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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, 5:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 5:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I am sure hon. members will be interested in hearing what the member for Hamilton Centre has to say. I would be delighted if we could keep the noise down to a bit more calm in the chamber.

The hon. member for Hamilton Centre.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 5:45 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was pointed out to me by one of the hon. ministers, looking at the calendar, that it is actually still June 23. That is part of the magnificence of being here, that not only is it June 23, it is also June 25.

The fact remains that we are here because we want to do what the government has not done, and that is to give the union and the management an opportunity to negotiate a fair agreement in their own way and in their own time.

We know the government, of course, is playing a game, and it is evident if you take a look at the chronology we have been through. There was a rotating strike action, meant to put pressure, not to shut down Canada Post but to put negotiating pressure on management, which is done all the time with transnational corporations or entities. It is a ramp-up, and ideally it is meant to prevent a lockout and a strike. It is a tactic that is part of negotiations, and it is not an attempt to stop the work of Canada Post.

During that time the union offered to management the following deal. They would end the rotating strikes and be at work everywhere, all the time, in return for management acknowledging that the workers would work under the current collective agreement and that it would act as if it had full effect and force of law. That is pretty reasonable. It is not as if they threatened to do something or said they would do one thing if the company did not do another thing. They began their rather modest tactics.

We all know that did not last very long, a couple of weeks. During that time management told the union that some pressure was being put on them and it was causing a little problem here and here, and they asked the union to stop doing that. The union said they were quite prepared to stop doing that, but all they asked was that the company honour the current collective agreement while they continued to negotiate.

Just as a little aside, you would wonder why they would not accept that, because it does sound reasonable. It would have been one more very positive step, actually. It would have been a good show of cooperation. They could have agreed on a period of time and taken two or three weeks and had it as part of negotiations. If it did not work, they would be back where they were, but if it did work, they would succeed in the ultimate goal, which is to reach a peaceful, agreeable collective agreement.

One wonders why management would say no. One idea, which sounds strange and bizarre--you would not think this would really happen--is that it is possible that maybe they had some inkling, a bit of an idea. They got out the Ouija board, checked around, phoned some of the psychics to try to get a sense of what might be going on, on the government side. Going to the psychics might be a really good start.

They managed to figure it out: “Well, it sounds like there might be legislation that is going to order them back to work, so why would we do something that would negate the government stepping in? We'll just stay where we are, let the rotating strikes continue, and, sh, sh, we know the government is going to quietly introduce legislation that will solve our labour relations problems and we do not have to sit down and bargain any more.”

I do not know if that happened, but it sure makes sense. It makes a lot of sense. That is one of the answers, when we have so many questions here without answers.

I hear somebody muttering from somewhere in the ether about conspiracy theories. Maybe, but we are open to whatever other conspiracy theory any hon. member can come up with. Looking at what is going on in reality makes no damn sense, so something has to be going on.

Then the government introduced incredibly heavy-handed, unfair, mean-spirited legislation.

Then they used the argument that this could not go on, so they locked them out, and they watched the government bring in legislation that forces them back and forces management to pay less money than it agreed to in the negotiations.

Then to justify what it is doing, the government says it had to do that because they were not at work, and if they are not at work the mail cannot move, and if the mail cannot move it is going to cause economic hardship. That is how it justifies its legislation, which in reality makes no sense at all. Had they followed what was offered the first time, which was to negotiate under the current collective agreement, we would not be here. If they had not locked them out, we would not be here.

All roads do seem to point to the cabinet room of Canada. That seems to be where we are.

It is mind-boggling that it is happening. I want to emphasize that the wage increase that was negotiated fairly at the bargaining table is being reduced by the legislation that is supposed to help the economy. I do not know how putting more money in the hands of Canadians who spend that money is supposed to be harming the economy, but that is the bizarre reality that is here.

It is quite appropriate, actually, that as I speak it is Saturday and as I look at the table it is Thursday. That makes about as much sense as the negotiating procedures that have been followed by Canada Post and supported by the Government of Canada.

I will not get to my last point now. I will pick up on it in a few days, because we will be here for a while.

I want to weigh in behind a lot of my colleagues who are referring to the fact that they see this as a piece of the generational issue that we ought to be talking about. I know there are some in the Twitterverse who are ridiculing them. That is unfortunate because we have a serious problem. Of course, it is the young people who see it, because the problem will not really manifest itself for another 10, 20, 30, 40 years, right around the time they will be in the prime of their lives and right about the time our children or grandchildren will be in the prime of their lives.

