Mr. Speaker, I rise to participate in this debate with some regret.
Since our election in 2015, our government has been working with organized labour and employers in finding ways Canadians can work together to address the issues facing our nation.
Let me be perfectly clear. Our government is committed to free collective bargaining and we believe that a negotiated agreement is always the best solution.
I listened very carefully to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour as she outlined the steps she had taken on behalf of the Government of Canada to help Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers reach a collective agreement. Federal mediators assisted the parties throughout the negotiations. A special mediator was appointed to help break the impasse. Voluntary arbitration was offered.
The Minister of Labour told us that she and her colleague, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, reached out directly to the parties. The special mediator was brought in once again to try to help the parties resolve their differences and reach an agreement that worked for everyone. All of these efforts could not break the impasse.
At the same time, rotating strikes have been disrupting Canada Post operations in more than 200 communities across the country. The strikes have been under way since October 22. We are well aware of the serious impacts these strikes are having on Canadians and Canadian businesses.
Let me begin with the people who are most impacted.
Canada Post is an iconic Canadian institution that has been connecting Canadians for more than 250 years. Even though more and more Canadians communicate by email and social media, we also know Canadians have a strong connection to personal letters, parcels from loved ones and holiday cards.
Canada Post has a network of over 6,200 post offices all across Canada, which serves as a vital link for many rural, remote and isolated communities, especially in the northern regions. Nearly nine million Canadians, 30% of our population, live in those areas. I think all of those families depend on Canada Post.
We simply cannot ignore the impacts that any disruption in mail and parcel services would have on our fellow Canadians, especially at this time of the year. For instance, Canadians living in the north received nearly twice as many parcels per capita as other Canadians in 2017. Any alternatives, such as courier companies, are simply too expensive. In some remote northern areas, there are no alternatives.
I am also thinking of Canadians with disabilities and those mobility challenges. We are talking about close to two million Canadians, nearly 50% of whom are seniors. Our government heard their concerns clearly and loudly when we put an end to the conversion of home delivery to community mailboxes. It seems to me that our most vulnerable citizens bear a disproportionate impact when access to important services are interrupted. For me, it is a matter of fairness and equity.
I will now turn the negative impact on Canadian businesses, of all sizes, that rely on Canada Post to deliver their invoices and payments. The rotating strikes have already caused significant delivery delays. Orders have been cancelled. Small and medium-sized businesses have far fewer resources to weather the impact of any disruption in their cash flow. This translates directly to less business, lost sales and fewer jobs.
There are reports of declines in e-commerce demand, reduced seasonal employment and indications that making alternative arrangements for shipping has been costly, especially damaging when businesses are normally getting ready for their busiest season and hiring more staff, including students, to handle the influx.
I want to speak briefly about parcel services.
The growth in e-commerce has been one of the greatest trends over the past decade or so. According to Statistics Canada, Internet-based sales from all retailers rose 31%, $15.7 billion, in 2017. It has generated significant business for Canada Post. This was confirmed by the independent task force that completed an in-depth review of Canada Post. I would encourage members to read the analysis entitled, “Canada Post in the digital age”.
The analysis states:
Canada Post segment parcels revenue increased by over $400 million between 2011 and 2015, representing an average annual growth of 7.8%. Volume growth has been driven by e-commerce, and has such been growing consistently over the last five years.
This trend is continuing to go upward.
We also know that up to 40% of Internet sales take place in the fourth quarter, which is bearing the impact of the rotating strikes.
Not to be overlooked is the disproportionate impact on the smaller companies who operate as e-sellers. They operate on very thin margins, which means many of them cannot afford the higher costs of shipping through courier companies.
We also cannot ignore the impacts beyond our border. As we heard, Canada Post has asked its international partners to halt mail and parcel shipments to Canada as it continues to deal with a major delivery backlog that has grown as a result of the rotating strikes.
As a trading nation, our reputation as a reliable market for commerce and trade is of paramount importance. That is why the government is taking action, with legislation, that will require the parties to continue postal services and return to work. As parliamentarians, we have an obligation to do what we can to help protect the public interest, the well-being of our fellow Canadians and the future of Canadian businesses.
Our government has shown tremendous faith in the collective bargaining process. We have allowed both parties to carry on their negotiations with the hope that they would find common ground and reach an agreement. Regrettably, that outcome was not achieved. We did not see a satisfactory conclusion to the impasse, and the strikes are having a serious impact on Canadians and Canadian business that depend on the services provided by Canada Post.
We must take action now. Otherwise, the impacts of the rotating strike will only continue to escalate and compound over the coming weeks. This legislation is our last resort and, as the Minister of Labour had indicated, it is not something the government takes lightly. However, having exhausted all other possibilities, we believe it is the only option.