This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #89 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was application.

Topics

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's speech with interest. Would he clarify one thing for me? In his speech he said that he came from an area of Canada where they valued private enterprise, and I am sure that is the case.

Could he name an area in Canada where private enterprise is not valued? I am very interested in hearing if he actually believes that, or if he could clarify that point.

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I named the area I come from and represent, which is the city of Abbotsford, and I love it. It is one of the most dynamic communities in the county. It has been built on the fact that people have understood the value of free enterprise, the right of individuals to develop themselves, to be free from government interference.

I hope this sentiment extends across our country, and I suspect it does. In every community there are pockets, some more than others, where we have this understanding of the value of free enterprise and where we are willing to go to bat for workers and industries wanting to build our economy.

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member who just spoke if he could assure us that the purpose of this bill is absolutely not, directly or indirectly, to start deregulation. That is my first question.

My second question is: why tinker with a universal service? Some companies, for whatever reason, acted illegally. The court ruled that they had six months to shut down their business. The Conservative government decided to take away Canada Post's chances to potentially make $80 million.

I would like to know the reasons behind this decision, when rural areas are suffering the consequences. A number of members in this House see this situation every day as they represent their constituents.

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, first, I assume the member listened to my speech. I believe I confirmed on three occasions that this was not about deregulation. Nor is it about privatizing Canada Post. I want to lay her fears to rest. This is not about deregulation.

Second, she talked about tinkering with universal service. For well over two decades, the universal mail service in Canada, the exclusive privilege, has been restricted to domestic mail, in other words, mail collected within Canada and delivered within Canada. The suggestion that we have somehow had universal mail delivery in the area of international, outbound mail is wrong. It is simply wrong.

Why is she not standing up for the people in Montreal who depend on the remailing industry for their livelihoods, for their jobs? What will she say to the families that will now have individuals and members who are without jobs, if in fact she does not support Bill C-14?

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question. The minister responsible for Canada Post recently announced the establishment of an advisory committee to conduct a strategic review of Canada Post. That committee is to report to the minister in December 2008. Why does the government not wait for that report? Will that committee continue to sit even if the bill is passed?

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, the short answer is, yes, we will continue to sit and it will do its work. The key issue is to ensure the status quo, the 10,000 jobs we presently have in Canada, remains intact and the families that rely on those jobs continue to live knowing they will be employed.

My concern is, as the strategic review plays out, that Canada Post moves forward and shuts down the remailers. There is the immediate consequence to 10,000 jobs in Canada. I am sure the member, who comes from Quebec and would obviously be worried about jobs in Montreal that would be lost if in fact we did not pass Bill C-14, would be concerned. He has to be concerned. That is his job, to stand up for the people of Quebec and ensure their jobs are protected.

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, mine is more of an observation and comment rather than a question, although I welcome the hon. member's reflection on what I will say.

I have been struck by some of the comments that have to do with concern for rural Canada. Over the course of the last couple of months, the issues related to delivery of mail to rural Canada has really centred around the relationship between Canada Post and CUPW. There have been differences of opinion about when and how CUPW will deliver that mail. It has put some demands forward to Canada Post that it would not recommend its members deliver mail in rural communities where the issue of safety, by its own definition rather than by others, would cause it to say no, it would not deliver. The bill does not address that at all. The bill has nothing to do with rural communities. From what I can see, it has everything to do with a business that has been in operation for some 20 years in three major cities and not anywhere else.

The positions of my colleagues from the other parties are every bit as legitimate as anyone else's, but why would they think a corporation, which has net profits of 5% of its gross revenues, should shut down 10,000 other jobs generated by other businesses in order to improve its efficiency? The corporation has gross revenues of $7.3 billion. It is one of the largest corporations in the entire country in terms of revenues. It can boast that it has net profits of $320 million, roughly 5%. Why would anyone support its shutting down operations that provide 10,000 jobs for people who are not part of Canada Post?

Why anyone would say the corporation is right to shut down 10,000 jobs and deprive 10,000 families of a livelihood so it can have a chance of perhaps getting their revenues? Are we talking about social justice, labour justice, or exclusively about business and administrative practices? That is why I support Bill C-14. It has everything to do with supporting 10,000 families in the continuance of their livelihood. One does not have to be a member of the NDP, or Conservative, or Liberal, or Bloc, or independent to believe that is social justice.

