House of Commons Hansard #356 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was post.


Postal Services Resumption and Continuation ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Cape Breton—Canso Nova Scotia


Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, it is a difficult decision for the minister to put this forward, but I know full well the effort, time and energy she and her whole team have put into trying to find a way forward on this particular issue.

The Conservatives have said that we were very critical when they came forward with back-to-work legislation, and we know that they made record use of back-to-work legislation while in government. They had pieces of legislation on the shelf, and once a strike had been called, they would pull that down, insert the name, and the back-to-work legislation would be put forward. As a matter fact, when they legislated Canada Post back, they legislated the workers back for less of a wage than Canada Post had actually offered during negotiations.

I would like the minister to again share with the House how the actions undertaken by this government certainly stand in stark contrast to what took place before under the Conservatives.

Postal Services Resumption and Continuation ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


Patty Hajdu Liberal Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. My colleague is right to highlight that this is a dramatically different approach than the previous government's. The previous government, as my colleague pointed out, did not allow for labour disruption. In fact, sometimes it pre-empted strike action by introducing back-to-work legislation in a way that was extremely harmful to the labour movement and extremely harmful to workers across this country.

As noted in my remarks, we have taken every effort over a long period of time to assist these parties to come to a negotiated agreement. As a matter of fact, the parties are still working together today, and I thank them for that. I encourage them to stay at the table and get a negotiated agreement.

We have worked hard to ensure that the labour movement has the protections it needs. We have listened to the labour movement. We have introduced modern labour standards. We have introduced pay equity. We have actually passed legislation that strengthens the rights of workers and protects workers in Canadian workplaces.

Postal Services Resumption and Continuation ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, if there ever was a lesson in talking out of both sides of the mouth, this would be the moment. I should not be surprised, because the minister learned that from the Prime Minister. We see it all the time.

Does the minister not understand that the very fact that she is speaking here today signalling that the government is prepared to bring back-to-work legislation for the postal workers is stacking the deck and will skew the entire negotiation process for the corporation against the workers? How can she get up here and claim that this will allow for a fair negotiation process for both parties?

Postal Services Resumption and Continuation ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


Patty Hajdu Liberal Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very confident that we have used every tool in our tool box to get a negotiated agreement. I am still hopeful that the parties will arrive at that agreement.

As a matter of fact, the parties are working together today. I encourage them to work diligently to find that agreement. Having said that, as the Government of Canada we have a responsibility to all Canadians, and we take that responsibility seriously. We have small businesses that are suffering. We have rural and remote communities that are suffering. We have individuals who are concerned about how they are going to make rent next month. We have had calls to act, and that is, in fact, what we are doing.

Postal Services Resumption and Continuation ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.


John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to this motion.

We have certainly heard from both sides of the floor different points of view. However, my NDP colleague put it quite profoundly. She took my opening line about talking through both sides of their mouths.

In the minister's presentation today, we heard the reasons for tabling this motion on back-to-work legislation for Canada Post. She said that small businesses across Canada are facing a crisis. She even talked about specific business owners who have reached out to her office saying that they are in jeopardy of closing their doors if they cannot have a dependable postal service. She talked about how important it is to address the issues business owners across Canada are facing, and that is the reason she is taking this step today.

However, at the same time, she said, in response to my question, that they are going to do everything they can to ensure that they come to some sort of agreement. She did not finish that sentence. The end of that sentence is, “small business be damned, regardless of the consequences this is going to have.”

Small-business owners have raised the alarm bells on some very real concerns, as we head into their busiest time of the season, that if they do not make the revenue during the holiday season, it impacts the rest of their year. I certainly have had those conversations with small-business owners in my riding. They make sometimes 60% to 70% of their revenue during the holiday season, and a lot of that business is through online sales.

I will name a couple of examples. Frontier Western Shop, in Claresholm, was a very small western wear business that grew over the last decade into an international success story. It sells its wares across the world. Who would have known that people in Europe want belt buckles and cowboy boots? They do. It has grown into an extremely successful business, built on an online platform. The same can be said for Flys Etc., in High River. It was a very small business that started as a one-man shop, but because of his success in selling reels and rods and his handmade flies online around the world, this small High River business has grown into a great success story.

