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, 1:25 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr.Speaker, certainly I share the concerns of many Canadians when it comes to the lack of postal services.

However, we have to remember that the reason the cheques are not being delivered is because Canada Post has imposed a lockout. It is not the workers who are the problem, it is the bosses.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:25 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, from the outset, one of the Conservatives’ arguments has been that it was necessary to consider the economic stakes associated with the labour dispute at Canada Post. I am in complete agreement with them that this is something very important. What I deplore, on the other hand, is that in the context of the debate they have not taken the time to explain the full details of all the ins and outs of this economic damage. They have been content with generalities, with simply spouting slogans and constantly repeating the same questions. This is deplorable.

I will modestly attempt to put all the economic impacts of Canada Post’s activities and the stakes of this dispute into perspective. First, I must say that I have had a longstanding interest in economics. I have read some classics in the genre and particularly admire the work of the Canadian-born American economist, John Kenneth Galbraith. Mr. Galbraith began his career as a member of President Roosevelt’s team during the depression of the 1930s. He was on the team that created the New Deal, and made his contribution to correcting the problems arising from the Great Depression. Next, he took on certain responsibilities during World War II, and studied the effects of the Allied bombing on the German economy. He also looked into wage and price controls in the context of that conflict. So in the postwar era he was someone with the right experience to develop a highly articulate economic philosophy that could clarify the issues and the ins and outs of the decisions made by our governments, our companies and individuals themselves.

One of the conclusions he reached was that any very large consolidated company has almost total control over both its activities and its prices, and hence over its fate and its future, as is not the case for the small company or the single individual who is at the mercy of economic ups and downs. What is interesting is that it is clear that Canada Post has virtually total control over the price of its products, which are offered to all Canadians. This possibility does not prevent it from offering its products at prices which are very low relative to other countries in the world, even though it is a crown corporation. Clearly, the fact that it is a public, crown-owned corporation is an advantage.

Mr. Galbraith examined the role and the importance of the various economic players. He came to the conclusion that the state, in its interventions, had a place comparable to that of any company. Where he was much more far-sighted was in giving a central place to the human being as an economic player. It must be said that he was not the only expert to come to that conclusion.

Mr. Galbraith then wanted to understand what the effects of the major economic decisions made by the entire population of a country might be. He observed that, for every dollar given back to the wealthiest people in a country or an economic unit, through massive income tax cuts, for example, that dollar was unfortunately not reinvested in the economy. Those people did not need the extra dollar, and so they hoarded it; in other words, they took it out of economic activity, and eventually that can lead to stagnation. On the other hand, when that dollar was given to the middle class, and particularly to the most disadvantaged people in our economy, it was immediately reinvested in the economy, since those people could not hoard it or save it, because they had urgent need of it.

Mr. Galbraith then came to the conclusion that investing in the population was basically the best engine of economic development, as many countries in the world have in fact proved.

Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, was a professor of moral philosophy, and his magnum opus has been widely quoted virtually everywhere. Unfortunately, it has been quoted wildly incorrectly. All Adam Smith did was observe the cruelty of life in his day. He did not make laws or principles to be applied from that; he simply observed that without safeguards and regulations, unfortunately, human beings were the playthings of the interests of the powerful.

The conclusion he reached was that it was very important to have economic ethics, to guide all the players and, ultimately, the state, should these players fail to behave properly.

It is rather unfortunate to see the ideas of such great men taken hostage to justify ideas and policies that may be harmful to all Canadians.

I am now going to change subjects. Let us come back to the present day and apply the ideas of great Canadians to the subject of current impacts and policies, Bill C-6 being basically one more step, one way of diminishing our quality of life.

Charles Sirois, whom I quoted earlier, said this a few months ago:

We can decide to dig holes in our subsoil and pump out all the natural resources we have. We can decide that this is what will secure the future of our children and grandchildren.

However, in his opinion, the consequences of that choice will be:

Perhaps we will not be in a state of complete poverty, but we will also not be wealthy; that much is obvious. And we will not be part of the movement that can be observed all over the world, where genuine value is created through creativity and innovation, and putting them to use.

