has reduced those donations substantially. The very missions of these charity relief organizations is in jeopardy as a direct result of this strike.

I will share with members some of the work that people like my EDA member, Marg Pollon, are doing at Samaritan's Purse. They provided relief to citizens of Slave Lake Alberta as they returned to their fire-ravaged town. They assisted in the relief efforts during the floods in Quebec. They are assisting in post-earthquake rebuilding in Japan. They worked to treat victims in Haiti. This is only a small fraction of the work that the Samaritan's Purse does in Canada and around the world, but it needs donations to do it and it needs the postal service. It is not only the economy, it is also the victims of disasters at home and abroad. The strike will cause real hardship to many Canadians.

People have asked what the government is going to do about it?

In answer is we have made the difficult decision to end the strike with back to work legislation and binding arbitration. That means that we are imposing a solution. This is a drastic measure and we know that we may be criticized for seemingly violating the rights of free collective bargaining.

When collective bargaining fails, the worker's union has the legal right to pressure the employer by withdrawing their labour. Employers also have the legal right to lock out workers and try to continue business without them.

Our government respects the rights of both the workers and the employers. That is why back to work legislation is the exception to the rule in Canada. In the case of Canada Post versus CUPW, the rights of the corporation and the 50,000 postal workers have to be weighed against the rights of 33 million Canadians.

We know we are also being criticized for acting too quickly and forcefully, but this is not an over reaction to an unforseeable event. It is a culmination of a long process. As I said, we have been working with Canada Post and the union for several months.

The best solution in any dispute is always the one that the parties reach themselves. As parliamentarians, we would rather not intervene, but in this case we must because there is a threat of serious harm to the national economy, small businesses and vulnerable Canadians.

Our country's economy is only now beginning to emerge from the downturn caused by the global recession. If the postal strike continues, we could lose much of the ground we have gained so far.

We just cannot afford to go without our postal services. Our government has no alternative but to introduce back to work legislation to bring resolution to this dispute.

Canadians want to know when Parliament is going to act. The answer is very simple: right now.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7:45 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I could relate with and agree to much of what my colleague had to say. The hon. member said things that I believe we know to be true. It is a fundamental tenet of a western democracy that working people have the right to organize in trade unions, they have the right to bargain collectively and they have the right to withhold their service if those negotiations and collective bargaining should reach an impasse.

We enshrined those rights in our Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a way to ameliorate and mitigate the imbalance that exists in the power dynamic between an employer and its employees. Obviously the power is resident with the employer and its has the ultimate economic hammer. Some countervailing rights are allocated to the employees so as to be able to move forward in the bargaining process.

Has the member ever seen the movie Wag The Dog, when one creates a manufactured crisis by underfunding the pension plan and then going balls to the walls in the negotiations trying to convince the world that the pension plan is so underfunded that it is an expectation that is unreasonable? Is he aware that he is willing dupe perhaps in this ridiculous charade?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, my friend from the opposite side asks his question by laying out all the ground work and at the end asks a typically NDP-socialist question.

I absolutely agree with the member that the unions and workers have rights, but he forgets to mention that the employers of the businesses and charitable organizations also have rights to run smoothly. The government has the obligation to ensure that everyone runs his or her business smoothly, while at the same time protecting the rights of workers.

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7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the comments of my colleague, but I have to ask him quite sincerely if he has actually looked at the clauses in Bill C-6? Has the hon. member looked at it from the objective of having to be fair to all sides of this issue? How can the hon. member stand there and defend legislation that clearly has only one objective, which is to break the back of the union?

Has he has actually read the clauses and is he comfortable with them? On this side of the House we are looking for compromises on various sides of the issue. Compromise means both sides. It does not mean just one side.

Has the hon. member looked at the clauses in Bill C-6 and can he tell me that he is able to live with himself when he votes for this legislation?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, if I do not believe in something, I will never stand and defend it. Therefore, the answer to her question is, yes, I am familiar with the clauses.

She talks about breaking the back of the unions. However, I mentioned in my speech there are charities in my own riding that depend on donations. They do great work, not only in Calgary Northeast, Alberta and across Canada but around the world. They depend on those donations. That is why it is our government's obligation to ensure all those good organizations are able to run smoothly.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7:50 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, first, I thank my hon. colleague from Calgary for what I thought was an outstanding intervention. He talked about the process the federal government has gone through in following all of the legislation and trying to assist in bringing the two sides together to get a deal. We have always indicated that we wanted to see a deal worked out between the two sides. However, it is clear that is just not going to happen, and the government must act.

We have certainly heard the NDP members say that they think the government is not being fair. Does the member think that it is fair that CUPW has not allowed any of its membership to vote on the three Canada Post contract offers? The union members have not had the opportunity to vote on any of that, including the most recent contract offer that Canada Post made to its members. Is he aware of that? Does he think CUPW should have allowed the individual members the right to vote? It seems democratic to me.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague asks an excellent question. I have received some messages from some posties. One postie raised the issue that for some reason, the union had not allowed them to vote on any agreement.

The NDP talks all the time about transparency and openness. However, at the same time, these unions do not allow their own members to vote until they finalize the deal according to their wishes.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7:55 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the many speeches made by government members and they seem to want to lead us to believe that there is a sense of urgency and that we must act quickly. They are trying to get their point across by taking every opportunity to remind us that negotiations have been underway for eight months. It seems to me that one does not have to have participated in very many negotiation processes to know that things move slowly for the first few months. The parties talk about the colour of the paper, the expiry date of the collective agreement, the number of years.

The collective agreement expired at the end of January 2011. The parties have therefore really only been negotiating for a few months. If the parties are negotiating without any strike action, what difference does it make if it takes 8, 12 or 24 months, as long as services are still being provided and the public is not negatively affected. In my opinion, the sense of urgency seems to have been created entirely by the lockout declared by Canada Post and likely telegraphed by our government friends.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7:55 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member acknowledging that the negotiations have been going on for almost eight months.

