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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

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Halton Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt ConservativeMinister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, the back to work legislation that is before the House today has a number of different aspects to it. Some are guiding principles.

Indeed, the government has set wages in this bill, wages that had been negotiated at the table between the largest public sector union in Canada and the government. We feel that those are appropriate and fair wages, which is why we put them in there.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I think what this House has seen over the course of the last week or so is the government tilting negotiations and labour-government relations completely toward the corporation.

We saw it with the Air Canada legislation and we are seeing it again here today with the heavy-handed approach that the government has taken. Any kind of objectivity or any kind of impartiality has certainly been compromised with the presentation of this legislation.

The point made by my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst is absolutely true. To put forward legislation that identifies far less of a wage increase than what was offered by the company makes no sense at all.

Does the minister see the folly in her ways in that she has absolutely kicked organized labour in the teeth? With her actions in the last week, she has sucker-punched organized labour in this country. Is that what we can expect to see over the course of the next four years?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I am a little concerned that the member uses such violent imagery with respect to introducing back to work legislation when his party in 1997, in fact his colleague from Prince Edward Island, introduced the almost exact legislation, supported by the official opposition, which included wage rates that were lower than what was contemplated by the parties at the table at the time.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, we in the NDP are deeply disturbed that the government has gone to such extraordinary lengths to, in effect, cut out collective bargaining.

I have heard various ministers, but certainly the Minister of Labour, say in the House that workers can go back to the table and bargain while we are debating this legislation. The reality is, and she said it herself in speaking about the legislation and referring to what happened in 1997, that because the back to work legislation includes wages that were lower than what was offered by the employer, what incentive is there at all for Canada Post to go back to the table?

This has been done deliberately to preclude any collective bargaining taking place. Anybody can see that. How can the minister stand here and say that she hopes they go back and bargain?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, we put this legislation on the notice paper last week and from that point in time there were 72 hours of very intense negotiations. Unfortunately, as has been the case with these parties throughout the time since October, they were unable to conclude a deal. They were unable to even get close.

The issue of wages was not on the table at all. Defining issues had to do with pension, new employees and short-term disability. There were significant issues on the table that they simply could not close the gap on in a short period of time. It is affecting the Canadian economy and Canadian citizens and we are acting.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Before I proceed with more questions and answers, so that everybody understands the rules, I am advised by the Table that we will operate more or less like question period where questions are primarily given by the opposition, but I will recognize some members of the government. I want to ensure there is an understanding of the rules and fairness.

The hon. member for Hamilton Mountain.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, the minister just said that wages were not the primary issue on the table. Why then would she feel compelled to bring in a wage package lower than what the company had already agreed to? It makes absolutely no sense.

We are now dealing with a closure motion before we have even had a single minute of debate on the bill itself. How can closure be moved on something before debate has even started? It is contempt of the rights of members of Parliament, of Parliament itself and of democracy in this country.

The minister needs to bring this bill forward and have it debated for however long it takes without moving a draconian closure motion before we have even started the debate.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I will answer the second part first. We are moving this motion, of course, because the service is not moving. No mail is being delivered. It is a necessary means by which we can get people back to work.

With respect to the first part of the question, setting the wage has been done in the past. It is something that makes a lot of sense because, at the end of the day, Canada Post is a crown corporation and we want to ensure there is future viability for the corporation as well.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, one of my constituents wrote to me. She does not always agree with the government's position or mine. She says that she would like to see the legislation passed and passed quickly. This is what she wrote:

We own a small newspaper business...[of course in my riding]...and we are unable to mail our newspapers to our readers this morning. ... We have staff employed whom we need and they need to be employed. We have customers buying ads which help pay for a community newspaper. All of these Canadians are being inconvenienced.

She personally thinks that we need a government that will legislate for the good and the health of all Canadians. I am sure there are many Canadians facing the same concerns. What would the minister have to say to them and are their concerns part of the reason for taking the action that the minister is taking today?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Souris—Moose Mountain for all his work with respect to employment and labour that he has given to the House, specifically in the last session of Parliament. I am very grateful for the time and for his question.

