Mr. Speaker, I thought it would be appropriate to start off my comments by referring to the Conservative labour critic's question. He said “table a motion to talk about it”, as if that is a bad thing. That encapsulates the Stephen Harper Conservative government's approach when dealing with labour issues. When I sat in opposition I listened to the government of the day bring in legislation through the back door by way of private members' hour, taking shots at the union movement across Canada.
I can recall the legislation the Conservative government brought in with respect to Canada Post. The Conservatives are trying to give the impression that what we are doing now is similar to what they did at the time. That is truly amazing. What we are doing is nothing remotely close to what they did with respect to the labour front.
I find it interesting that even my New Democrat friends appear to be trying to score some political points on this issue. They are putting aside the concerns of the average Canadian and business and those who have a vested interest in this debate. Both opposition parties are drawing conclusions. Instead of drawing conclusions, why do they not have some faith and some hope in the process that is still in place today?
This government is behaving in a very responsible manner. We understand the importance of the issue. That is why we are discussing this motion that has been tabled by the government.
We really want to see a negotiated agreement. The Prime Minister, the labour minister and all members of this caucus have been very clear on the issue. We do not want to bring in any form of back-to-work legislation. Our first choice is a negotiated agreement. I appeal to individuals around the table, whether it is the union or Canada Post management, to get the job done and get something signed as soon as possible. That is what I am hoping for.
I have listened to New Democrats talk about the plight of postal workers. I do not need to be reminded of that. I was sitting in opposition when Stephen Harper and the Conservatives made profound changes to the services provided to Canadians by Canada Post. I remember the legislation they introduced. It was shameful.
Let me remind the members that back in the days of Stephen Harper, his government brought in reforms that dealt with things such as door-to-door delivery and jacking up the cost of postage stamps. Many individuals believed, myself included, that the Conservatives really wanted to privatize Canada Post. That was the real objective of the Conservative Party. Stephen Harper had a hidden agenda with respect to Canada Post. There was a general lack of respect for postal workers and the whole system.
We believe Canadians respect the system. They want to see a Crown corporation in place that continues to deliver the type of services it has delivered for decades.
When we became government after the last election, it did not take long for the Prime Minister and the minister responsible to strike up a group of individuals that represented Canadians as a whole. That group would sit on a special standing committee of the House or on the committee that was established by the minister to canvass the opinions and thoughts of Canadians in moving forward with Canada Post.
I believe a general consensus was achieved. There might have been a few dissenting individuals within the Conservative ranks, but generally speaking we saw a fairly consistent message that there was a positive future for Canada Post. We recognize the valuable work of our letter carriers, our mail organizers and those who fill the infrastructure do. The backbone, the workers, make Canada Post what it is today. It is recognized even outside of Canada with respect to the valuable contributions they make to our society. We have a changing society, and I will to pick up a bit on that shortly.
I use Canada Post on a regular basis, whether it be for my householders, my ten percenters, my mail or the feedback from my constituents. This is all done through Canada Post. I can assure those people who are following the debate that every member of the Liberal caucus values and appreciates the fine work our postal workers put in day in and day out in order to deliver our mail and ensure that communication is there. It is not only for us as members of Parliament, but those workers provide a service that even goes beyond that.
I have talked to letter carriers who have met with individuals in the community. They grow concerned when mail is not taken out of their postal boxes, whether it is the community box or the mail box on their home. They are concerned that maybe there is a health issue, which, at least in part at times, is dealt with because of a caring people. It even goes over and beyond.
Let us get this upfront. Unlike what the New Democrats are trying to communicate in their spin, we do care, value and appreciate the work those front-line service people provide.
However, as we continue to go through this rotating strike, a vast majority of Canadians will recognize that in the changing times, there is a responsibility. The union group and the management have a responsibility. We are still hopeful. That is one of the reasons we have a federal mediator in the situation today.
When we look at the federal mediation individuals in the conciliatory branch of government, the success rate is well over 90%. Therefore, Ottawa has been indirectly at the table, supporting positive negotiations and encouraging good and healthy negotiations between unions and management.
However, it would be highly irresponsible for the government to sit back and not respond to the needs of the Canadian economy and society as a whole. When I hear in particular my New Democratic friends try to say that we should never legislate back to work legislation, I remind them that it is only the New Democrats who ever say that conclusively. To try to give the impression that the NDP has never brought in back-to-work legislation is just wrong. The New Democrats have done this. They have not done so at the national level, because they have never been in government, but they have been in government in provinces where they have brought in back-to-work legislation.
