This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

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, 2:55 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, on Thursday, in question period, the industry minister read the same prepared response five times consecutively in the House. I am certain the Conservatives cannot give us any lessons on--

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 2:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I believe we are getting into debate. I will ask the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas to pursue his comments.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 2:55 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I suggest, when we look at these sources, the fact is irrefutable that we are facing a lockout, that the government is facing a lockout, and that is its public policy problem that it has to deal with.

It is critical to recognize the policy problem, because until we recognize what that is, we are not going to be able to solve it. As with any medical disease, we have to understand what we are dealing with before we solve it. I can guarantee that I have a little bit extra that the members opposite may be interested in. Here are some policy alternatives. I will start with what is least intrusive into the homes and lives of Canadians.

The least intrusive measure that the government could pursue is to leave the parties alone and let them work out this labour dispute themselves. The government could stay out of it.

The second measure could be, as the government did in 2008, to get a blue ribbon panel together and let it look at the situation to say, “We have a better solution for this; we think we can help to solve this”.

A third measure, if the lockout is due to lack of revenue, would be to allow Canada Post, for example, to increase its postage rates.

The fourth thing we could do would be to provide more tax revenue to Canada Post. If it is indeed in so much trouble that it has to lock out its employees because it is bankrupt, we should consider increasing tax revenue.

Another option that has not been considered by the government to deal with this lockout would be to place Canada Post under the direct control of the minister. That has been done in the past. I am sure it will be done in the future. It is an option that the government could pursue.

The final and most dramatic option the government could take to resolve this lockout would be to fire the management, to replace the management if Canada Post is making enough revenue in the corporation. From what I can see in the Canada Post 2009 annual report, the corporation has had 15 consecutive years of profitability. It does not seem that to be facing a profit shortage, so it must be managerial incompetence—

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 2:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I regret to interrupt the member.

On a point of order, the hon. member for Kenora.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 2:55 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Madam Speaker, I apologize to the member for the interruption because he was speaking.

I have a concern in tonight's debate and I have let it go as long as I could. I am actually referring to pages 612 and 613 in the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, O'Brien and Bosc, concerning displays, exhibits and props:

Speakers have consistently ruled out of order displays or demonstrations of any kind used by Members to illustrate their remarks or emphasize their positions.

I have been a member in the House for two and a half years and I can say that fairly, whether it has been the Olympics or some cause usually centred on a statement in the House, there has been discretion on the part of the Speaker to permit and tolerate it. To a certain extent I even applauded a more neutral kind of exhibit that promoted civility in this House which, as is known by all, I firmly support.

That said, there has been a real problem over the past couple of days and heading into further debate. There are members in the House right now who are wearing blue buttons that actually have CUPW printed on them. I guess the members support CUPW.

The thrust, intellectually and as a practical matter and as a matter of the substance of their debates, is to stake out a position for these specific persons. That is simply not permitted. In fact, the rules point out that these props, specifically those on their lapels, are not permitted.

The fact is that the members are representing constituents who may not agree with the particular position of members. Certainly if one checks any number of sources one would find, as the member said in his speech, there are people on both sides of this debate. It appears that the majority of folks want this legislation in place, but that said, this is unfair to their constituents. I have members of this particular organized labour group in my riding, but I do not think it is appropriate that I make representations specific to them in this House, because in my constituency there are also small business persons and first nations people living in isolated communities who are not getting their mail. There are a host of different reasons why I cannot make representations on my person for a constituent's explicit or specific benefit.

I am asking, with the greatest of respect, that the Speaker rule on this. These buttons are more than explicit and stake out a claim and appreciably advertise whose position is being taken by members. I will let future electors decide whether they think that was a good idea at the time. It is very clear who the members represent and who they are supporting in this particular argument.

For these reasons I am asking the Speaker to make a ruling and I hope it will be found that these particular buttons, in the host of ones we have seen certainly over the past couple of years, are inappropriate and out of order and that they will be removed.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, with all due respect, I have two things to say.

First, we are beginning to see another sort of filibuster. If you let them speak this long on a point of order, it amounts to a second filibuster. That may be part of the strategy.

Second, I do not see why we should not have the right to wear a button when we have the right to wear a ribbon on special days. I think this is a spurious debate and not a point of order.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:05 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. If you do rule, Madam Speaker, I ask that you take into consideration the many times that I have personally worn various ribbons. I have worn them for the cancer society, for Alzheimer's disease, for dementia. I have also worn the prostrate cancer tie.

There were some members of the Conservative Party who supported the Vancouver Canucks in their recent hockey games, and I give them credit for that, even though some of my constituents are Boston Bruins fans or Montreal Canadiens fans. There are all types of fans. Did I wear a hockey sweater to indicate my preference for the Montreal Canadiens or over another team? No, I did not.