That is the crux of the issue. We receive thousands of pieces of correspondence, as MPs, as ministers and as the government with respect to the concerns of small business. We heard them, we have introduced the legislation and we will commence the debate today.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, the minister has introduced a wage lower than the collective agreement that was introduced to the workers. I would like the minister to address the families of the postal workers, including those of Windsor and Essex County, who have relied upon this as a job to raise their children, to be able to send them to school and to be able to participate in the local economy. I want her to specifically talk to those families who are now going to get a wage cut and have actually been locked out and have not received a paycheque. Maybe she could address those individual people and their families who are getting a rollback right now, at a time when they actually need support from the government.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, as I have indicated in interviews, I have a family member who is a postal carrier as well. I am fully aware of the impact of the rolling strikes, the lockout, the breakdown of collective bargaining and indeed that the ending of the collective agreement has on families.

However, what we are talking about here is not a wage rollback. What we have indicated is the fair and appropriate wage. The wage we have put in the legislation has been negotiated in both the private and public sectors. It shows what the intention of the government is with respect to the wage and to encourage the parties to collectively bargain, which has not happened. We have not had a collective agreement.

However, at the end of the day, we are responsible to the great taxpayers of Canada. They have the responsibility of being on the hook for Canada Post. We want to ensure the viability of Canada Post Corporation and these are the appropriate ways to do that.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to correct something the minister said. Back in 1997, the Liberal government did in fact introduce back-to-work legislation after almost two weeks of strike. We do believe that sometimes there is good reason to put in an arbitration process when it is clear that the bargaining process is not working.

Here we have Bill C-6 which makes a mockery of arbitration. It is very prescriptive. It does not allow arbitration in good faith in the normal sense. Why does the government not implore the management to lift the lockout, get the unions to get people back to work on a full-time basis and allow the bargaining process to occur? If it does not work after a reasonable amount of time, unlike the NDP that does not believe in arbitration, we do believe there is a place for it. Why does the minister not allow that process to occur?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I believe the theory with which we both approached this analysis is one that the member pointed out, which is when it is clear that collective bargaining is not working. There is no more clear analysis of the situation that collective bargaining is not working. We have had rolling strikes since June 1. We have a lockout now. The parties are at an impasse and that is why we have introduced this legislation.

One last point is that I do recognize that the Liberal Party introduced back-to-work legislation in 1997, but we have learned from the flaws that were inherent in that legislation. That is why we have final offer binding selection in the document. The Liberal Party's bill led to two years and millions of dollars of mediation arbitration that did not work at the end of the day. The parties settled themselves and the taxpayers ended up paying for that entire process that did not resolve anything.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I have two quick questions for the minister. I am trying to understand why she is rewarding the employer that locked out its employees by giving them even lower wages.

My constituents in Gatineau, who were very eager to hear members on both sides of the House speak to this motion, asked me why members are being prevented from speaking, which is a fundamental right for all members in this House.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, as I indicated, the wages in the legislation are ones that have been negotiated in the private and public sectors and they are ones that a majority of Canadians across Canada would very much enjoy receiving on a continuous basis guaranteed over the next four years, as well as the opportunity to have a cost-of-living allowance attached to it.

What is important is that the assumption is there that the arbitrator will be choosing necessarily to the benefit of Canada Post Corporation. I want to remind the House that this is final offer binding arbitration. The selection of the arbitrator could be either the union or it could be Canada Post Corporation.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask a question of the minister, on behalf of the people in my constituency, one of the largest constituencies in Canada, with many rural communities that not only depend on the postal service but on the wages, the income that postal workers make. I would like to specifically speak to the young people, people of my age, friends of mine, who work in the postal service who are looking ahead at building a future, hoping to invest in a home, hoping to getting their families started.

