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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 25th, 9:15 a.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from British Columbia for her question.

As a matter of fact, I raised this in my remarks. The board of directors of the Canada Post Corporation was certainly not present when cuts in rural and remote areas were discussed, at a time when the corporation was profitable. Canada Post has brought a universal benefit to Canada. At the same time, the board of directors does not answer to the general public. And unlike union leaders, directors are not elected. I used to be a union leader. I was elected every three years by all members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and I am very proud of that.

Where was the board of directors? Maybe the Conservatives should ask this question and hold the board to account for the future mail delivery, both in rural and in urban settings.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:15 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer. In the last few hours of this debate, we heard words like “communism” and “socialism” being used with a great deal of emotion.

I am concerned we are throwing names around. One of the things that has occurred to me is I remember once someone was asking if there was a threat that capitalism would collapse. The answer is no because socialism will always bail it out; the big three auto makers and the banks in the U.S. From the Green Party point of view we are not really very concerned about the socialism, communism, capitalism debate. It is very old. We are much more concerned about the sustainable, economic development that provides the wealth society needs.

I would like to ask the hon. member if she has any thoughts on how socialism bails out capitalism.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:20 a.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to have half a day to explain the difference between the two. Personally, I think I am a socialist. I represent and advocate for the rights of workers, unionized or not, and of the general public, like disadvantaged people or the unemployed. This is my goal, and those are the principles and values I was taught by my parents.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:20 a.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, last night, after my work day, I went back to my hotel room, but I did not go to bed right away. I surfed the Internet and visited social networks like Twitter. I would like to share some of what I found. Unfortunately, I noticed that some people do not have a very good idea of what is going on in this labour dispute between Canada Post management and the workers. Lots of people are talking about a strike. This is the first myth I would like to dispel. There is a lot of talk about that, and I know people are watching CPAC today.

In the media right now, after Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, this debate is the big event on television. I would just like to set the record straight. This is not a strike. Initially, there were rotating strikes, a process that made it possible to deliver people’s mail. But more recently, Canada Post management decided to lock out the employees, thus stopping mail delivery completely. That is the reason why the mail that is being sent now, such as cheques to charities and bills to customers, is not reaching its destination.

First, Canada Post wrongly declared a lockout. Then what happened? Everyone agrees that the country's mail needs to be delivered. The government introduced this bill, but it is based on a very nasty principle. The bill penalizes workers. But during this dispute with their employer, the workers made sure that the mail got delivered for the well-being of Canadians.

Yet, this bill would cut their wages by 18%. And we all know that Canada Post is a very profitable company that contributes millions of dollars to the government every year. In fact Canada's Conservative government owns Canada Post. That is why we, the NDP members, want employees to return to work quickly. That is why we are fighting night and day—literally—to come to an agreement with the Conservatives.

There are many debates in this chamber, and we know that there are many debates between NDP and Conservative members outside this chamber, in the hallways. I want Canadians to know that, even though they see many people taking sides and seemingly not wanting to understand the other party, we really are trying to find a compromise to narrow the scope of the Conservative bill. That way, people can get back to work as quickly as possible, mail service can resume, your grandmother can get her birthday gift and that little girl in northern Quebec can get her glasses. That was one example that was given a few days ago.

My position differs slightly from that of my NDP colleagues. I am very happy that the NDP has been acknowledged as the family and workers' party. I am proud to say that some of our members are great examples of union leaders; the member for Hull—Aylmer is one such example.

My background is a little bit different. I have never belonged to a union but I am against the way this bill is worded. I will explain why. I have never been unionized because I have been self-employed. Before becoming a full-time member of Parliament, I owned a business. Some Conservatives say that the NDP does not understand small businesses and entrepreneurs. They also say it is important to send invoices and receive cheques from customers. As an entrepreneur, I understand that. The NDP agrees with the Conservatives: the workers must go back to work as quickly as possible. We want the mail to be delivered.

However, we disagree with the Conservatives on one point: we do not feel that the workers should be penalized because of a dispute provoked by Canada Post, which declared a lockout and thus interrupted mail delivery.