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague does have it right. This is about protecting 10,000 Canadian jobs in Vancouver, in Toronto, which is where he is from, and in Montreal. Our Conservative government is standing up for those jobs. Unfortunately, we have NDP members saying no, that those jobs are not important. Shame on them.

We want to ensure that we have representatives across the country standing up for Canadians and speaking out when their jobs are at risk. Senator Fortier is speaking out for Montrealers. MPs across the country recognize that Bill C-14 is absolutely critical to ensure that we protect those Canadian jobs. Make no mistake, it is very clear that if Bill C-14 does not pass and Canada Post Corporation shuts down the remailers, these 10,000 jobs will not be kept in Canada; they will go elsewhere.

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have to say from the outset that we oppose the principle of Bill C-14.

As we know, this bill seeks to deprive the Canada Post Corporation of its exclusive privilege with respect to letters intended for delivery outside of Canada.

We are surprised that an advisory committee was recently set up, in April 2008, to review this issue. The committee is going to table its report in December 2008. Therefore, this bill seems premature at this point.

Why was that committee established? Why is the government introducing this legislation? As the member for Abbotsford wondered, why is the government implementing both measures at the same time?

It seems incredible that the government would decide to set up an advisory committee, but would not take the time to listen to it. The government has decided to draft its own legislation, because its ideology is well established and its principles are very clear: it only thinks about the private sector; the rest is no good.

Incidentally, I was surprised to hear the member for Abbotsford say, somewhat naively, that we would lose 10,000 jobs in one fell swoop. At no time did he think or say that, among these 10,000 jobless people, perhaps 9,000 would go to Canada Post. And why not, if there is a need? If 10,000 people are working in remailing companies, it means that a need exists.

It is certainly possible that some of the offices in communities close to the United States would move there. This does not mean though—and the advisory committee will enlighten us on this—that when the mail leaves the United States, Canada Post will agree to deliver mail posted in Hong Kong, for example, at a quarter of the cost of posting it here. It certainly would not bother Hong Kong to put stamps on it because all they do is put it back in the boxes and away it goes. When it only costs a quarter of the price, they laugh their heads off. When the mail arrives here, though, Canadian Post Corporation has to deliver it without getting anything in return.

These consultations should also make it possible to assess the situation of Canadian mail that is turned over to a foreign postal system, that is to say, how it will be delivered. These are things that the advisory committee will surely study, although the government does not want to wait for it.

We are convinced that if Canada Post were to lose the exclusive privilege it currently enjoys, its revenues would be endangered because, contrary to what was just said, remailing would grow exponentially. Even little things within Canada would be affected, and this would have dire consequences. It is unrealistic to think there would not be any repercussions because mail delivery would be re-organized in rural areas. There would certainly be a second-class delivery system because revenues would decline.

Earlier, someone mentioned that Canada Post has been making fabulous amounts of money. It should be said, though, that this is a very recent development. We feel that this is a very ill-advised bill at a time when Canada Post is starting to make money, and deservedly so. We should remember that the money it makes produces a dividend that goes directly to the government. The government does not put this money in the bank or in its pockets but redistributes it to Canadians in general through the services it provides.

Rather than having a dividend flow back to the government to the benefit of all, some people want one or two or three individuals to make money and pocket it. That is the difference between the private sector and the public sector.

The post office is currently a public service. We fail to see why private enterprise should make money and redistribute it outside Canada instead of our government redistributing it inside Canada to meet the needs of Canadians and investing it in various services. The surpluses that Canada Post generates could be used for this purpose. We would not want to see too many surpluses. What is most important to us is high quality mail delivery in Canada.