Given where I am in life, I want to thank them for taking the lead in making sure that this House acknowledges and addresses the issue of the growing gap that exists today, how much wider that gap is going to be, and the harm that is being inflicted on our younger generation when our role here collectively is to make this a better place for everybody. That is why we are here, and we will stay here until we achieve that fairness.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 5:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 5:50 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, one thing I can say about listening to my colleague in the House is that I do not have to wear an earpiece when I do it. I am a little worried about the hearing of his colleagues on the other side, though.

One of the responsibilities that we as a government have is to ensure that we are looking out for the citizens of Canada, to ensure that they are protected when they cannot be at the table in these negotiations.

One thing I would like to point out is clause 13 of the bill, which says:

nothing in this Act precludes the employer and the union from entering into a new collective agreement at any time before the arbitrator makes a decision and, if they do so, the arbitrator's duties under this Act cease

Also, in clause 11 there is a 90-day provision for the arbitrator to make his decision.

So there is a risk for both parties in here if we go into this arbitration decision.

It seems to me that that clause is the best of both worlds. We have a bill that allows us to get people back to work and at the same time it gives 90 days for a parallel process to happen, whereby the two parties can come up with an agreement. But we can get people back to work, we can get the mail, we can protect our seniors, and we can protect our small businesses.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 5:55 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his attention and for the question.

I will admit to him that during my time at Queen's Park I had a couple of colleagues who were threatening to file complaints under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. I think they try to avoid that here by moving me around so that I am not screaming in anybody's ear for any prolonged period of time.

I do my best to keep it down, but you know what? When you do most of your speaking in a union hall, some things just never leave you. I will do my best to try to keep my tone down. I always fail, but I do try.

I accept the question as being a fair and serious one, and I will respond in the same light. My answer to the question is that the first choice always in bargaining in a free democracy is the arrival of a conclusion that both sides accept that they freely entered into. When people are ordered and forced back to work, the first option is removed. That is why we are here. We want to give that first option of reaching a free and fair collective agreement at every opportunity, and we will stay here until that objective is reached.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 5:55 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to touch base on the question that was just asked.

The member was saying that there is a provision in there that would actually allow for collective bargaining to continue. I just want to ask my colleague, and I know he has looked at the bill, if he saw any incentives in there to allow for that collective agreement to go on. When the government actually put this bill together, did it actually remove something from the employer, such as their bonuses maybe, to give that incentive a chance?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 5:55 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question.

It really is strange that the board of directors and the management of Canada Post, who deal with the finances of the corporation every day, should conclude that, as tough as things are, they have room to offer a certain amount of money in negotiations for wages and yet the government comes along and says, “No, no, Canada Post cannot afford that. We say, from over here, that Canada Post cannot afford to honour the commitment of wages that they already made in free and fair negotiations.” But there sure seems to be lots of money to make sure the CEO gets his $661,000 a year.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 5:55 a.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it is rich hearing this member get up in the House and pretend that he cares about workers' rights when he had that one opportunity in the province of Ontario as a cabinet minister, and his actual record is that he tore up the collective bargaining agreement that 30,000 provincial workers had, threw it away, cut their salaries by $2 billion, and forced them to take 12 unpaid days off. Then he wrote a song, he and the other NDP members, and the member for London—Fanshawe, and called it “We are all in this together”. They went around a piano, sang it, and thought the workers would feel really good about it.

He gets up in this House and pretends he cares about workers when his record is just the opposite. When he had the opportunity, he screwed workers. He and his government tore the contract up, cut their pay, and forced unpaid holidays. That is the record he is trying to defend—

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 5:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. The member has used up the time allowed.

We have 30 seconds left for the member for Hamilton Centre.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 5:55 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope we get an opportunity to do this a little more fuller in terms of responses. But in 30 seconds, the first thing I would say is that the people of Hamilton Centre decided in the follow-up election that I should be returned to Queen's Park twice more after that and four times here.

I would also take a look at what he and Mike Harris did when they came in after 1995. We are still picking up the pieces of what is left of Ontario after he and his wrecking crew got through.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 6 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Conservative Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I wonder if the hon. member might, in order to facilitate and help us here a little bit, have a copy of the social contract in which he reduced workers by $1.9 billion and in which he did force them to take 12 unpaid days off. I wonder if the member might have a copy of that agreement that he, as a cabinet minister, and the member for London—Fanshawe forced on the employees of Ontario available to us.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 6 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

That is not really a point of order.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Burnaby--New Westminster.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 6 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I hope my voice holds out as well.

I take a different perspective than the member from Hamilton Centre, who is a very effective orator and who has experience on the union side.

My experience in collective negotiations has been on the management side. What I think is an issue here is the remarkable diversity of the new NDP caucus. In this caucus, 103 strong, the strongest caucus the New Democratic Party has had in the House of Commons to date, we have a remarkable diversity of experience. Our people have labour, employer, and small-business experience. People come from a variety of professions. They are doctors, lawyers, and nurses. People have come from the trades as well. There are teachers and students. All of these different experiences add up to the power we have with the 103 New Democrats who are standing up for the middle class, for workers' rights, and for collective bargaining.