I wanted to clear up this misunderstanding because people on the Internet are often referring to the strike when, in actual fact, it is a lockout that is blocking the mail. Others are blaming members of the NDP. They are saying that the NDP is preventing the workers from going back to work when all we want to do is to find a solution, whether it be here or with our leaders outside the House. We want the bill to be amended and passed so that the workers are not penalized.

The bill also affects Quebec workers. As a member of Parliament from Quebec, I must represent the interests of Quebeckers who voted overwhelmingly for the NDP in the most recent election. Letter carriers in my riding want to go back to work. Ethically, I cannot agree to allow the government to impose an 18% pay cut on workers. We have spoken about this at length. Young people and new workers are the ones who will be affected by this pay cut, which would create second-class employees.

As for the collective agreement, the workplace is still unsafe. There are still too many workplace accidents. I am a chiropractor and I have treated Canada Post employees who have been injured on the job. Their workplace is not yet safe. Management and the union must find solutions.

Most of the debate focuses on a matter of principle. The NDP believes in social justice, the family and protection for all workers. Last week or a little earlier, the Conservative government wanted to interfere in the Air Canada labour dispute. This week it wants to interfere in the Canada Post strike by passing a special law that is clearly detrimental to the workers. Where will this end?

Yes, the Conservative government has a majority and it can pass any bills it wants. However, Canadians, especially Quebeckers, voted overwhelmingly to send NDP members to the House to stand up to the Conservatives when they make bad decisions and roll back the rights of all workers. In the debate on this bill, we are defending the rights of unionized Canada Post workers, but it affects all other workers, unions and employees.

How can we be sure that, after gradually destroying the rights of unionized workers, the government will not interfere in non-unionized workplaces, taking the side of management, keeping wages as low as possible, and forcing people to work more and to hold down more than one job?

There is a great deal of talk about not lowering the standards of Canadian society. Yes, we are in an economic downturn and we must tighten our belts. In the proposed bill, only the workers will tighten their belts. Canada Post's CEO will not be tightening his belt: he earns a paltry $497,000 per year, and a bonus of 33% of the large profit he generates.

The President and CEO of Canada Post does not want to tighten his belt, yet the government is cutting workers’ salaries by 18%. This makes no sense. It is actually a conflict of interest. The government and Canada Post executives are in cahoots. With the lockout and back-to-work legislation that penalizes workers, the executives will be well paid and millions of dollars of extra profits will flow into government coffers. So the government is in a conflict of interest.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome my fellow entrepreneur to the House of Commons, having been a businessman my whole life.

There were two things that came through in his comments that were stark and that have come up before. It is the contrast between socialist thinking and entrepreneurial free enterprise thinking.

The principle of someone starting a job at a lower pay grade and working their way up, showing through achievement that they deserve that promotion, is something that is used not only in the private sector, but also in the public sector.

My daughter is a teacher and had a much different pay level at grade two when she started, than where she is today. She did not start at the pay grade of the 20 year experienced teacher. The same with my son-in-law who is a police officer. As well, I have two nephews and a niece who are postal letter carriers and they tell me that their job is a good paying job with great benefits. That is highly sought after in our community. However, throughout this debate members are saying that the workers are not getting what they are worth.

I would like the member to answer a question specifically about the different elevations of when a person starts a job until they get some experience down the road, yet the NDP, as socialists do, want to have everyone earning the same.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:30 a.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have to correct something my Conservative colleague said. I am not a socialist but a social democrat. That is an important distinction.

As a businessman, I completely agree that workers with more experience deserve to be paid more. Yet the way the bill is worded, it will drive salaries down. I definitely want to see Canada Post's older workers who mentor younger workers earn more money in recognition of their experience.

Using the hon. member’s reasoning and according to my values as a social democrat, the wages of older workers should be increased. I think they make $24 per hour, so their wages should be increased a bit rather than penalizing the younger employees.

To extrapolate from what the member said, should the pay of Canada Post's new recruits be reduced to minimum wage when they are hired? Why not, in his opinion? And if the Conservative government decides to reduce the minimum wage, should that be enforced as well? Just how low will wages go?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, the member, whom I respect, said that he went home last night and watched The Social Network. He bemoans the fact that Canadians do not seem to quite understand because they are still calling this a strike.