I would note that Mr. Sirois is the chairman of the board of directors of CIBC and the former chairman and CEO of Teleglobe, a company with communications systems covering the entire world.

A few days later, Mr. Stephen Jarislowsky, the great Montrealer and renowned investor who founded his business in 1955, was concerned about the boom in company acquisitions in the natural resources sector. He saw nothing logical in this, on the contrary. He compared the situation to the real estate bubble in the United States. The $1300 price tag on an ounce of gold a few months prior was, in his opinion, an unfortunate harbinger of things to come. An ounce of gold now costs almost $1600. At the same time, the TSX plummeted. These were all signs that our economy was shrinking.

All the while, the government claimed that everything was fine and dandy. That attitude is bizarrely reminiscent of the Conservatives in the 2008 campaign. Blinded by their blinkers, they were alone in failing to acknowledge the threat of a looming recession.

A quality postal service is essential to support the creativity and innovation that Mr. Sirois was referring to. As I said earlier, it is vital for the millions of small and medium-sized businesses that rely on these postal services to run their operations.

Bill C-6 is further evidence of the Conservatives weakening our economy and refusing to acknowledge the fundamental role that human beings play in any healthy economy. Standing up for the general working conditions of workers is of paramount importance to ensuring a future for our children and our grandchildren. I make this statement unequivocally, with evidence to back it up.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:35 p.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, like so many of us, I have been receiving literally hundreds of emails over the last 48 hours. The emails are from Canadians across the board. Some are from small business owners who are very upset that their mail is not delivered, and some are from seniors who want to have their mail delivered.

I am also receiving emails and correspondence from postal workers. They are telling me—and I have just become aware of this over the last few hours—that they are actually not allowed to vote on the offer that has been presented.

They will not listen to Canadians. They will not listen to postal workers. It appears they are only listening to one group, the unions. They are being driving by their left-wing social ideology, which has destroyed countries around the world. When will the NDP begin to listen to everyday Canadians, including the postal workers?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:35 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for having provided us with a childhood memory and for rehashing a question that has already been asked dozens, if not hundreds of times already. It reminds me of those long car trips counting different coloured Volkswagen Beatles. It helped us wile away the time when we were children.

Sadly, as I explained previously, all the complaints being levelled at us are but a mere smokescreen. In any major union organization of tens of thousands of people, it is quite normal for there to be dissenting voices. There are limits to everything however; we need to focus more on the substance of the debate.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:35 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for the remarks he made in this House.

I would also like to ask him to comment on one of the central facts in this debate: that this government is denying Canadians and the representatives of postal workers the right to collective bargain. It is all very well for him to talk about the importance of collective bargaining and how it benefits our society in general. But does he not consider this but a sign of the extremely perilous times ahead for our entire country?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:35 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think that is an excellent question which deserves our full attention and consideration.

Indeed, it is very troubling that bargaining rights are being denied for a group of workers who are members of a union where all the democratic operating mechanisms are functioning. We have had absolutely no evidence that there was a problem from that standpoint.

There have even been some virtual suggestions, though I would not want to draw any hasty conclusions. It has almost been suggested that it was necessary to limit, if not deny, the right to organize. Personally, I find that shocking.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for our colleague on the other side of the House regarding profits for small and medium-sized businesses. As we know, the present lockout has caused problems for SMEs.

I will share with the House an email from an entrepreneur in my riding of Etobicoke—Lakeshore.

Here is the statement: “As an owner of a small business who employs a dozen people, I can tell you that the impact on our cash flow is crippling. The flow of money into our company from our many customers, most of whom are independent retailers, has basically stopped for two weeks while our suppliers, who are large businesses, are stopping shipments because cheques have been caught in the backlog of mail. We, and many other small businesses I interact with, are facing the reality of having to lay off employees, which is the very last thing that should be happening.”

