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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

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:05 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will say to the member that we are trying to resolve the situation for the employees of Canada Post. How can we do that? We have said it dozens and thousands of times: open the doors, stop the lockout and allow the employees to go to work. That is how this deadlock can be broken.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:05 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was glad to hear the speech given by our colleague from Châteauguay—Saint-Constant. Clearly we are in a situation where a crown corporation has imposed a lockout. That is undeniable. Everyone understands that, at least on this side of the House.

The government has supported the lockout with a draconian bill that is going to impose terms that are simply intolerable. These are terms that will not be negotiated. This is an affront to the dignity of the workers of Canada. That is not tolerated on this side of the House.

What does my colleague think of the idea that a collective agreement must be negotiated rather than imposed by a bill?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:05 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the riding of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

Yes, negotiated terms always provide a better work atmosphere than a situation that is imposed. I was a union representative in recent years and I was acquainted with people who had had terms of employment imposed on them by special legislation, and the atmosphere that produced was simply unliveable. It created enormous tensions within the company and significantly hurt productivity. It is therefore important, and in fact essential, that there be a negotiated employment contract, not one imposed like this, particularly not by this method.

The employer was prepared to offer better terms and the government is imposing worse terms. That is outrageous.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, over 90% of the union employees voted in favour of a strike. Because they felt that negotiations were going nowhere, they implemented rotating strikes. That is their right. Canada Post, as the employer, implemented a lockout. That is its right.

The federal government can implement back-to-work legislation. This is about representing the majority of Canadians. Who are the NDP representing?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:10 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, we all represent Canadians. We represent large and small businesses, but also, and most importantly, the workers. We want justice in this country. We want favourable terms for workers, not terms that are imposed. We represent the workers. We represent the majority of the people, not the big businesses and the wealthy in this country.

[For continuation of proceedings see Part D]

[Continuation of proceedings from part C]

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:10 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in this conversation, having listened to so many of my colleagues illustrate not only the history of workers' rights in Canada but the clear and present danger the government, in its treatment of postal workers, represents to all working people across this country.

This is a proud moment, not only for me personally but for New Democrats across the country and for the four and a half million people who gave us a clear and solid mandate to stand up for working people. I invite the Conservative majority to see what it looks like when there is a stable, solid, dedicated New Democratic opposition when things go wrong. Gone are the days of having the red-flag-waving surrender monkeys sitting in these benches. One “boo” and they were gone to their weekends. We now have an opposition that is dedicated to standing up for what is right in this country.

I am also quite encouraged to join with many of my new colleagues, whom I have been most moved and inspired by. One would think that after many hours of debate, some of our newer members, and maybe some of our older members, might be feeling some fatigue. Yet every time I tune in, and every time I come by the House, not only are we not fatigued, we are gaining in our energy and enthusiasm.

This must be so difficult for my Conservative friends as we sit through this debate. I almost want to put quotation marks around the word debate, because debates are usually judged on the merits of logic and intelligence. This is not a fair fight we have going on here. Time and time again we have Conservative members standing up with so-called questions, which are more like diatribes. They ask why, if the economy is so important, we cannot get these workers back to work. They know full well that the power rests in their own hands. Rather than deal with the situation, the Prime Minister has gone off to barbecues.

If the economy were so important and so sacred, if it was so necessary, given all the quotations from their local citizens, business owners, pensioners, and charitable groups that are worried about not getting their mail, if all of that were so important to the government, one would think that this government would bother to pick up the phone and tell the head of Canada Post that rather than lock out the workers, which has been done, the corporation should open the doors, get the mail moving, and return to the bargaining table for what has been established, in the highest court of the land, as a proper and fair collective bargaining agreement and arrangement. That has not been established by any measure of Parliament alone. It has been established by the blood, sweat, and tears of working people across this country, year after year, who have fought for the basic right to collectively come together and together rebalance the equation between employer and employee. When the employer does not offer a fair term of work, those people can come together and exercise a democratic right, have a vote, and bargain in what we call good faith.

