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, 12:55 a.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I cannot answer why the member feels the government hates workers, although its actions seem to suggest that.

I received a couple of texts from workers in my community. One said that he appreciated the rights of the workers, but asked about the small businesses. I told him what happened and that the NDP was asking the government to take the locks off. He replied and said, “Good for you and good for the NDP caucus for standing up on behalf of working people and small businesses”.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 12:55 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate following the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. He is a very eloquent speaker.

My voice may be a bit hoarse at 1:00 a.m., and although our voices may be a bit hoarse and our throats a bit irritated, our voices will not be still in the House of Commons in standing up for the working people of this country.

I have a different background than that of the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. He spoke very proudly about his labour and union involvement. I have never been a member of a labour union although I was active as a manual worker. I worked in factories, but always non-union. I went back to school and became an administrator. I have negotiated collective agreements, but I have always done that from the side of management. I have been an operator of businesses and have won two Business Excellence Awards in 2003 and 2004. I understand from the business point of view the essential nature of having free collective bargaining and allowing unions, the workers and management to work together to resolve those issues.

However, this is not a case of free and fair collective bargaining. In fact, this is the opposite case. This is why members of the NDP caucus are standing up in the House of Commons at 1:00 in the morning saying that this is wrong. The government should be taking the locks off where the workers have been locked out, get the mail system working and let the union and management negotiate that collective agreement that so many Canadians want to see.

I would like to pay tribute to the diversity of the new official opposition NDP caucus. We have people in the House with various backgrounds: small business, management, nurses, doctors, lawyers and trades. We have a diversity in this caucus that has never been seen before in the House of Commons. That allows us to bring a depth and breadth of experience to bear in this debate in the House of Commons.

I must say that the lack of experience on the government side on the issue of collective bargaining shows through in the debate we have had thus far this evening. At my count, and I certainly have not been here for every moment of the debate, but at least two dozen Conservative members of Parliament, including members of cabinet, referred to the situation at Canada Post as a strike when it is a lockout. It is obvious from their lack of experience that they do not comprehend the difference between a lockout and a strike.

A strike is when workers refuse to do the work. A lockout is when management locks the doors. What has happened here is that management has locked the doors. The leader of the NDP and members of the NDP caucus are asking that the locks be taken off and get the mail moving. That is why we are here tonight.

I do not mean that in an unkind way, but this shows the lack of experience and diversity in the Conservative caucus. It has one or two members with any sort of labour background. However, and this is very important, we are talking about one-third of households in Canada where there is a breadwinner from organized labour, workers who have come together collectively to organize in the workplace.

That is an essential component of any democracy. If we do not have the ability to collectively bargain and join a labour union, then we are not in a democracy. That is a fundamental democratic principle that so many Canadians hold dear. One of the essential elements in collective bargaining is the balance, the equilibrium between management and labour. To come to that common agreement we need honest and sincere negotiations.

That has not happened in this case. Despite the government's speaking notes and unlike the diversity of opinions we have heard from the NDP caucus this evening, members of Parliament coming to this place to debate this issue from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, we have heard the same comments from Conservative members of Parliament, comments that are factually wrong in calling a strike a lockout when there is a fundamental difference between the two, but also saying that this has been some kind of eight month protracted negotiation.

We know that is false. We know that the workers at Canada Post have sincerely tried to come to an agreement, have tried to negotiate and what we have seen is bad faith from Canada Post. There is no other way to put it.

The workers have a 94% mandate and, despite the occasional email we have heard Conservative MPs read tonight, it is quite obvious with a 94% mandate that Canada Post workers are very solid on this issue of negotiating with management. Despite all of that, management simply refused to negotiate in good faith with the workers and then it systematically shut down the mail system. First, it shut down operations for two days a week, denying mail service to Canadians. The response from the people who work at Canada Post, the letter carriers who deliver our mail, the person who walks up the 30 steps to my house on the top of the hill on Glover Avenue and then walks down, the response of the letter carriers and the mail sorters was that essential services would be continued and that seniors' cheques would continue to be delivered. Management then played its hand by shutting down the entire system.

There should have been a mature informed response, but given the fact that there is no diversity on the Conservative side and the government does not understand that there is that balance in Canadian democracy, what we saw instead, as my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour said, is basically a sledgehammer, a piece of enforced legislation that rips up any sort of collective bargaining process and imposes on the workers at Canada Post the government's direction in this regard.

