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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, 7:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

On the same point of order, the hon. opposition House leader.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 7:55 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, on that point of order, I just want to make sure that when this happens it does not affect the time of the members of the loyal opposition who are speaking. That was obviously not a point of order. It was a point of debate.

The member was also signalling that in his opinion someone was absent from the House. That is another breach of the regulations governing our debates. I would have hoped that this would have been pointed out to the member. I ask that particular attention be paid to that type of intervention. It was definitely not a point of order. It breached another rule of the House.

As the parliamentary House leader of the official opposition, I ask for confirmation that this type of intervention does not negatively affect the time allotted to the members of the opposition for speaking.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 7:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I appreciate the advice offered to the chair from the hon. members of the chamber.

I would encourage all members to refrain from using points of order as opportunities to engage in debate and to take away from speakers. I have just come back to the chair. It is actually morning to me rather than late night. I do not know what has happened to this point. In this case, the clock has been stopped during this process. This will not infringe on the time allocated to the member speaking.

I appreciate that many members have strong views on this subject. I would appreciate the cooperation of all hon. members. I hope they will show their colleagues the respect they are due.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 7:55 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat what I said because there may have been an interpretation problem. I was acknowledging that the federal government provided assistance to the automotive industry in the form of $10 billion in loan guarantees. That said, it is unacceptable to say that the government helped the forestry industry, which is larger than the automotive sector in terms of percentage of GDP, when it received only $170 million to help it out of the crisis. I simply wanted to correct what my colleague opposite had said.

I also want to say that I am proud to represent the people of Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. Like many of my colleagues, I want to express my regrets that I am not there with my constituents today to celebrate Quebec's national holiday.

I would like to say to the various members who have made speeches, and particularly the members on the government side, that my goal is to represent all of my constituents, both the postal workers and those who use postal services.

My colleagues know that this is my first term as an MP. Some of them have been here longer, but it seems that my colleagues are having some trouble properly responding to the correspondence they are receiving from their constituents. So I would like to help them out. If they have a pencil and a sheet of paper, they can take some notes.

To the people who are writing to them to say that they are having difficulty, that their small business will not survive if service does not resume or that they are waiting for services, various goods, medications and so on, they can say that there is currently a conflict at Canada Post and that the employees responded to that conflict with a rotating strike in light of what they felt were unacceptable offers from Canada Post. That rotating strike allowed Canadians to receive their mail, their parcels, and so on.

The Minister of Labour said that she would not step in to put an end to the rotating strike since service was not being interrupted, but that if service was interrupted, she would seriously consider the possibility of passing special legislation. So Canada Post locked out the employees.

Given that the government has a weak majority that it obtained through less than 40% of voters and less than 20% of voters in Quebec, it has the power to impose a special bill that interferes with the principle of collective bargaining. But, as government MPs, my colleagues support this process. The government had several options actually. It could have passed a special bill to renew the collective agreement, which would have been acceptable to the union and the employees, and which would have let Canadians receive their mail. Unfortunately, the government decided not to take that route.

The government could have passed a special bill that would have ended the lockout without affecting the union's right to rotating strikes and the right to strike, which would have made mail delivery possible. Unfortunately, the government decided not to take that route.

So the government decided to impose special legislation that forces employees to return to work under unfavourable conditions.

The government says it is surprised that the employees do not approve of the conditions that are contrary to their interests, even though that government decision is delaying mail delivery.

This is what my colleagues could say to their constituents to explain the current situation.

In my opinion, this government—my colleagues do not have to write this in their letter—is definitely the most polarizing government I have seen in the history of Canada. Right now, it is dividing the country into good guys and bad guys, as it has done for the past five years, and as we know it will continue to do. Right now, the bad guys are the unionized workers whom it has decided to treat as second-class citizens.

What is happening here now is by no means an isolated event. We are not staying here until who knows when in order to deal with an isolated incident at Canada Post. A message is being sent to Canadian employers for the coming years and especially for the next fours years, under this government. It is basically telling CEOs and board of directors chairs that they can negotiate in bad faith and drag their feet for seven, eight or nine months and impose a lockout.