I know that it is difficult for the Conservatives and Liberals to work through the night. We have heard the complaints, since eleven o'clock last night, from the Conservatives and Liberals. They find it difficult to debate and just do not want to continue to have this important debate--

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 6 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. The hon. member for Bourassa is rising on a point of order.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 6 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague shows a lot of class. We are all working for the welfare of our constituents. I urge him not to stray from that, because the kind of things he is saying are just not right. They are filibustering, and we do not agree, but we are still doing our job.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 2011 / 6 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, our job in this House is not to make sure that the Conservative members of Parliament feel comfortable. Our role in this House is to defend the letter carriers and mail sorters, who are ordinary, middle-class Canadians. Sometimes that is going to make some members uncomfortable. We make no apologies for that. We are here to do a job, and we will continue to debate and stand up for the working people of this country.

The point I am making is that even though we are sitting at 6:05 in the morning, there are about five million Canadians, on any given night, who are working either graveyard shifts or swing shifts. The kind of working hours we have had over the last 48 hours are the normal working hours for five million Canadians. They are the ones who are raising their families, going to school, and working hard all night. By day they are contributing to the country. We pay tribute to them this morning. That is their ordinary working environment. For us to work throughout the evening pays tribute to them as well.

Since this debate began, a number of facts have clearly been established. Some Conservative MPs at the beginning of this debate were saying that it was a strike. We know clearly, and the facts have been established, that this was a lockout by the management of Canada Post. I am happy to say that many Conservative MPs have become better informed, and that is something we welcome. They now understand. Many of them have been speaking about the lockout. That is very important.

We have also established, and this is a very important element, that this sledgehammer the government is imposing on the letter carriers and the mail sorters of Canada is, in real terms, a wage reduction. It is not a wage increase; it is a wage reduction. Members of the Conservative Party are now better informed about that, as well.

One cannot say that it is a wage increase when what the government wants to impose is actually less than the inflation rate. This means that over the course of the next few years, the letter carriers and the mail sorters, those who work to keep the nation's mail going, will be earning less and less because of the sledgehammer imposed by the government.

We have established as well that this is a very real threat to pensions. Working through one's working life and not being provided with an adequate pension, and having to work below the poverty line, is something most Canadians do not accept.

We have also established that this draconian sledgehammer legislation permanently disadvantages the youth of our nation, who want to get involved, want to provide service, and want to work for Canada Post.

We have established a number of facts. What has been fascinating about the evolution of this debate over the last 24 hours is the reaction we are seeing from various parts of the country. We have received far too many letters and e-mails to read into the record. However, I would like to read just a few of the e-mails we are receiving from Conservative ridings. These are Conservative constituents, and Conservatives should be listening to them.

A constituent from Richmond, British Columbia wrote, “I'm a letter carrier in Richmond, B.C. I am writing to you because unfortunately, my member of Parliament has her hands tied. I was appalled and embarrassed by her remarks during her speech yesterday”.

A constituent from Surrey, British Columbia wrote, “I hope many Canadians are following this issue. I do not need to go into details. We both know how unjust this bill is. I am not a union worker. However, I see a bigger issue here. The Conservatives need to be set straight”.

A constituent from Lethbridge wrote, “I watched the debates in Parliament yesterday, last night, and this morning. My family has watched it as well. We are all amazed and grateful that you and the New Democrats will stand for us and not be bullied by Canada Post and the government into an unfair contract. Thanks you for standing up for our rights under the law for free bargaining”.

A constituent from Calgary Centre wrote, “Thank you for your defence of the worker and the Canadian way of labour disputes. I do feel the government gave the employer a sledgehammer to solve this issue. Hidden under the guise of serving the public, the government has made sure of Canada Post's continued revenue input into general coffers and the continued bad management practices of its management staff”.

A constituent from Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar wrote, “We want to say thank you and we appreciate your support in our struggle. Keep up the good work”.

A constituent from Saint Boniface wrote, “My sincere and heartfelt gratitude for the support and solidarity you, the New Democrats, are demonstrating for our struggle with the Conservative Party, with the member for Saint Boniface, and with the rest of the government that is arbitrarily interfering with the workers' right to collective bargaining”.

From Winnipeg South a constituent wrote, “I have been watching the debate in the House of Commons with pride and amazement. Surely the House has not heard such a well-informed and eloquent debate on labour issues in many, many years. It is also obvious in many of the fine speeches from opposition MPs that they not only get the issue but have been there themselves and care deeply. Thank you very much”.

