Madam Speaker, I would like to respond to the comment by the member on the opposite side.
I am a small-business person. I have three successful small businesses. They are all profitable. I understand small businesses. I am a lefty capitalist; I believe in profits, but I believe in sharing them equitably with the other people in our society.
Madam Speaker, thanks for this opportunity to speak to the government's legislation. The Conservative government is attempting to ram Bill C-6 through Parliament within hours of suspending the regular rules of the House, just as it did with the HST implementation bill.
Labour disputes happen in any modern market-based economy. They are a fact of life and a result of the competitive dichotomy set up between profit-centred companies and workers who push for living wages and safe working conditions. That is a normal situation for market-based economies, which you allegedly believe in.
Normally, disputes work themselves out without a lot of government interference. I am surprised by the current government. Before the Conservatives were in office, and afterwards, they always talked about how they were all for smaller government and hands-off government that lets markets work things out for themselves. That is the claim.
Instead, though, we see a very interventionist government. This is a heavy-handed government that is now egregiously interfering in the collective bargaining process we have developed over many decades. For a party that claims a hands-off philosophy, this is the most meddlesome federal government in a very long time.
This is just another symptom of the fundamental changes happening within the Conservative Party. Conservatives in this government have wandered far from their roots. Their forefathers must be turning over in their graves.
Whatever happened to Conservative claims for small government? The first things they did after getting a phony majority was stack the Senate and appoint a huge ministry, one of the largest ministries in the history of Canada. There are more ministers, more limos for ministers, more perks, and more staff. All that was after they bulked up spending on the Prime Minister's Office. We have never had a PMO that is so large or that has spent so much.
The current government has always talked about fiscal responsibility, but its track record shows that it does not understand the concept. It is blowing billions on fighter jets, mega-prisons, and indiscriminate corporate tax handouts. It is opening military bases everywhere across the globe. In the process, it is racking up a record deficit, the largest deficit since Brian Mulroney.
Now it is interfering in labour market negotiations in a way that is nothing less than a violation of Canadians' Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If it does this now, where will it end? Will the government step in every time there is a dispute in the marketplace? Is it going to legislate every time two sides do not agree on something?
Let us be very clear. We have no postal service right now, because Canada Post shut down service completely. It locked its workers out.
I was disappointed to hear on the CBC this morning at 5 a.m, quoting the minister on that side, that this is a strike. There was no countervailing force on the news to indicate that it really is, as we know, a lockout, not a strike.
Let us start at the beginning. The workers had concerns about their contract. They went on rotating strikes a few weeks ago, on June 2, and there were some service slowdowns. Their attempts were measured, and they were responsible. It is true that it was not an ideal situation, but I did not hear any hue and cry from the people in my riding, including small businesses. Life went on during those rotating strikes.
After the workers started the rotating strikes, they even offered to end the strike action if the company would agree to keep the old contract in place during negotiations, but Canada Post refused. Then on June 15, Canada Post decided to lock everyone out and shut down Canada's mail service completely. That was irrational, and it was unreasonable. That is when I started to hear about it from my constituents. People rightly complained. Small businesses were being affected. Canada Post management should have taken that into consideration before taking that irresponsible action.
However, instead of introducing legislation to end the lockout, to resume rotating service, and to get both sides back to the bargaining table, the government decided just a few days later to interfere with the right to collective bargaining and to impose a settlement below even what management had demanded. Therefore, Canada Post is being rewarded for shutting down the mail service that so many of our constituents rely on. This is a dangerous precedent, regardless of the particulars of this or any labour dispute.
Can any large corporation here in Canada, from now on, knowing the government's ideology, simply refuse to negotiate and then wait for the government to interfere and legislate people back to work? Will Canada Post be encouraged in the future to hold our postal service hostage anytime it does not feel like bargaining?
This is a dangerous path the Conservatives are leading the country down. It is one that would lead us to more entrenched positions, more, not less, labour unrest, and more, not less, interruption of the services Canadians rely on. What incentive will there be in the future for corporations to bargain in good faith or settle?
The government should not be in the business of imposing labour contracts for businesses and workers. That is not free or fair collective bargaining. That is not letting the process work. It is not letting the marketplace work. The Conservative government must stop interfering.
This is an extraordinary level of intervention for a government that says that it prefers to let the market sort things out. I am left wondering if this may have something to do with the government's desire to privatize Canada Post service and to reduce service to Canadians.
The government has been moving towards privatization for our postal service for a long time, and we know it. Canadians living in rural and remote areas, such as much of Thunder Bay—Superior North, will suffer most from this privatization. They are greatly impacted by these losses of service.
I have rural postal services in my own riding that are threatened. For example, the community of Dorion, in my riding, is about to lose its postal outlet this summer. This outlet is currently located in Canyon Country Service on Highway 11, and they are having to close permanently for circumstances beyond their control. However, Canada Post has found no local alternative. It has not let anyone know about any progress in finding one. This is not a good sign. It is one of our more worrisome examples of a worrisome Tory ideological obsession.
Canada Post insists that it is still respecting its so-called policy of not shutting down rural services themselves, because they can throw up their hands and say that there is no alternative.
Despite a fat salary for the CEO and bonuses for its executives, Canada Post is profitable. It does not need to shut rural services any more than it needs to privatize or to walk away from the bargaining table in these labour negotiations. The company made $281 million in profit last year. The CEO is making more than $650,000 a year, and his salary is going up by a lot more than the rate of inflation and by a lot more than what the workers are requesting in these negotiations. Why take the desperate move to shut down all postal services across Canada?
I want to talk a little about the people who are impacted by the Canada Post lockout. As I said before, I am a small-business person. Of course, my business, like so many across the country, relies on post offices for service. Lots of businesses rely on that. Many send their payments by mail. The Canada Post lockout and shutdown of the service has negatively impacted them, and Canadians will carry the can for it, not the poor posties who want to do a good job for a reasonable rate of pay. This service is important to them. This is impacting the workers who want to work and have been locked out of their jobs in the same way Canadians have been locked out of their postal service.
I would like to read a quote:
Nobody knows how much the population of Canada still relies on the Post Office more than postal workers. We see the medication, the card$ of $upport to out-of-town students, the food being sent to the far north. We see the frustration of our co-workers when they see all that they have fought for over the years being stripped away in one fell swoop of a pen by [our] Communist [Prime Minister]. It's maddening and frankly quite sad that a government would invite this sort of turmoil and suppression on its own people.