The key point here is that the negotiations between the parties were going for three months or so and then after that the conciliator was there. The conciliator got some dates extended for another 32 days, so all together it was 92 days. After that, mediators were present.

It was the union that, on May 30, filed a 72-hour strike notice. It was not the management, it was not the government and it was not a third party; it was the union that threatened a strike.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7:55 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in my place and ask the hon. member a couple of questions.

I agree with the fact that the member has recognized this as a problem situation, but I disagree with his characterization of the problem. The member suggested that this is a strike. It is absolutely not a strike. It is a lockout. He has suggested that eight months' worth of negotiations is too long.

When is the government going to then make amendments to the Canada Labour Code and suggest amendments to all the trade union acts that “thou shalt only negotiate for eight months?” It is absolutely absurd.

The member opposite should pay a little more attention to what really happens in negotiations and not interfere with—

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Calgary Northeast.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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7:55 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is amazing how the member opposite can distort the facts in the House of Commons.

He talks about a lockout, but he is not ready to say that the lockout was the last stage of the strike. The strike was started by the union. The employer had to impose a lockout because the strike began.

At the same time, the member should understand one thing. As a government, it is our obligation to ensure that the workers' rights are protected and at the same time ensure that our economy is not be hurt.

As everyone knows, Canada has one of the best records on its economy and on the recovery of its economy. We are not in a position to take a chance on it.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, since this is my first opportunity to rise in the House in the 41st Parliament, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the electors of Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry for returning me to the House. They have done me the favour of allowing me to be part of a strong majority Conservative government. That warms my heart very much.

I receive a lot of calls in my office, and especially in the last two weeks. Close to 70% of the callers say they want us to get the posties back to work. That is what the polls across the nation are saying.

In the member's riding, what is the rate of people who want us to get the posties back to work?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is not only me who gets hundreds of emails and phone calls that the posties must get back to work, but I am sure that the offices of the members opposite also get hundreds of emails saying that the workers should go back to work.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

It being 8 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the motion now before the House.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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8 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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8 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

8 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

8 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

8 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #23

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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8:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

The next question is on the main motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
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8:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #24

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation
Government Orders

8:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

[For continuation of proceedings see Part B]

[Continuation of proceedings from part A]

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:35 p.m.

Halton
Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Minister of Labour

moved that Bill C-6, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services, be read the second time and referred to a committee of the whole.

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to introduce the second reading of the bill entitled “An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services”.

A work stoppage is under way, a vital service is gone and Canadians have some urgent questions: How did this happen? How did things get this far? Do we not have mechanisms to resolve labour management conflicts?

We certainly do and they actually work quite well, and over 90% of the time.

In this country, employers and unions that represent employers are able to negotiate the terms and conditions of employment through the process of collective bargaining. This usually involves compromise on both sides and these negotiations almost always result in a settlement that is acceptable to both sides. We do not hear much about these proceedings because there is usually nothing very dramatic about the signing of a collective agreement.

However, what if the talks fail? This occasionally does happen. However, all should not be lost because the Canada Labour Code does provide for a series of measures the government can take in order to help the parties in a dispute get past their differences and avoid a strike or a lockout.

So what happened in the case of Canada Post?

I can assure Canadians that we did everything within our power to help Canada Post and the union to come to an agreement. We used every tool at our disposal.

I will take members back to the fall of last year. Negotiations between the parties began in October 2010 and the goal was to get a settlement before the existing collective agreement expired at the end of January. Despite some concessions made on both sides, the two parties could not agree on some crucial points. Therefore, on January 21, 10 days before the contract expired, the parties informed me that they were deadlocked.

As I said, in a case like this, there are steps the government can take. The first step is to send in a conciliator and, if conciliation fails, to appoint a mediator.

In the case of Canada Post and CUPW, the government followed the usual process as set out in the Canada Labour Code and we spent a lot of time with both sides. I want to stress, in case there is any doubt on this point. that this government does not play favourites and we appoint experts who are impartial. The job of conciliators and mediators is not to impose the kind of agreement that would be most agreeable to the government. Their role is to help the parties find their own solution.

I will go back to the chronology. After 60 days of conciliation, there was still no agreement between Canada Post and the union. Considering the stakes involved, both parties agreed to extend the conciliation by a further 32 days. Even after 92 days of effort by a conciliator, an agreement in this case was not forthcoming so, on May 5, I appointed a mediator. The parties entered a 21-day cooling off period, as prescribed in the Canada Labour Code, and still there was no progress. Instead, on May 30, the union filed a 72-hour strike notice and, on June 3, the postal workers walked out. Finally, on June 15, the employer declared a lockout.

I said at the beginning that Canadians have questions. The next question they have is: What will happen now?

If the last postal disruption, which occurred in 1997, is anything to go on, the damage to the economy could be significant. Businesses that rely on the mail will be severely affected. If the strike is prolonged, some of those businesses could go under, jobs could be lost and some of the job losses could be permanent.

Can we afford this disruption at a time when our economy is still recovering?

Many of our citizens depend on the services of Canada Post to receive essential government information and benefits. In fact, everyone will be affected by the work stoppage but people with disabilities, elderly people and people who live in remote communities will be hurt the most. This strike will cause undue real hardship to many Canadians.

The next question in their minds is: What is the government going to do about it? The answer is that we have made the difficult decision to end the strike with back to work legislation and binding arbitration.

When collective bargaining actually fails, employers have the ability and the legal right to bring pressure on the unions in order to settle the matter. The unions also have the right to withdraw their labour in order to make sure that there is a settlement at the end of the day.

In this case, we are unable to see a resolution. That is why we introduced this resolution in order to give the parties a way forward so that they conclude their collective agreement at the table.

