Madam Speaker, as this is my first opportunity to rise in the House during debate, I will take the opportunity to thank the voters of Halifax who voted me back with a very strong mandate to represent all the constituents in the riding.
For those political trivia buffs, such as the member for Winnipeg Centre, it is an interesting fun fact to know that I was elected with more votes of any member since Robert Stanfield. That is not bad for a New Democrat.
I am here representing the constituents of Halifax, regardless of whether they voted for me, I have had a lot of contact from constituents since we started this debate in the House, and actually since hours after the rolling strikes began and the government announced in the House that it would introduce back to work legislation.
It is the constituents' voices that we are missing. We are doing a good job, standing up for the workers and for Canadians, but their voices are missing. Therefore, I will take this opportunity to bring their voices to this chamber, to this magnificent place, and actually share with hon. members what they are saying in my riding. Some of them are postal workers, some are not, but they all care deeply about this issue.
I will start with a letter I received from Thomas Beazely. He wrote:
My name is Thomas Beazely and I am a lettercarrier and 29 year employee of Canada Post in Halifax. I urge honorable members here today to reject the legislation before you. Remove this unjust act that impedes the ability for our union and Canada Post to negotiate a fair agreement for both parties. Allow history to show that government allows collective bargaining to resolve issues and does not permit legislation to tip the scales and handcuff the Rights of workers and labour in Canada. Let the record show that all parties here today worked together to make the playing field level so that Canada Post is forced to negotiate in good faith. This has not been the case thus far. We the workers, I a lettercarrier, want to do our work. We want to serve the citizens of this great country, we want to deliver the mail. We did everything we could to ensure our service was maintained with as little disruption to the public as possible while attempting to force Canada Post to negotiate in good faith. They have hidden behind the promise of legislation and today hide behind the act of legislation. They caused the loss of service to our customers and now should not be allowed to hide behind the misleading information they are providing to our customers. Let “nay” be the vote that carries at the end of the debate, let history show all parties are concerned about workers rights. Thank you for your time....
I have another letter I received from a constituent named Scott Mason. He writes:
...I am a mail carrier for Canada Post. I strongly oppose the back to work legislation because it gives the corporation a way out of bargaining in good faith. Why should Canada Post negotiate when they know the Gov't. t is going to side with them anyway. We started out with rolling strikes to put some pressure on the Corp. and very little on the public. We do not have any problem with the public, as a matter of fact we have been getting overwhelming support from the public. If we do not have the right to fair negotiations, what kind of future will we and our families have? What about future generations? It seems like we are going backwards! If the majority of the population is only making minimum wage, where will are economy be? The Prime Minister would be wise to think real hard about this situation, because there is a lot of unions in this country with a lot of votes. We are not asking for the moon, we just want a fair deal. We were ready and willing to deliver the mail, and still are. Now if the Prime Minister would legislate Canada Post to let us get back to doing our jobs, which many of us love and make them negotiate, he would earn a lot of respect.
The next letter is actually from someone in my riding who I know is not a postal worker. In fact, he is a scientist but he wrote to me because he cares about this issue as well.
His name is Chris Majka, and he writes:
A just and democratic society is one that knows how to hear and balance the voices, ideals, and legitimate concerns of all its citizens. The right to collective bargaining by unions representing working people, are an essential component of how modern, progressive, democratic societies work. These rights were hard fought for, and represent a significant triumph for citizens, not only of Canada, but also of nations throughout the world where the principles of civil society are respected. They ensure that working people have a right to be heard with respect to legitimate concerns relating to the conditions of their employment and the remuneration they receive. But they also represent something even more important--dignity. The dignity that is every person's birthright. Dignity to be respected as an individual, as a human being with fundamental rights--and not simply as a mechanical cog within an administrative or corporate machine.
And these rights must also not be toothless. Where collective bargaining fails to achieve a mutually acceptable consensus, unions, and the members they represent, must have the right to withdraw their services, and strike for what they believe in. Without this capacity collective bargaining pales into insignificance. Unions must be able to take a principled position on the picket lines, literally standing for what they believe. Except in demonstrably dire circumstances, this right to collectively bargain should not be abrogated by government.
Forcing workers back to work needlessly muddies the waters of collective bargaining. It disenfranchises workers from the fundamental rights of every person to have to have a role in determining the conditions, circumstances, and remuneration under which they offer their services to an employer.
I submit that in the case of the current [lockout] by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, there is no dire threat to Canada of the sort that would warrant the federal government passing back-to-work legislation.
I urge the Canadian government to respect the rights of workers, to respect the principles of collective bargaining, to respect the right of unions to undertake legal strike action, and to drop its plans to pass such legislation. Canadians from all walks of life are looking to see if this government intends to impose governance on its citizens, or work in concert with them. This is the time to demonstrate good faith and show a commitment to respectful civil society.
Actually, I feel like I could not have said this better myself. People have written really passionate letters and it is a real privilege to be able to bring their voices to the fore.
In the time I have left, I would like to read a little bit from Jim Guild in Halifax. He wrote:
Any fair-minded parliamentarian would have to rise and speak forcefully against the legislation forcing postal workers back to work. Any law that so precipitously and unnecessarily takes away the democratic right of workers to lawfully withdraw their labour would be reprehensible. But this Act is so flagrantly one-sided in favour of the employer -- Canada Post -- that it does discredit to even this Conservative government. And this is a government that most Canadians expect to be unfair and unreasonable.
Not only is the legislation an attack on public sector workers, it is a disrespectful assault on the very public service upon which Canadians rely. This is particularly true for Canadians who live outside our urban areas.
It is a slap in the faces of the very workers who created the Canada Post profits these past years that have flowed directly to the Canadian government coffers. And it insults every new employee before they have even start working for Canada Post.
This is the [Prime Minister's] gift that keeps on taking.
So I encourage any Parliamentarian to do whatever they can to delay, if not prevent, the enactment of this short-sighted and mean-spirited legislation.
As I said, those are the voices of people from my riding who I represent. I think they have put it just beautifully. I urge the government to start acting reasonably, take the locks off the doors and let the two parties negotiate and put an end to this lockout.