Then the government will simply legislate and impose strict conditions on employees, conditions that favour employers. We just saw this with Air Canada. That is what the government was about to do. Now the same thing is happening with Canada Post. What will be next? Via Rail, Bell, Bombardier or any other company this government considers too important to our economy to be allowed to negotiate freely and to determine its own future.

In other words, the message being sent out right now to employers in this country is that if they manufacture a crisis, the government will bail them out. That is exactly what is happening here.

I would like to take the rest of my time to discuss two specific reasons that, to me, explain why there is currently a labour dispute. The employer is imposing two clauses that are absolutely unacceptable to the union, the entire union movement, and to people in the lower middle class. With clauses like that, we can understand why people resort to using pressure tactics such as rotating strikes.

One of the clauses is called an “orphan clause”. The most inequitable and unfair measure that there could ever be in the world of labour relations is an “orphan clause”. I am not sure if there is a way to translate that expression. Essentially, with an orphan clause, young employees joining the workforce who do the same work as employees already on the job will earn a lower salary than their colleagues. How can a union that represents all its members tell some members they are worth less than others who are doing the same work? Does anyone really think the union can accept that? Can someone not explain to Canada Post, which is a crown corporation—and therefore controlled by the government—this basic principle of labour relations, namely that members cannot receive different salaries for the same work?

The other clause has to do with pensions. As some hon. members have already talked about this, I will not talk about it at length. Employees, who know they will have income security when they retire at age 60 or 65, are being asked to go from a defined benefit package, where they know what benefit amount to expect, to a defined contribution plan, where they can hope there is no economic crisis when they are set to retire. Otherwise, they might end up having to work another five, six or seven years.

Again, the principle is unacceptable and we can understand the union's position. We are asking Canada Post to be more conciliatory. We are asking the federal government not to send workers back to work under unfavourable conditions and to consider other options such as ending the lockout.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:05 a.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there are some ironies in the current debate, Right now the NDP is perpetuating an effort to delay an end to a corporate lockout. Apparently, its members wish to have the workers of Canada Post continue to be locked out and have Canadians denied service. I know they have an affection for work stoppages.

When we hit 11 a.m. this morning, this back to work legislation will have been delayed longer than any of the other 32 times such legislation has been tabled in Canadian history.

Is it really the case that the members opposite are so committed to the New Democratic Party that they will do everything possible to deny Canadians postal delivery and everything possible procedurally to keep the Canadian economy from having the benefit of the postal service it depends on so strongly?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:05 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

I would like to thank the member for his question. When I began my speech, I said I was sincerely sorry and offered my apologies to my constituents in Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques that I could not be with them because we are here debating this issue. This is a fundamental issue that is going to set the direction that labour relations will take now and for the next four years.

The government members are well aware that they could settle this issue very quickly. They can change the special legislation; I offer them that option. This is not an option that has been only half discussed here. They can introduce another special bill and end the lockout. They can make sure that the employees retain their right to hold rotating strikes. Tomorrow morning, Saturday, I am sure the postal workers would be happy to work that day to make up for the losses. Beginning on Monday at the latest, people will start getting their mail again. It is up to the government to make the effort to end this debate by introducing a bill that is fair to everyone, which will mean that Canadians and Quebeckers will get their mail.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:05 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, frankly, this debate strikes me as a dialogue of the deaf. We have the hard right ideologues in the government jamming the union with legislation that it cannot possibly accept, and we have hard left ideologues in the NDP who cannot quite come to grips with the actual decline in the need for postal service, as evidenced over a number of years.

Simultaneously, Canadians are looking at this discussion here in the chamber and shaking their heads. If my office is any indication, frankly, they do not care. I am not getting a whole lot of push-back other than from the identifiable hard right or hard left.

I suggest to hon. members that they have a chat between themselves, because Canadians are otherwise just going to let them talk and talk.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:05 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not really hear a question.