It is the culmination of a long process. I have worked with the union and I have worked with management for a long period of time. The reality of the situation is Canadians cannot go on without postal services for much longer. The government has no alternative but to introduce back to work legislation and that is what we have done today.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is incredible that the Conservative Minister of Labour three times in her speech called it a strike. I remind the Minister of Labour and the Prime Minister that this is a lockout. The workers did not go on strike.

The Minister of Labour, who I have great respect for, should understand the difference between a lockout and a strike. The mail was being delivered. The company told the workers that they were no longer required.

How can the Minister of Labour stand in this House and on three separate occasions call this a strike when she knows that it was Canada Post that locked out the employees?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that he is correct. It is a lockout which was precipitated by a series of rolling strikes.

I might offer this piece of advice to the opposition. In the case of the government, it does not matter how the work stoppage happens. What matters is we act for all Canadians and we make--

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
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8:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. Questions and comments. The hon. member for Bourassa.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
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8:40 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have really reached a low point if the Minister of Labour said today that it does not really matter how things will turn out. Our government is siding with the employers.

I have been on the government side in the past, and when there was a two-week general strike, we differentiated between a lockout and a general strike. We certainly had a bill to ensure that the arbitrator could be respectful to both parties in arriving at a negotiated solution.

We have a minister who has just completely denied collective rights and workers' rights.

Is the minister prepared to make amendments to ensure that we do not begin a marathon session? There is a lack of respect for two groups today. There is a lack of respect for workers, and for Quebeckers and French Canadians, because the NDP wants to start a marathon session when we should rather be celebrating, since we have agreed in this House that Quebec is a nation.

What does she have to say about that?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important to remind the hon. member that there are in fact 45,000 members of the union and in reality there are 33 million Canadians.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, while I was making my speech before the vote, I had a message from one of my constituents which I would like to read.

It says: "Great job on your speech...We were watching it live. My business is affected by this. I hope the situation is resolved soon!"

What message should I give to those constituents?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the message to give to Canadians in general in businesses and charities is that we are here to ensure the return of postal services and we are here to ensure the continuation of postal services.

Indeed, we will sit here as long as we need to sit here to ensure that postal services continue.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:45 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, while the minister was speaking, I received a message from one of my constituents, who said that his pension fund was in jeopardy. He was asking the Minister of Labour to protect workers.

He also asked why the Conservative government and the Prime Minister hate the working men and women so much. Why does the bill hurt only the workers and not Canada Post?

That is what Canadian workers are saying.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I guess none of us should be surprised that unions have a hotline to the NDP.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
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8:45 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the comments made by the minister in her speech, prior to the heavy-handed lockout that Canada Post came forward with, she said it was prompted by the rotating strikes as if they were an illegal tactic. They are absolutely legitimate. Does the minister disagree that they are a legitimate tactic?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated clearly, we do not blame one party or the other. The blame is that the two parties at the table were unable to reach a deal after being in the collective bargaining process for eight months.

Quite simply, Canadians want to know what the government is going to do. The government is going to make sure that the service starts again, that they are back to work, and people can resume their lives.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, the legislation calls for wage increases of 1.75% this year, 1.5% next year and 2% in each of the subsequent two years. I wonder if the Minister of Labour could tell the House why these particular numbers were chosen and whether or not they are based on what the government has negotiated with the federal public service.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member, colleague and neighbour for the question. Indeed, the increases in wages for postal workers are wages that have been negotiated in another free collective bargaining process with PSAC, the largest public sector union in the federal government, and they are fair.

As I have said many times, these are amounts that every Canadian would love to have as a guaranteed wage increase for the next few years.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:45 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I also received today an email from one of my constituents who is a letter carrier.

Here is what he said:

Mr. [MP's name], thank you for defending postal workers. Many people do not know what we are fighting for. We are not for fighting for wages, but for safe working conditions. Please ask the Conservatives what they intend to do about all the workplace accidents that will occur once we go back to work and our working conditions have still not been addressed.

I would like to know what the Minister of Labour intends to do about worker safety.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the top priority of this government is the health and safety of all Canadians. We take that very seriously. That is why in the legislation we have included this in the guiding principles for the arbitrator to ensure that the principles of the health and safety of the workers on the job are looked at.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:50 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, in light of the polarized ideological barbs that have gone back and forth between the government and the official opposition in the last few minutes, I wonder if the minister could tell us what in fact has been accomplished by that type of exchange. The postal system is still dysfunctional, the workers are still out of work, the small businesses across this country that depend on Canada Post are still without service. Why can the minister not adopt a more constructive approach?

Will the minister entertain specific constructive amendments to her legislation to try to improve that legislation and actually get this problem solved rather than have ideological polarization on the floor of the House of Commons? What good does that do?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member because obviously what he is indicating is that the Liberal Party will gladly support the bill and we can count on its full support for quick passage of the bill.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

8:50 p.m.

Toronto—Danforth
Ontario

NDP

Jack Layton Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that we start this debate on a bit of a sad note. We have just heard the Minister of Labour say, in thinking about the situation before us, that there are 45,000 postal workers, though I believe there are more than that but I will use the number she used, and there are 33 million Canadians. In other words, she is dividing the people who provide the mail to us from the rest of Canadians.

First, I find it sad that the Minister of Labour would see the world that way and, second, that we would be approaching this issue on such a divisive basis. I have said in the past, and I was hoping things might have been different, that it is a government that preys on the concept of dividing Canadians, one from the other. Unfortunately, we are starting off in that frame of mind.

I do not intend to use that approach. In fact, when I think about postal workers, the first image that comes to my mind is the postal delivery fellow who comes to my home. His name is Gary and he provides mail service to my house. At my house people are normally home during the day, so it is my 85-year-old stepmother who receives the mail. Like a lot of senior citizens and Canadians, a relationship develops between the person who delivers the mail and families. It becomes quite a personal thing.