We can talk about the big businesses that are going to be impacted, but the messages we are getting from our constituents is that the very small rural businesses are the ones being impacted as well. The minister said in her presentation that she has heard stories from business owners who have asked her to take definitive action to get Canada Post back to work. Today the minister said, yes, she has heard their stories, but she is just going to put a motion on the table to talk about it. She is not taking definitive action. She just wants to talk about this some more, while each minute and each hour this goes on, small businesses across the country are suffering.

This is a bigger trend we have seen from the Liberal government. It is its inability to take action when it is needed. There is that desire to stand on both sides of the fence, and we all know what happens when people sit on the fence for two long. They get slivers, very painful slivers. Unfortunately, our small businesses are the ones who are feeling the consequences and the pain of that.

We have seen this story many times during the Liberals' three-year mandate. Let us go back a bit to the grain backlog. We had grain farmers across the country, specifically in western Canada, talking about the pain they were going through not being able to get their commodities to market. We encouraged the Liberal government for months to take action on this issue. It had definitive tools in its tool box to force the railways to start hauling more grain. This started last fall. We went through the winter. Every single time we brought this up to the Liberal government, the response was, “We really trust the railways to resolve this on their own. We are not going to get involved. They are meeting their targets. This is all going to resolve itself.” Meeting their targets meant sometimes meeting six per cent of the contracts they had signed. Six per cent is certainly not what I would say is meeting their obligations. We then went through the spring seeding period, and still no resolution. Finally, the summer came, and the Liberals tabled Bill C-49, the transportation bill, which we asked them to do eight or nine months earlier. If they had taken the legislation the previous Conservative government had done and put it forward, we would have resolved that grain backlog when it still could have made a difference to Canadian grain farmers. However, the Liberals wait until we are in crisis mode.

That is exactly what the minister said today in her presentation, that our small businesses are facing a crisis. What are the Liberals going to do about it? They are going to do almost something, but not quite anything. We are going to come here and debate it a little more and once again try to walk the fence. Our grain farmers in western Canada sure felt the ramifications of that. Even with Bill C-49, it does not force the railways to haul grain. There is no accountability in that bill. Again, it is window dressing so that Liberals can say eventually, when it really does not matter any more and it is way too late, they did something. Really, Bill C-49 does not address anything and hopefully this fall and winter as we go through the harvest once again, we will see what kind of an impact Bill C-49 will have on our grain producers.

Let us also go back to the Phoenix pay system, something that we have all dealt with. The Liberals like to pass the buck onto somebody else. They were told when they won the election that the Phoenix pay system was not ready to go. They needed to take some definitive action to address this situation, which would have impacts on federal employees across the country. Again, they did not take definitive action. They did not address the situation. They just pressed the green button and hoped for the best because hope and hard work solves all one's problems apparently. We have seen the consequences of that inaction. Federal employees across the country can certainly share that information and the impact this has had on their livelihood. Some of them have been overpaid and then been asked to reimburse the federal government. Some of them have not been paid at all. Again, we hear from the minister that they are taking definitive action and are fully aware of the crisis situation. Then what are the Liberals doing? Nothing or very little.

It is unfortunate, because our small business owners are now put in the crosshairs because of the labour disruption with Canada Post. As I said in my question to the minister, in 2011 when the Conservative government took similar steps to address the Canada Post work stoppage, we were criticized severely by the Liberal third party opposition members that we were being overly aggressive, that it was not something we should be doing. How interesting that the tables have turned just a few years later and now the Liberals are in the situation. They think this is something they should do, but they want to go halfway all the time. There is no ability to make a tough decision and follow through on that decision, to remedy the situation for businesses across Canada.

I want to bring some examples in the trend we have seen with the Liberal government over the last few years. One would be the outcry from Canadians, especially in Ontario and Quebec, with the illegal migrants coming across the border. This is a crisis. There is no question about it. We have seen the numbers increase over the last few years. Liberals like to take little snapshots to say in this week of July the numbers went down between two and four o'clock in the afternoon, so they have a handle on the illegal migrant crisis. If we look at the numbers in a broader vision, the numbers have continued to go up.

That is certainly not the impression that Canadians have of the situation, and this would resonate with my colleagues in southern Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. The situation is not in control. Building permanent housing with tents and trailers along the border is not what I would consider a long-term solution to an illegal migrant crisis. Again, the Liberals do not want to do anything about it except talk about it. They say they are putting things in place. The Minister of Border Security, the minister with no portfolio really, has said ad nauseam that they have the numbers under control. However, in every statistic, in every media report and certainly when we talk to people on the ground, that is certainly not the case. Again, we see this inability to take definitive action when definitive action is needed.

