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, 8:25 a.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, the number one issue during the 2011 federal election campaign in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl was pensions. It was the number one issue for seniors. It was the number one issue for working people.

For seniors, their concern was how to get by on a fixed income. Seniors asked me not to forget them when I went to Ottawa. I have not. I will not.

There is a lot of talk in Newfoundland and Labrador these days about fog, and not just the type that creeps in off the North Atlantic and shrouds the outports and cities, but F-O-G, the acronym for food, oil, and gas. The cost of necessities like food, oil, and gas continues to rise as fixed incomes remain just that, fixed.

Seniors struggle with the question of how to pay for the rising cost of living while on fixed incomes like pensions. I could not count the number of seniors I visited in their homes and apartments over the course of the election who came to their doors in hats, mitts, and winter coats. They dressed that way in the middle of the afternoon in their own homes because they could not afford to turn on the heat. They asked me not to forget them. I will not.

Seniors were not the only ones concerned about pensions. We heard the concern from young people, working couples, who spoke to me at their doors about how they are supposed to prepare for their retirement when they can barely get by in the prime of their working lives. They can just manage to pay the bills. In some cases, they cannot.

We heard the concern from middle-aged firemen who questioned how they could afford to retire on modest pensions, given the clawback on the Canada Pension Plan.

I can tell you this. The fog in Newfoundland and Labrador, the fog in Canada, is getting thicker.

One of the central issues in the dispute between the 48,000 locked out postal workers and Canada Post is pensions. As the New Democrat labour critic said in the House of Commons on Thursday, the pension plan is in danger. As the NDP opposition leader said so eloquently on Thursday, Canada Post wants to create a two-tier wage and benefit package. New workers who join the federal crown corporation would have to work an extra five years to qualify for a pension--five years.

Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, says:

...proposals to institute two-tier wages and benefits for new Canada Post employees [is] unwarranted and unfair to young Canadians, who are already facing unemployment rates.

They are extremely high as it is.

Here is a direct quote from Paul Moist:

There are no such things as two-tier rent or mortgages: young and new workers don't get a discount on utility or grocery bills. “It's outrageous to say young workers don't deserve the same wages and benefits for doing the same work.”

Young people have a hard enough time as it is paying off student loans and incredibly high credit card interest rates, which this Conservative government, as we know, will not do anything about.

If the Conservative government will attack the pensions of 48,000 workers at Canada Post, who will it attack next? Whose pension plan will it go after? We know whose side the Conservative government is on. Canada Post made a net profit of $281 million in 2009 alone. Who will directly benefit from the five extra years that new Canada Post employees will have to work? Not the workers, I can tell you that.

The labour minister stood on the floor of the House of Commons on Thursday and spoke about the damage to the Canadian economy for the Canada Post strike, which she was corrected on--it is not a strike; it is a lockout. The use of the word “strike”, as the opposition leader pointed out, to use his words, “is a brazen example of propaganda”.

The labour minister said the damage to the economy from the lockout could be significant. What about the damage to pensions? Would the minister describe that as significant? Whose pension will be next?

The labour minister says Canadians cannot go on without postal service.

I can say this with authority, the authority of the hundreds of pensioners and working people I spoke to during the campaign in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, Canadians cannot go on without pensions. Let me ask again, whose pension will be next?

Is the ultimate goal of the Conservative government to weaken the voice of workers? Is that part of the strategy? Is that the new Conservative action plan? Is the true goal, as the opposition leader said, to make profit while taking advantage of workers? As has been said before, it is a race to the bottom, except for those on the top.

The Conservative government's back to work legislation gives the employer, Canada Post, the advantage in the labour dispute. The legislation will force employees back to work for less money than Canada Post last offered. Whose side is the Conservative government on? Not the workers of Canada Post, that is obvious.

During the federal election, the MP for St. John's and I met the workers of the Canada Post headquarters in St. John's early one morning. By early, I mean 6 a.m. We shook hands in the parking lot as the workers arrived for their shifts, and it was bitter cold. The workers mentioned how they may be headed toward job action, and as New Democrat candidates we vowed to be there for them.

When I was back in my riding two weeks ago, I visited the workers again outside the Kenmount Road station. They had set up an information line and served lemonade. It was still cold, but the lemonade was good. The workers were generally young. They were fired up. They were concerned about benefits and what they had to lose. They have a lot to lose.

There was a story Thursday in the news back home about how a Newfoundland Supreme Court judge issued an injunction against locked out Canada Post workers in eastern Newfoundland. Canada Post had complained that workers in St. John's and Mount Pearl were blocking access to the post offices, using vehicles, picnic tables, palllets and what Justice Robert Hall described as vigorous picket lines.