When families celebrate the important seasons and everyone wishes each other well, it is one of those cases where the services that government provides comes right up against the public in a particularly intimate and important way. I think we all want to start this debate by realizing that we need to appreciate the work of those who work in the public service.

Second of all, I want to say that we are here to achieve a positive outcome. We are going to propose amendments to this legislation. I want to tell thePrime Minister and the Minister of Labour that my team and I will be available, no matter what time it is, to discuss the possibility of finding a solution to this situation.

We in the NDP do not support the legislation that has been presented and we will explain why. We are here to propose changes, amendments and propositions that could improve the legislation. We are prepared to work with the government to find language that might actually get us out of the predicament that we find ourselves in today.

I simply want to say that we are available, it does not matter what time of day or night, to work with representatives of the government to try to accomplish that goal in the interests not only of 33 million Canadians, but also the people who work so hard to make sure we get mail service in this country.

Ensuring good labour relations in this country depends on the good faith of everyone, and unfortunately, the Conservative government has decided to act in bad faith. Postal workers in Canada's urban centres have been in talks with Canada Post since last October. Their contract expired just five months ago, on January 31. Now, this government, as the owner of this crown corporation that took in revenues of $2.81 million last year, is imposing wage reductions, especially on all new employees. The government is ordering an 18% reduction in the basic wage rate, as well as a reduction in vacation time, in addition to forcing new employees to work an additional five years before they are eligible to receive full pension benefits.

Even so, these workers have bargained in good faith. Throughout all of the bargaining, they made sure that Canadians got their mail and that all social services cheques were delivered on time. That is very important for Canadians to understand.

I think about these folks who work so hard for us. The image I have in my mind right now is visiting the large postal sorting stations. These postal sorting stations are huge operations. I visit them at least once every year to touch base, because it is a huge employer right on the border of my riding. Thousands of people are working there to sort the mail, and it is actually a surprisingly intimate process, despite all the machines.

I am thinking of some of the people who sit in their chairs and have all of these sorting boxes into which to put the mail that we write. Some of it cannot be sorted by a machine and has to be looked at by an individual.

There they are, and looking over their shoulders and talking to them, I have seen mail from all over the world. There are personal stories and messages from one Canadian to another, or from someone beyond our borders who is not a Canadian but is communicating with a Canadian. Chances are it is family related, or maybe it is business related, but there is an intimacy there. The respect with which those workers ply their trade is quite remarkable.

A lot of them, I noticed, wear various forms of braces on their hands and their arms because of the repetitive motions that they do. These motions produce a strain on their bodies to the point moving is painful and difficult. However, there they are, working nonetheless to try to provide a service and also because they have to provide for their families.

Another thing I noticed about that group of workers, at least in the plant near my riding, is the diversity. I do not think a more diverse group of Canadians could be found anywhere. They come from absolutely every background. Maybe that is why there is a certain appreciation of the importance of the mail. In a way it is a part of the democratic communication process that brought them to Canada in the first place, the notion that people can communicate freely, that they can speak their mind and that there is a public postal service to make sure people can communicate with each other.

Many of them will mention the charter of rights and so on that we have here in Canada, and how proud they are to be Canadians and to be working on behalf of Canadians. That is why I found it very distressing to see them being partitioned off as though they were somehow not part of the 33 million Canadians. They are as much a part of the 33 million Canadians as anybody else.

I am very proud of Canada Post and its management and the decisions that have been made there over the years. I have had my opposition, as many of us have had, to some of their decisions. I will speak about that later.

One decision was to turn over of many of the postal operations in the small businesses in my community to Shoppers Drug Mart. I have nothing against Shoppers Drug Mart, but it does not need to be delivering the post. Lots of small mom-and-pop variety stores have had to close because of a decision by Canada Post to give the contracts to the highest bidder. That has been very hurtful.

Nonetheless, I have been very proud of Canada Post as an institution in this country. I think of Purolator, for example. Most Canadians do not even know that it is owned by Canada Post and by the Canadian people. It does a fine job of delivering on our behalf in a very competitive environment and has taken leadership in environmental areas. Purolator has a hydrogen-powered van that operates out of a garage in my riding, and that hydrogen is created by the wind turbine that you see when you come into Toronto along the waterfront at the CNE. That is where the hydrogen comes from. That is a publicly owned postal delivery vehicle that is powered by the wind. I think that is fabulous.

Another reason I am personally fond of Canada Post is that it took a decision--and I appreciate the Prime Minister's support for it along the way--to issue a stamp in honour of the 100th anniversary of services to the blind in this country by the CNIB and by the Montreal Association for the Blind, which was founded by my blind great-grandfather, Philip E. Layton.

As it happens, Canada Post took the decision to put his image on the envelope. When we buy a group of those stamps, his image is there, and I take a lot of pride in that. All of those who have been working with and involved with the blind over the years appreciate that gesture. We could cite many stamps that have been issued and many gestures that Canada Post has made because it is part of the community. It is part of who we are, as Canadians, in many different ways.

I do not want what I have to say today about the legislation to take away from all of those positive things that we have to say, nor from the public services that we rely on, because we do rely on these public services, each and every one of us.

However, I have to speak against the bill. I must briefly explain why, or maybe not so briefly, as a matter of fact, if you don't mind, Mr. Speaker.

Effective labour relations in this country rely on good faith. We have not seen that in the actions of the government here. I too, like the member for Acadie—Bathurst, was quite shocked to hear the labour minister describe the situation facing us as a strike. That simply is not true. It was the most brazen example of propaganda designed to try to turn people against these workers that I have seen, and to see it right here in the House of Commons is shocking.

What we are facing right now is a lockout. If we did not have the lockout, we would not have this debate, we would not have this legislation and people would be receiving their mail.