What does the member opposite have to say about how his proposed solution will help small business?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:40 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find my the hon. member's remarks particularly relevant. As the small business critic, I am also very concerned about what is happening now.

I find it truly deplorable that this government, in supporting the actions of Canada Post management and going even further, is taking the people hostage and creating sky-high costs for our small and medium-sized businesses. I demand that the government remove the padlocks immediately so that negotiations can be started again.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:40 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government says that it cannot stop the lockout ordered by Canada Post. And yet it has the power to legislate on wage increases. There is a rather flagrant inconsistency here. Either they can intervene or they cannot. If they can intervene on wage increases, maybe they can also simply put a stop to the lockout. That way everyone will be satisfied, for it is the simplest solution. What is important is that everyone comes out a winner. As I understand it, with a special bill everyone will instead come out a loser, that is, no one will be satisfied. The workers will not feel that they have bargained freely, and management will feel that its workers are going back to work reluctantly. Most important of all is that things such as the workplace climate and productivity will suffer in the years ahead with this sort of bill.

It would be so much simpler to stop the lockout, allow the employees back to work and send the parties back to the bargaining table. But that is simple. We often hear that Canada Post is autonomous. And yet the authorities at Canada Post are continually demanding more autonomy. So they must not feel all that autonomous.

The other important thing is that Canada Post is a public service. It is a public corporation. It is not a private corporation. When managing a public corporation, the priorities are not the same as for private corporation. When one manages a private sector company, one works for shareholders, and when one owns a small or medium-sized business, one works for his own benefit. However, when one manages a public corporation, one does not work for his immediate boss, namely the government, but rather in the best interests of all Canadians. That is the actual mandate of Canada Post. Its mandate is not to manage based on goals set by the employer, but rather based on the best interests of Canadian society. I do not have the impression that this is the kind of management that we have seen at Canada Post in recent months. I find it deplorable that Canada Post lost sight of the notion of public service and interest. I would love to see it rediscover this notion, because it may be the best way to serve.

Since we should manage with the public interest in mind, I am asking Canada Post, because the government cannot do anything, to have the courage to end the lock-out and allow employees to return to work, in the best interests of Canadian society. That is fundamental. It may require a bit of courage, but it is in everyone's common interest. The simplest solution would be for Canada Post to have the courage to end the lock-out. I am putting this request on the record here, in the House of Commons.

Let us get back to the bill as such. I do not like the way it deals with the notion of arbitration, because the arbitrator who might be appointed will not be free to fulfill his mandate properly. He will be bound by a series of rules. The result is that anyone could do the job, while this is actually a highly complex task. Indeed, the arbitrator is already being told what salary increases will be imposed. He is already being told whether to opt for solution A or B, and he is already being told, through guiding principles, which way he must lean. A professional arbitrator will find that this is not a very challenging mandate, because collective agreements are usually complex documents.

I would have liked for the arbitrator to have full authority to determine what is satisfactory, based on representations made by both sides. It should not be a matter of siding completely with one side and rejecting everything from the other side. I do not agree with that approach. I am convinced that both sides have interesting proposals, and it would be unfortunate to let four years go by without the best ideas from both parties being included in the agreement. I find that approach deplorable. It is like denying the fact that both sides can make reasonable proposals. I think there are intelligent people on both sides, and I wish the best ideas would be included in the agreement. This could only benefit Canadian society.

My other concern relates, of course, to the clauses that create a double standard regarding salaries. I find these clauses totally unacceptable. It is ridiculous to discriminate on the basis of age, as is essentially the case here, since these clauses primarily affect younger workers. We have abolished discrimination based on salary. Ever since I was young—and that was many years ago—I have heard that we should have equal pay for equal work. Suddenly, we are backtracking. I simply cannot understand that. I cannot understand why we would backtrack on such a fundamental principle in Canadian society.

I understand full well that there may be objectives, but perhaps they can be achieved in another way. Some day, these things will be redefined within Canada Post and we will have to see how that can be done, but I do not believe in solving one problem by creating another.

