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

Topics

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:05 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all let me thank my colleague from Jonquière—Alma for sharing his professional and life experience with the House.

On another note, a few months ago, Charles Sirois, chair of the board of CIBC, a major chartered bank in Canada that needs no introduction, spoke out against the heavy emphasis on natural resources in our economy. In his view, this is a sign of an economy that is at risk of stagnation.

Canada Post on the other hand is a crown corporation that adds a lot of value to our society, especially to the millions of small businesses that support our economy every day.

I would like to ask my colleague if he can explain why the Conservatives are so determined to reduce the quality of life of all Canadians.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:05 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, what concerns me, as I said in this House the other day, is that this sends a message to private companies and others about pension funds. These days, companies are all talking about pension funds. Everybody wants to eliminate pension funds. Pension funds were not built in a decade. My father fought for them in 1957: he went on strike at Arvida to get a pension fund. In 1976, I went through a lockout and a strike to get a pension, too. I paid out of my pocket and the employer paid out of its pocket. But if the employer had paid its share every year as usual, we would not have been in the hole.

If we start doing that, we will not need to pass laws to make our people work after age 65: they are going to have to work until they die because they will not be able to retire with a decent pension.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:05 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am thinking about that pension plan and looking at the holdings in the Canada Post pension plan. The pensioners, the union members, actually own shares in these companies through their pension plan: Toronto Dominion Bank, $202 million; Royal Bank of Canada, $185 million; Bank of Nova Scotia, $176 million.

The NDP's stated policy is to massively increase taxes on this pension plan through those holdings. What is the hon. member's position on his party's policy of a 30% increase in taxes against this?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:05 p.m.

NDP

Claude Patry Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am not a tax lawyer or an accountant, but I do not believe we will have to raise taxes. We might do better to cut the million-dollar or billion-dollar bonuses given to company executives and distribute them to those people. That might be a solution.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:10 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to point out how totally unacceptable the approach taken by Canada Post is to New Democratic members, but also to a majority of my constituents. Speaking today on behalf of the legitimate battle being fought by Canada Post employees is a very important duty for me, because this will be an historic battle and will remain in our memory for numerous reasons. And I believe the outcome will have a decisive effect on our collective future.

First, it is essential to note that this battle is part of a long fight to preserve public services, which are too often under attack from present-day governments. We do not think that the Conservative members understand the importance to a country of strong public services.

Canada Post is in fact one of the best examples of successful Canadian public services. It is important to the Canadian public to have an excellent postal service that is accessible and affordable. Postal services are essential for all countries. This is particularly true in rural areas. Recently, in my riding, we have received letters from people who are worried about the closing of a post office in a village in the riding. People have good reason to be worried.

The post office is often the last remaining place in villages where federal public services can be accessed. As well, with our low population density and the great distances that must be travelled, how are services like these supposed to be profitable, at a reasonable cost, if a private company operates them? It is impossible. The reason we are able to provide excellent postal services to as far away as Îles de la Madeleine is because Canada Post provides them, as a crown corporation.

The extremely lucrative Quebec City-Windsor corridor means that affordable services can be provided for people in large regions like the Gaspé and Îles de la Madeleine. The role of a government that wants to support its people is precisely to preserve a crown corporation like Canada Post.

A government with vision would use the existing infrastructures, all those many post offices, to deliver more federal services to residents of rural ridings. They would be able to obtain forms and information about passports, income tax, employment insurance, and so on. Post offices could be used as a satellite antenna for all federal services.

But instead of that, instead of this vision for the future, Canada Post's managers want to deregulate and enter into business partnerships. They are privatizing the postal services by stealth.

For example, they refuse to extend post office opening hours, so that they are open for business past 5 o'clock, or over the weekend. Instead, Canada Post favours postal outlets in pharmacies. The employees of these businesses end up doing the same work as Canada Post clerks, but with a salary half that of their Canada Post counterparts, and with no working conditions to protect them.

The union estimates that this subcontracting has led to loss of approximately 6000 wicket clerk jobs with good working conditions, replaced by jobs that are not protected and have no job security. Is a crown corporation that acts this way, and promotes job insecurity, being socially responsible? Do these indirect employees of Canada Post deserve these conditions? Of course they do not.

Canada Post’s attitude, which indirectly favours privatization, is directly threatening services to the public. Private sector businesses will lobby harder and harder to privatize Canada Post's services. If the crown corporation continues to sell off its best assets, the other services may no longer be profitable, and then might disappear or become very costly.

The attitude being displayed by Canada Post management and by the government, which is in bed with the employer on this issue, is extremely obnoxious. Obnoxious, because it is an attack on public services, when in fact Canada Post is a profitable crown corporation. In 2009, Canada Post made $281 million in profits.

Thanks to the conscientious and devoted day-to-day work of its employees, Canada Post has been raking in profits for roughly 15 years. It is, therefore, a profitable government enterprise. How can the government justify diminishing the working conditions of the employees of a profitable government enterprise? There is no rational justification. There are only ideological explanations.

In fact, the current battle being waged by the employees of Canada Post, in addition to being a fight to preserve public services, is part of a backdrop of a very long history of union battles—battles fought to improve people’s working conditions, and by extension the living conditions of families and entire populations.

Canada would not be the country that it is today without the battles waged by workers. People in my region have been a part of this struggle for over 60 years. I would like to single out the epic struggle by the workers of Murdochville, which remains etched in our memories.

The battle Canada Post workers are waging will not only help clerks, mail carriers, and other Canada Post employees. This struggle will be an example for other public servants and for private sector employees. This is a battle to have the rights of workers recognized.

First and foremost, it is about the right to negotiate a collective agreement. Currently, we are faced with a public institution, the government, the caretaker of the law, and yet it does not follow this law. This government does not recognize the right to negotiate and is allowing a public employer to treat its employees in a most unfair manner by denying them the right to strike and to bargain.