At the moment, it is very easy to put the situation in a left and right context, but that is not the issue. As I said in my speech, the fact is that we have a polarizing government right now that had other options than introducing a special bill, one with unfavourable terms, that requires an arbitrator to abide by strict conditions, something that did not exist in previous legislation. It had a choice.

As I said, if it absolutely wanted to use a special bill to end the bargaining process, it could have put a halt to the lockout and still allowed the employees to retain their right to strike, which they were using to hold a rotating strike, and this would have meant that people would get mail service. It could also have arranged, in a special bill, for the present collective agreement to continue for one or two years, and this could have let that people get their mail.

There are options here, but this government is refusing to consider them. In all honesty, if the people they represent were to write to them, what they should reply is this: the government has made a choice, and the choice is to pit management against the union, and that creates disputes like this one. It is not a matter of left or right; it is a matter of justice and fairness.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:10 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to add my voice to the growing concern over the government's heavy-handed and draconian legislation.

Essentially, the government has declared war on working people in Canada. Within hours of Air Canada's workers going on strike, the government advised that it was bringing in back to work legislation. Within hours of Canada Post locking out its workers, the government advised that it was bringing in back to work legislation. There was no attempt to reason or to meet with the sides in this dispute; they just brought in the sledgehammer.

Workers in Canada should look out, because this government has decided that it is appropriate that the standard of living of ordinary workers in Canada continues to slide backwards relative to inflation. They have decided it is okay for pensions to be clawed back. They have decided that it is okay for young workers to be paid less for doing the same job.

The government's intention is clear. It is attacking in the holy name of profit and ideology the very standards of living that working people have struggled to reach over the past fifty-plus years. This legislation attacks working families by making them take a lesser wage increase, $40 million less in fact. It attacks pensioners and retirees by demanding that the agreement not touch the solvency ratio. It attacks working conditions by demanding that the arbitrator look at the imaginary market place of postal companies for comparisons of working conditions. There is no comparator, but the arbitrator is forced to do that.

This legislation also attacks young workers by signalling to them very clearly that they should expect less than their senior colleagues in working conditions, wages, pensions and everything else. That is not the message this party wants to convey to the people of Canada. We want to convey a message that Canadians should continue to expect to do better every year, that our standard of living should continue to grow, that our ability to purchase our homes and food should continue to grow and not slip backwards.

The solvency ratio part of the legislation really bothers me, because the government has advised that it is concerned about the cost of a mediated or arbitrated system. Yet in order to determine the solvency ratio of the offers to be sent to the arbitrator, they will have to spend millions of dollars to have actuarial evaluations of a $14 billion pension plan done on each offer and then on the final selected package. That is an incredible waste of money.

The government only mentions the solvency ratio and not the going-concern ratio. What does that mean? A solvency ratio shows what will happen if a pension plan is wound up. If Canada Post ceases to exist, how much money will be owed to the pensioners? That is all they talk about. Does that signal a hidden agenda to privatize Canada Post? I say this because the government did not talk about the going-concern ratio, which Canada Post itself is not worried about. Canada Post states that:

Since the going-concern deficit is small, it is anticipated that this can be eliminated quickly—

That is Canada Post itself saying that. The deficit in fact is 1%.

I think this points to a government intention to perhaps contract out the postal service in the near future, and we should be very concerned about that.

I also want to point out to the members opposite that I have a long history in the labour movement in Canada. I remember what started me on this quest in the labour movement, the 1975 legislation by a certain Prime Minister who had promised not to do so, but who limited wages across Canada. That legislation in 1975 was called wage and price controls, and it was introduced by a Prime Minister this party does not really like, Mr. Pierre Trudeau. Today, the government smells an awful lot like that Prime Minister, because the government is introducing legislation to limit wages. It is awful.

Then again in 1982, he brought in some more wage controls. Again, this legislation seems to have the air of the beginning of wage controls in this country.

That prime minister lasted only a couple of years before he was kicked out of office. The government should pay attention.