To give my colleagues an idea of what it means on a daily basis, over and above the fact that it is unacceptable, let them imagine trying to manage two different salary groups with different vacation time and pension funds; to someone with an understanding of management, it is already a nightmare. It is not helpful; rather, it is like shooting oneself in the foot. The savings they think are being generated will have to be reinvested to manage these problems, leaving no one satisfied. I do not believe that this is a solution, either in terms of management or morally. In fact, I believe it is truly reprehensible.

Furthermore, I fear that the orphan clauses being imposed at Canada Post will serve as an example and later be extended to other sectors. Is this a Trojan horse, bringing orphan clauses to the entire federal public service and society in general? I should hope not. I truly hope that we will not go down that road, because all we will be doing is creating resentment. I do not believe that anyone on either side of the House wants to create resentment. I do not believe that. But we must consider the consequences and the options. We need to consider where this will take us. That is why we must consider these problems from a different angle.

I truly want to believe that senior management at Canada Post is independent. People are appointed and given mandates. However, when senior managers are hired and given their mandates, perhaps they could be given real incentives not to engage in confrontation. For example, why not cut the CEO's salary during a lockout. Those kinds of things could be done. Perhaps then they would be more proactive in resolving issues.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that Canada Post is a public corporation. For that reason, it must set an example in the way it treats its employees. I think that there is still work to be done and ending the lockout would be a step in the right direction.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not believe the official opposition realizes that this chamber is not a negotiating table; it is a table.

This House is for the voice of all Canadians. We are not supposed to be mouthpieces for unions. We are supposed to represent the common people. As such, I am going to read two brief messages from the people we represent.

First, from a postal worker:

I want to deliver mail to my customers. They deserve better than this. They are the big losers in this. And for some of them, they depend on their mail for drugs and other medical supplies. Some elderly live pay cheque to pay cheque. As for myself, my wages are cut.

This one is from someone who identifies himself as a former NDP supporter:

People striking for pensions are out of reality, as hardly anybody has pensions anymore. Don't they realize that the post office could quickly be out of business due to competition? I got my CPP cheque, but no other mail. No bills, no medical notices, but I pay my bills online because of stamp prices. Maybe it should all go private. Oh yeah, this former socialist can actually say that.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:50 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her remarks. She has backed up the point I was trying to make. Canada Post, as a public entity, must be able to establish policies based on the best interests of Canadian society. If Canada Post is aware of this, clearly, the first thing it should do is end the lockout and then everything will go back to normal.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:50 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I really liked the hon. member's speech. He raised some very interesting points.

I would like him to elaborate on several of them. There are a number of draconian clauses in the bill before us. Take, for example, the orphan clauses. Can he tell us more about what he thinks the long-term consequences of these clauses will be for young families?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:50 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, when a person is young—I was young once, just like everyone—one of the first things that person wants to do is to become independent, start a family, be responsible and raise children. If orphan clauses are imposed, there will be two types of consequences. First, the young people in question will be unhappy at work. They will be jealous of the older workers who are not affected by the orphan clauses. Second, it will take them longer to achieve their goals, like buying a house, taking vacations, buying things for their children, and so on. That is unacceptable.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 2011 / 1:50 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am just revisiting the Canada Post pension plan.

Take a look at the companies whose shares are owned by pensioners at Canada Post: for example, Suncor, $154 million; CNRL, $117 million; Talisman, $94 million; and Encana, Sunova, Chevron, Exxon Mobile, Royal Dutch Shell, all owned by the pensioners of Canada Post.

Curiously, during the election the NDP proposed a platform that would have imposed billions and billions of dollars in taxes on the holdings of these Canada Post pensioners. I am wondering if the hon. member has given any thought to the devastating impact of NDP policies on Canadian pensioners.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 25th, 1:55 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for repeating this question, which we have heard numerous times.

I do not believe that we spoke of tax hikes in our proposals, as the members have suggested. What is clear is that the objective of the pension fund is to provide a nest egg for employees. It must grow as much as possible for the benefit of the workers.