I would suggest that Canadians do understand what is going on here. They do understand that they are not receiving their mail. They do understand that many seniors are being pushed into paying a bill over the Internet, something they do not feel comfortable with. They do understand--

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:30 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

On a point of order, the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:30 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to help because I know my colleague is looking at the clock, which says that this is Thursday, normally a day the mail runs. However, this is Saturday so people back home are not getting their mail. They would not get their mail until Monday. This is why we are here and hopefully--

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:30 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. This is not a point of order.

The hon. member for Crowfoot.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, let me say that the member stands on a point of order time after time simply trying to disrupt debate in the House, playing ridiculous games that he is well known for doing.

Back to my point, that individual seems to still bemoan the fact that Canadians do understand what is going on. They understand that it started with revolving strikes.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I regret to interrupt. I hope this is a legitimate point of order.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:35 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I just want to make it clear because I have been speaking throughout the debate and I have excellent respect for the Chair's rulings, but I think the Speaker would agree that most of the points of order I have been raising have been in asking people to be civil in the House. It is somewhat demeaning to think that asking for civility is ridiculous.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I appreciate that, but again, that is a point of debate. I would ask the hon. member to wind up.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, again, the same guy stands again the House and you keep allowing it to go on and on. All he is trying to do is disrupt the House when we are trying to debate and question a fairly good speech.

The Canadian public understand that we have gone through four years of deep recession. Many people have been without work and many are just getting back into the workplace. When they see revolving strikes and lockouts and all these things happen, they want to see people get back to work. They also want to see a government that will act in the best interest of Canadians.

We know my colleague is standing here in the stead of unions and for the side of the union, but why will you not stand and take a look at where we are headed in this—

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order please. I would ask all members to direct their questions through the Chair.

The hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:35 a.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague seems to be asking two questions. As to the emails last night over the Internet, it was disappointing that people did not understand the issue. Yet a lot of people support us in our efforts. Let me read a message I received on Twitter an hour ago from Steph Aubry, “Congratulations on keeping up the fight. Down with Bill C-6! Employees’ and citizens’ rights must be protected.” Indeed, this affects not only workers but the entire population.

As to the second part of the question, we are just coming out of a recession and people have to understand that. But the issue is people’s right to strike as well as management’s right to impose a lockout. The government can nevertheless decide to end the lockout whenever it wants to. Is it prepared to—

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. We have to continue with the debate.

The hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:35 a.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, I was not supposed to be here today. I was expected back in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl to speak at what is predicted will be the largest rally in years, a rally on the St. John's waterfront, the size of which has not been seen in my home province in decades since the fall of the fisheries in the early 1990s. Thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are expected to turn out.

The rally is in protest of the closure of the Marine rescue centre in St. John's. The centre handles marine distress calls, more than 400 per year, 25% of which are actual at-sea emergencies. The Conservative government plans to close the search and rescue centres in St. John's and Quebec City next year, transferring the jobs to Halifax. People fear the closure of the rescue centres will endanger lives.

I have stood in this chamber in recent days—

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I appreciate the comments that my hon. colleague is making across the way, but they have nothing to do with the point of debate that we are on.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Madam Speaker, on the same point of order, members of the government have stood for the last number of hours insisting that this debate is essentially on the stability and restoration of the well-being of the economy.

I would like to point out for members of the House that the stability and the well-being of the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador, of maritimers across the entire country, depends on access to proper services.

If the essence of this debate is to instill stability and security to the economy of all Canadians, the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl is making a very valid case as to why all matters must be addressed by the House. He is putting in perspective a matter which is not receiving the attention of the House because the government has banned collective action by Canada Post employees by locking them out from work.

I ask that the line of comment and questions being brought forward by the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl be allowed to continue because I feel they are relevant.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:40 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I have heard enough comments on this. I have just come in the chair, but the debate this morning is on the previous question. There is a certain amount of latitude. It is fair to give members time to make their arguments. Let us all calm down and have some respect for each other. I will be attentive, however, it is not up to the Speaker, without reference to the blues, to speak to the question of repetition.

On the question of relevance, there is a fair amount of latitude on this issue in this particular debate.

The hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:40 a.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, I have stood in this chamber in recent days and used words like “senseless”, “reckless”, “hasty” and “indefensible” to describe the actions of the Conservative government. We have one of the worst search and rescue response times in the world. We should be improving our services, not cutting them. Most of the great fisheries of Newfoundland and Labrador are endangered. Now our people are in danger.

The cost-cutting move by the federal government will reportedly save $1 million. I mentioned that in a question this past week for the Prime Minister and the exact same thing happened: a member opposite clapped. In that case, it was the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca. Hundreds and thousands of Newfoundlanders have moved because of the destruction of our fisheries. The Conservatives have closed our marine centre and lives are endangered, and he clapped.

What price is the Government of Canada prepared to pay to put on the value and safety of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians? The shores of Newfoundland and Labrador are about as far away from Ottawa as one can get in the country. Rallies such as today's in St. John's send a clear signal to the Government of Canada there is no price too high to pay for the lives of our mariners.

I was expected to be in St. John's today, but I stand before members today representing the people of my riding, of my province, on another front, in another battle that has been waged by the Conservative government against the Canadian labour movement, against the workers of our country and all they stand for and all they work for, against the pensions and benefits that make Canada one of the most enviable countries in the world. It seems the Conservative government is content to leave labour stranded at sea with our mariners, stranded in a sea of uncertainty.

The legislation we debate in the House would force the 48,000 locked out postal workers back to work for less money than was offered by Canada Post, back to work with a two-tiered wage and benefit package. For new workers who join the federal crown corporation, they would have to work five extra years to qualify for a pension.

If the Conservative government will attack the pensions of the 48,000 workers of Canada Post, who will they attack next? Whose pensions will they go after? Federal public servants, will they be next? Are they safe? The employees of other crown corporations, will they be safe? Who is next? If this contract is allowed to be imposed on the postal workers of our country, which labour union will be next?

This is just the beginning. Look off to the horizon. Do members see the job cuts off in the distance? They are there, make no mistake.

The rally today on the waterfront of St. John's, a rally that will be held within sight of one of the wonders of my world, The Narrows, the entrance to our 500-year-old port, will draw more than worried mariners and their families. It will draw more than fishermen and fisherwomen, the ones we have left. The rally will also draw worried members of one the federal government's largest unions, the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

The PSAC is holding its Atlantic Regional Convention in St. John's this weekend. The union fears the closure of the search and rescue centre signals the start of cuts to the entire public service, as many as 1,000 job losses in the Atlantic region alone. Whose job will be next? They, too, the workers of our country, are sending out a distress call and it falls on deaf Conservative ears.

On Friday afternoon, I spoke on the telephone with the two labour leaders of the 850 locked out postal workers in Newfoundland and Labrador, members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. Their membership is not prepared to live with a two-tier pension plan, one pension for existing workers and another less attractive pension for new employees. If the Conservative government has its way, the postal workers will carry the burden of diminished benefits, on top of the mail.

The union leaders told me Friday that, as of 2010, their pension plan was fully funded, to the tune of $15.3 billion. Why are the workers being broadsided? Why is their pension plan being targeted when Canada Post made $281 million in 2009? Why?

The Conservative government talks about how billions of dollars in cuts are imminent. The Maritime rescue centres, the pension packages, the federal jobs. Who is next? Where will it end? I asked that question on Friday of the union leaders in St. John's and they had an interesting answer. They said that the only people left were their children. They said, “If we don't stand up and fight for our younger workers right now, there will be nothing to fight for in the future”.

One of the union leaders in St. John's told me about a senior postal worker, a woman with 30 years seniority. She does not need to be on the picket line. She can retire any day because her pension is safe. However, she heard the Leader of the Opposition's speech in the House of Commons on Thursday and it motivated her to walk the line.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:45 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I must interrupt the hon. member for questions and comments.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Out of respect, I wanted to wait until the member finished his speech.

I want to address a point that he made in his speech. I realize the member is new to the House. He made an insinuation about the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca. I can assure him that the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca has been a strong advocate of workers' safety, particularly the workers across the country that go to his riding.

I want to give the new member a chance to show respect, to stand in the House—