If you do rule, Madam Speaker, I ask that you go to the historical nature of what we are doing here and understand that what we are wearing is small and respectful. It is an honourable thing for all of us to do in support of the workers of this country.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

On the same point of order, Madam Speaker, I am certain you would be able to see through that. Clearly, those are honourable things to do, and we are not debating those issues.

The issue is that members opposite came to Ottawa to fix an apparently broken Ottawa, and they are wearing a prop in complete violation of the rules.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 2011 / 3:05 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I have heard enough comments, unless there are new arguments to bring to this point of order.

The hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:05 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to point out that there are a lot of precedents on this matter.

In 2006, we Conservatives had run on lowering the GST. Shortly after having been elected, we wore blue buttons that spoke about lowering the GST. We had a button that said “7% to 6% to 5%”. We had another one that said to cut the GST. They were ruled out of order and we had to remove those buttons.

We are simply asking for the same application of the rules and procedures here tonight.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:05 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I thank all hon. members for their comments. We are in a grey zone because in many cases some buttons or scarves have been allowed. It seems to me from reading the precedents that the test is whether they cause disorder, and apparently they have this evening. I would ask that the buttons be removed. I consider the matter closed.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:05 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, as for how a government might end a lockout, I will repeat the six options I just mentioned.

The first option would be to leave the parties alone to let them negotiate in good faith.

The second option would be to select a panel that might be able to advise the government on what to do in this situation.

The third option might be, if the lockout is due to a lack of revenue, to allow Canada Post to perhaps increase its revenue stream, such as by increasing postage charges.

The fourth option the government might pursue would be to provide increased tax revenue, if Canada Post is unable to raise its stamp duties.

The fifth option might be to place Canada Post under the direct control of the appropriate minister.

The final and probably the most direct and dramatic option would be to fire the current management and replace them with a more competent group of managers who could perhaps avoid something like a walkout.

In this list, I did not include back to work orders, which is what we are debating here today directly in Bill C-6. Back to work orders assume that workers are at fault, when in this case it is clearly the management that has decided to impose a lockout.

Bill C-6 would seem to be the wrong tool for this job. That is why I am standing and opposing this bill and am prepared to stay until the end of this debate to make sure that we get the proper policy tool to fix this problem.

While back to work orders will get our postal workers back to work, they are the wrong tool for this job. I am very concerned about the effects of this tool. As we know, from looking at thousands and thousands of different policy disasters, when the wrong tool is picked for the job, it leads to externalities and other problems with negative effects. This is usually the result of governments acting in haste or not taking appropriate guidance.

The worst effects of imposing a back to work order on Canada Post will be the morale of the workers. Canada Post is one of the biggest employers in Canada and one of the most respected organizations around the world. The morale of both the workers and the middle- and upper-level management is going to be devastated. This is because the two sides have not been given time to agree and work out their differences.

The division that has caused the dispute will not be resolved and will continue to fester if the two sides are not given adequate time to work out this difference. A back to work order will not solve this, and I suspect that if the problem is management, we will be facing this problem in the coming months.

As I said, from my perspective, looking at this and hearing both sides, the most effective solution would be to allow the workers and the managers to work out their differences. If the government considers the economic impacts to be so critical, then it should consider either replacing the current management or moving Canada Post under the direct control of a minister.

Unfortunately, from the debate we have heard and from the bill, not one of these options has been considered or entertained by the government, because I do not think they understand the problem they face.

I have heard from this side of the House hours and hours of talk that this is a strike, yet all the evidence shows it is a lockout. If they are using a tool to fix a strike, they are going to make a mistake. They need to pick a tool that will fix a lockout.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:10 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I received an email earlier today from my letter carrier who is a constituent of mine. It reads:

Hi Mark,

I'm watching the debate live on CPAC with great frustration.... [H]as it crossed the minds of the opposition that the longer the delay the more money [it] will cost each and every member of CUPW in lost wages? Do the Liberals and NDP realize that they are using us as pawns?

Regards...your mailman and neighbour.

How does my hon. friend respond to a letter carrier who considers himself a pawn being used by the party opposite?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:10 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, the problem is twofold.

The first problem is that the unfortunate person who wrote this note has been locked out.

The second problem seems to be that the government, instead of acting responsibly and telling the public what is going on, keeps spreading information that this is a strike, and it is not. All of the major news outlets know it. All constituents in most ridings know it.

I was talking to my mother's household today. They know it is a lockout and remark how bizarre it is that on one side a crown corporation locks out its workers and the next moment the government orders them back to work.