I compare that to the situation we are in now. Canadian businesses across the country are saying that the crisis they are facing now is real. As we get into this holiday season, we have seen the stats, and I think the minister even mentioned them today, that the rotating postal strikes are costing small businesses an average of $3,000 a month. That includes not only lost sales, but also receivables that are not getting to those businesses.

Let us talk about what that impact would be at $3,000 a month. That is two employees who would now have to be laid off. However, if they had that $3,000 over the holiday season, then a couple of employees could be hired to help through this very busy season. The Liberal minister talked about how much of a crisis this is for businesses. There is a ripple-down effect to this inaction.

I have a 20-year-old daughter who is looking for some part-time work over the holiday season. She has gone to some of the retailers for work during the holidays, but a lot of them have said that they are not hiring until they know what is going on with the labour dispute. They do not know if they can afford to hire those additional part-time workers over the holiday season.

A lot of Canadians rely on that extra income. It helps them pay for their own Christmas presents and holiday celebrations. University and college students over the Christmas break absolutely rely on that additional revenue to help them pay for their tuition and school books, which have become more expensive. On a side note, the Liberals felt that tax credits for tuition and school books were not really necessary and that university and college students were too wealthy to qualify for these tax credits. Unfortunately, because of that, they are now having to rely on those part-time jobs over the Christmas holidays; part-time jobs that are not going to be there, because these small businesses are losing up to $3,000 a month due to the disruption in Canada Post services.

My Liberal colleagues were demeaning this by saying that the contrast between the Conservative action and the Liberal action when it comes to these types of situations is that the Conservatives acted quickly but the Liberals took their time with it. I am very proud of the fact that we acted quickly and took definitive action when it was needed, which ensured that our small businesses and companies across the country knew that the government was standing behind them and ensuring they had the tools they needed to be successful. What is frustrating them right now is a government that is taking no action, allowing them to suffer, and would rather stand on the sidelines and let these two groups come to an agreement, which they have obviously been unable to do.

I appreciate the union's position on some of the things it is trying to address, but it is clear that they have not been able to come to an agreement. We understand the situation before us with a very busy holiday season. Therefore, I think it behooves the government to take some definitive action to ensure that our small businesses are not going to be suffering through their busiest season. This is when they make their gravy. This is when businesses make the revenue that keeps them up and running for the rest of the year. There is no question about that. As I said, a lot them make 70% of their revenue during this time of year.

I have certainly heard over the last couple of weeks the frustration from small business owners who do not understand why the Liberal government does not have their backs. We can go back to last fall when the Liberals brought forward these small business tax changes. These were going to be imposed on small businesses across the country that would have been devastated by these tax changes. If not for this tax revolt from our farmers, ranchers and small business owners, there is no question the Liberal government would have gone ahead with these changes. We heard from our farmers that it would be the end of the family farm, because they would not be able to pass their farms on to the next generation. This was shocking, but it was fact. The Liberals do not dispute that fact, because it was true. Even though we were able to get the Liberals to walk back on some of these changes, the changes to passive income are still there.

There are still some challenges for our small business owners. The Liberals hiked CPP and EI taxes on paycheques, which again impacts business owners as well as their employees. The government is going to impose a federal carbon tax and add a tax on the GST and the HST. For whatever reason, the Liberals do not understand that all of these things are devastating our Canadian small businesses.

These small businesses are the ones that create jobs, as much as the Liberal government would like to take credit for that. Governments do not create jobs. Let us get that on the table. Governments can put policies in place that encourage businesses to grow and create jobs, but governments do not create jobs, unless they hire a lot of public sector workers, which is a subject we can save for another day. That is one way the Liberals are creating jobs.

More than 90% of jobs in Canada are created by our small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEs. They are successful because they are entrepreneurs, willing to take the risks. We have to ensure that they have the tools to take those risks, to be comfortable to hire new employees, to expand their business and invest in new equipment, new technology and new innovation. One of those tools is a reliable postal service.

As we go through the past three years of the Liberal government's mandate, it seems that one by one, it is removing every single tool that our small and medium-sized enterprises need to be successful, whether it is by increasing taxes or creating additional carbon taxes or additional regulatory and red tape regimes.