The injunction prohibits workers from blocking access to people walking by and calls for any barricades on picket lines to be removed by Thursday night. I am sure they were. The workers of Canada Post are good, law-abiding citizens, but can we blame the workers for being vigorous in their attempt to secure their future? Can we blame them? Again, if this is allowed to happen to the 48,000 workers of Canada Post, who will be next? Let me ask again so it will sink in, who will be next?

The Conservative government keeps talking about how Canada led the world in weathering the recession, but the Conservative government also talks about how cuts are on the horizon, billions of dollars in cuts. Who will pay for the savings? The working poor? The young? The old? Pensioners?

When it comes to pensions, six out of ten Canadians rely solely on CPP or QPP, other government assistance or some savings, modest savings, I might add. I got that statistic from the Globe and Mail. Here is a quote from the Globe and Mail:

Pension experts estimate that about 30 per cent of the population will be poorer in retirement, sometimes significantly, and the share grows every year.

Here is another quote from John Gordon, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada:

The agenda of this government is to take on unions and do away with free collective bargaining. This is what this is about,

I can tell hon. members what the New Democrats are about. They are about working Canadians. We are about Canadian families. The labour minister made a snarky remark Thursday in this chamber about how labour unions have a hotline to the New Democrats. When Canadians call the New Democrats about issues that are critical to them, issues that are critical to families, issues that are critical to their future, Canadians can call the New Democrats. We do not put them on hold for big business. We do not put them on hold for anyone. We answer the call.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 2011 / 8:35 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, during the member's speech I made some notes. I listened quite carefully. He talked about attacking pensions and used a phrase, “the pension plan is in danger”. I would make the argument that of course the biggest danger to the Canada Post pension plan is the NDP platform. The NDP platform, we might remember, proposed raising corporate taxes. Under this government, they would be 15% next year, but the NDP proposes 19.5% so that is 4.5 points difference, representing a 30% increase in corporate taxes.

The NDP talks a lot about banks and oil companies somehow being in opposition to the notion of successful pensions. I pointed out earlier in this debate that the largest equity holdings in the Canada Post pension fund, starting at the top, are listed as: Toronto-Dominion Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia, Suncor Energy, Canadian Natural Resources; and I could go on. Out of the top 25 holdings, 15 of them are banks and oil companies.

My question for the member is, how can the member justify a massive 30% tax hike on the pensions of Canadian workers?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 8:35 a.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, for me it is all about cutting to the chase and getting to the point. What has been proposed here is a two-tier pension plan: one pension plan for existing workers of Canada Post, and another pension for new employees, a pension plan that is not as good. A two-tier pension plan is not good enough.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 8:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, here is another illustration of a dialogue of the deaf. We have heard from the hard left in this particular instance.

Clearly, the government has a supervisory jurisdiction with respect to the economy. Whether it is left or right, NDP or Liberal, whatever the level of government it has a supervisory jurisdiction. The rationale for this particular piece of legislation was that the labour dispute was impacting on the economy. I thought that was a rather thin rationalization for the imposition of legislation, particularly at this stage of the negotiations.

Simultaneously, the union and the NDP have yet to come to grips with the notion that Canada Post's role in our economy has significantly declined and therefore there has to be some adjustment to the cost of running Canada Post. Meanwhile, Canadians are saying nothing. Canadians are not really engaged in this debate and it is a bit of a slugfest between the left and the right as they talk and talk to each other, or contrary to each other. Meanwhile, Canadians are finding other alternatives to the actual service that is needed here.

Ironically, the filibuster by the NDP is actually contributing to the decline for the need of the services.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 8:40 a.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned how this is about an adjustment to the cost of running Canada Post. Let me repeat something from my speech. Perhaps the hon. member was not listening.

In 2009, Canada Post made a net profit of $281 million and the hon. member talks about an adjustment to the cost of running Canada Post. This is about drawing a line in the sand. If the Conservatives go after the pension plan of Canada Post employees, let me repeat a question I posed several times in my speech: Who is next?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 8:40 a.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, you may find that I am a bit dishevelled and my eyes are a bit red. I think all of my colleagues here feel the same way as we debate this bill and fight tooth and nail to give workers a voice.

I listened carefully to my colleagues. They spoke very passionately about their experience with the union movement. Since I became a part of this official opposition team, I have seen that in unity, there is strength. The experience they have shared since we entered the House of Commons has taught me a lot about the qualities of solidarity and the collective rights of workers.

I thank you for giving me time to speak to Bill C-6 in this House and to add my voice to the eloquent voices of my colleagues in the official opposition.

