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

Topics

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 4:50 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I thank and congratulate my hon. colleague for his incredible work on behalf of his constituents and the Canadian people.

I also thank him for raising the issue of the impact of this legislation on the younger members of the workforce at the beginning of his speech.

The Conservative government vows to fix the Canadian economy, but this back to work legislation will have the opposite effect.

Could my hon. colleague explain for the members of the government the disastrous effects the working conditions and lower wages that the Conservatives want to impose will have on the youngest members of the workforce and ultimately because of that, on our economy?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 4:50 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have already talked about the wage part of the issue for young people, but let me briefly say something about retirement security. We know the retirement security will be the biggest issue facing the country as we move forward over the next 20, 30, 40 years. To erode people's pensions as soon as they start working when they are 20 does not make any sense at all.

We should all be working in this place to enhance retirement security, not only for those who are approaching retirement age or those who are already in retirement, but also for those who are in their twenties and their thirties who probably have not thought much about retirement security. We need to ensure they are ready to retire.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 4:55 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I enjoy standing up as I have been in the House uninterrupted without sleep for 31 hours. I mention this not with any sense of bravado, but merely to apologize in advance if anything I say is somewhat less than coherent.

It would also be better if I were not to speak in French, given that I am very tired.

I will speak to the motion in a couple of ways. I find the challenge of being original, after 31 hours of debate, is my main obstacle. We have heard a lot of very fine words on all sides of the House, but it has become, and I hope I do not offend anyone, a little repetitious. Therefore, I thought I would take a different tack.

We do want to stay on the subject, and the subject of the motion is a hoist amendment. It is useful to go back and reflect on the fact that hoist amendments used to be used by the government, not by opposition. They were used most commonly around 1867. That is why most of us had not heard of them before, but we have learned more about hoist amendments.

However, what it comes down to is the fact that to accept a hoist amendment in these circumstances is basically to reject Bill C-6. Why would we want to reject Bill C-6? Those reasons have been well canvassed.

I want to state the position of the Green Party on this as clearly as I can.

We sympathize with all those people who are disadvantaged by the current lockout, work stoppage, however one wants to put it. Small businesses are disadvantaged, some in my own riding. Others disadvantaged are: small operators of all kinds; individual Canadians waiting for their cheques, whether they are seniors, or single parents waiting for child support cheques; the workers are disadvantaged, people who cannot go to work when they want to, who are not receiving their paycheques.

I would like to take it as a given that every member of the House would rather have the members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers do their work with a management structure of Canada Post that allows them to do that work efficiently, effectively, with proper supports for their training. A lot of the issues that have come up have to do with new equipment purchased by Canada Post. I hear from Canada Post workers in my riding that it did not provide adequate time or adequate training. There are some structural issues here that are real.

For CUPW, it has not really been primarily about the salaries. We have also heard that. That was not the big sticking point in the negotiations. What then was? Issues of fairness, issues of pensions, issues of this training equipment.

How are we to resolve this? This is where I would like to try to be original. What are our duties as members of Parliament? To whom do we bear allegiance?

It was not long ago that every one of us in the House swore an oath of allegiance. Members may recall, unless they have individual practices within their own parties of which I am not aware, that none of us put our hands on the Bible to swear allegiance to our political party or the leaders of our political parties. Quite simply, we all swore allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

We did that not because we admire a very admirable woman of enormous sense of duty and responsibility, named Betty Windsor, who lives in England and has a lot of grandchildren and some great-grandchildren. We take the oath to Queen Elizabeth II because she represents to us, as head of state, our country. Our primary duty in this place is to our country. As such, I would beg of each and every one of us to think primarily about what is in our national interest, which is clearly to end the lockout, to get people back to work and to stop blaming each other for how we got in this pickle.

The Government of Canada clearly sympathizes more with Canada Post. That is understood. I think all of us in opposition tend to sympathize more with CUPW. However, the opposition is not CUPW and the governing party is not Canada Post. We cannot continue to be proxies for people who cannot get to the bargaining table on their own. We need to fix this for them and we should not fix it in a blunt way, with a draconian instrument, that would cause long-term damage to something we need to thrive, our national public postal system.

I know I have heard from many members, and I am not pretending for a moment that this idea is original, certainly in the official opposition and from some within the governing party that we should be able to bend a little. We should be able to fix this. We should not conduct an ongoing echo chamber in our House of Commons that leaves Canadians from coast to coast absolutely stupefied as to what we are doing here.

