Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join the debate on Bill C-9, the budget implementation bill. Ten minutes is not long enough to address the 880 page document, a document so omnibus it makes one wonder if there could ever be enough allotted time for that debate.
Last month, I debated the government's wasteful expenditures and I spoke to the shortcomings of the budget: the lack of a job creation strategy; no investment in early childhood development; no national child care plan; no affordable housing strategy; no pension reform; no national vision or legacy; and after having invested $50 billion in infrastructure spending, no real jobs. The bottom line is there are no real benefits for Canadians and nothing has changed.
Bill C-9 would do nothing to address these concerns. In fact, it confuses the matter even more. What is worse is the underhanded and sneaky insertion of amendments that deserve their own independent worthy consideration and their own debate.
Instead of dealing with the real problems facing Canadians, the Conservatives are ignoring the cries for job growth and job creation. Over 300,000 Canadian jobs have been lost and Canadians remain out of work. The budget offered no solution to compensate for lost jobs or for the 8% of Canadians who are unemployed, or a staggering 11% of Mississaugans. To inflict further pain, the Conservatives will impose a $3 billion job-killing small business tax. Even the CFIB reported that this measure would kill more than 200,000 jobs.
Today, however, I want to concentrate on the government's underhanded tactic of inserting amendments into the bill. Let us be clear. These amendments are not sellable as orders in council or regulation changes. These proposed changes merit their own introduction and their own debate.
As the Liberal critic for crown corporations, I would like to focus on part 15 of this omnibus bill. The Conservatives' steps taken toward the deregulation and the privatization of our crown corporations are vivid and they are clear. I quote from part 15:
The exclusive privilege referred to in subsection 14(1) does not apply to letters intended for delivery to an addressee outside Canada.
This would not be the first time that we have seen an amendment to the Canada Post Act. It is not even the second. It is the third time. Since 2007, the Conservative government has been unsuccessful in trying to pass the same bill that would eliminate Canada Post's exclusive privilege, the first step toward deregulation of an $80 million industry.
At least the first two times, the bills were given their fair share of independent debate, but never passed second reading. The unexpected election of 2008 put an end to Bill C-14. Six months into the next session the government introduced Bill C-44, with the exact same wording. The unexpected prorogation put an end to that bill as well. Once in 2007, again in 2009 and now most recently in 2010, the Conservatives seem transfixed on the road to deregulation.
My colleagues from Hamilton Mountain and Elmwood—Transcona have misspoken the facts. My party has never introduced legislation on remailers. They should do their homework and stop misleading Canadians. They have misinformed Canadians on at least two occasions and I want to correct the record.
The Conservatives, however, continue to fight dirty with trickery, chicanery and underhanded tactics probably hoping people will not notice. Well people have noticed. Canadians have noticed. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers, CUPW, has noticed. It too knows the drill. When such a large and omnibus bill is tabled, there are many issues that do not get a full and proper debate. I quote from a CUPW release:
It appears that the federal government has grown impatient with the democratic debate that accompanied earlier bills and is attempting to ram deregulation of international letters through Parliament by attaching it to a budgetary bill.
That sums it up. The federal government has grown impatient. It is ignoring the democratic debate process and ramming the deregulation of our crown corporations down the throats of Canadians. The government has lost touch with Canadians.
As the Conservative agenda continues to push for deregulation and privatization, it threatens Canada Post's ability to provide affordable, accessible and universal services for residents across Canada. In 2004 the Ontario Superior Court ruled that Canada Post had the legal right to exclusive privilege of both domestic and international mail.
Canadians still value a stamped and sealed envelope which carries strong sentimental messages for their most special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, funerals or other holiday occasions. Canadians value the affordability as well of our postal system. Our country has one of the lowest basic letter rates, at 54¢ per stamp, whereas the U.K., Japan and Germany charge 70¢, 80¢ and 90¢ respectively.
What do the countries with the higher rates have in common? Each one of those countries have deregulated its postal industries.
As the Conservatives continue to push for privatizing parts of Canada Post, they also threaten the delivery to higher cost regions, such as remote and rural areas. With the one price policy, Canadians know that sending a basic letter from Ottawa to Montreal is the same as sending a letter from Halifax to Vancouver, from Iqaluit to Point Pelee.
However, Canada Post reports that the reserve market of letter mail, representing nearly half the company's revenue, is steadily declining. The parcel industry alone reached $10 billion. Canada Post holds 12% of that market. Canada Post boasts the capacity to be a major leader in direct marketing, but now it only maintains close to 10% of this growing industry.
Even in the international remailing market, Canada Post stands to lose $40 million to $80 million. This lost opportunity is one the government should not give up on. However, with the Conservatives when trouble looms, privatize. Privatization is their motto.
In July 2006 the minister responsible for Canada Post at the time stated in a letter to CUPW:
The activities of international remailers cost Canada Post millions of dollars each year and erodes the Corporation's ability to maintain a healthy national postal service and provide universal service to all Canadians.
Since then, that has changed. In 2007 the Conservatives tabled Bill C-14 to modify the exclusive privilege of Canada Post Corporation so as to permit letter exporters to collect letters for transmittal and delivery outside Canada. Inserting an amendment to Canada Post Act in the budget is underhanded and blatant trickery. This is another example of the Conservative Party's iron curtain of transparency at its best. The week Bill C-9 was introduced was a bad week for Canada Post and a bad week for Canadians.
The Conservatives' attempts to deregulate and privatization did not stop with this sneaky Canada Post amendment. In the same week they announced the slashing of 300 Canadian jobs in Edmonton, Winnipeg, Antigonish, Fredericton and Ottawa. The jobs come at the expense of privatizing Canada Post's call centres. The call centres will obviously be outsourced to overseas markets. This guarantees 300 Canadian jobs lost as a result of this announcement.
Union after union complains that the Conservatives do not care. Again, when trouble looms, they privatize. Public Service Alliance of Canada spokeswoman Janet May told CBC News that “the changes are part of a broader effort by Canada Post management to move the company further toward complete privatization”.
In a press release the other week, PSAC, the largest union of its kind said:
Canada Post is in its 15th year of profit...“So to an average Canadian, does it make sense that part of your postal system is getting privatized?”
No, it does not and PSAC is correct. It goes on:
The union said it also worries about the loss of people's privacy if they have to offer up personal information to a private company—especially if the call-centre work is outsourced to a U.S. company.
The list of opponents to the deregulation and privatization goes further. There are other groups that are impacted as well. Organizations representing the blind are concerned. Right now Canada Post offers free mailing of Braille documents and sound recordings. Opening up the market to unfair and unlevel competition would inevitably result in slashing services in order to compete. Senior citizens on fixed incomes need to know that they have reliable access to affordable mail services to suit their needs. Canadians everywhere depend on universal access to reliable postal service.
If it is necessary to radically alter a fundamentally Canadian industry owned by our taxpayers our, citizens deserve a full committee analysis before the current government potentially deprives so many residents. Canada Post can rightfully claim to be one of Canada's most trusted brands in Canada and its services have connected our expansive land. Canada Post must serve all Canadians, regardless of economic ability or geographic location, ensuring that all citizens are valued and have an equal opportunity to the services that the state provides.
The Conservatives have created a slippery slope that threatens this very premise.