How can the Conservative members, in all good conscience, vote for a bill that rides roughshod over fundamental rights recognized by thousands of public servants? I would like an answer to that. Are they not aware that these employees are their fellow citizens, that they to contribute to the public purse, and that they have family responsibilities? Why is this government refusing to share Canada Post’s profits with postal service employees?

Why does it accept that an increasing number of non-unionized subcontractors work in their facilities, including those who do maintenance work in post offices? Another example is the work usually done by mechanics who are qualified union members. That work is increasingly done in garages outside Canada Post facilities. These people should be unionized and covered by health and safety provisions.

In fact, the Conservative government is showing the public that it does not care about employees' working conditions. Conservative members are proposing to force postal employees to go back to work. They do not care about the plight of these men and women who work around the clock to provide this essential service to our community.

Indeed, Canada Post management wants to make the employees take many steps backward. First, it wants to impose clauses that create a double standard adversely affecting new employees, and that is totally unacceptable. It wants to raise the retirement age for these employees and reduce their annual leave. It also wants to lower their basic salary by 18% compared to that of their fellow workers. Why should new employees be treated so unfairly?

The employer is also jeopardizing workers' health and safety. That worries many people and it is highly objectionable. Workers' health is threatened through many restrictions relating to medical coverage.

Many postal employees are women and their working conditions are often not on par with those provided by provincial governments. For example, they are not eligible for preventive withdrawal when they are pregnant. That is the kind of reasonable demands that employees are making. These are not whims. It is only normal that these people would want to protect their salaries and their pensions. Their fight will help other workers, but if they back down, it will adversely affect other workers too.

Workers have the right to negotiate and to go on strike. They did negotiate in good faith for eight months. They delivered the mail to their fellow citizens, including pension cheques. Because they did not want to drastically affect services to the public, they opted for rotating strikes.

It is the employer who took drastic action and imposed a lockout. The employer and the government are taking Canadians hostage by depriving them of essential services. They trample the rights of workers in a profitable crown corporation. Conservative members show no respect for laws or for workers' health and safety. That attitude is shameful for Canada. This is why, as the member representing my constituents, I oppose this measure and I condemn this deplorable situation.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, some of the comments I have heard from this speaker and some of the others really upset me. One of the things he suggested is that we on this side do not understand the importance of a strong public service. Then he ended his speech by saying that we do not even care about their safety and all the other things. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I belonged to one of the strongest unions in the country for almost 25 years. In fact, I was part of their negotiating committee. I was asked to step down for three years and then they invited me back because they needed someone with a little common sense on their negotiating team. I was asked to step down when I questioned the huge salary increases they asked for. I was asked to leave because I asked who would pay for that. That is the question I will be coming to in a minute.

I have been here almost all night listening to the speeches. The rhetoric that is coming from my socialist friends is almost frightening.

I come from the province of Saskatchewan, and it was not until we got rid of the NDP that the province took off and became successful.

Who are the customers of Canada Post that we should be considering? Who are the people who will have to pay the bills? Who is standing up for those customers? Who is defending their needs?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:20 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

I thank the member for the question. It took a while for me to understand it, but I think I have it. Sometimes on the other side it may take a while to express it, but I think I have it now.

Over here it is clear that we are very concerned with the health and safety of workers in this country. For instance, in my riding the government has proposed in its budget to cut search and rescue services for people out at sea. I do not think that the people in my riding will take kindly to paying with their lives for the budget cutbacks that this government has proposed and passed.

If the Conservatives really want a good health and safety record, they can start right here on the Hill and start proposing health and safety for their own employees.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:20 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his intervention.

One of the things we have been trying to get across to the government is that there is an opportunity to actually get a compromise going, if they want to. We have been here for the last couple of days and we have put the offer out to take a look at what is in this legislation that could be changed. In fact, the two parties would be amenable to actually changing the legislation.

I am glad my colleague brought up the health and safety provisions, which have not been promulgated. Those who work on Parliament Hill do not have the same health and safety standards as if they are across the street, on Bank Street. That is a fact, and that should be changed.

I just wanted to know from my friend whether or not he thinks--

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The honourable minister of state is rising on a point of order.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for interrupting.

The member suggested that the NDP has put forward some compromises. I have not seen any such thing, just demands from the NDP. So I am asking him to table those amendments and compromises.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

That is not a point of order; it is more a point of debate.

I will allow the hon. member for Ottawa Centre a few seconds to wrap up his question.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:20 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are trying to find a compromise here. Would that not be what Canadians want? What is reasonable and fair? That is the question that I have to my colleague.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:20 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, certainly the first thing we should be looking at is we should be negotiating collective agreements in this country, not imposing them.

There is a question here that there might be a lack of good faith if the offer that is on the table is actually inferior to what the bosses had proposed in the first place.

The law we are looking to pass here is actually a slap in the face for the workers who have worked for years offering excellent service to the Canadian public, a service that has been profitable. I consider this completely unacceptable.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 2011 / 1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to read a message from a British Columbia resident, somebody who voted for the NDP in the most recent election.

He names the leader of the NDP, and he says that he voted for his party in the last election but that now he regrets it. He says that the NDP promised they would look out for the average Canadian's interest but now they are against back to work legislation for the postal workers who are affecting average Canadians. He stated that incomes and payroll are the single most important thing to every Canadian and the postal lockout does not help at all.

He asks when did the unions became the average Canadian. Because the NDP is the opposition party, he says that does not mean they need to oppose everything that is put forward without even looking into the matter.

He says the NDP has become the crying baby—

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. I will have to stop the member there to allow a few seconds for the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine to respond.