Mr. Speaker, from the outset, one of the Conservatives’ arguments has been that it was necessary to consider the economic stakes associated with the labour dispute at Canada Post. I am in complete agreement with them that this is something very important. What I deplore, on the other hand, is that in the context of the debate they have not taken the time to explain the full details of all the ins and outs of this economic damage. They have been content with generalities, with simply spouting slogans and constantly repeating the same questions. This is deplorable.
I will modestly attempt to put all the economic impacts of Canada Post’s activities and the stakes of this dispute into perspective. First, I must say that I have had a longstanding interest in economics. I have read some classics in the genre and particularly admire the work of the Canadian-born American economist, John Kenneth Galbraith. Mr. Galbraith began his career as a member of President Roosevelt’s team during the depression of the 1930s. He was on the team that created the New Deal, and made his contribution to correcting the problems arising from the Great Depression. Next, he took on certain responsibilities during World War II, and studied the effects of the Allied bombing on the German economy. He also looked into wage and price controls in the context of that conflict. So in the postwar era he was someone with the right experience to develop a highly articulate economic philosophy that could clarify the issues and the ins and outs of the decisions made by our governments, our companies and individuals themselves.
One of the conclusions he reached was that any very large consolidated company has almost total control over both its activities and its prices, and hence over its fate and its future, as is not the case for the small company or the single individual who is at the mercy of economic ups and downs. What is interesting is that it is clear that Canada Post has virtually total control over the price of its products, which are offered to all Canadians. This possibility does not prevent it from offering its products at prices which are very low relative to other countries in the world, even though it is a crown corporation. Clearly, the fact that it is a public, crown-owned corporation is an advantage.
Mr. Galbraith examined the role and the importance of the various economic players. He came to the conclusion that the state, in its interventions, had a place comparable to that of any company. Where he was much more far-sighted was in giving a central place to the human being as an economic player. It must be said that he was not the only expert to come to that conclusion.
Mr. Galbraith then wanted to understand what the effects of the major economic decisions made by the entire population of a country might be. He observed that, for every dollar given back to the wealthiest people in a country or an economic unit, through massive income tax cuts, for example, that dollar was unfortunately not reinvested in the economy. Those people did not need the extra dollar, and so they hoarded it; in other words, they took it out of economic activity, and eventually that can lead to stagnation. On the other hand, when that dollar was given to the middle class, and particularly to the most disadvantaged people in our economy, it was immediately reinvested in the economy, since those people could not hoard it or save it, because they had urgent need of it.
Mr. Galbraith then came to the conclusion that investing in the population was basically the best engine of economic development, as many countries in the world have in fact proved.
Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, was a professor of moral philosophy, and his magnum opus has been widely quoted virtually everywhere. Unfortunately, it has been quoted wildly incorrectly. All Adam Smith did was observe the cruelty of life in his day. He did not make laws or principles to be applied from that; he simply observed that without safeguards and regulations, unfortunately, human beings were the playthings of the interests of the powerful.
The conclusion he reached was that it was very important to have economic ethics, to guide all the players and, ultimately, the state, should these players fail to behave properly.
It is rather unfortunate to see the ideas of such great men taken hostage to justify ideas and policies that may be harmful to all Canadians.
I am now going to change subjects. Let us come back to the present day and apply the ideas of great Canadians to the subject of current impacts and policies, Bill C-6 being basically one more step, one way of diminishing our quality of life.
Charles Sirois, whom I quoted earlier, said this a few months ago:
We can decide to dig holes in our subsoil and pump out all the natural resources we have. We can decide that this is what will secure the future of our children and grandchildren.
However, in his opinion, the consequences of that choice will be:
Perhaps we will not be in a state of complete poverty, but we will also not be wealthy; that much is obvious. And we will not be part of the movement that can be observed all over the world, where genuine value is created through creativity and innovation, and putting them to use.
I would note that Mr. Sirois is the chairman of the board of directors of CIBC and the former chairman and CEO of Teleglobe, a company with communications systems covering the entire world.
A few days later, Mr. Stephen Jarislowsky, the great Montrealer and renowned investor who founded his business in 1955, was concerned about the boom in company acquisitions in the natural resources sector. He saw nothing logical in this, on the contrary. He compared the situation to the real estate bubble in the United States. The $1300 price tag on an ounce of gold a few months prior was, in his opinion, an unfortunate harbinger of things to come. An ounce of gold now costs almost $1600. At the same time, the TSX plummeted. These were all signs that our economy was shrinking.
All the while, the government claimed that everything was fine and dandy. That attitude is bizarrely reminiscent of the Conservatives in the 2008 campaign. Blinded by their blinkers, they were alone in failing to acknowledge the threat of a looming recession.
A quality postal service is essential to support the creativity and innovation that Mr. Sirois was referring to. As I said earlier, it is vital for the millions of small and medium-sized businesses that rely on these postal services to run their operations.
Bill C-6 is further evidence of the Conservatives weakening our economy and refusing to acknowledge the fundamental role that human beings play in any healthy economy. Standing up for the general working conditions of workers is of paramount importance to ensuring a future for our children and our grandchildren. I make this statement unequivocally, with evidence to back it up.