What does the government do? The first thing the government did was to impose a wage reduction. Any increase has to be evaluated against the current inflation rate. This is something that makes me and other colleagues in the NDP caucus apoplectic. There is an ignorance on the Conservative side of the House about the difference between the inflation rate and a real increase. If there is a 2% increase and the inflation rate is 3%, any member on the NDP side of the House would say that is a net reduction of 1%. The Conservatives are saying that is some kind of wage increase when indeed it is actually a wage reduction in real terms.

This is imposed by the government on the 50,000 letter carriers and mail sorters across the country, people who are hard-pressed to make ends meets. The government is going to make mandatory an imposed reduction in salary, year after year, after year. That is the first difficulty that I have with this government imposed interference in collective bargaining. This is highly inappropriate and if the Conservative caucus had the diversity of the NDP caucus, the government would have thought twice before wading into this matter in such an irresponsible way.

Second, there is the issue of pensions. As we know, the enforced differential that the Conservative government is bringing in also has profound impacts on pensions. On this side of the House, the NDP fought for pensions. Our predecessors, perhaps in another corner of the House when we had a smaller CCF caucus, originated the idea that was radical at the time and denounced by Conservatives and Liberals, that working people should actually have the right to a pension and that they should actually at the end of their working lives be able to somehow profit from those lives of working and have pensions paid to them.

It was the NDP that fought for that. We were denounced. We were vilified by Conservatives and Liberals but we persevered, working with working people from across this country and pensions are accepted now as something to the benefit of Canadian citizens.

We fought for public medicare. We fought for employment insurance. Each one of those fights had the same rhetoric from the other side and we won each one of those fights because there is nothing more dedicated than a New Democratic Party member of Parliament. We will not stop. Our voices will not be silenced until we succeed in building the kind of society that all Canadians want to see.

The pension element of this Conservative sledgehammer on the letter carriers and on the mail sorters at Canada Post means that for many of the younger people joining Canada Post, they cannot hope to retire at 65. They may be retiring much, much later and they will be retiring at a much smaller pension.

At a time when hundreds of thousands of seniors in this country are living below the poverty line, for the government to impose a forced poverty on those young people joining Canada Post is highly irresponsible. There is no other way to put it.

The third element is what the Conservative government wants to do to younger people. We know that Tory times are tough times, particularly for younger Canadians. Perhaps one reason why there are now two dozen members of our caucus who are younger Canadians is because younger Canadians are finding their voice, that the kinds of policies that are driving down wages, that are driving down opportunities, that are eliminating pensions later on, that are creating the highest level of student debt in our history, particularly in my province of British Columbia, that all of those policies work against young people.

This proposal being enforced, this sledgehammer, by the government makes sure that those younger Canadians or new Canadians who join the postal service will permanently work at lower wages and can never hope to have the kind of retirement security that all of us want to see.

Those are three reasons why we oppose this legislation. It is inappropriate, irresponsible and had the government been well informed, had the government the diversity of our caucus, the government would not have done that.

There may be another reason behind it. My colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour asked the question that perhaps this is ideologically driven.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 1:05 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

I'm shocked.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 1:05 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

The member for Windsor—Tecumseh says he is shocked.

We all remember the events leading up to May 2. We all remember the orange surge in many parts of this country. Perhaps it was just a reaction by the Conservative Prime Minister, but at the time he said we should not worry, that he would be moderate in his actions if elected prime minister. This is a very immoderate action. This is an action that profoundly hurts 50,000 families across the country, working people, people who have worked for the postal service, have served their country and are being treated, in my opinion, in a most disrespectful way.

One could say that this is another example of what increasingly seems to be a very radical agenda by the government, to wade into the collective bargaining process, as it tried to do with Air Canada, to bring in elements that are highly inappropriate, to penalize working people for the actions of what can only be described as poor management practices at Canada Post. We believe there could be a very strong, ideological component to what the government is trying to do tonight and it is highly inappropriate.