The workers who provide that service are ready to go to work now, but they are faced with a problem. When they show up for work, there is a lock on the door. They cannot work. They cannot go into that sorting plant. They cannot go into the Post Office. They cannot collect the bag of mail and deliver it to people like my mother-in-law and lots of other people who are waiting for their mail.

There is a simple solution. I have asked the Prime Minister repeatedly over recent days to simply adopt this solution, which I will say again: Prime Minister, take the locks off the door and let us have our postal service back.

It is not a strike. It is a lockout initiated by the management, clearly supported by the government. We say that it is supported by the government because if the government were sincere in suggesting that the strike is causing a problem for the Canadian economy, it would be taking action to ensure that the mail was delivered as quickly as possible. The simplest way to do that is to take the locks off the doors, but that is not the objective, unfortunately, despite what is being said; the objective is to interfere with the process between workers and management in coming to a fair collective agreement. That, unfortunately, I must conclude, is the objective.

The government says it has to legislate the workers back for economic reasons, but if that is the case, why did it shut down the post office in the first place?

I would again ask the government to order Canada Post to take the locks off the doors. It is an agency of the government. Let us remember that. The actions it has taken have compromised the Canadian economy; let us remember that too.

It could be done now. A simple phone call would get that process sorted out within hours. I have no doubt that would happen if the Prime Minister were to call the CEO.

However, by siding with the employer and by pitting the workers against the Canadian people in a blatant attempt to try to divide and conquer, as we have seen the government do before, the government has essentially killed the incentive to bargain.

Let us put ourselves in the position of the CEO of the company. He would have a big grin on his face after seeing this legislation, which essentially tells him he does not have to do anything anymore. He does not have to compromise and he does not even have to talk to his workers, because the government is simply going to ram legislation through.

Can we guess what the icing on the cake will be? The government is going to give the workers less in wages than he, as CEO, was prepared to give them.

Mr. Speaker, do we know why else he would be smiling? It is because the CEO, who I am told is the best paid of the CEOs of the organizations we have in the Canadian government system, is allowed a 33% bonus on top of his salary. If a CEO's bonus is based on the profitability of the enterprise and he has just been told that a reduction of the wages of the workers has been legislated through the Parliament of Canada, can we guess what happens? It is higher profits and a bigger bonus. We know who is smiling now.

This is what leaves us with the sense that the government has essentially taken sides here, and we think in a most inappropriate way.

Let us look at the impact on the average full-time postal worker's family during the four years of the agreement.

It turns out that $857.50 would taken out of the pockets of the postal worker's family. We can understand why people would be upset about this, particularly when the CEO is going to get a bigger bonus by virtue of that very reduction.

If a government is prepared to do that to the postal workers, we have to ask ourselves who it is prepared to do that to next. Who is next?

This is why 33 million Canadians ought to be taking a very close look at this legislation and asking themselves if they are next. Will they be hit next? Will there be user charges to deal with the huge record deficit the government built up?

Mr. Speaker, we are getting commentary from the commentariat over here on the other side. One is tempted to respond by suggesting that the massive corporate tax cuts the Conservatives implemented left them with this deficit. If the government had followed our advice, it would not have this deficit.

A lot of Canadians are going to be wondering what will happen if their employer offers them a certain wage and there is a discussion and negotiation about wages. If the Prime Minister is willing to say to postal workers that the offer they were being given by their management was too high, so he brought in a law to reduce their wages, would that happen to them also?

I do not think there would be any reason to think it would not happen. In fact, I think there is every reason to be fearful that the government might well do it, and that anyone could be next. Who would that be?

The government will protest and say that it would never do that to anybody else, but there is a question of trust here that is going to be challenged by the legislation we see in front of us. The government is willing to do that to 55,000 Canadians, the very people who deliver the mail, usually with smiles on their faces no matter what the weather, and people will ask themselves if they could be next.

There is also the question of pensions.

Yes, many do not have a pension plan, so we need to strengthen the Canada pension plan to help all these people.

However, anyone who does have a pension plan for when they retire is looking at a government that is willing to impose restrictions on them. It is telling them they can't retire with the full pension they thought they had, the pension they told their families would be available for retirement and on which all family plans were dependent, the plan that kept workers going on some of the worst-weather days when their job involved going door to door or when their arms hurt as they were sorting the mail.

At the end of the day, that worker was probably thinking that he or she could retire with a certain pension and would not live in poverty, that the work would be worth it and would allow them to spend more time with their family, because a lot of this is shift work and workers do not have much time to spend with their families. So workers make promises to their spouses and kids that they will eventually spend more time with them based on their having a pension.

However, this legislation tells those workers they will have to work five years longer than they planned. That is not right. It creates further problems, which I will speak about in just a second. Sure, it would be a big saving for Canada Post, yet we could do all kinds of things if all that we wanted to do was to save money. Let us just cut everyone's salaries down to size, let us not have pensions, let us forget about health care. We could save money in all kinds of ways. Saving money is not, by definition, the best thing to do in all circumstances. It is a question of balancing things, and that has not been done in this legislation.

Canadians should therefore be forgiven for doubting Canada Post's claim that it is going to be in financial trouble if it does not squeeze the workers, the same workers who helped Canada Post make $1.7 billion in profits over the last 15 years. That was done by hard work, because the postal system did not make money years ago, as that was not how it was set up, but it has been structured that way for a number of years. Those workers have helped to create that profit, but now they are being punished for having done it. How do people get motivated when they are faced with that situation?

Canada Post made $281 million in net profits in 2009 alone, the last year for which we have the full numbers. Let us remember that the government gets a chunk of that money, so I suppose this is one of the ways that it is going to reduce the debt. To reduce its debt, the government is going to extract $857.50 from the average full-time postal worker's family. It will take that money and put it against the national debt. That is not right and it is not fair. The national debt is something that we all have to shoulder together, all 33 million of us, not just the 55,000 workers in the postal system.