If this is about restraint, if that is what this is about, that the workers of Canada Post are being told they must exercise restraint, why is the restraint not being practised at the senior levels of Canada Post? Why is the Canada Post CEO continuing to get wage increases and bonus increases that far outstrip the rate of inflation? That is a clear message to the people of Canada that the government actually cares more about the CEOs and their wages than it does about ordinary working Canadians and their wages, working conditions, and ability to get by.

The other thing that bothers me about the government's comments is its complaint that bargaining took too long and that is why they had to step in. In fact, I have bargained collective agreements that took 22 months to negotiate, and that is because the issues were so complex and so detailed that it took that long to actually figure a way out of the morass without a strike or a lockout. That is part of what happens in Canada when things are complicated. We take a long time to discuss them; we take a long time to deal with it.

The minister also claims that she did everything possible--everything possible--under the legislation to prevent this dispute. That is not true. The legislation still contains a provision for a conciliation commissioner, which was not used by this minister. A conciliation commissioner has the power to issue a public report, and while the commissioner is deliberating, there is no possibility of a strike or lockout. That was not done here. The minister did not do everything she could.

Let us also talk about the other effects of this legislation on the rest of the people of Canada and the signals it is sending to other governments in this country.

My son-in-law is a police officer and his job is declared to be an essential service, and he does not have the right to strike. In return for that denial of his right to strike, he has an understanding that is put in place by the province that his wages, benefits, and working conditions, if they cannot be negotiated, will all be sent to a third party for determination--not some of his benefits, not everything but pensions, not everything but wages because we are going to define the wages over here.

Recently the police officers in the city of Toronto, with an arbitrated settlement, reached an 11.5% wage increase over four years. That is an appropriate wage increase. They accepted it. That is what was determined by a third party.

However, here the government has decided to instruct the third party that they are not to give more than 7.25%. That is more than 4% less than an arbitrated settlement in Canada. I believe that a lot of those police officers may have voted for this party. But if this government introduces this kind of legislation, it will signal to other legislatures across the country that it is okay to limit wage increases in arbitrated settlements, it is okay to limit benefit increases in arbitrated settlements, and it is okay to touch pensions in arbitrated settlements. That will be a very sorry day for the rest of Canada.

I just want to say one other thing. In a Canada Post press release right after talks broke off on June 22, the company announced:

Canada Post must now find ways to deal with the financial damage caused by the work disruption.

That is a self-inflicted wound. They did it to themselves, and now they are worried about the damage?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:20 a.m.

Cambridge Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear ConservativeMinister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario)

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask a question on the last point, the self-inflicted wound.

There are two financial costs here. Of course, one is happening now; $25 million a day is the estimate. The other was caused by the rotating strikes. After eight months of negotiations there were rotating strikes caused by the members, which caused an interruption in service and a loss of stability to consumers of what Canada Post offers. This is something the NDP just does not get about business.

People start to outsource their needs. Canada Post starts to lose business. That was about $100 million. That was not caused by Canada Post. That was caused by the rotating strikes. So after eight months of free negotiations and rotating strikes, which caused a lockout, there is significant financial damage.

Here is my question. If the member is not willing to get the workers back to work, he obviously must be willing to have the taxpayers in his riding take up these additional and exorbitant costs, in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Why is the member not willing to get these workers back to work and let them negotiate the way they want? Why is the member so willing to allow his constituents to pay those high taxes?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:20 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are actually willing to have these workers go back to work. In fact, yesterday we said unlock the doors, they will be back, the fiscal damage will stop, and they can negotiate a collective agreement, freely and without worry of legislation.

This legislation signals to employers that they do not have to negotiate because the government will jump in and rescue their bacon the instant they lock people out.

There is no ongoing labour relations peace here. This union has had 20 labour disputes in the last 46 years and a lot of them have been legislated back to work.

Why does the government continue to do that? Why does the government continue to signal to this employer and the union that they do not really have to bargain because something bad will happen to them at the end of the day?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:20 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the hon. member talk about the immense amount of knowledge he has in labour relations. On the one hand, of course, we have the hard hand of Bill C-6, which is a hammer, with legislation full of clauses that will clearly tie the hands of any arbitrator or mediator.