I think that the debate on this bill is very important. I was inspired by our leader, the Leader of the Opposition, who addressed the House last night. He spoke about the history of the NDP movement and about the values that NDP members have always defended. I think that this is a debate on the values that we want to defend in this House, but also that we want to defend on the hustings across the country—the values of sharing, social justice and freedom.

There is increasing talk about economic recession; we are told the economy is doing poorly, that the greater interests of the economy are in jeopardy. And for the sake of the economy, the government is going to undermine the right of workers to negotiate a decent contract, not only for themselves, but also for future generations.

I believe the debate we are having in this House is a debate not only for the short term, but also for the long term. What will we provide for future generations?

I have been sitting in the House of Commons for barely a month now and the present government has already set the stage. First, it introduced a bill to force Air Canada employees back to work. I do not believe the timeline of that file called for that bill, when the bargaining process had just gotten under way.

As for Canada Post, the timeline has already been elaborated on, but let me remind you that somewhat controversial action is being taken. On June 8, Canada Post announced that it was cancelling mail delivery on Tuesdays and Thursdays, whereas we know all Canadians are entitled to delivery service five days a week. Canada Post was already starting to cut service to which Canadians are entitled, that is to say mail delivery five days a week.

On June 14, Canada Post ordered a national lockout; in other words, it shut out employees and prevented them from doing the work that makes it possible to deliver the mail five days a week. Now postal employees are being deprived of their bargaining right and their right to work, while Canadians are being deprived of their mail.

As a number of you previously noted, this work stoppage, this lockout, means that a number of our constituents and we ourselves are being deprived of mail delivery, in particular the delivery of cheques, as was mentioned: pension cheques and all other cheques. As was also said, seniors are often the hardest hit; they may not be used to using the Internet or simply cannot afford it.

Once again, my colleagues who live in rural regions have rightly noted that some places in those regions do not have Internet service and that most people are more confident about receiving their cheques through the mail than via the Internet. And yet Canada Post workers had taken steps for cheques to be distributed to the public, but have been unable to make delivery since the lockout. The people affected by this situation are thus in a tenuous financial situation because they still have to pay their bills and rent and buy groceries.

As the members here have also mentioned, the same is also true of small and medium-sized enterprises that rely on Canada Post's services to place and ship orders. I believe the present government is setting a dangerous precedent by interfering with the legitimate right of workers to negotiate with their employer. This government's priority, which has been clearly and expressly stated, is the greater interests of the economy.

I rise to speak about the best interests of people, of Canadians, of workers. It is should be remembered that the economy is not an end but rather a means to an end, which helps us organize our society and promote a fair division of our country’s wealth. We must have income security, security for the future, security for retirees, and for our youth as they enter the labour market, so that they too have access to benefits, pensions and programs including disability insurance, and insurance in case of injury or other misfortune.

I do not understand why this government, which talks about standing up for the best interests of the economy would, alongside Canada Post, lock out workers. The government’s own actions have jeopardized the best interests of the economy that it cares so much about.

I do not believe that this government interference in a legitimate bargaining process is consistent with the role assigned to us. This legislation is going to favour the employer at the expense of employees, who will be deprived of the opportunity to negotiate. Moreover, the government has taken it upon itself to diminish wage conditions previously proposed by the employer. The vested rights of postal workers are at stake here: retirement plans, disability insurance programs, working conditions and wage conditions.

Canada is recognized for its quality of life and social values, which make it possible for all Canadians to access programs and benefits that are the envy of many a country. This helped Canada weather the economic turmoil of recent years. This government’s actions are, in our opinion, a “Walmarting” of employment and lead to low wages, job insecurity, and a chipping away of benefits. This government’s actions bring us yet another step closer to the US model.

Can we not learn from Americans by not repeating their mistakes? Our Canadian society is based on a system where inequalities are less profound than in the United States where there are glaring disparities including huge gaps between the rich and the poor. As a Canadian and Quebecker, I want to stand up for the values of a fair and just society. I want to stand up for the rights of workers, the right to negotiate to improve conditions, so that each and every one of us may benefit.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 8:50 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Parliament of Canada does not just represent people who have pension plans, people who are members of unions. We represent all Canadians.

I am hearing from my constituents as well. When Paula Fletcher, who is one of our last remaining pork producers in Renfrew county calls, I know that there is something really amiss. She emailed me a couple of weeks ago, asking:

What is this ridiculous news I heard this morning that the Government is thinking of legislating the Air Canada workers back to work? And yet they let the Canada Post workers go on strike and shut down the entire country's mail service. Do they not realize that a postal strike negatively affects business? Flying mostly affects people rich enough to travel—though I know some travel for business, most do not. We can certainly see the priority of the Harper Government. I thought Mr. Harper was concerned with the economic recovery of Canada. If companies can't get—

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 8:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. The hon. member for Timmins-James Bay is rising on a point of order.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 8:50 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am not sure if she does not understand, or maybe she made a mistake, maybe she is tired, maybe she is trying to slip in the name of the Prime Minister, but I think that she should go back a few steps and remind herself that she cannot use the name of the Prime Minister, nor his government, nor what he is doing, by referring to him personally.