What can the minister can say about the draconian measures being put forward by the government when it comes to a cutback in their wages and, ultimately, the silencing of their voices in this critical debate where they are speaking up for nothing more than fairness?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, for some clarity in the House, the opposition seems to think that we are cutting wages when, indeed, if the members would care to read the act they would see that we contemplate increases of wages and we have put in there the increases in wages that the workers would be receiving over a period of time.

Indeed, I would direct the hon. members to paragraph 15 of the act, where it says salaries will be increased effective January 31, 2011 by 1.75%, increased again in 2012 by 1.5%, increased again in 2013 by 2%, and increased again in 2014 by 2%.

These are increases that are not guaranteed for the majority of Canadians. These are guaranteed wages.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I am amazed at the kind of shell game that the minister is playing on this important issue. There is one thing that is absolutely clear. The government is not moving to arbitration in a way that is fair and equitable, and that is where the government should be.

I would encourage people to read the old Bill C-24 that was introduced by the Liberal Party. It did not have the kind of draconian measures the minister has put in this one.

Yes, the minister talks about increases in wages in the bill, but the increases in wages that are in the bill are less than the wages that were already negotiated. That is taking the side of management, and the government should not be doing this.

We recognize this is an extremely important issue to business and the mail needs to get moving again. I have Veseys seeds company in my riding which depends on Canada Post to move its seeds around the world and it is finding it difficult.

The best way to get a solution that is going to work in the future is allow arbitration to work in a fair and equitable way. If that were in the bill and it was arbitration that was fair and equitable, it would be quite easy for us on this side of the House to support it.

I ask the minister, why is she taking the side of management in terms of this issue and why is the government not coming forward with arbitration that is fair and equitable to both sides and let them negotiate?

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, as we have indicated in the past, the parties have had an ample amount of time at the table. In fact, since last October, the parties have been at the table, trying to come to a solution on the matter.

With respect to the choices in the legislation, there seems to be two issues that the member brings up. One is the fact that we have chosen to put in the legislation binding arbitration final offer selection which we believe is the most appropriate way to deal with the matter, in that we have learned from 1997. The process took over two years and indeed, at the end of the day, was a great cost to Canadian taxpayers and we had to proceed to ensure that we paid for those costs associated with it.

We would like to have a clear, crisp decision in the matter and have it settled so that the mail can continue to move and Canada Post Corporation can go on to fulfill its mandate.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the minister for her work on this very important file.

Since the rotating strikes started a few weeks ago causing Canada Post to institute the lockout, and we all know the history of that, I have been inundated from rural constituents, small businesses in particular, which are suffering greatly because of this. We have already suffered an economic recession. Also, since the minister tabled the legislation earlier this week, it is clear that 70% of Canadians support this legislation. What I cannot get my head around is why the opposition continues to battle this legislation when most people want it. Perhaps the minister could explain that to me.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Conservative Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I completely agree with the hon. member's assessment of what is happening in his riding. It is happening in my riding as well. Indeed, I received an email from a small business owner who is so concerned that it is thinking of moving the business to the United States because at least it can get service there. That is something that is of great concern because it shows the importance to small business in Canada for the mail service to continue.

I am disappointed that the opposition is not co-operating with the government in passing this quickly, predominantly because in 1997, with very similar terms within the legislation of going back to work, of setting up a process, of setting wages, the NDP did support it. In fact the member from Winnipeg was very clear why members were supporting it, one of the issues being small business.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, the minister mentioned that mail not being delivered is an important thing.

My question is multi-tiered. Why is it that you forced a lockout when workers were willing to work? I spoke with many workers in my riding who told me that they want to work, that they do not want to be living without a wage, that they do not want to be suffering to feed their children right now. That is why the workers instituted a rolling strike. Why is it that you pushed for a lockout?

You also mentioned that--

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would just ask all members, especially in what can be a very tense debate, to direct their questions through the Speaker. I ask the hon. member to conclude her question.

Motion that debate be not further adjournedResumption and Continuation of Postal Services LegislationGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

My apologies, Madam Speaker, I will ensure my comments are directed through the Speaker.

I will rephrase my question. Why is it that the government pushed for a lockout situation for the workers and has not allowed them to work?