Given the fact that the official opposition had an opportunity to move an amendment last night, with the member's great knowledge and the knowledge of some of the others on his NDP team, why were the amendments not put forward in more of a conciliatory way, actually trying to find solutions and laying those solutions on the table, rather than simply deferring things for six months and letting them work it out? Why were some of those amendments not mapped out so that we could find solutions, rather than a continual debate between the extreme right and the extreme left that could go on for days?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:20 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, my leader signalled last night that we were in fact willing to negotiate a peaceful resolution to this dispute with this government. As far as I know, there has been no response from this government.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:25 a.m.

NDP

Jonathan Tremblay NDP Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have heard some disturbing comments from the other side of the House and also from the second opposition party, but I can understand their frustrations.

With respect to the special legislation and arbitration, what does my colleague trust? Does he trust the partisan interests of the government or the free judgment of the arbitrator?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:25 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, we do not know who the arbitrator is, but assuming that it is a good arbitrator, I would certainly trust the judgment of a third-party arbitrator, as did the police services in Toronto in the last few months.

However, the arbitrator's hands are being tied in terms of wages, in terms of working conditions, and in terms of this unknown solvency ratio that the entire collective agreement cannot have the effect of increasing or decreasing. So his hands are completely tied.

I do not have any doubt that it will be almost impossible for him to find anything other than what Canada Post presents in this particular way of conducting an arbitration.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:25 a.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, the number one issue during the 2011 federal election campaign in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl was pensions. It was the number one issue for seniors. It was the number one issue for working people.

For seniors, their concern was how to get by on a fixed income. Seniors asked me not to forget them when I went to Ottawa. I have not. I will not.

There is a lot of talk in Newfoundland and Labrador these days about fog, and not just the type that creeps in off the North Atlantic and shrouds the outports and cities, but F-O-G, the acronym for food, oil, and gas. The cost of necessities like food, oil, and gas continues to rise as fixed incomes remain just that, fixed.

Seniors struggle with the question of how to pay for the rising cost of living while on fixed incomes like pensions. I could not count the number of seniors I visited in their homes and apartments over the course of the election who came to their doors in hats, mitts, and winter coats. They dressed that way in the middle of the afternoon in their own homes because they could not afford to turn on the heat. They asked me not to forget them. I will not.

Seniors were not the only ones concerned about pensions. We heard the concern from young people, working couples, who spoke to me at their doors about how they are supposed to prepare for their retirement when they can barely get by in the prime of their working lives. They can just manage to pay the bills. In some cases, they cannot.

We heard the concern from middle-aged firemen who questioned how they could afford to retire on modest pensions, given the clawback on the Canada Pension Plan.

I can tell you this. The fog in Newfoundland and Labrador, the fog in Canada, is getting thicker.

One of the central issues in the dispute between the 48,000 locked out postal workers and Canada Post is pensions. As the New Democrat labour critic said in the House of Commons on Thursday, the pension plan is in danger. As the NDP opposition leader said so eloquently on Thursday, Canada Post wants to create a two-tier wage and benefit package. New workers who join the federal crown corporation would have to work an extra five years to qualify for a pension--five years.

Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, says:

...proposals to institute two-tier wages and benefits for new Canada Post employees [is] unwarranted and unfair to young Canadians, who are already facing unemployment rates.

They are extremely high as it is.

Here is a direct quote from Paul Moist:

There are no such things as two-tier rent or mortgages: young and new workers don't get a discount on utility or grocery bills. “It's outrageous to say young workers don't deserve the same wages and benefits for doing the same work.”

Young people have a hard enough time as it is paying off student loans and incredibly high credit card interest rates, which this Conservative government, as we know, will not do anything about.

If the Conservative government will attack the pensions of 48,000 workers at Canada Post, who will it attack next? Whose pension plan will it go after? We know whose side the Conservative government is on. Canada Post made a net profit of $281 million in 2009 alone. Who will directly benefit from the five extra years that new Canada Post employees will have to work? Not the workers, I can tell you that.