I represent a rural riding and I see the extent to which the quality of services provided in rural communities is being threatened. Small post offices are being closed. In my own municipality, the post office has not closed yet. Why? I have been told that there were some rather important people in the riding, for which I am glad, who are able to get Canada Post to bend. Post offices were the traditional, cultural gathering place for people to meet, to pick up their mail and to have a chat. It is too bad they are being closed. It is not the Internet that is doing this. It is the desire to make as much profit as possible and keep fewer and fewer post offices open. Today, delivery to rural mailboxes is threatened because of safety. We agree that some roadside mailboxes were not safe for letter carriers. We agree on that. But to say that two thirds of the boxes in Quebec will be eliminated is going a bit too far.

There is something that has not been grasped here. One imagines that they want to save money like this so they can make a company even more profitable for private enterprise when it gets privatized. A little earlier, there was talk about Atomic Energy of Canada. The intention is to privatize everything. They want to privatize the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. All of this because of the dogmatic principle that it is more profitable, which is totally false. They are forgetting that the money that goes to the government gets redistributed to everyone and not merely to two or three people.

In 1981, the federal government gave the new postal authority the autonomy it needed to adopt business objectives that would allow its services to be self-funding. That is why I said a moment ago that Canada Post has not always been profitable. It has only been profitable for a few years. If it is profitable now, why are they so bent on eliminating so many rural mailboxes? It seems that it is precisely to cut back letter carriers’ delivery times, so that mail can be consolidated in a few locations.

A moment ago I was going to say that this hurts private enterprise. A rural mailbox is not used only by Canada Post, it is also used for commercial delivery of leaflets, advertising and local newspapers. Those people will no longer have anywhere to leave that kind of mail, which is often very bulky, if there are no more mailboxes. Someone will tell me that they need only send it through Canada Post and that way it will end up in the community mailboxes, the green boxes. Well no, because often the postage for that much mail, the kind of volume that the weekend advertising flyers or daily newspapers represent, would cost so much that people would not be able to pay for it.

On the other side of the House they were talking about job losses. Taking away rural mailboxes is going to result in jobs being lost.

What about older people who can not get out any further than the end of the road to pick up their mail? I have some of those people in my riding. They get out once a week when their son or daughter or a neighbour takes them to do their errands. As a result of this system, they get their mail once a week. That is really inhuman and unthinkable.

Why did someone think of putting the mail into boxes mounted on posts in front of people’s homes? Because, in the country, people are far from each other and because it was a good system. Often, a mail box could be moved a few metres—at the most, 30, 40 or 50 metres—and the box would no longer be a danger, since it would not be on the edge of the road. Or, the mailbox could be put on the other side of the road.

I made the rounds with some people from Canada Post who told me that if the box were on the other side, people would have to cross the street. However, they prefer to force them into automobiles to drive to a community mailbox, in a place that is often just as dangerous, in order to collect their mail. We see very clearly that their arguments are convoluted and give no assurance that they will provide the same quality of service as they did previously. It is all to ensure that Canada Post makes the most money possible so that they can sell this crown corporation at the highest price.

At present, despite all of Canada Post’s profits, this corporation quite properly still provides the equivalent of $60 million in free postal service to Parliament and the military. Often, it is the only way for members to keep in touch with their fellow citizens. Many of our voters do not buy a newspaper or watch the news on television, but when we mail them a pamphlet, they read it. This service is open to everyone in the House. That $60 million per year is money very well spent. If it were privatized, that might be something we would lose.

It goes all over the country. It is an extraordinary service. There are also services for the blind and other services that deliver to the far north at the same price. That is something very important in our country: to be able to provide the same quality of service to everybody at the same price. Just because someone lives far out in the country does not mean that it should be different. People are useful in the country. If you are a farmer, you should be able to correspond with all the other people and receive things from other people at the same price.

In my view, the purpose of this bill is to prepare for privatization, not to protect jobs in Canada. Those jobs would be saved in any event. Canada Post would open new buildings and get them back that way.

A few years ago, Canada Post initiated legal proceedings against several remailers. Earlier, someone said there were never any problems. Not so, the dispute has been going on for years. Between the proceedings and the appeals, the issue was brought before several courts. We know how long this all takes. In every instance, the courts upheld Canada Post's interpretation of the act, under which it has an exclusive privilege.

