Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Burnaby--New Westminster in this debate. Since this is also my first speech in the House since we returned, although I did participate in question period and a few questions and comments, I will take the opportunity to thank the voters of St. John's East who returned me to this House to represent them. I am very proud to be their representative.
This is a very crucial debate. It is a crucial debate because it is really about the values Canadians have and the values this government is trying to impose on them against their will through this legislation.
Let us look at what happened here. The previous speaker, the Minister of State for Transport, said it very well. We have an excellent postal service. We deliver 55 million pieces of mail per day. We have rural and urban delivery. We have a service that is in fact profitable. As stated by my colleague, the member for Winnipeg North, Canada Post has made from $100 million to $300 million per year for the last 10 years. It is a profitable public corporation that is providing a service to Canadians and is able to negotiate fair wage and pension benefits for its workers. It is in a position to do so because it is a profitable service.
What do we have happening here? We have a combination of three things.
First, this crown corporation, essentially run on behalf of the government, has locked out its workers, effectively shutting down the postal service, which it is complaining about. Why does it not tell them to unlock the locks, open the postal service and deliver the mail? Instead of talking about pensioners not getting their cheques, it should open the doors. The employees said they were quite happy to deliver the pension cheques even if they were on strike. They were not trying to disrupt pensioners or people who were dependent on receiving cheques in the mail.
Second, after the workers were locked out and the post office was shut down, there is now legislation ordering the workers back to work, including workers who are not even on strike. At the same time, their wages are being reduced with a wage offer below what was on the table. A profitable corporation made a wage offer in the middle of negotiations, and the government came in and ordered the workers back to work, telling them they will get less than the profitable corporation was prepared to offer through collective bargaining.
What are we doing here? What are we telling the people of Canada?
Part of the problem going on here is the attempt by this profitable corporation to drive down the pension benefits of workers. The government is facilitating, aiding and abetting that attempt. What message are they trying to send to the people of Canada? I do not mean necessarily all the people of Canada, but a certain group of the people of Canada to whom this message is going. I am talking about the next generation of workers.
When I think about this legislation, I think about my children. I think about the young people in this country, the next generation. I am of a generation that is getting close to retirement, but there are young people, and we have them in our caucus, who are being told by the government not to expect for themselves, their friends and their children the same benefits, the same retirement possibilities and the same opportunity to live in dignity in their senior years as exist today.
We are becoming more prosperous as a country, yet we are telling people that if they work for the post office, they should not expect the same kind of retirement security as the people who came before them.
The same thing was happening at Air Canada. The government was aiding and abetting the employer, a profitable company, to drive down the expectations of young people. They are your children and your grandchildren. Members over there are telling them they are not entitled to share in the prosperity of this country.
That is wrong. Members opposite are aiding and abetting it, and that message has to be stopped, Mr. Speaker.
This legislation is going to be opposed as long as it does those things to these workers.
I heard the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound speak earlier, and I like the hon. member. I do not like what he said, though.
The hon. member offered a letter from a constituent who wrote about a grandchild who felt lucky to have a job receiving the minimum wage for a couple of days a week. There may be some people with that sentiment, but the member used that letter to suggest that is a reason to resent someone who has a job with decent pay.
If the argument made by the hon. member is that this is the principle on which we should be talking about these issues, what the hon. member is saying is that everybody should be grateful to have a job, any job at any wage, with any offer from anybody, and should be thankful. That is a recipe for poverty, for disaster, for people working for slave wages without any bargaining rights.
We have heard many moving speeches on this side of the House today concerning collective bargaining. The member for Timmins—James Bay talked about miners being challenged by police officers with machine guns for going on strike in Kirkland Lake to win the right to bargain collectively. It was not that long ago, just some 50, 60 or 70 years ago.
Now members opposite are seeking to destroy that right to bargain collectively with a profitable corporation in the 21st century, in one of the most prosperous countries in the world, with a postal service that is quite capable of paying decent wages and bargaining collectively in good faith. The strike and lockout mechanisms that exist are part of that good-faith bargaining, and the parties could reach a bargain.
What does one do with that? What did the government do? The union and its members offered to end the rotating strikes and to return to work under their existing contract and to continue negotiations. There would be no worries about the postal service working, no worries about rotating strikes, no worries about anything. The union offered to continue to negotiate in good faith.
Sometimes negotiations go on for a couple of years. They do not always take two or three months. Sometimes they take two or three months, but sometimes when there are tough negotiations and people want an opportunity to figure things out, they do that.
However, Canada Post said no and locked the doors.
The Conservative government supported the company by stepping up virtually immediately to say it would bring in back-to-work legislation. In fact, notice was given on June 15. This is what is going on.
It is happening in lockstep. Who locked the doors? Canada Post locked the doors, but the government was there a minute later to say it would order the workers back to work because the postal service could not be shut down.
That is wrong. The challenge the Conservative government is putting to workers and to ordinary people has to be challenged back, and that is what we are here to do.
To actually interfere with collective bargaining and impose a wage rate below what fair collective bargaining in good faith was producing is outrageous.
I see that my time is coming to a close. I have a minute left, but as someone who has practised law for 30 years, a good portion of it labour law, I am very familiar with the kind of situation that we are facing here today with back-to-work legislation.
To put people back to work, to reduce their wages from an offer that was on the table, to impose with this legislation a final offer on parties that have not agreed to it is one of the most draconian pieces of legislation that I have seen in the 30 years I have been practising labour law. That is something the parties agree to sometimes as a way out of a situation, and these parties may at some point have agreed to such a thing on certain aspects of their contract, but it should not be imposed by a third party.
It is utterly wrong on all counts, and we are opposed to it.