Does this sound familiar to anybody else? A company comes into a negotiation for a new contract and begins an exaggeration process, a public posture, saying that things are not so good at the corporation. The company says that it is not making much money anymore. Times are tight. Things have changed. People are not, in this case, sending letters anymore. The company begins to amp up the rhetoric and begins to set the stage for what it knows is coming, which is a downgrade of the opportunity it will offer its employees, who are, ironically, the very employees who built the company to its current state of prosperity. The company knows that in its back pocket it has a very powerful and willing accomplice that is waiting for an opportunity as the company sits at the bargaining table, week after week and month after month, not bargaining in good faith or offering a give-and-take situation. It is more a take situation.

The company knows all that time that it has a hotline to the Prime Minister to say that it is going to lock these guys out and to get legislation ready, which is what was done. The legislation was ready before the lockout even started. When the company does not bargain with its employees in good faith, the government can come in and simply force them back to work under terms that are worse than the terms the company just offered.

Does that sound familiar or ironic at all? The reason it sounds familiar is that there is a sad and sordid tale of business relations with working people in this country. Businesses do this time and time again, but it only works if they have a willing accomplice in government.

It only works if they have a government in their pocket that is ready to operate on their behalf and is ready to side with them.

As the Minister of Labour—that has to be in quotations—said the other day, “...there are in fact 45,000 members of the union and in reality there are 33 million Canadians”, as if somehow those Canada Post workers, when they went to work that day, gave up their rights as Canadian citizens. How dare a labour minister stand in the House of Commons and take one group of Canadians and exclude those people from our society because they are doing what? They are standing up for their rights.

We hear constantly from the government that it somehow believes that it has a majority mandate from Canadians, that 40% of the vote somehow equates to 100% of a tyrannical majority, and that this is justifiable in all cases. I welcome the Conservatives to a new reality. I hope this gives them pause the next time they try this, because believe me, my friends, there will be a next time. There will be another dispute. There will be another transgression the Conservatives do not like and their friends on Bay Street do not feel comfortable with. The Conservatives say, “Never mind. Never worry. We have a majority in Parliament. That gives us 100% of the power. We will just steamroll over any other democratic institutions we feel are in our way”.

Note that this is a pattern with the government. There are the so-called arm's-length watchdogs. My friends laugh, but we all remember the case of the nuclear safety watchdog in this country who raised concerns about a certain reactor nearby. When the government did not like what she was saying, it fired her. Lo and behold, a few months later, the reactor went offline. Why? It was because of the very things she pointed out.

The government must understand that when people stand in opposition to its ideas, that is not a bad thing. Those people do not need to be shut down, cut off, or fired. They do not need to be locked out or forced back to work. Their issues need to be debated and entertained in this place and in the broader dialogue in this country of Canada, because it is through that dialogue that we come to better resolutions.

New Democrats do not believe that we have all the answers, but we know that these guys do not. It is time for them to get a little humility.

It has been clearly said by many of my colleagues that this goes well beyond the particular interests of the workers of CUPW in the Canada Post dispute. This speaks to something much larger. It is a much larger struggle for people around the world and in this country who for many decades did not have any rights. It was okay for employers to send kids to work. It was okay for employees to die while on the job. It was okay for employers not to pay employees a fair wage for a fair day's work. Those things, through struggle and time and sometimes blood, were established as wrong. It was confirmed that an evolved and advanced society understands that for the good of the economy, for goodness' sake, you ought to pay your workers a fair wage. How radical an argument is that?

The NDP is saying that fair pensions are good for the Canadian economy, and the government argues otherwise. The NDP says that a fair wage and safe working conditions are good not just for the workers but for the Canadian economy. The government argues otherwise.