This exclusive privilege ought to be maintained, and the committee that was put in place must be allowed to review the issue and report back to us. Should we ever happen upon an appropriate middle course in the legislation, we will take it. Currently, I believe that Bill C-14 is really far from meeting our expectations regarding a universal postal service for all Canadians.

In fact, the Ontario court ruled in 2004 that section 14 of the Canada Post Corporation Act gives the corporation the exclusive privilege of collecting mail. It was first determined in 2002, then confirmed in 2004, and again in 2005, not to mention that the court of appeal for Ontario upheld the interpretation of the Canadian legislation. Proceedings have been underway for several years, seven or eight years maybe. Over a 20-year period, it is fair to say that there have been proceedings underway half of the time. We have heard that there had never been any problems in 20 years. Sorry, but there have been problems for the past eight years.

This is an attempt to deregulate the market, but the Conservatives would like us to believe that this is not deregulation.

What is their conception of deregulation, if they claim that this is not deregulation? When something is rigid, when it is dismantled and when everyone can get their hands in the cookie jar, we think it is because deregulation has just occurred. The government lets those hands get in the cookie jar. Until then, that was not allowed. This is what deregulation is about. At least, it seems to me that this is what it is. Otherwise, I did not understand how people get their hands on the cookies.

The Bloc Québécois feels that before restricting or eliminating the exclusive privilege of Canada Post, the government should conduct a public and rather exhaustive review of the issue, and not simply decide whether we are in favour or opposed to private business, as we hear in this House. We must also assess the impact on the requirement to provide a universal and affordable public service. That is the whole issue.

If we privatize and sell Canada Post, postal rates will no longer be controlled by the government. They will be controlled by private enterprise, and we know what the consequences of that have been in other areas. Private businesses apply various rates and keep increasing them. They obviously do not deliver mail in the far north, or in small remote communities, for the same rate.

Canada Post is making money. With operating profits amounting to $300 million, as someone said earlier, the corporation pays income tax as well as a dividend. This is a money-making operation for Canada. Of course, companies would also pay income tax, but we all know that people would not have a hard time avoiding it.

We have to assess how a legislative change like this one would directly or indirectly affect the financial viability of the Canada Post Corporation and its ability to keep providing a universal, affordable service. Universal because it is everywhere and affordable because it is provided at a reasonable cost. It is not at all clear that this would be the case if things change.

The Canada Post Corporation must also devise a plan to ensure the survival of its rural service. There is a reason the corporation is trying to get rid of roadside mailboxes and has closed almost all small post offices. In response to an inquiry by the minister responsible, the Canada Post Corporation said that such an operation costs between $475 million and $640 million over more than five years.

The corporation needs money to carry out these transformations. It is not news to anyone here that the corporation is moving toward full automation for mail sorting, and when that happens, major changes will take place. These changes are already in the works, and we believe that the government needs to take control of the changes that are about to happen, not leave it up to private enterprise.

I would like to propose an amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill C-14. I move, seconded by the member for Richmond—Arthabaska:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act, be not now read a second time, but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The amendment is in order.

The hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence.

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my hon. colleague's presentation. He began with words like “principle” and “naiveté”. Are we here today discussing the principle of employing 10,000 people, or are we discussing another principle? I would like to see a discussion on this.

When we talk about letters that must be sent by mail, we must also consider all the advertisements and flyers, everything that does not constitute letters that Canada Post currently distributes.

Personally, I am not naive. As I have said in other presentations, this bill is not a question of rurality, but aims simply to determine how to solve a problem caused by a difference of opinion concerning the terminology in the act that has been in place for the past 20 years.

I have a question for the member who proposed another amendment here today. Does the member really believe that if all the revenue from this commercial remailing activity went to Canada Post, the Canadian public could expect dividends totalling more than $600,000? At present, Canada Post gives only 1% of all its revenue to the Canadian government. If—

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I must interrupt the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence.

The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi.

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think it is actually a matter of principle. In my opinion, the bill truly shows that we could retain a certain part of the private enterprise. It is not about destroying private enterprise. Far from it.

As a colleague said earlier, Canada is in favour of private enterprise. That is not the issue.

