Mr. Speaker, last night, at the end of his eloquent speech about workers' rights, the leader of the opposition proposed that we take a break in our consideration of the draconian legislation proposed by the Conservative government. That proposal took the form of a motion to postpone consideration of the bill for six months.
For several hours now, many of our colleagues on both sides of the House, either in their speeches or in their questions and comments, have contributed to our consideration of the advisability of postponing passage of this horrible and counterproductive bill. I myself believe more than ever that we must postpone all consideration of it, for the numerous reasons cited by all of our colleagues.
It is in fact the most enormous bad faith for the government to claim that it has to force the workers back to work when it is this very government, acting through a crown corporation, that is preventing them from working and putting them on lockout.
Apart from the bad faith that has characterized the approach taken by the Conservative government since the outset of the dispute, it is essential that we note the consistent manner in which the courts have sanctioned and penalized the bad faith and misconduct of this same Conservative government in labour relations cases.
The most recent example is a decision handed down only two days ago by the Federal Court, and in a moment I will read several passages from it. The case involved a situation very similar to the one before us tonight. It did not involve postal employees; rather, it was all members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The case is entitled Robert Meredith and Brian Roach, representing all members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, v. the Attorney General of Canada. The decision was given on June 21, 2011, by the Federal Court. Justice Heneghan wrote the decision.
In that case, we are reminded that in late December 2008, the Conservative government engaged in a series of fraudulent manoeuvres that it is difficult to distinguish from the situation before us tonight. This same government had legislated to flout the process provided by the legislation, and imposed its own bill to cut back the terms of employment that had in fact been legally agreed to with RCMP members. One crucial point is that the courts found that what the Conservative government had done, in terms of labour relations, was illegal under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is a fundamental law.
Pages 27 to 29 of the judgment specifically are where we find the references that are most relevant to our work tonight. For those who are interested, I will note that the passages I am about to read are taken from paragraphs 86, 89 and 92 of this very recent judgment, as I mentioned. The judge reviews the terms of what the Conservative government tried to withdraw, by flouting the rights of the members of the RCMP, and concludes as follows, and I am going to read it in English since the judgment is written in that language.
So the Treasury Board withdrew the issue from consideration of the entity that it had created and refused to negotiate on a good-faith basis.
I repeat, “refused to negotiate on a good-faith basis”. That is the pattern of this Conservative government.
It continues: “The unilateral cancellation of a previous agreement also constitutes interference with subsection 2(d) rights”.
Now those section 2(d) rights are, in particular, these.
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(d) freedom of association.
For those who follow these issues, I note that this is referring in particular to two leading cases, two decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada: Health Services and Support and Fraser.
But this very recent decision sets a precedent. The Federal Court of Canada has assigned blame to this government and ruled against it. So this is a pattern of behaviour that we are seeing here tonight.
A little farther on, the judge writes:
The financial impact of the ERA was not relevant. In both B.C. Health Services and Fraser the Supreme Court focused not on the significance of the financial impact of the legislation, but of the significance of the impact of the interference on the bargaining process.
Finally, in paragraph 92, the Treasury Board's decision in the ERA made it effectively impossible for the pay council, that was the entity that had been created, to make representations on behalf of the members of the RCMP and have those representations, wait for it, here it comes again, considered in good faith. The judge goes on to say that in her opinion this is a substantial interference which constitutes a violation of section 2(d) of the charter.
That is repeat behaviour. That is putting oneself above the law.
It is sometimes said, in common language, that they think they know best. That is what the Conservatives think. They believe they can be the judges, they can be the jury, and they can also be executioners. They show contempt for the most fundamental laws. But as my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley put it so well just now, therein lies the rub; the Minister of Labour let the cat out of the bag when she said, as she did yesterday, that there are 50,000 postal workers on one side and 33 million Canadians on the other. I have news for her.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to all citizens of Canada, including postal workers. We already knew whom and what we were dealing with when this Conservative government became the first government in the history of the British Commonwealth to be thrown out for breaking all the rules and being in contempt of the institutions of this Parliament: the right of parliamentarians to have fiscal and financial information before making decisions, the right to be given documents relating to foreign affairs, our rights to carry out the fundamental democratic mandate we were given when we were elected to this place.
Tonight, we are considering a bill that they are trying to persuade people is essential to force the workers back to work, hoping that the public would be so easily duped that they would forget they are the ones who have prevented and continue to prevent the workers from doing their jobs. On this side, we will support the motion presented yesterday by the leader of the opposition. We believe it is obvious that this bill, draconian or worse as it is, must not be considered, particularly given that it is clear from the decision handed down by the Federal Court of Canada this week, again, that behaviour that is contrary to the basic rules proves the government's bad faith. Yesterday, in fact, I witnessed this bad faith for myself. To be so presumptuous as to say that the workers are on strike, when they are the ones who have stopped them from working, defies all comprehension.
On this side, we will stand up, unanimous in our condemnation of this pattern of behaviour that flouts human rights in general and the rights of workers in particular.