The company does not need a bullying big brother to support its demands against workers who just want to support their families. This is really reprehensible legislation because of the way it tries to push people around, and it is not done in good faith.

Let us talk about the contract the government wants to impose. The contract divides workers into two categories: new versus old, young workers versus more senior workers. By asking new workers to accept lower wages, less secure retirement benefits and less vacation time, the government is turning them into second-class workers. I admire the workers for rising up against this injustice, even though it is not necessarily their rights and benefits that are in jeopardy, but those of future employees. The workers have stood up to protect the next generation, upholding the tradition of the labour movement. That is also a tradition of the NDP, one we are proud of.

It is linked to a broader value that we hold, a fundamental Canadian value, that no one should be left behind. That means that we do not create two classes of workers in a place like Canada Post.

The government actually wants to impose a contract that takes that very value and turns it on its head. It says that some should be left behind and says who they are going to be, essentially structuring it to give one generation of workers an inferior arrangement. This invites resentment in the workplace, which is only human. Over time the younger workers are going to resent the older workers and the better deal they have. How can that be positive for the morale of a workplace or the efficiency or quality of life of the workers?

It is really quite a negative a thing. It is dividing people once again. It weakens the bonds that can exist in a workplace between people working together. It pits worker against worker, and worse, in this context, a generation against another generation. I think that is a very dangerous situation.

It weakens their collective voice because to the extent they are not working and feeling like they are part of the same team but are feeling that there is a conflict within, their collective voice is not going to be as strong or as effective as it could be. Maybe that is what the government wants. Maybe that is what is really going on here, amongst other things, to try to weaken the voice of working people at their workplace. Certainly, if we look at this legislation in its many dimensions or the actions of the government in recent days on both of the strikes we have been dealing with here, people would have to come to the conclusion that this could be part of the strategy

From the perspective of some employers and governments, maybe this is somehow seen to be a good thing, to divide and conquer in a race to the bottom, except for those at the top who do better and better. In fact, the statistics in our country should be alarming for all members of Parliament, because the inequalities that are growing in our society are the kinds of inequalities that ultimately lead to a reduction in quality of life, a reduction in the sense of well-being. There are lots of measures of this.

The societies that have a greater level of equality, where the distance between the top and the bottom is not as great as other societies, have all kinds of advantages when it comes to the well-being of their citizens, everything from lifespan to measurements of disease and happiness, and the list goes on and on.

There has been a lot of work done on this. In fact, I know that a lot of parliamentarians of all political stripes are starting to pay attention to the work that is being done on the growing inequality and how that needs to be challenged.

Unfortunately, the policies of the government, piece by piece, have actually helped the inequality to grow. So there are cases where, for example, if someone is not a taxpayer with a decent income, some of the tax credit approaches offered by the government are not available to them.

Many of the tax reduction strategies have ended up benefiting those at the top, to a greater extent. Or, some of the measures that have been offered up are really only workable for people who have extra money at the end of the month or end of the year, when there are a lot of folks who do not have that.

The result is that we are going to see a step-by-step growth of the distance between those at the top and those at the bottom. What are we looking at here but a piece of legislation that actually makes that the case within this group of 55,000 employees, creating a distance within the workforce and, of course, the distance I spoke about earlier between the CEO with that whole bonus system and the workers. There are probably other upper echelon managers who get some kind of a bonus as well.

So the inequalities within that workplace are going to increase. That is a reflection of a pathology that is afoot in our society right now. This legislation runs counter to the sorts of initiatives we should be following to deal with that pathology.

It also undermines the workers' voice. Now some people perhaps think that is a good idea. I was doing an interview earlier today with Mr. O'Leary of The Lang and O'Leary Exchange. I had challenged him in an earlier interview, taking issue with that quote of his that “greed is good“. I took him on and said that I did not think that greed should be considered a good thing. I just needed to go on the record saying that on the public broadcaster.

I had the opportunity to be interviewed by him on this very topic this afternoon. He asked me, “Wouldn't we be better off if we just simply didn't have unions at all, Jack?” He used my first name. I hope I can use it in that context. In responding to him, I pointed out that he had just saluted the very successful economy of Australia, which has a labour government and a strong union movement.

The fact is that the union movement in our country has given us and working people wherever unions are allowed to form a dramatically improved standard of living. We could go through the list of the things that have been accomplished by trade unionists over the years. Most of them were negotiated, perhaps in labour contracts to begin with, but became sufficiently popular with all Canadians that they became the law of the land.

One could start with child labour. Had we not had the union movement, we would have child labour. If we have any doubts about that, we should go to the places where there is child labour and find out how easy it is to organize a union there.

We could also take a look at things such as weekends off. We would not have weekends off if it were not for trade unionists organizing for the right of working families to have a little time together once every seven days.

We would not have health and safety committees in our workplaces, which sit down and talk about how to make working conditions safer and better for workers, without unions. However, we still have three workers a day dying on the job in Canada. We have an awful lot more work to do in these areas. We passed the Westray bill. That never would have happened, had it not been for the union movement. Here I refer to the steelworkers and all of those who supported that strong legislation we now have, which is being brought to bear in appropriate circumstances. I know there are corporations, large and small, that have changed their practices as a result of that bill.

I had the privilege of sitting on the board of directors of the fourth largest energy utility in the country, Toronto Hydro, and we did not. When I joined that organization, we did not have anywhere near adequate workers' health and safety. We had the worst record of any public utility in North American. This bill came in. We were all briefed on it as board members. I do not mind saying I had been pushing for change there, but it was that bill that ultimately said to the managers and directors of the board that they could be criminally liable if they knew that a situation was dangerous and did not do something about it. That snapped everyone to attention darn quickly.

I want to salute Toronto Hydro, because within six quarters it went from having the worst quarterly record of injuries and those sorts of situations on the job to having zero injuries a quarter, and it was because of that legislation.