What we want is to ensure that Canada Post provides universal and affordable service everywhere. I do not agree with the naive belief, on the other side, that withdrawing this right would result in the loss of 10,000 jobs. It was never a question of this right being withdrawn. That decision should be based on a study by the advisory committee and not on the principle of the bill. If remailing were eliminated, it would not necessarily result in the loss of 10,000 jobs because almost an equal number of jobs would be recovered.

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will keep my question short to allow other members of this House to put their questions.

My hon. colleague has no doubt heard, as I did, Liberal and Conservative members shout themselves hoarse defending 10,000 jobs. I am not saying that we should not shout ourselves horse defending jobs in this country. But did the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi who just spoke notice that, regarding the manufacturing and forestry sectors, both of which are going through a real crisis, while the people across the way were in a position to address the issue, they did not make any noise about 10,000, 15,000 or 20,000 jobs?

All of a sudden, they bring up this totally opportunistic argument.

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question.

It is true that they defend jobs only when a bill is concerned. When manufacturing jobs are lost, the government just says it has allocated $1 billion, even though it realizes that Quebec will get only $76 million a year over three years. That is nothing.

It is true that the Liberals and Conservatives get up in arms over potential job losses, but not over the jobs that are actually being lost every day. Yesterday, it was Shermag's turn, but no one on the other side stood up to say how terrible it was that Shermag was going bankrupt.

Jobs are being lost in my riding. In fact, on May 9, a company will declare bankruptcy. But the members on the other side will not get upset.

The decrease in the number of rural roadside mailboxes by Canada Post will cost jobs. In any event, that is why they are taking that step. I did not hear the members on the other side of this House say they were concerned that Canada Post was cutting jobs.

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been following this issue very closely because the question of where Canada Post is going in terms of privatizing service is a discussion that we must have with the Canadian people.

In my riding of Timmins—James Bay, for example, the downtown postal service in the city of Timmins that supplies the entire city now is no longer able to provide postal service because it is being shipped out and privatized.

I wonder what other businesses in the world would actually not provide a service when it is their primary service. The primary service of Canada Post in Timmins is to provide parcel post, pick up and postal service for citizens. Yet, it is unable to do that.

Workers are being told they cannot provide the service. Businesses in the downtown are no longer able to use this service because it has been shipped out to a local drug store. Canada Post does not sell hair sprays; it does not sell toothpaste. It is in the business of serving the public with a postal service.

We are seeing the same situation in our rural communities where Canada Post is walking away, leaving boxes out on rural roads, as opposed to real people who service the public.

I guess the question I have for my hon. colleague is, where else but the House of Commons should we be debating the fact that a national service, the postal service, is being shipped off, cut apart, split apart and citizens are being denied service that they have come to expect?

Canada Post Corporation ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree completely with my colleague that this is where we should be debating this issue. In our view, this debate is premature. We should wait until the advisory committee has looked at the issue. The people on the committee work in the field and are much more in touch with reality. We are ill equipped to make decisions before the advisory committee, which has just been announced, has been appointed.

However, I recognize that Canada Post will not provide better service by closing offices. This is incredible. Canada Post is closing offices, but jobs are being lost elsewhere at the same time. Yet jobs have been lost in the offices that have been closed, and Canada Post is having to retrain people and assign them to new duties elsewhere. This is truly incomprehensible, because Canada Post is making money.

People ask me if things are going well elsewhere. The mail service in the United States was losing money at a terrific rate. The Americans restructured the service, without closing even the tiniest post office in the smallest town in rural Nebraska, and succeeded in turning a profit.

The House resumed from May 5, consideration of the motion that Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Marine Act, the Canada Transportation Act, the Pilotage Act and other Acts in consequence, be read the third time and passed.

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-23.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #96

Canada Marine ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-5, An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded divisions on the motions at report stage of Bill C-5.

The question is on Motion No. 1. The vote on this motion will also apply to Motions Nos. 2 to 5, 8, 11 and 12.

A negative vote on Motion No. 1 requires the question to be put on Motions Nos. 16, 17 and 18.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think if you were to seek it you would find the unanimous consent of the House to apply the results of the vote just taken to the motion presently before the House, with Conservative members present this evening voting no.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this way?