Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand in the House, along with our NDP team, and bring forward the voices of the people in northern Manitoba, to stand up for the workers who build our communities and who have built our country. Standing in the House I also feel, in a way, that I am living history.
As a 28-year-old young woman who was born and grew up in Canada, I am seeing the Canada that I grew up to believe in fade away. It was a Canada where people enjoyed one of the best qualities of life, the best health care, some of the best education, some of the safest workplaces, and some of the most stable futures. Yet with this kind of legislation, that Canada is being chipped away.
Canada is being chipped away because the people who have built it, the working people of Canada, are having their rights rolled back. Number one is the right to collective bargaining, which is all that the Canadian Union of Postal Workers has asked for. It has asked to go through an enshrined right, a process that working Canadians go through in many workplaces, to say, “This isn't fair”, or, “Times are changing, things are getting more expensive, and there are more challenges up ahead, so let us find ways to keep wages, benefits, and pensions in line with a Canada that is moving forward.
Instead of having a partner with whom they could negotiate, they were locked out. When that partner locked them out, just a few days later, the government, which has control over crown corporations, came around and did not just agree with what was presented by Canada Post, it went even further. The government proposed wages that were lower than what Canada Post, the employer, proposed to their employees. With this legislation in front of us today, the government has gone further and silenced the very people who hold up our communities, the very people who are asking for nothing less than dignity and fairness.
But that Canada is also fading away because of the specific attack on my generation. It is my generation that will have a double standard in the kinds of pensions that are proposed as a result of the Canada Post program. These are the kinds of pensions that have already been largely taken away in the private sector.
I come from a proud mining community. Vale, a foreign-owned company, has put out the workers, our brothers and sisters in Sudbury, for over a year because they were asking for a proper pension, a defined benefit pension, so that they would know that their money--their deferred wages--was not going into a black hole to be played with by the markets, which we have seen cause great havoc with people's savings, but that it was locked up somewhere secure, because that is their money, that is our money.
Now we are seeing a new page. We are seeing a crown corporation, which is controlled by government, take that very same approach and say that because you are young and new, you do not deserve the wages and pensions of those who have gone before you. What will result from that? It will result in a generation, my generation, being less well off than our parents. That is not just in an individual sense; it is in the kinds of communities we live in.
I think of my community of Thompson, one of the youngest regions in Canada. Rhonda, who delivers my mail, and Jen and Ian, good friends of mine, are people just like the rest of us. They want to buy a home, build a family, maybe buy a vehicle, and maybe once in a while take a holiday from one of the coldest parts in Canada. But they know they will not be able to make the same plans as their co-workers who are nearing retirement or their parents who have retired.
That double standard also applies to people who live in rural areas of the country like the one I live in. Much has been said about the challenges people face in rural areas.
I really wonder how so many of the members opposite, elected from the same region of Canada in which I was elected, representing rural areas like the one I was elected from, can stand here and say that what Canada Post has been doing is okay. Not only has there been an attack on working people in general, but the kinds of allocations and terms of funding that Canada Post has made have far prioritized urban centres rather than investing in rural areas. The postal service in rural areas is not a luxury. It is absolutely integral, integral in not only communications and entrepreneurship but communication between people.
Most recently Canada Post took care of the food mail program that serviced some of the poorest people in our country, aboriginal people in the regions like the one I live in and represent. These are regions that are isolated, and this program allowed them to access healthy foods. Now that has been taken away.
Much was said about the $2 billion Canada Post committed to the modernization projects. I saw a fancy PowerPoint presentation about the new vehicles people would get. Those vehicles do not work in places like the one I come from. But I do know from people like Barb and Lorna and Bertha, who I talked to in Flin Flon today, that the permanent workers who are retiring are leaving empty spots that are not being filled up. There is increasing hiring of casual workers. When they bring forward challenges they are facing with rural postal delivery, Canada Post is reticent to respond to those concerns.
The hypocrisy in having a government that claims to stand for rural Canada or western Canada, that claims to stand for the future, leaves behind not just rural areas with this legislation but also begins the chipping away of the foundations that would help hold up my generation.
This type of approach is not singular here with Canada Post. We have heard that very question: Who is going to be next? What about those institutions where we all belong and come together to find ways for all of us to be better off?
The Canadian Wheat Board is another one, the single desk marketer of a very important product that comes out of my part of Canada.
What about our other crown corporations? Which one will be attacked next? We already know their funding has been challenged and cut. But how about the workers who work for these crown corporations?
It doesn't have to be this way. Our leader of the official opposition put forward the statement that it does not have to be this way. What we ask from the government is to get Canada Post to take that lock off the door and allow the two parties to come to the table and find a resolution in terms of the challenges that workers are facing on the ground and to recognize that these workers are the people who hold up our communities. These workers are raising children who are going to grow up in a world that is going to be increasingly more challenging.
The role of government, if nothing else, is to stand up for its people. That is why our fight today is not just for the workers of Canada Post but for every worker in Canada and every Canadian who deserves dignity in a country as wealthy as ours.