Let us surprise the people of Canada by having the members of the 41st Parliament act differently. Let us actually get together out in the corridors, and maybe people are already doing it. Let us remove those sections of Bill C-6 that are unacceptable at least to this side of the House. Let us find a way that gets the postal workers back to work as soon as possible, which satisfies all the needs of the people that we have heard so much about, the people who need their glasses, the delivery of food to the north, services to small communities. All of those needs and hurts will be mended the minute we take the locks off the door and get people back to work. People who want their mail delivered really do not care whether we keep clause 15 in Bill C-6 or not.

I beg of all of us in the next few hours that we find a way to hoist ourselves out of hoist amendments. In studying this I learned to my horror that we could move a hoist amendment again and continue to debate the bill. We could be here for days. That is in no one's interest.

Let us move to unanimous consent on things that make sense and let us solve this problem. Let us get the postal workers back to work and do it in a way that shows a collective respect for them and their work.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 5 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, the member said she does not like all the repetition. There is no repetition on this side of the House of messages we are getting from businesses and individuals in our ridings. I received one from a constituent in the riding of Blackstrap who owns and works at a local insurance office, a small business, the type of people the NDP members claim they represent.

The constituent wrote, “We look out for all types of people, seniors, farmers, students, families, small business, churches, and we rely on Canada Post to send our clients their insurance policies and other necessary communications. For many younger individuals and urban families we send correspondence by mail. However, for those such as seniors, farmers, etc., these seniors are rural individuals and now are without the documents that would confirm their interests are protected or are without notice of potential risks they should be aware of. I would be interested to see how many vulnerable individuals would the federal opposition like to put in the position of having their valuables and investments destroyed with no protection so they can champion postal workers having extensive pay increases and receiving lavish but economically burdened pensions.”

That is from one of my concerned constituents in Blackstrap.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 5 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for sharing that point of view. If the hon. member can consider that everything I said spoke to that concern, that individual with that difficulty would not be in any difficulty at all if the government benches were prepared to compromise just a bit and tweak Bill C-6 so we can get people back to work faster. That is all I am asking. I am just asking the member to consider that when she reads out valid and important concerns on all sides of the House.

I have received similar emails. I read one yesterday in the House from a local newspaper that cannot get its papers delivered. How on earth does it advance the interest of those mentioned in the email the hon. member read out loud to keep the lockout going by failure to compromise?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 5:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think the Prime Minister must have Deepak Chopra's phone number because he only just hired him in January of 2011. In fact they scoured the countryside to find a corporate hitman to come in and stir up problems at Canada Post and upset the delicate and fragile balance of industrial relations in a fairly volatile workplace. We know the Prime Minister is now in Thetford Mines revelling in a pile of chrysotile, even though the global community has condemned Canada for--

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order. I would like to remind all hon. members that it is not appropriate to comment on whether members are or are not in the House during proceedings.

Would the hon. member quickly move to his question.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 5:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague's views on whether or not the Prime Minister knows the phone number of Deepak Chopra, because he hand-picked him and parachuted him into that position in January 2011. Could he not pick up the phone again and tell Deepak Chopra to lift the lockout, let the workers go back to work and the mail will flow?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 5:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre has me at a disadvantage. I am not in a position to speak to what is in the Prime Minister's rolodex.

I do agree with the hon. member and I applaud his quite valiant work over more than a decade on the asbestos issue. However, on this issue, to solve the lockout we need to be perhaps less skilled in our rhetoric and more skilled in the communication skills that Deepak Chopra is famous for, harmony and co-operation. The rhetorical flourish is fine, but to solve this, I think we should all tone it down.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my colleague, a former fellow Cape Bretoner on entering these chambers and being the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

I have been receiving emails from people in my riding in Cape Breton also. The last one I got is from Mr. Richard Andrews. He is asking me to do everything I can to get the mail moving. In Cape Breton we see all the postal workers being locked out with no income and their family members have no medical plan.

There is a lot more co-operation here and I see the NDP made some space so the member could make her statement. I see more co-operation. It seems that it comes down to half a per cent when we look at the difference between the Canada Post offer and what the Conservative government has offered.

If an amendment were put forward regarding that half a per cent, the minister might take a look at it, and we could have the mail moving and people back at work.

The hon. member used to work for a minister here and knows the system. Does she think an amendment is possible which would somehow get the mail moving again?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 5:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, yes. I believe the first step would be for the official opposition to have private conversations with the Minister of Labour. Those conversations should be shared with the House in the hopes of achieving unanimous consent so the workers can get back to work this weekend.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 5:05 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by wishing the people of Roxboro, Île-Bizard, Pierrefonds and Dollard-des-Ormeaux a happy national holiday. I would very much like to be with them this evening to celebrate Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day at Île-Bizard, as I did so often when I was a teenager, but it will not be possible this year.