The labour minister stood on the floor of the House of Commons on Thursday and spoke about the damage to the Canadian economy for the Canada Post strike, which she was corrected on--it is not a strike; it is a lockout. The use of the word “strike”, as the opposition leader pointed out, to use his words, “is a brazen example of propaganda”.

The labour minister said the damage to the economy from the lockout could be significant. What about the damage to pensions? Would the minister describe that as significant? Whose pension will be next?

The labour minister says Canadians cannot go on without postal service.

I can say this with authority, the authority of the hundreds of pensioners and working people I spoke to during the campaign in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl, Canadians cannot go on without pensions. Let me ask again, whose pension will be next?

Is the ultimate goal of the Conservative government to weaken the voice of workers? Is that part of the strategy? Is that the new Conservative action plan? Is the true goal, as the opposition leader said, to make profit while taking advantage of workers? As has been said before, it is a race to the bottom, except for those on the top.

The Conservative government's back to work legislation gives the employer, Canada Post, the advantage in the labour dispute. The legislation will force employees back to work for less money than Canada Post last offered. Whose side is the Conservative government on? Not the workers of Canada Post, that is obvious.

During the federal election, the MP for St. John's and I met the workers of the Canada Post headquarters in St. John's early one morning. By early, I mean 6 a.m. We shook hands in the parking lot as the workers arrived for their shifts, and it was bitter cold. The workers mentioned how they may be headed toward job action, and as New Democrat candidates we vowed to be there for them.

When I was back in my riding two weeks ago, I visited the workers again outside the Kenmount Road station. They had set up an information line and served lemonade. It was still cold, but the lemonade was good. The workers were generally young. They were fired up. They were concerned about benefits and what they had to lose. They have a lot to lose.

There was a story Thursday in the news back home about how a Newfoundland Supreme Court judge issued an injunction against locked out Canada Post workers in eastern Newfoundland. Canada Post had complained that workers in St. John's and Mount Pearl were blocking access to the post offices, using vehicles, picnic tables, palllets and what Justice Robert Hall described as vigorous picket lines.

The injunction prohibits workers from blocking access to people walking by and calls for any barricades on picket lines to be removed by Thursday night. I am sure they were. The workers of Canada Post are good, law-abiding citizens, but can we blame the workers for being vigorous in their attempt to secure their future? Can we blame them? Again, if this is allowed to happen to the 48,000 workers of Canada Post, who will be next? Let me ask again so it will sink in, who will be next?

The Conservative government keeps talking about how Canada led the world in weathering the recession, but the Conservative government also talks about how cuts are on the horizon, billions of dollars in cuts. Who will pay for the savings? The working poor? The young? The old? Pensioners?

When it comes to pensions, six out of ten Canadians rely solely on CPP or QPP, other government assistance or some savings, modest savings, I might add. I got that statistic from the Globe and Mail. Here is a quote from the Globe and Mail:

Pension experts estimate that about 30 per cent of the population will be poorer in retirement, sometimes significantly, and the share grows every year.

Here is another quote from John Gordon, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada:

The agenda of this government is to take on unions and do away with free collective bargaining. This is what this is about,

I can tell hon. members what the New Democrats are about. They are about working Canadians. We are about Canadian families. The labour minister made a snarky remark Thursday in this chamber about how labour unions have a hotline to the New Democrats. When Canadians call the New Democrats about issues that are critical to them, issues that are critical to families, issues that are critical to their future, Canadians can call the New Democrats. We do not put them on hold for big business. We do not put them on hold for anyone. We answer the call.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 2011 / 8:35 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, during the member's speech I made some notes. I listened quite carefully. He talked about attacking pensions and used a phrase, “the pension plan is in danger”. I would make the argument that of course the biggest danger to the Canada Post pension plan is the NDP platform. The NDP platform, we might remember, proposed raising corporate taxes. Under this government, they would be 15% next year, but the NDP proposes 19.5% so that is 4.5 points difference, representing a 30% increase in corporate taxes.