I would like to address the broader issue that my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour also addressed, which is, who is next? The precedent this sets is simply one that we cannot accept. The idea that younger Canadians must be paid a much lower wage rate, that pensions must become even lower for those who are entering the workforce in the coming years, the idea that somehow, year after year, public servants--that is the best way to describe them--who work for Canada Post, who deliver our mail every day, who sort our mail every day, should be subject to what is a net 1% reduction in salary each and every year of this imposed sledgehammer agreement, those are things that we fundamentally disagree with, because what we are seeing is an impact on the middle class right across the country. These kinds of policies are attacking the Canadian middle class. We have seen an erosion of our middle class throughout this Conservative mandate. Canadians in the middle class are earning less. Canadians in the middle class have seen their debt loads almost double over the last few years. Canadians in the middle class are working longer and longer hours and are being paid less and less.

It is the equalizer of free collective bargaining, the ability to join a union, that has often made the difference in the growth of our middle class in the past. There is only one way to describe it. The spectacular speech of the Leader of the Official Opposition, the member for Toronto—Danforth, earlier tonight paid tribute to the historic role the labour movement has played in building our country and in building our middle class.

We want to make sure that the middle class in Canada is prosperous. We want to make sure that the system of checks and balances that comes from a labour movement interacting with management is preserved, that the fundamentals we heard earlier from the member for Beaches—East York in what was a fascinating examination of collective bargaining and the importance of that fundamental balance, which is somewhat lost on some members of the Conservative Party--those kinds of elements are vitally important.

We have seen the erosion and the erosion has to stop. The idea that mean-spirited policies that benefit very few at the price of many is something that we are fundamentally opposed to.

There is no doubt that what this legislation does is reward bad management practices. It rewards management that has not actively engaged in sincere labour negotiations. What it does is give them a blank cheque. It fundamentally erodes collective bargaining rights. It hurts 50,000 working families, and, more importantly, each and every year of this imposed sledgehammer will hurt further thousands of Canadians.

This is a fundamental principle. In our party the reason we have grown from 13 members to 19 members, to 29 members, to 36 members, to 103 members of Parliament is because working families across the country trust us when we say what we need to do is build the kind of Canada where everybody matters, where nobody is left behind, and where that balance is maintained and our middle class can grow and poor Canadians can be lifted out of poverty. Those are the principles that we bring to the House of Commons. That is why this caucus is fighting so terrifically this evening for the rights of working Canadians.

We will continue to do so because it is right for our country. That is why we are here, and we will not stop. Our voices will not be silent until the government hears reason.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 1:15 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 want to take issue not necessarily with the comments made recently by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, but with many of the comments that I have heard from others in the NDP this evening during debate, particularly the comments about members on the government side being anti-union. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is well documented.

The Minister of Labour's father was a very active member of the CAW. In my own case, my father was a high-ranking official with the United Steel Workers of America. In fact, Ken Neumann, the current head of the Canadian chapter of the United Steel Workers of America, freely admits that he learned his trade at the feet of my father. My father was his mentor. I see Ken Neumann quite frequently and we talk on very friendly terms. I can assure members opposite, even the member for Acadie—Bathurst who wants to heckle because he does not want to hear the truth, that this government is not anti-union.

What we are saying, however, is that the NDP are propagating a myth tonight when they say they are representing working people. They are not. They are representing the views of union people.

There are millions of working people in Canada who want to see back-to-work legislation. It is fine for NDP members to represent unions and union workers, but would they admit the fact that they are representing a narrow perspective of views from union workers across Canada and not the wider range of Canadians? That is our role. That is what we will continue to do.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 1:20 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, actions speak louder than words, and the Conservative government is using a sledgehammer against working families today. There is no doubt about that.

I am a long-time member of the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce. I am a proud member of the Burnaby Board of Trade. I have worked with small businesses all my life. Small business people understand that a strong labour movement means a healthy balance in the community. It means that more of the benefits of the industries that are in communities stay in those communities, recirculate through the community. That helps small businesses.

To say that it is only a third of the country where there is a breadwinner in the household who support the fundamental principles of collective bargaining, I can only fundamentally disagree.

All progressive Canadians from coast to coast to coast understand the key role that is played when we have that balance, when working people have the ability to organize collectively, to bargain collective agreements, and to ensure that the benefits of the industry stay in the community. That is something most Canadians understand. I wish Conservative MPs did too.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 1:20 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my friend from the NDP with great interest. He said his party went from 12 members to 103. That is indeed a remarkable feat, but a reverse process can also happen.

