Madam Speaker, I certainly want to engage in this debate and to comment on what the hon. member was saying and on some of the faults in the private member's bill he brought forward.
It is obvious to those of us who live in rural Canada that rural mail couriers are not treated fairly and that the tendering system has numerous and obvious faults in it. However our argument would be that unionization of rural mail couriers is not the way to deal with this issue specifically. There are a number of issues.
The hon. member's bill forth not only allows for unionization of rural mail couriers, it also allows for unionization of numerous other postal employees. They are all lumped together in one bill. For that reason mainly the bill is extremely flawed.
The member speaks specifically to section 13(5). Section 13(5) is why the Conservative Party still supports rural mail couriers. Some people have argued that this section discriminates against rural mail couriers. I remind hon. members that the Federal Court of Canada ruled on May 29, 1990 that there were no grounds for a claim of discrimination on the basis of gender or differential treatment between urban and rural residents.
We know that this bill is not the answer to the shabby treatment rural mail couriers have received from Canada Post. As much as I appreciate and support the efforts by the member for Winnipeg Centre to deal with this issue, he really has not dealt with it. What can we do?
MPs from my party, especially the member for Tobique—Mactaquac, have met on numerous occasions with individual mail contractors, with representatives of the Organization of Rural Route Mail Couriers and with representatives of Canada Post to try to resolve some of these outstanding issues. We have made a difference.
Earlier this year the post office introduced a series of new measures which I hope will alleviate a great number of the difficulties contractors have had in the past. These include the following. Rural routes will be contracted on an individual contractor basis. Contractors who in turn subcontract out their routes at a reduced price known as master contractors will no longer be eligible to renew their rural contract. If a master contractor previously held the route, the previous employee or the subcontractor actually performing the work will be the first potential supplier offered the contract at renewal. Rural contracts will be issued for five years with a five year renewal option based on satisfactory performance and tendered after 10 years.
Many other changes have been instituted as well. A negotiated adjustment will be included for the five year renewal option to ensure that market conditions such as inflation are considered. A quality and performance component will be included in the contract renewal and awarding process to recognize the past performance of incumbent contractors. The evaluation of tenders will be based on criteria such as experience, service performance and reliability, image and then cost.
In addition when the contracts are up for bid, Canada Post will make contractors aware of the specifications of the routes they will be performing such as the number of points of call, daily kilometres, number of stops for personal contract items and the amount of ad mail they can expect to deliver. These numbers will be updated annually or more frequently if a significant change occurs, and contractors will be compensated for these changes.
The post office has prepared a handbook, what it calls a delivery reference manual, for its mail contractors. The purpose of the manual is to provide assistance and guidance with a reference book and a phone directory of key individuals at Canada Post they can call when a problem arises. In conjunction with this, local supervisors and postmasters will be provided with an operator's handbook and support training material to assist them in working with contractors.
These measures probably will not prevent disputes from arising. However I feel that the changes announced will bring much greater fairness and openness to the relationship between rural mail contractors and the post office. It also does not preclude additional changes to be made to further affect rural mail couriers to give them a better opportunity to make a living and earn a fair wage. It certainly does not preclude changes being made to the act in the future.
Our party will continue to work with and listen to rural mail contractors to ensure that they earn a fair wage, that they are treated fairly and that Canada Post deals with problems that arise in a timely and equitable manner.
In closing, we have to move away from the tactics that Canada Post has employed against rural mail couriers in the past. Frankly, many of those tactics would have been better off in Chicago in the 1930s than in Canada in the 21st century. We obviously have to make a change.
If the member reviewed his bill and made some fundamental changes to the way it was written, it would be a better piece of legislation. It would be something that would actually help rural mail couriers, and would not confuse the issue of rural mail couriers with a lot of other issues and a lot of other subcontractors at Canada Post.
We can continue to provide service in rural Canada. I depend upon a rural mail courier. He is a very good friend of mine. I have to cross the road to reach my mail box. I understand the difficulties facing mail couriers. The weather is only one of the things they face. The other thing is that quite often my mail box may not be shovelled out as well as it should be. I appreciate the extra work that all Canadians get from rural mail couriers.
We can continue to support rural mail couriers. We can continue to look for opportunities for them to make a better living.
Bill C-238 is not a bad bill, but it has some serious flaws and that is why we will not be supporting this piece of legislation. I would certainly encourage the hon. member to review the bill, to improve it, to take some of the obvious mistakes out of it and to bring it back to the House. We would then take another look at it.