Time and again we see excuses thrown up by the government that suggest that Canadians are not on our side. A friend of mine sent me an e-mail from a person I don't know who lives in my riding that said,

Keep on with the good work on behalf of the workers at Canada Post. This proposed legislation punishes the workers for being locked out while they were exercising their right to strike (in a manner that provided minimal interruption of the postal service)...and strangely enough, rewards the employer for the action of locking their workers out (whereby the employer shut the whole postal service down).... SHAME!

That is absolutely right.

We are getting many e-mails from members in Conservative ridings, which I quite enjoy reading, that say that they have sent their members of Parliament, their voices in this place, much correspondence on this issue saying that they are wrong, but the members will not read them out. The government somehow will not express that there may be dissent in this country over the idea of locking out employees and bringing in a sledgehammer to force them back to work.

I ask my friends on the government benches to be amenable to the changes the NDP is proposing. Be amenable to the idea that it is not always right. Be very much open to the idea that the arrogance that can come with a majority government can be overplayed and overstated. If the Conservatives continue to do that, New Democrats will be in our seats day after day, pushing them back.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:20 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I noted the member talked a lot in his speech about a number of issues surrounding the work stoppage. I noticed the one thing missing in his comments was an indication about the Canadian public, about the small businesses, charities and other individuals who are adversely affected by this work stoppage. It is very unfortunate that was lacking in his speech.

I would like to share an email I received from a constituent, a small business owner, who wrote:

“We hope the government will stand up for Canadian small business owners and ensure that Canada Post, a national mail service meant to serve the Canadian public, needs to go back to work. Our business has dropped immensely since even the rotating strikes, and the uncertainty of delivery service is impacting small business across Canada in different ways. I appreciate your time and hope again that you will take this message to Ottawa and to Canada Post”.

These are the kinds of emails I am receiving. It is affecting businesses in this country. It is affecting individuals. It is having a detrimental effect. This government is trying to put them back to work so we can see the effect on the Canadian public stopped.

We are all here in this place. We should all be at our homes and with our constituents, visiting with them at meetings and functions over the course of this weekend where we would be hearing these kinds of things from constituents. A number of individuals contacted me in the last couple of days about those issues. They say the NDP members are acting like a bunch of pirates holding Canadians hostage.

I would ask--

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please.

The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:20 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was going to suggest that we check the sound equipment here because in fact I did mention charities and businesses were suffering from the lack of postal services in this country. I will then suggest that my exuberance hopefully carried my voice across to where the hon. member is sitting.

I would ask the member to do the following, because he has the power to do this, to walk five rows to his boss and tell him to take the locks off of Canada Post, get the mail moving for all those charities, small businesses and constituents he claims to care about because we know where the decision lies here.

We know that the Prime Minister appointed the fellow at Canada Post, who is doing this right now. The hon. member knows it was the head of Canada Post who locked the employees out and stopped the mail service entirely. We know where the decision lies for the government to have a little humility, understand there is reason for this debate, that the government does not have it perfect and the bill before Parliament is not exactly correct in every single syllable, period and comma. The government should put a little water in its wine, realize it is wrong in this case, step off the cliff and get the posties back to work.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:20 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, my thoughts tonight are about our asset, Canada Post Corporation. The main asset of this corporation is its employees, the people who work there. That is the main asset that belongs to the people of Canada.

Is the government taking care of this asset? Is the government respecting this asset? Is the government taking the steps to ensure this asset, these human beings, are well protected and covered in the work they are doing? The profit from the company for the Government of Canada is fairly large and works out to about $6,000 an employee. Why is the government treating these employees in this fashion when they are the main asset of our great corporation?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:20 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, conveniently the Conservatives would very much like to forget the human face in this conversation. It is somewhat ironic the government says that somehow these workers are the problem and yet postal services from around the globe come to Canada to study the efficiencies and the incredible steps that this postal service has made, year after year.

It also seems somehow that underneath all of this conversation and all of this debate lies an ideology within government that an entire institution can be privatized through starving it, that if it is driven deep enough into the ground so that people start to call out for something else, one would accomplish another thing that had been hoped for in the first place, which is a loathing within the current government for crown corporation and institutions in general. There is the idea that the government has a role to play in any of these places and that the government can do anything well.