However, in Ottawa, the New Democrats like to take the moral stand of never ever. Part of being in government means we have to make decisions that are in the best interests of all Canadians, the Canadian economy and the national interest. That is why my New Democrat colleagues need to realize that times have changed. Thirty years ago, there was not the same sort of Internet activity that we have today. They should compare the Yellow Pages from 30 years ago to what they is today. They will see there is a significant difference. There are no Yellow Pages in many homes today.
As an example, with the Internet, we have seen a profound change in the purchase of products. Everything from health to consumables to TVs, just name a few, can now be purchased online. For a vast majority of those purchases, consumers do not pick up the items. Rather, organizations and corporations like Canada Post are relied on to deliver those products. The delivering of those products provides the ongoing growth of our economy and opportunity for seniors to receive, for example, their contact lenses, or other medical requirements or Christmas cards from a grandsons or granddaughters, whatever it may be, all of which is really important.
I cannot provide the percentage breakdown offhand for the amount of merchandise purchased over the Internet and delivered through corporations like Canada Post, but it would definitely be well into the double digits. I like to believe, which may be due to my sense of pride for Canada Post, that Canada Post is leading the way on the delivery of these products. That is why the future for Canada Post, in good part, is so solid going forward.
We are in a very interesting time of the year. We know many companies rely on this busy season to generate the necessary profits to carry them through months like January and February. To believe that is not the case is somewhat insensitive to the needs of small businesses.
The labour critic said that we had this new-found love for small businesses by the Government of Canada. The labour critic is wrong. We understand how important small businesses are to Canada. Quite frankly, they are the backbone of the economy. Helping to feed Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it is going to be driven by businesses of all sizes in every region of our country. We have recognized that from day one.
Members on this side of the House, for example, often talk about the middle-class tax cut, which put hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of Canadians. Those individuals are spending money in small businesses. That might mean, for example, buying an item on eBay and having it shipped via Canada Post. Whether it is the middle-class tax breaks, or the reduction of the small business tax or the amazing announcements by the Minister of Finance yesterday, this government has the pulse of Canada's small businesses in every region of the country. All our policy directions support small businesses and encourage the growth of Canada's middle class.
If we are to listen to the New Democrats, they are prepared to gamble it away. We know, from provincial experience, they would not do that. At the federal level, they are prepared to make those sorts of statements. It is highly irresponsible because many companies are having a difficult time getting their merchandise to consumers. It is very important. If we start to see job losses as a direct result of a prolonged strike, that could hurt our economy. If we start to see an individual who requires some sort of health care benefit, such as contact lenses, not being delivered in a timely fashion, that also has a negative impact. As much as a good portion of this is about the economy, it is much more than that.
We hear a lot with respect to the politics. I have listened to the debate over the last couple of hours. The Conservative are saying that we are not going far enough. Why would we table a motion today and not debate the legislation? They are anxious. They want the legislation. If it were up to them, not only would we be bringing in legislation, but we would maybe be doing what Stephen Harper did and roll back the wages of the letter carriers. It is truly amazing. We could not believe it when the government of Stephen Harper did that within its legislation.
Further to the right, we have the New Democrats who are left of centre to the right of the Conservatives. Sometimes it gets confusing because they like to work together on certain things. The New Democrats are saying that we should not be doing this, that we should be putting the interests of Canadian small businesses, consumers and those who rely on the services provided to the side. Those really do not matter.
As one of my caucus colleagues said, that is not going to work. At the end of the day, we want to see a negotiated agreement. We are hoping for this. That is what my personal request is for both labour and management. Let us get this issue resolved. However, it would be highly irresponsible for the government not to have something in place if we have to get the mail going. This is of the utmost importance.
I commented on the importance of collective agreements. I have had many opportunities to stand in the chamber. There is a wonderful list of things which we have done as a government to reinforce the importance of labour. Whether it has been in the Manitoba legislature on a debate of final offer selection or the debate we had in Ottawa on getting rid of the old Harper bills, Bill C-525 and Bill C-377, I have argued consistently for the importance of collective bargaining and the important role unions play in society.
In 2019, we are going to be recognizing the 1919 general strike in Winnipeg. Maybe in response to questions, I will be able to provide further comment on that.
I thank the House for the opportunity to share a few thoughts.