I think it is only fair that we follow the decorum in this House and the long-standing rules that have been established in the Westminster system of Parliament.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 8:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Timmins-James Bay is quite correct that members cannot use the names of other members. I appreciate that it happens from time to time, inadvertently. So I will go back for a quick question from the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 8:50 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I apologize. I meant to say “Prime Minister”.

She asked: “If companies can't get supplies or can't ship product, they will go out of business. Air travel is, for most, a luxury. Postal service is a necessity.”

This is an everyday Canadian. I am calling upon the member opposite to stop holding Canada hostage and let our postal service resume by allowing the legislation to go forward.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 8:50 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I would like to emphasize as I begin my point of order that points of order do not come off the five-minute question and comment period, so I would like to have the clock stopped at all times.

I would like to ask the hon. member to withdraw her comments that we are holding Canadians hostage. I think this is beneath the tone of debate that we should have in this House.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 8:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay has risen on a second point of order. Maybe I will take this opportunity to clarify for all members in the House a couple of issues: one has to do with points order; the second has to do with the clock and whether it continues or stops when a point of order has been raised. This second issue has come up a couple of times in the last half hour.

I would like to remind all hon. members that at any point during proceedings, with the exception of question period, members have the right to stand and raise points of order. This is an important right that all members have, and I think we would all agree that the Speaker needs to respect that right and immediately go to that person.

As all hon. members will know, there are times when a point of order is obviously legitimate, when an issue is raised that clearly needs to be addressed. As an example of a legitimate point of order, I will not use the one just raised by the member for Timmins—James Bay. I will use the one raised a couple of minutes ago regarding the use of a member's name in the House. It has been my experience that the use of another member's name is usually inadvertent and not deliberate. Nevertheless, this needs to be addressed. Therefore, that point of order is dealt with by the Chair.

It is also often the case that members will rise using the process of a point of order to stop debate for something that the Chair determines is not a legitimate point of order. In this case, I appreciate that the member for Timmins—James Bay has recently provided us with an example of this type of point of order in his second intervention. The Chair is also required to deal with whether something is debate rather than a procedural issue or a point of order.

This brings us to the second point, which is the question of the clock and whether, when a point of order is raised, the clock continues or not. I would point out to all hon. members that it is the Chair who decides how long speeches are and that the clock is a guideline to the Chair. But at the end of the day it is actually the person in the chair who determines when it is the end of someone's speech and whether something can be added or not.

The general practice is that, if the point of order raised is legitimate, made quickly, and pertains to the business before the House, the clock does not stop and the time continues. If, however, in the view of the Chair, the point of order is being raised in an attempt to slow things down, to take away from the presentation, or to deprive another member of the opportunity to raise a point of order, the Chair has the right to add that time.

For example, when a member is making a 10-minute speech and a member from another party raises a point of order and carries on at length on what does not seem to be a legitimate point of order, the member is not punished and time is added to the member's speech. Conversely, if a member of the same party as the person making the presentation uses the same approach, often the clock is not stopped. I am sure all hon. members will agree that the Chair has an incentive not to encourage mischief but to respect the right of members to use the point of order process when it is appropriate. Members, however, must not abuse this process in an attempt to reduce or increase the speaking time of a colleague.

This is the process that is used. In the last 15 minutes, there have been examples of all these situations. Please let me assure everyone that all chair occupants do their best to do this job fairly. The Chair is charged with making sure that the rights of all hon. members are respected, and that those who have an allotted amount of time to make a presentation are not punished by having their time reduced by the actions of others, particularly when it is determined that this is the entire purpose of the point of order.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 8:55 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I feel I should put it on the record that I have incredible respect for your judgment. You have given us a very judicious and wise response. Certainly members of our caucus will take note of that and ensure that any of the points of order we raise will be in the interest of debate and will not be any sort of mischief.

I do respect the Chair and what is happening in this House is an important debate. I want to apologize if I was too enthusiastic earlier.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 9 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The Chair respects that intervention from the hon. member and thanks him for having made several examples clear to this House of what we can and cannot do.

I also note the clock has been stopped in this case. I am going to ask that it be started again. We will continue with questions and comments.

It has been pointed out that the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard did not have an opportunity to respond to the question posed by the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.