This is a very simple problem to understand, but the government seems to get it wrong.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:10 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I was very interested in all the solutions the member put forward. One of the solutions he did not mention, and this I believe is what the government is after, is the privatization of Canada Post.

I have to tell members that some years ago, my family and I visited relatives in Holland, where the postal service had been privatized. It was fascinating. We had to mail letters and my sister-in-law had to pick up packages. We had to go to three different outlets or stores to buy the right stamps, depending on what was being sent in the mail. Then there were three different types of postboxes, all different colours, where one could post the items. Then of course was the question of delivery, which seemed to be delayed over and over again because, again, it was privatized. The cost of this was higher than here in Canada, at 64¢ a letter, it was less efficient and the frustration among customers was greater.

If Canada Post were privatized, the government would lose a lot of revenue and we would be very much the poorer.

I wonder if the member thinks that privatization is on the mind of the government.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:15 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, again, from my experience, one does not impose a solution until one figures out what the problem is.

I looked at the independent blue ribbon panel report. I am new to this issue, but I looked at the report today. This report from 2008 said that Canada Post is held in high esteem by Canadians, who are happy with the services and, in fact, proud of them. There just does not seem to be any reason to dismantle such a good corporation. It is profitable, as has been pointed. For 15 years in a row, it has generated at least a modest profit.

Again, if privatization is on the government's mind, it would only be for ideological purposes. It would not be for any reasons of good public policy.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:15 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, Canada Post is actually a great corporation and the employees great people.

It is unfortunate to see the kind of debate that has been going on over the last number of days. We have to ask the question, why is the NDP adamantly opposed to even putting the issue before an arbitrator?

When one side or the other is so opposed to going to arbitration like the NDP, which would just involve someone coming in to make a ruling that would be just for both sides, maybe they are on the wrong side of this issue.

Would my hon. colleague agree with that?

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:15 a.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I think that might be an issue for another debate, because we are debating Bill C-6 right now, the back to work order. That is what we are opposing here and will continue to oppose.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:15 a.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to talk about the lockout of workers by Canada Post and the back to work legislation the government is proposing.

I share the desire for a speedy resolution of the situation and an immediate return to regular mail delivery in this country. That is why my New Democrat colleagues and I are calling on Canada Post to unlock the doors and let postal carriers return to work.

Canada Post is a profitable corporation that earned $281 million for Canadians last year. At the same time, it has been able to offer some of the lowest postage rates in the world, with a cost of 59¢ to mail a standard letter, compared to, for instance, Germany where the cost is 77¢ or Australia at 88¢, or even the Netherlands at 64¢.

Postal carriers across this country are responsible for the success of the Canada Post Corporation and have worked so hard to turn it into a viable, reliable and, indeed, profitable service that all Canadians depend on. The current back to work legislation, Bill C-6, is a one-sided and unfair approach to resolving this crisis. Instead of demanding that Canada Post returns to the bargaining table, the Conservative government has taken the side of the corporation and presented draconian legislation that makes a mockery of fair collective bargaining.

I oppose this legislation, first, because it offers wage rates lower than what Canada Post offered; second, because it tramples on collective bargaining rights; and, third, because it supports attacks on postal workers' defined pension benefit plan and encourages a two-tiered wage and benefits system.

Locking out workers and then imposing a contract is not fair and free collective bargaining.

The resolution to this conflict is clear. Postal carriers are ready to go back to work today. Simply unlock the doors and let them continue to deliver the mail.

This legislation is not just an attack on postal workers but an attack on the wages, benefits and pensions of all Canadian workers. I will continue to work night and day, whatever it takes, to get fair resolution.

The middle class is being squeezed in Canada. Statistics Canada shows that those who earned $41,300 in 1980 still earn basically the same amount 30 years later. A study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives called, “Rising Profit Shares, Falling Wage Shares”, claims that real wage gains for the vast majority of Canadians were virtually non-existent through much of the last 30 years. Even more disturbing, the real wages of lower-income people or those making minimum wage are less than what they were 30 years ago.

Meanwhile, the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest Canadians continues to climb. Young workers today cannot expect the same standard of living or wages as their parents or grandparents. This is what CUPW and Canada's New Democrats are fighting against. We need to ensure that new postal workers are able to earn a decent living and enjoy pension benefits.

We should be working to lift wages, not impose lower wages than were offered at the bargaining table by the employer. Not only has the Conservative government offered lower wages but it also wants to maintain the 10 demands of Canada Post for major rollbacks, including the elimination of sick leave, and deep cuts in benefits and pensions for new hires.