The NDP talks a lot about banks and oil companies somehow being in opposition to the notion of successful pensions. I pointed out earlier in this debate that the largest equity holdings in the Canada Post pension fund, starting at the top, are listed as: Toronto-Dominion Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia, Suncor Energy, Canadian Natural Resources; and I could go on. Out of the top 25 holdings, 15 of them are banks and oil companies.

My question for the member is, how can the member justify a massive 30% tax hike on the pensions of Canadian workers?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:35 a.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, for me it is all about cutting to the chase and getting to the point. What has been proposed here is a two-tier pension plan: one pension plan for existing workers of Canada Post, and another pension for new employees, a pension plan that is not as good. A two-tier pension plan is not good enough.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, here is another illustration of a dialogue of the deaf. We have heard from the hard left in this particular instance.

Clearly, the government has a supervisory jurisdiction with respect to the economy. Whether it is left or right, NDP or Liberal, whatever the level of government it has a supervisory jurisdiction. The rationale for this particular piece of legislation was that the labour dispute was impacting on the economy. I thought that was a rather thin rationalization for the imposition of legislation, particularly at this stage of the negotiations.

Simultaneously, the union and the NDP have yet to come to grips with the notion that Canada Post's role in our economy has significantly declined and therefore there has to be some adjustment to the cost of running Canada Post. Meanwhile, Canadians are saying nothing. Canadians are not really engaged in this debate and it is a bit of a slugfest between the left and the right as they talk and talk to each other, or contrary to each other. Meanwhile, Canadians are finding other alternatives to the actual service that is needed here.

Ironically, the filibuster by the NDP is actually contributing to the decline for the need of the services.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:40 a.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned how this is about an adjustment to the cost of running Canada Post. Let me repeat something from my speech. Perhaps the hon. member was not listening.

In 2009, Canada Post made a net profit of $281 million and the hon. member talks about an adjustment to the cost of running Canada Post. This is about drawing a line in the sand. If the Conservatives go after the pension plan of Canada Post employees, let me repeat a question I posed several times in my speech: Who is next?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:40 a.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, you may find that I am a bit dishevelled and my eyes are a bit red. I think all of my colleagues here feel the same way as we debate this bill and fight tooth and nail to give workers a voice.

I listened carefully to my colleagues. They spoke very passionately about their experience with the union movement. Since I became a part of this official opposition team, I have seen that in unity, there is strength. The experience they have shared since we entered the House of Commons has taught me a lot about the qualities of solidarity and the collective rights of workers.

I thank you for giving me time to speak to Bill C-6 in this House and to add my voice to the eloquent voices of my colleagues in the official opposition.

I think that the debate on this bill is very important. I was inspired by our leader, the Leader of the Opposition, who addressed the House last night. He spoke about the history of the NDP movement and about the values that NDP members have always defended. I think that this is a debate on the values that we want to defend in this House, but also that we want to defend on the hustings across the country—the values of sharing, social justice and freedom.

There is increasing talk about economic recession; we are told the economy is doing poorly, that the greater interests of the economy are in jeopardy. And for the sake of the economy, the government is going to undermine the right of workers to negotiate a decent contract, not only for themselves, but also for future generations.

I believe the debate we are having in this House is a debate not only for the short term, but also for the long term. What will we provide for future generations?

I have been sitting in the House of Commons for barely a month now and the present government has already set the stage. First, it introduced a bill to force Air Canada employees back to work. I do not believe the timeline of that file called for that bill, when the bargaining process had just gotten under way.

As for Canada Post, the timeline has already been elaborated on, but let me remind you that somewhat controversial action is being taken. On June 8, Canada Post announced that it was cancelling mail delivery on Tuesdays and Thursdays, whereas we know all Canadians are entitled to delivery service five days a week. Canada Post was already starting to cut service to which Canadians are entitled, that is to say mail delivery five days a week.

On June 14, Canada Post ordered a national lockout; in other words, it shut out employees and prevented them from doing the work that makes it possible to deliver the mail five days a week. Now postal employees are being deprived of their bargaining right and their right to work, while Canadians are being deprived of their mail.