I am really trying to make the point that the unions we are talking about here perform an extremely important service in our society. People are frustrated when something they were counting on is not available. When people's mail is not delivered, it is tough and it is very tough for small businesses.

I had a small business once and I would pay my contractors, but if the cheque had not arrived from the person I had the contract with, it was tough. Some small businesses right now are struggling because of that situation. Other business owners rely on the mail as fundamental to their business.

We all know about those kinds of businesses. That is why, if we were serious about these businesses, we would take the locks off the operation and let the workers get back to work.

I would like the government to understand how important it is to build bridges between generations and between different groups of workers. I would like the government to agree to work with us to defend the rights of workers and to secure a better agreement for their families. That is why we are proposing to work with the Prime Minister and his team to come up with acceptable amendments to this bill in order to improve the situation.

Let us be clear: this bill violates the rights of workers to negotiate a collective agreement in good faith. It also weakens the collective bargaining rights of all 33 million Canadians; their right to work together with their co-workers to secure better conditions, a right entrenched in section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These are the facts. This legislation sends a message to employers across the country that the government is prepared to side with employers against employees every time it has an opportunity to do so.

Why should employers bargain in good faith if they can count on the government to step in and impose what they cannot get at the bargaining table? Where is this going to end? Once we allow this sort of thing to get started, who knows where it could go?

That is why we propose that the laws be changed and why we cannot support the legislation. It encourages employers everywhere to go out and test the waters. Look what they got at Canada Post. Maybe we can manoeuvre into a similar position. Who do we have to call in the government to get it on side? Who do we check in with? I guess we will start with some of those consulting companies that seem to be populated by former members of the party. Maybe we will get some advice there, but that is a topic for another day.

By sending a message that back to work legislation could be the new norm for labour negotiations in our country, the whole notion of good-faith negotiations really goes out the window, and it is a slippery slope that the government wants to force Canadians to go down. I simply ask the government if this is really where it wants to go because it will be very dangerous.

It is important for us to understand that the benefits provided by collective agreements go beyond a mere contract. The added benefits negotiated by workers over the years have helped to raise the standards for all Canadians. Unionized workers fought for rights that we now take for granted: a decent wage to raise a family—the salaries of unionized workers have a positive upward effect on the salaries of non-unionized workers—plus occupational safety and health standards, the 40-hour work week, weekends, protection against harassment, vacations, workplace pension plans, and the list goes on.

Hand in hand with progressive parties like the New Democratic Party, collective bargaining has been one of those engines for progress for working people. I see this as a legacy to build upon, not something to be torn down.

We are celebrating our 50th anniversary as a political movement. At our convention, we reflected on our achievements over those years. It was always with one goal in mind, which was to make life better for working families. That was and is what we are.

At our convention, we reflected on our achievements over those years and we paid a special tribute to our founding national leader, Tommy Douglas, the father of medicare. Public health care was his signature achievement for all Canadians. Public pensions were another achievement, working with Lester Pearson. However, Tommy Douglas accomplished so much more, including rural electrification, universal access to education and income stabilization for farmers.

Tommy also knew that securing workers' basic rights was a key to a just and prosperous Saskatchewan and Canada. Therefore, as premier of Saskatchewan, he passed legislation, and we are going back many years, guaranteeing a minimum wage for working people. He passed legislation establishing a 40-hour work week, paid vacations and full collective bargaining rights for all workers.

Tommy gave credit to where credit was due, which was to the ideas that had come from working people. They were bargained into existence by working people. Tommy's job, as he saw it, was to extend those most basic protections to all working people through legislation in his province and in his country.

When we see legislation in this Parliament, we hope for the kind of legislation that would accomplish those kinds of goals. Instead, we are seeing legislation today that goes precisely in the opposite direction, for several reasons that I have touched on already. Other members of our party in our caucus will speak about other dimensions of this in the debate.

Tommy's legacy was extraordinary.

Sixty years ago, Tommy Douglas was instrumental in bringing in Canada's first real labour code.

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9:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

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9:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Are we allowed to sing? I imagine that at times, it might improve the tone of the debate.

The labour code represented a major step forward for workers of the day. We will not sit idly by and watch the Conservatives turn back the clock and strip workers of vested rights they fought so hard to achieve.

I am simply not going to sit and watch the Conservative government follow in the footsteps of the U.S. Republicans and their Tea Party friends.

We have all been watching occurrences in Wisconsin, where the governor yanked collective bargaining rights from 175,000 public employees and nullified their rights to decent conditions, gender equality and fair pensions. The governor is not even hiding that this is an attempt to cut down the number of workers. It is not just in Wisconsin, but Ohio, Indiana and Idaho are all attacking workers, using the excuse of austerity.

Their real goal is to maximize profits by mistreating workers. The Canada Post Corporation Act does exactly the same thing: a profitable company is saying that it cannot afford to pay new hires. This Conservative government is complicit with the employer by proposing this legislation. Simply put, its inspiration is coming from the wrong place.

I will summarize our essential position.

First, we must not be dividing Canadians in this place by talking about 55,000 postal workers and 33 million other Canadians. It is time we started to see each other as all part of the same people who are trying to accomplish the same goals for our families. That is what this is about. Therefore, I am asking that we see less of this divisive politics, particularly in this debate because many Canadians will be following it.

I do not want those who deliver the mail or who sort it on our behalf, each and every day, to feel that they are somehow less than anyone else.

Second, this bill attacks the workers' basic right to negotiate their working conditions. That cannot happen.

Third, this bill will increase disparities in our society. If we begin to see numerous bills such as these in different areas of our economy and society, disparities will increase. This approach is completely unacceptable, not only to the New Democratic Party, but also to the great majority of Canadians.