I would like to talk about delivering the mail to Canada's most vulnerable. During the recent rotating strikes, cheques were in fact delivered to the most vulnerable. If we look at what happened last week, Canada Post not only locked out its workers but also stopped all mail delivery, which meant that Canada's vulnerable were not receiving their needed cheques. This would not have happened under the rotating strikes.

To go back to pensions, workers are fighting for their hard-earned benefits like defined pension plans. This is what is at stake. We are talking about how people live in their later years. Will they live with dignity or will they struggle?

My dad, for instance, worked 27 years for MacMillan Bloedel and now is finding that his pension is being eroded and cut back. Is this the same fate that we have in store for those working in one of our most profitable and viable corporations, Canada Post?

The workers of Canada Post have built the organization into what it is today. They are the real, true assets of the organization. They are the people who have made the organization viable, dependable and profitable.

To really focus on pensions, let me take a moment to talk about another good friend of mine and an issue that is similar to that of many of the postal workers who we on this side have been talking about. My good friend Joel Peppar lives in New Westminster with his partner Jan. He is a senior and a veteran. He has been watching this debate since the beginning, because he too has an interest in the outcome.

His veteran's cheque, which he relies on each month, is sitting in a mail truck somewhere in the country. He has told my office that he will wait as long as it takes because he feels that it is so important that the workers get what they deserve, that they get a fair deal. So here is a guy who has defended his country and who now lives from paycheque to paycheque, and he wants to support us and the workers in their fight for fairness.

I know that Joel is not alone. I know there are thousands of Canadians like Joel who also support these workers and their bid for a fair deal. I know that Joel is watching now and wants me to continue fighting the good fight. I find that amazing. He needs his cheque but even he is not willing to put his needs ahead of those of these workers. That is because he understands the difference between right and wrong. He understands when it is critical to take a stand.

I want to mention another email that I received from a constituent of mine named George. He has been watching this debate with great interest. He is a member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. He, along with his fellow workers, would like to be working right now, processing and delivering the mail. Since Canada Post has locked out the workers and thus stopped the mail service in Canada, he says it is creating great hardship for businesses and families. He goes on to ask if it is just for the Government of Canada, his employer, to punish the workers with Bill C-6. Indeed, since the full mail stoppage was caused by the management of Canada Post, which directly answers to the Government of Canada, should the Government of Canada not be directing Canada Post to remove its lockout order?

He has heard the argument from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, the member from Peterborough, that the union membership has not had a chance to vote on any of Canada Post's offers. George says the fact is that 94.5% gave the union leadership the power to bargain for a new collective agreement, which he notes is a much higher percentage than the support the voters of Canada gave the Conservative Party of Canada in the last federal election.

He goes on to say that he has heard over and over from members of the Conservative Party about the mandate that Canadians have bestowed upon them in their majority government. He says it would be nice to see them respect the membership of CUPW, which has bestowed upon his union a similar mandate: to come up with a collective agreement.

He asks the member from Peterborough specifically if he would he have Canadians go to the polls on every piece of legislation that is presented in Parliament. I think not.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:25 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Madam Speaker, there is a great irony in the position being taken by the NDP members throughout this entire debate. One of their constant themes is that they are representing the worker, the postal carrier, the lowest person on the totem pole, but as the member mentioned during his speech, the workers are not voting on what has been placed in front of the union. They have no voice.

What I am seeing is that the NDP members are not giving a voice to the workers; they are giving a voice to what one might say is the management level of the union. I am wondering if the member could comment on why he is supporting so strongly the management level of the union and not actually supporting the worker himself or herself.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:25 a.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, and as I think George so eloquently pointed out, the union management has received a 94.5% mandate, an incredibly strong mandate, to be bargaining on behalf of the membership. They have been given a clear mandate to do the best they can to negotiate a settlement that would be best for all the workers in CUPW.

Of course, they cannot do that now. Not only can they not do that, the workers cannot even do their jobs because they have been locked out by the corporation.

The government cannot do its job adequately, I think, without taking this into consideration.

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:30 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague's comments, and I also listened to the question from the other side of the House. It is obvious that the other side of the House does not realize that the union is the members; the members own the union, and the union members are workers. Let us get that clear.

People say they do not have a choice to vote, but they actually voted on the contract. If they did not vote to say whether or not they would support the strike mandate, then unfortunately they did not have their say there.

Anyhow, I want to ask the member a question about CUPW, and it is very important to say “CUPW” because that is how it is recognized. Given the fact that CUPW was doing these rotating strikes and the mail was being delivered, as my colleague said, and then we had the Minister of Labour, Lisa Raitt--

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:30 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Excuse me, I did not mean to say her name. I apologize on that--

Restoring Mail Delivery for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

June 25th, 3:30 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but she has run out of time. I must give the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam equal time to respond, so he has 30 seconds for a response.