As a number of you previously noted, this work stoppage, this lockout, means that a number of our constituents and we ourselves are being deprived of mail delivery, in particular the delivery of cheques, as was mentioned: pension cheques and all other cheques. As was also said, seniors are often the hardest hit; they may not be used to using the Internet or simply cannot afford it.

Once again, my colleagues who live in rural regions have rightly noted that some places in those regions do not have Internet service and that most people are more confident about receiving their cheques through the mail than via the Internet. And yet Canada Post workers had taken steps for cheques to be distributed to the public, but have been unable to make delivery since the lockout. The people affected by this situation are thus in a tenuous financial situation because they still have to pay their bills and rent and buy groceries.

As the members here have also mentioned, the same is also true of small and medium-sized enterprises that rely on Canada Post's services to place and ship orders. I believe the present government is setting a dangerous precedent by interfering with the legitimate right of workers to negotiate with their employer. This government's priority, which has been clearly and expressly stated, is the greater interests of the economy.

I rise to speak about the best interests of people, of Canadians, of workers. It is should be remembered that the economy is not an end but rather a means to an end, which helps us organize our society and promote a fair division of our country’s wealth. We must have income security, security for the future, security for retirees, and for our youth as they enter the labour market, so that they too have access to benefits, pensions and programs including disability insurance, and insurance in case of injury or other misfortune.

I do not understand why this government, which talks about standing up for the best interests of the economy would, alongside Canada Post, lock out workers. The government’s own actions have jeopardized the best interests of the economy that it cares so much about.

I do not believe that this government interference in a legitimate bargaining process is consistent with the role assigned to us. This legislation is going to favour the employer at the expense of employees, who will be deprived of the opportunity to negotiate. Moreover, the government has taken it upon itself to diminish wage conditions previously proposed by the employer. The vested rights of postal workers are at stake here: retirement plans, disability insurance programs, working conditions and wage conditions.

Canada is recognized for its quality of life and social values, which make it possible for all Canadians to access programs and benefits that are the envy of many a country. This helped Canada weather the economic turmoil of recent years. This government’s actions are, in our opinion, a “Walmarting” of employment and lead to low wages, job insecurity, and a chipping away of benefits. This government’s actions bring us yet another step closer to the US model.

Can we not learn from Americans by not repeating their mistakes? Our Canadian society is based on a system where inequalities are less profound than in the United States where there are glaring disparities including huge gaps between the rich and the poor. As a Canadian and Quebecker, I want to stand up for the values of a fair and just society. I want to stand up for the rights of workers, the right to negotiate to improve conditions, so that each and every one of us may benefit.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:50 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Parliament of Canada does not just represent people who have pension plans, people who are members of unions. We represent all Canadians.

I am hearing from my constituents as well. When Paula Fletcher, who is one of our last remaining pork producers in Renfrew county calls, I know that there is something really amiss. She emailed me a couple of weeks ago, asking:

What is this ridiculous news I heard this morning that the Government is thinking of legislating the Air Canada workers back to work? And yet they let the Canada Post workers go on strike and shut down the entire country's mail service. Do they not realize that a postal strike negatively affects business? Flying mostly affects people rich enough to travel—though I know some travel for business, most do not. We can certainly see the priority of the Harper Government. I thought Mr. Harper was concerned with the economic recovery of Canada. If companies can't get—

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. The hon. member for Timmins-James Bay is rising on a point of order.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:50 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am not sure if she does not understand, or maybe she made a mistake, maybe she is tired, maybe she is trying to slip in the name of the Prime Minister, but I think that she should go back a few steps and remind herself that she cannot use the name of the Prime Minister, nor his government, nor what he is doing, by referring to him personally.

I think it is only fair that we follow the decorum in this House and the long-standing rules that have been established in the Westminster system of Parliament.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 24th, 8:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Timmins-James Bay is quite correct that members cannot use the names of other members. I appreciate that it happens from time to time, inadvertently. So I will go back for a quick question from the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.