A constituent from Peterborough, Ontario, another Conservative riding, wrote, “Thanks for speaking up. I run a small business in Peterborough, Ontario. If we remove the lockout, take the locks off, we get mail delivery and effective bargaining”.

A constituent trom Montreal, Quebec, wrote,

“It is heartwarming to see all of you in the House standing up for principles that are dear to me, like the right to free collective bargaining, the principle of equal pay for equal work, a decent pension plan, and public services for the general public, and fighting against this unfair attack against workers. I am particularly encouraged by the fiery speeches made by all these young New Democrats.”

A constituent from Nepean—Carleton wrote, “I would like to thank you for the great job you are currently doing in the House to stand up for the working class. We back you 100% and sincerely ask that you keep up the fight for us postal workers and all workers”.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 6:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Bourassa on a point of order.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 6:10 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the utmost respect for those who work in this House. My colleague is talking so fast, the interpreters cannot keep up. For my part, I am having a hard time understanding what he is saying. Could he please slow down?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 6:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The member will know that from time to time, the speed and the pace of speech can be a difficulty for translation. I would encourage the member to consider that in the course of his speech and to watch, as he is getting close to the end of time.

The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 6:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are so many e-mails, it is difficult to read them all into the record.

I will just finish up. This is from Atlantic Canada, from the riding of the fisheries minister. It says, “I want to thank you all for such truth and solidarity towards workers. It has allowed me to have a new faith in Canadian politics. I will do everything it takes to see this current government hears what real Canadians want. I am a father of two and am finding it very difficult to sleep at night this past week, not knowing what our future holds for me and my children”.

We could read many more into the record. These are the voices of Canadians. These are the voices of those we support. This is why we are having this debate in the House of Commons.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 6:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, let us get a few things straight here. My hon. colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster started off his presentation by saying that he wanted to recite some of the facts. Let us really talk about the facts in what is happening here today.

As opposed to what all members of the NDP have been saying, their position is not advocating on behalf of ordinary men and women, the workers of Canada. It is far from it. Their position is advocating on behalf of their union bosses: CUPW. It is okay if that is their position, and it clearly is.

Half a dozen or more of the people I see sitting in the House right now come from an organized labour background. That is okay, but what the members of the NDP should be truthful about in this debate is that they are not representing all of the millions of hard-working Canadians who are adversely affected by this work stoppage. More importantly, they are not even advocating on behalf of postal workers.

My friend mentioned a number of e-mails he received from across the country. I also have a number of e-mails, and all of these are from postal workers who are advocating that the union receive and accept the offer from management. They state unequivocally that they are opposed to the union, because the union will not give them the right to vote.

The NDP is only advocating on behalf of one special interest group, and that is the CUPW union leadership, not the rank and file. Let the members at least be honest about that.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 6:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the 94% support from mail sorters and letter carriers speaks for itself.

As somebody who has never been a member of a union but has always been on the management side, I have been profoundly disturbed by some of the comments we have been hearing from Conservatives, starting with the Minister of Labour, who made a distinction between Canadians and mail sorters and letter carriers, as if they are not Canadians, as if they have no rights, as if somehow they are separate from the rest of Canada.That is the kind of division the Conservative government promotes.

The reality is there are seven million union households in this country. There are millions of Canadians who have opted to join a union. That is far more than the number of Canadians who voted Conservative in the last election. Those unionized workers are as much Canadian as the member and I are.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 6:10 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I wore my green tie today to remind me of the green infrastructure fund in the economic action plan which the NDP voted against. I wanted to make sure I remembered that because this is similar in that there is no common sense in what the NDP is doing.

I do have a message for the member from my constituents. Not only do I represent more union members than anybody else in this House per capita in Canada but probably in North America. I represent more workers, more people who work shifts and more people who are actually contributing more to the economy than anybody else in the House. Some 6% to 7% of the country's GDP moves from my area alone. The message of my constituents is loud and clear. They are telling me that the NDP members do not represent unions. I have belonged to a union. Those NDP members do not represent the views of my constituents at all. That is the message I have been told to bring here loud and clear today, that those people are not representing the rank and file workers of this country. They are representing CUPW and the leadership of the union only. They are self-interested in that. They do not represent Canadians. That is the message my constituents have asked me to bring.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 6:15 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I did not hear a question, so what I will do is talk about my constituents.

I am a long-time member of the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce, and a proud member of the Burnaby Board of Trade. The small business owners in my riding understand that when we have a good middle class, when we have real collective bargaining and we build the middle class, there is a stronger economy in the community. That is what we stand for, the community's economy, not shipping jobs overseas, certainly not ripping up collective agreements, and not government imposing wages on workers.

We are the moderates here. We are the ones who are tracing a path to a solution. We certainly would like Conservative members to compromise a bit and listen to the workers not only in their ridings but right across the country.