Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by telling the House and everyone who is listening how very proud I am to see my party standing up so unswervingly and with such determination for the rights of workers. I am honoured to stand in the House and speak for the workers who live in my riding, and for all Canadians from sea to sea.
I find it very hard to accept a government that is turning back the clock on the quality of life for workers and their families, a government that is turning the clock back significantly for our society, with such archaic and quite simply irresponsible measures.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, without exception, is being penalized by this lockout at present. Yes, it is a lockout, not a strike, because, let us remember, the Canada Post employees themselves were prepared to return to work. The union has acted completely responsibly. It offered to end the strike if Canada Post agreed to keep the old contract while bargaining continued. Canada Post refused. Let us also remember that urgent mail was being delivered during the rotating strike. It was the employer, and no one else, that decided to lock the employees out and simply put a padlock on the postal service doors. That is easier than bargaining. That is the real explanation for why Canadian individuals and businesses are no longer getting their mail.
The government is truly acting in bad faith. All it wants to do is impose a labour contract on employees, which I find completely unacceptable. That is not at all a government's responsibility. A government should instead be concerned about the quality of life of its citizens. But that is clearly not the case here. What the government is doing does not give both sides an opportunity to reach an agreement.
The government is once again siding with the employer and with the CEO of Canada Post, who made $497,000 in 2010, not to mention a 33% bonus. What a perfect example of just how similar the Conservatives are to their Republican counterparts in the Tea Party in the U.S.
Employees are simply asking for better working conditions for a better quality of life for themselves and, by extension, their families. They are fighting for more job security, an entirely legitimate demand. They are fighting for a decent wage for all so that everyone can pay their bills, feed their families and enjoy life. They, too, have the right to enjoy life.
They are fighting for the right to retire with dignity. Everyone deserves a rest, especially after working for many years. Nothing could be more irresponsible than the unilateral legislation being proposed by the government. The government is flouting the right to negotiate a collective agreement and, furthermore, is proposing even lower wages than Canada Post's offer.
Is that really the kind of country we want? Do we really want a government that flouts the rights of workers? If we let the government behave this way with Canada Post workers, what will happen next? Whose rights will be violated? Children? Women? The elderly? Aboriginals? People with disabilities? Which rights will be next?
Personally, I find this extremely troubling. This debate is not just about mail carriers, it is also about safeguarding workers' rights to negotiate a collective agreement, an entirely legitimate demand. A negotiation is between two parties. In this case, however, only the union has behaved responsibly. Canadians have fought too long and too hard for a fair and equitable working environment. They fought tirelessly for adequate wages and benefits so they could support their families. The government must stop meddling in this situation and telling workers to take even more steps backward.
It is important to keep in mind that Canada Post belongs to all Canadians. We share a collective responsibility to ensure that our workers are treated fairly, because Canada Post has a mandate to provide postal service across the country. Everyone needs those services: citizens, small businesses and community agencies. We are lucky to have the best postal service in the world. The elderly need to receive their pension cheques so they can live. Small businesses need to send out their invoices so they can continue to operate.
Organizations must continue to receive their grant funding so they can continue to deliver services and pay employees. The government is looking to dismantle and privatize this service. That decision would have serious consequences for all Canadians. There is no—I repeat—no solution where the private sector could fulfill the mandate of Canada Post. On the contrary, we would pay much more for inferior service.
In Germany, for instance, citizens pay 77¢ to send a letter. In Austria, they pay 88¢. Why? Both countries have a privatized mail system. Here, where it costs just 59¢ to send a letter, the public option is far and away the best solution.
This is a government that opposes public postal service for purely ideological reasons. Its true motive is clear: maximize corporate profits, at the expense of workers yet again.
The employer argues that it cannot afford to agree to the workers' demands. They are too costly, too expensive. That is odd, especially given that Canada Post generated revenues in the neighbourhood of $281 million last year. It makes you think.
In closing, I would ask you to think about this and to ask yourselves some questions. Where are we headed with a government that is not even able to protect the interests of workers or their families? Where are we headed with a government that does not care about giving Canadians a better quality of life? Where are we headed with a government that puts profits above all else? Where are we headed with a government that scoffs at democracy when it is convenient? My fellow Canadians, is that really what you want? Is that the future of your country, our country? I say no. You deserve better, a lot better.
We, the NDP, will not give up. We will fight for the rights of workers, so they can have a decent wage, so they can have a safe working environment and so they can retire with dignity.
We will fight for a country where no one—I repeat, no one—is left by the wayside.