Many of my colleagues today expressed their regrets about not being able to be in their ridings, to which the MPs on the other side of the House replied several times by saying it was their own decision. Unfortunately, this allegation is very different from reality, which is not surprising. Indeed, since the beginning of this debate, we have heard a great many unfair accusations and phony arguments from the Conservatives.

For example, they have used the economic crisis to justify the need to act quickly, when it was the government itself that imposed the lockout. The Hon. Minister of Laboursaid on June 15 that she had not received many complaints about the rotating strikes. Another example was from my colleague on the right telling us that they were worried about the viability of Canada Post. And yet, he knows full well that Canada Post earned $281 million in revenue last year. This money goes into the coffers or is invested to modernize the corporation’s infrastructure and equipment, and it all created employment here. We could also point to the fact that we receive excellent service from Canada Post and that our stamps are among the least expensive in the world.

In another phony argument, the legitimacy of the union’s decisions are being attacked. We heard this a lot today. Who is surprised that the Conservatives are taking advantage of this situation to launch a smear campaign in an effort to demonize any workers who organize?

And yet, as the MP for Hochelaga explained earlier today, the union consulted its members about the mandate they wanted to give it. The members voted and the union obtained 94% support going into the negotiations. And yet it would appear that my colleagues on the other side of the House, who boast of receiving support from 40% of the population, are claiming that they have a clear and strong mandate. The union received 94% support to conduct these negotiations.

The Conservatives are also hiding behind reports from worried citizens. They read many such comments to us, and it is touching, but they never say anything about those who support Canada Post employees. Some people might be surprised to hear it, but there are indeed people who support the striking employees, and take them coffee and food. There are also worried workers awaiting the outcome of this dispute, and wondering how the government will react when the time comes for them to negotiate their own working conditions.

I am nevertheless sensitive to the fact that a number of people are suffering because of the work stoppage at Canada Post. I am trying to be very clear. Although we are standing up today for the workers, those at Canada Post and all others who fear for their future working conditions, we are just as mindful of public concern about the lockout at Canada Post, among business owners, people waiting for their cheques and everyone else. We are well aware of that.

That brings me to another false line of debate all too often raised by the Conservatives. They accuse us of prolonging the closure of Canada Post and of not working with the government in the interests of citizens. That is a red herring. Let us get something clear here: the NDP wants postal services to resume just as much as the Conservatives do. No one is in favour of stopping postal services—no one. What we are denouncing today and what is intolerable to us is the way in which the Conservatives want to resolve this dispute.

We are opposed to this bill on the resumption and continuation of postal services. We are not opposed to the resumption of postal services, but rather to the working conditions that this bill imposes on workers, to this government's way of rejecting the workers' right to negotiate.

To sum up, the members opposite have said this is a situation that no one wanted. That's true; we agree. So let us stop the false debates, let us stop the lockout and let us resume the negotiations now.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 5:10 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 quite a bit of inconsistency in the NDP's argument. On one side they say the government should play no role and that we should allow the two sides to bargain. On the other side they accuse the government of somehow being involved in the lockout. Therefore, on one side we are not supposed to be involved, and then they say we are involved. They are all over the road on it.

One thing seems very clear to me. We are calling this a lockout, and my hon. colleague from Tobique—Mactaquac said some time ago that in fact the workers themselves are locked out by their union. They are locked out from having the opportunity to have their say on the most recent contract offer that was made by Canada Post, and I do not understand why. I have letters from postal workers.

I hear the member for Malpeque shouting, but I want to ask this member a very succinct question. I have a number of letters from postal workers in my riding who are experiencing hardship and who want the opportunity to vote on Canada Post's most recent contract offer.

Would this member join me in calling on CUPW to allow its members to vote on Canada Post's offer? Doing that would make this bill redundant.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 5:15 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member opposite, who has just given us further proof that the Conservatives' arguments are red herrings and lead us into false debate. Thanks once again. I heard my colleague say—and I'm sure the translation was excellent— that the lockout was imposed by the unions. I am sure there is something completely distorted and false in that statement.

Yes, unfortunately, there is a lockout, and it was not at all imposed by either the workers or the unions. The unions had a strong mandate from their members, and we must respect their rights and let them negotiate their collective agreement.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 2011 / 5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the speech by our honourable colleague.

A few minutes ago, I put a question to our colleague from Thunder Bay—Rainy River, who mentioned, for example, that the NDP might perhaps be able to reach an agreement if the government could offer the same wages as Canada Post cited in their last offer.

Can she confirm that that is indeed the NDP's position? I also hope we will have some comments from the government on that offer.