It is strange and ironic to have a government-loathing government, but that is exactly what we have here with the Conservatives. They detest the idea and do not like the nature of this. The government rebels very much even at the idea of debate and fair discussion here in Parliament, but New Democrats live on this stuff.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:25 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, last night, at the end of his eloquent speech about workers' rights, the leader of the opposition proposed that we take a break in our consideration of the draconian legislation proposed by the Conservative government. That proposal took the form of a motion to postpone consideration of the bill for six months.

For several hours now, many of our colleagues on both sides of the House, either in their speeches or in their questions and comments, have contributed to our consideration of the advisability of postponing passage of this horrible and counterproductive bill. I myself believe more than ever that we must postpone all consideration of it, for the numerous reasons cited by all of our colleagues.

It is in fact the most enormous bad faith for the government to claim that it has to force the workers back to work when it is this very government, acting through a crown corporation, that is preventing them from working and putting them on lockout.

Apart from the bad faith that has characterized the approach taken by the Conservative government since the outset of the dispute, it is essential that we note the consistent manner in which the courts have sanctioned and penalized the bad faith and misconduct of this same Conservative government in labour relations cases.

The most recent example is a decision handed down only two days ago by the Federal Court, and in a moment I will read several passages from it. The case involved a situation very similar to the one before us tonight. It did not involve postal employees; rather, it was all members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The case is entitled Robert Meredith and Brian Roach, representing all members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, v. the Attorney General of Canada. The decision was given on June 21, 2011, by the Federal Court. Justice Heneghan wrote the decision.

In that case, we are reminded that in late December 2008, the Conservative government engaged in a series of fraudulent manoeuvres that it is difficult to distinguish from the situation before us tonight. This same government had legislated to flout the process provided by the legislation, and imposed its own bill to cut back the terms of employment that had in fact been legally agreed to with RCMP members. One crucial point is that the courts found that what the Conservative government had done, in terms of labour relations, was illegal under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is a fundamental law.

Pages 27 to 29 of the judgment specifically are where we find the references that are most relevant to our work tonight. For those who are interested, I will note that the passages I am about to read are taken from paragraphs 86, 89 and 92 of this very recent judgment, as I mentioned. The judge reviews the terms of what the Conservative government tried to withdraw, by flouting the rights of the members of the RCMP, and concludes as follows, and I am going to read it in English since the judgment is written in that language.

So the Treasury Board withdrew the issue from consideration of the entity that it had created and refused to negotiate on a good-faith basis.

I repeat, “refused to negotiate on a good-faith basis”. That is the pattern of this Conservative government.

It continues: “The unilateral cancellation of a previous agreement also constitutes interference with subsection 2(d) rights”.

Now those section 2(d) rights are, in particular, these.

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(d) freedom of association.

For those who follow these issues, I note that this is referring in particular to two leading cases, two decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada: Health Services and Support and Fraser.

But this very recent decision sets a precedent. The Federal Court of Canada has assigned blame to this government and ruled against it. So this is a pattern of behaviour that we are seeing here tonight.

A little farther on, the judge writes:

The financial impact of the ERA was not relevant. In both B.C. Health Services and Fraser the Supreme Court focused not on the significance of the financial impact of the legislation, but of the significance of the impact of the interference on the bargaining process.

Finally, in paragraph 92, the Treasury Board's decision in the ERA made it effectively impossible for the pay council, that was the entity that had been created, to make representations on behalf of the members of the RCMP and have those representations, wait for it, here it comes again, considered in good faith. The judge goes on to say that in her opinion this is a substantial interference which constitutes a violation of section 2(d) of the charter.

That is repeat behaviour. That is putting oneself above the law.