I wonder if my colleague could tell me how much this is really costing us to be here tonight and to have this process. There is no way we are going to win against the Conservative Party. They outnumber us; they have 167 members.

It has come to my attention that the NDP has collective agreements with its staff. If I am not mistaken, and I stand to be corrected, something did not happen and they have not come to an agreement for a number of years.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 2011 / 1:20 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud and happy to hear the member for Scarborough—Agincourt speak about the idea of a reverse process. Our party has grown from 13 members to 103 members. I understand he is an authority on the reverse process, going from 174 members to 34. I would be very pleased to hear his comments about that. The way to avoid that reverse process is to be sincere and to work hard.

I have been in the House for seven years. I have never in those seven years seen an official opposition willing to stand up to the government on bad policies or bad laws like the NDP caucus, 103 strong.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 1:20 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for an excellent presentation, as always. The passion that he shows is genuine.

I want to go back to one issue he talked about and that is the lockout.

In question period on Wednesday I noticed that the Prime Minister said the wage increase in the government's bill is similar to that of other public servants. I think that was a slip of the tongue because the next day he said the wage increase is like that of civil servants. I really think he is talking about employees in the post office as being civil servants. If they are civil servants, then he is their boss. The Prime Minister, the head of the government, is the boss of civil servants. Why can he not take responsibility for the insidious lockout that is taking place in the postal service?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 1:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member from Western Arctic for his question. He adds a great deal to the debate, and always has since he first joined this House in 2006.

I believe he is absolutely right. The Prime Minister and the government treat postal workers as if they are the bosses. What we have seen are bad management practices that the government is now reinforcing. It is sending the message out that if you do not bargain in a sincere manner, if you do not put things out--as a former management negotiator, I can tell you, you have to be sincere and get things out to get an agreement made. There is no falsifying. There is no hiding. When you are talking about collective agreement negotiations, you have to be sincere, you have to be honest, and you have to be forthright.

The member for Western Arctic will gather from my comments that we are not seeing those kinds of abilities on the government side of the House. They do not seem to be able to approach the whole process of collective bargaining in the way it needs to be approached: honest, transparent, forthright. That is why we are in the situation we are in now. We are saying to the government, take the locks off, let us get the postal system working, and let us have a real arbitration or collective negotiation that allows this issue to be resolved.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 1:25 a.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, having just listened to his answer, he seems to be willing to offer some advice. I wonder if the advice on negotiating contracts that he might give to us is the example of the member from Hamilton Centre, which I referenced earlier. What the NDP did to the workers the last time it had the opportunity to govern in the province of Ontario for five long, dark, miserable years was this: it allowed them to negotiate a collective agreement and then said, “Forget it. We are going to rip that agreement up. We are going to cut your pay and we are going to force you to take 12 days off a year. We are going to take $1.9 billion out of the pockets of 30,000 civil servants unilaterally, we are going to call them Rae Days, and everybody is going to be very happy.”

Now the hon. member might not have heard because he lives 30 stairs up a mountain and deep back into the side of a hill. He might not have known that this is what was going on in Ontario at the time with an NDP government. I am wondering if that is the type of example and if these are some of the amendments that we are waiting for. Perhaps the member from Hamilton Centre might advise the member on how they negotiated with workers, the respect they had with the workers when they unilaterally—

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 1:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I live up a hill; I do not live in a cave. That is why I am so pleased to respond to the member's question, which is about NDP provincial governments.

Every year the federal Ministry of Finance, which certainly is not in any way an NDP sympathizer, publishes an annual compendium of which governments are best at managing money and paying down debt. For 20 years, year after year, the federal Ministry of Finance says the best party for managing the people's money in Canada is the NDP. That is the best provincial government in Canada.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 1:25 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise at this austere hour and speak on an issue that I think is of profound importance, not only to the people of this chamber, not only to the women and men who are affected by this legislation at Canada Post, but also to all Canadians who believe in fairness, who believe in human rights, and who want a country where we have a thriving middle class as the backbone of this economy.

I would ask a little bit of indulgence from my colleagues in the House to quote from a piece of paper that I think is very instructive.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 1:30 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, on a point of order. There is so much noise across the way I cannot hear my colleague who is immediately adjacent to me speak.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians Act
Government Orders

June 24th, 1:30 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I have just come to the chair. This is a very intense debate and I would ask hon. members to moderate their comments and listen to each other.