Mr. Speaker, in 2008, this Conservative government did not even recognize the looming economic crisis. The Americans were grappling with an economic crisis, but we were supposedly protected. Today, the government is claiming that the slightest pressure, the slightest demand could upset Canada's entire economy. That is what the government is saying now in 2012, but the people are too smart to believe that. They know that this government is out to bust unions and take away the right to make demands and negotiate. That right is enshrined in the Constitution. This government is sending a very clear message to the people and to federally regulated companies: there is no need to negotiate with employees or to make concessions, because the government will always be there, taking aim at flies with its sledgehammer, ready to impose special legislation. Companies have nothing to worry about because the employees are the ones who will always have the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.
That is what happened with Canada Post. There were a few pressure tactics, starting with rotating strikes. The government said that the economy would be hurt by the rotating strikes, but the whole point of the strikes was to avoid hurting the economy or the people. Service was interrupted briefly, then resumed, to be followed by a service interruption in another region. That was what employees did to avoid undue harm to the people, because they knew that they had the right to make demands and employ certain pressure tactics.
The government stopped everything by imposing special legislation. It even told Canada Post Corporation ahead of time that there would be special legislation, which did encourage it to negotiate with its employees. It did the same thing with Air Canada. Already back in June, the minister hinted at the possibility of imposing special legislation. And now they are saying that negotiations are at an impasse, that a lockout or strike is possible. The idea of asking the Canadian Industrial Relations Board for its opinion was not bad at the time, but the minister did not even wait for that opinion. Why bother having a Canadian Industrial Relations Board? It serves absolutely no purpose these days. There is not really any point to anything, with this government. All this government is doing is proving that it rules with an iron fist.
No one has any rights anymore, either in Canada or Quebec. For this government, it is “my way or no way”. Employers understand this. They understand that it is no longer a question of making concessions or bargaining, because the government will simply impose special legislation and even some conditions. In the case of Canada Post, the government offered lower wages than Canada Post Corporation had offered its employees. Air Canada is about to suffer the same fate. Its employees have been agreeing to concessions for the past 12 years. They have had no salary increases and some have seen their pensions decrease. This government has no heart. It said it would impose conditions, thinking that the people would go along with that.
Since winning a majority, the government seems to think it was given a blank cheque to do what ever it wants, when it wants, and to impose the laws it wants. Canadians are beginning to realize that what is going on is unacceptable. There are protests everywhere. The people are going to demonstrate in the streets and this government will suffer the consequences. But for now, unfortunately, workers are the ones being penalized by the situation.
We will still be here. I am asking the minister to do the right thing, to promote negotiation and not impose conditions and closure on bargaining. It is one thing to impose closure in Parliament; we can take it even though it is unacceptable and we represent the public. However, these workers have rights. That means nothing. This government needs to adjust its attitude.