It is sometimes said, in common language, that they think they know best. That is what the Conservatives think. They believe they can be the judges, they can be the jury, and they can also be executioners. They show contempt for the most fundamental laws. But as my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley put it so well just now, therein lies the rub; the Minister of Labour let the cat out of the bag when she said, as she did yesterday, that there are 50,000 postal workers on one side and 33 million Canadians on the other. I have news for her.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to all citizens of Canada, including postal workers. We already knew whom and what we were dealing with when this Conservative government became the first government in the history of the British Commonwealth to be thrown out for breaking all the rules and being in contempt of the institutions of this Parliament: the right of parliamentarians to have fiscal and financial information before making decisions, the right to be given documents relating to foreign affairs, our rights to carry out the fundamental democratic mandate we were given when we were elected to this place.

Tonight, we are considering a bill that they are trying to persuade people is essential to force the workers back to work, hoping that the public would be so easily duped that they would forget they are the ones who have prevented and continue to prevent the workers from doing their jobs. On this side, we will support the motion presented yesterday by the leader of the opposition. We believe it is obvious that this bill, draconian or worse as it is, must not be considered, particularly given that it is clear from the decision handed down by the Federal Court of Canada this week, again, that behaviour that is contrary to the basic rules proves the government's bad faith. Yesterday, in fact, I witnessed this bad faith for myself. To be so presumptuous as to say that the workers are on strike, when they are the ones who have stopped them from working, defies all comprehension.

On this side, we will stand up, unanimous in our condemnation of this pattern of behaviour that flouts human rights in general and the rights of workers in particular.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, many times in the debate tonight New Democrats have talked about the possibility of making amendments to the bill. They have taken issue with, particularly, the wage increases that are legislated in the bill. They clearly do not like what the government has chosen. They do not like what Canada Post has put on the table.

However, two NDP members have mused openly tonight about what they think should be the wage increases. The member for York South—Weston thought that 11.5% over four years was probably a fair deal. The member for Trinity—Spadina mused that 3.3% a year for four years would be a fair deal.

Would the member confirm that the NDP members will be amending to increase the wage aspects either somewhere between 11.5% and 13.2% over four years?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:30 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, good faith means quoting what people have said in the House properly. That is a pure fabrication and a twisted way of reporting what has been said by people here. On our side, we think the best thing to do, as I said at the beginning of my speech tonight, is to postpone all consideration of this draconian, horrible bill, this bill that is on its face contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, for six months.

I have had the opportunity to speak with the member for Essex, who used to be an auto worker. He knows, as do I, that it was thanks to his union and to bargaining, in accordance with the legislation and his terms of employment, that he was able, in those days, to secure adequate wages and acceptable terms so he could raise his family. Why does he want to take those same benefits away from the postal workers?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:30 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, less than two weeks ago, in an interview during the Conservative convention, Stephen Taylor asked the Minister of Labour whether there would be special legislation. The Minister said there would not be because it was too soon.

“The two parties have to make real hard efforts to get a deal themselves”. Continuing, she said, “It's about pensions, it's about disabilities, so it is important issues and we have to have serious discussions around them”.

Does the hon. member think that the government took that seriously, or is the government more concerned about its ideology, which amounts to violating workers' rights, regardless of the result for the economy?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:30 p.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would venture to say that it is somewhat of both, but there is a third factor. Above all, the Conservatives want their Reform Party base to see that they are finally "delivering the goods", bringing good news for the right wing in Canada.

Our right wing in Canada has a little problem of credibility. The Conservatives are the worst public administrators in the history of Canada. The biggest deficit in the history of Canada until this Conservative government arrived on the scene belonged to the last Conservative government. We are in the process of leaving enormous debts for future generations, while inflation has been running at about 2% per year since they came to office five and a half years ago. There has been a constant increase in spending, on the order of 6 to 7% per year. This means that their spending increases, for which they are unable to show anything concrete in return, are running at 300% higher than the rate of inflation. That is called negligence, mismanagement and incompetence.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 11:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.