People must be wondering if they and their families will be the next ones to suffer from the Conservative government's tactics. If the government can do this to Canada Post workers, will it do the same to other workers? Is there a list? Are there several other companies with the same type of contract? Will CEOs be celebrating tonight, tomorrow or this weekend because they can use the same tactic that Canada Post used? That is unacceptable.

To conclude, I want to reiterate once again that we can put an end to this dispute right now. The Prime Minister can ask Canada Post to take the locks off so that these people can return to work. My team and I are once again offering to work and create amendments to the bill so that we can end this debate and so that proper bargaining can take place.

That is all I can say at the moment.

I therefore move:

That Bill C-6 be not now read a second time but be read a second time six months hence.

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9:40 p.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I listened quite intently to the Leader of the Opposition give his speech. There were a number of things, frankly, on which we agree but there were a number of things on which we disagree.

I do have concerns when I hear conversations about different levels of Canadians. Well there are, sadly, Canadians who have not been at the table in these negotiations but, believe me, they are being deeply impacted.

His motion, which would suggest a hoist motion, to move this in six months, unlock the doors of Canada Post, for what? Is it so we can have more rotating strikes? Maybe tomorrow it would be Toronto that shut down. Maybe next week it would be Peterborough or somewhere in Ottawa or elsewhere. This is not a solution.

I have received notes from postal workers asking why they have not had an opportunity to vote. Their union would not let them vote on this contract. There is intimidation within the ranks of CUPW and workers are afraid. Does the member know that?

Would he call on CUPW and ask it to allow a vote on the last offer by Canada Post, or is he simply going to allow this kind of tyranny from the top union leaders?

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9:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, if that offer was so terrific one would think it would have at least been replicated in the legislation.

I appreciate the comments and observations from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister but he suggests that if we unlock the doors that this would take us back to the rotating strikes. We need to be crystal clear here. The representatives of the workers involved have said that if those locks are taken off they will go back to work and deliver the mail.

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9:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it was back in 1988 when I last heard of a six-month hoist motion. In fact, that was also on a labour bill. At the time, inside the Manitoba legislature, it was the New Democrats in opposition. When I get the opportunity to speak to this particular motion, I hope to fill in what actually transpired. There were some highlights and some lowlights.

I am very sympathetic to many of the arguments. The Liberal Party believes in the efforts and work that the Canada Post workers have put in and the services they provide for Canadians. We do not question that. The issue is the lockout.

Does the Leader of the Opposition believe that, if the lockout were never put in place, we would have had an agreement or the mail would have continued to be delivered to address the concerns in terms of the public interest?

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9:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes I do.

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9:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I can say that in my 14 years here, the hon. member's speech has been one of the finest speeches ever in the House of Commons.

My father was a letter carrier in south Marpole for many years in Vancouver, British Columbia. The proudest moment as an immigrant to this country was when he got a job with Canada Post, which meant that he had medical benefits, dental benefits, and not just for him and his wife, but for the nine children that he had. It was the proudest moment of his day when he was on SW Marine Drive and put that postal cap on.

Does the hon. Leader of the Opposition believe that the government's real agenda is the privatization of Canada Post?

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9:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore for his comments just now and the story about his father. It is a touching story and underlines so many points. He summarized in 30 seconds what it took me half an hour to try to explain, and I appreciate it.

The question really addresses a fear that many have, which is that the government would degrade public services to the point where people's complaints about them begin to increase and, therefore, there are calls for privatization. We have seen this occur before and that, naturally, is a concern. I did not elaborate on it here but it naturally is a concern for a great many of us.

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9:50 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the official opposition leader's speech, and I am wondering if he did not overlook a certain aspect of the situation. I was here in 1997 when back-to-work legislation was passed. In that bill, the legislator included provisions that required the mediator or arbitrator to take the importance of good labour-management relations into account.

However, the bill that we are debating today does not include any such provisions. There is therefore a danger that, once the regulations are imposed, the work atmosphere will not be conducive to good working relations and this will have a negative impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of the overall postal system. The arbitrator responsible for the final offer is not the person who has to live with the consequences of his decision. Can the leader of the opposition tell us whether he also hopes that such provisions are included in the bill?

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9:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's comments clearly reflect his experience. He is right and we share the same concerns about this bill. That is why we proposed discussing amendments to try to address the shortfalls of the current bill.

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9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the opposition said in his speech that he is opposed to this bill, but he also said that he wants to propose amendments to improve it.

The Leader of the Opposition mentioned several times in his speech that he is willing to improve the legislation. What exactly are the amendments that he proposes to bring forward?

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9:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of amendments touching on a number of areas that we are preparing to submit. However, it would be particularly valuable if the government would indicate a willingness to talk about amendments, because it might be possible to agree on a package of proposals that could meet our various objectives, which is why I am reluctant to run through a long list.

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9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Eve Adams Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Don't be shy.

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9:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

I am being called upon to be less shy, Mr. Speaker. That is the first time that has ever happened.

In my remarks, I touched on quite a number of the areas that concern us, such as impacts on pensions, the way in which a two-tier structure is set up, lower salaries and the tone and structure that is being established for any arbitration. In fact, I would have to say that the structure that has been recommended, where there would be a process of mediation to be then followed by final offer selection, is completely and utterly unworkable.

No mediator or arbitrator would be able to work in that sort of situation. It would be like, as one member said, playing poker, spending time showing our cards to the very person who we will ultimately have play against and then moving to the actual game of poker later. That is not how negotiations work.

Those are some of the areas where we would have concerns.

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9:50 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise to speak to the bill. Fully recognizing and appreciating the greater sense of decorum here in the 41st Parliament and the greater degree of collegiality, I would ask the House if I might split my time with the member for Ottawa—Vanier.

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9:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Is there consent?

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9:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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9:50 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, there are a great number of aspects of the bill that cause concern, and some have been raised by the previous speaker. I would like to put a bit more meat on the bones and be somewhat more specific. There are two things about the approach that the government has taken on this legislation.