I would like to touch briefly on yesterday's fall economic statement. From my perspective, there was nothing in that presentation that addressed the crisis that we are facing in Alberta. We have a massive differential in oil prices. The Liberals think we are talking about big international businesses, and we are, because they are being impacted also, but all the junior and middle companies that rely on those big businesses are being impacted and rural communities in Alberta are being devastated. They feel everywhere they turn they are being punched.

Three of the biggest companies in the world, Trans Canada, Enbridge and Kinder Morgan, were ready to put private dollars into three major energy infrastructure projects at the start of the Liberals' mandate, and all three have now gone. Unless they hit the ground in Alberta, people cannot understand the impact that has had. Investment has gone. Companies are leaving and jobs are going with them. The impact has been devastating.

My Alberta colleagues and I talk about this a great deal. We cannot understand why the Liberals refuse to see it, why they refuse to understand the impact this is having on Alberta's economy and its small rural communities.

Christmas is coming, and more than 100,000 energy workers are out of work. Some of them have been out of work for more than two years now. They were looking at Christmas as an opportunity to have a small celebration with friends and family but they will not be able to have that either, because small businesses in these rural communities are suffering because of their inability to access their customers and get their receivables.

This is just another hit by a Liberal government that does not seem to understand the importance of small business and how much our rural communities depend on these small businesses and our postal service. These communities are sometimes very secluded.

I understand that email and the Internet are an easy way to do these things, but that cannot be done if there is no postal service, and that is very frustrating. We want to see the Liberals take definitive action on this. We do not want them to just talk about it, but to do something about it.

I have talked a lot about our rural communities and our small towns, but this also has international implications. We have heard now from the United Kingdom, the United States and several of our large partners and allies, many of which are countries our new Canadians and immigrants have come from, that Canada Post has now told them not to send parcels or mail as we are not going to be able to handle it.

That is pretty tough for a trading partner that these businesses, which have operations in other parts of the world, now cannot do business with one another because they are unable to access reliable mail service. This will impact the more than 100 countries who are members of the Universal Postal Union, and the other United Nations agencies this is going to impact. Again, it shows that the Liberal government is not protecting our export markets, our global economy, and the ability of Canadian companies to expand and operate outside our own borders. This has far-reaching impacts on our economy, not just here at home but certainly around the world.

The Liberals, I hope, over the course of the next couple of days will understand that Canada Post is an essential service for rural Canadians in our small towns, who rely on it to do their business and pay their bills. I hope they will hear that message today. I am sure they are going to hear the message loud and clear from my NDP colleagues that they take the situation seriously. They should not just talk about it, but take definitive action. They should not think small businesses are not suffering and can wait. They cannot wait. They need action today.

Postal Services Resumption and Continuation ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments by the Conservatives.

We as the government are very hopeful that there will still be an opportunity for a negotiated agreement. I think there is some contrast between our government and the former Stephen Harper government, one example being when the Harper government imposed back-to-work legislation with a rollback of salaries of staff.

We are really and truly hoping that the union and management will be able to achieve an agreement. In contrast to the Conservatives who say that we are not moving quickly fast enough and that we need to come down on the parties, the NDP is the absolute opposite.

Would my friend across the way not agree that the first priority is to look at the impact on the national interest of Canadians as a whole? Should we not still hold out an opportunity for hope that there will be a negotiated agreement?

Postal Services Resumption and Continuation ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague just highlighted the reason we are in this situation. It all comes down to hope. We really hope that the best of this will come forward. We are just going to stand back and hope that these two groups resolve this problem.

The Liberals have failed to take responsibility for a situation that has arisen under their government. Whether it is fighter jets, deficits or the Canada Post labour dispute, it is never their fault. It is always somebody else's fault. They are now three and a half years into their mandate. They need to start taking responsibility for some of the things that have happened because of the decisions they have made.

This is not about hoping that this situation will be resolved. We have known since January of 2018 that this was the situation. The Liberals have had months to hope that these two groups would come to an agreement. It has not happened. Hope is not enough. They need to take action.

Postal Services Resumption and Continuation ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, fundamentally what we are doing today is looking at whether it is fair in the collective bargaining process to threaten and then bring in back-to-work legislation, this time with our postal workers. Whether it is a Conservative government or a Liberal government, through rain, snow, sleet or hail, and today in Ottawa through minus 25° temperatures, our postal workers are out there delivering mail on our behalf.

When we look at these processes today we must ask this question. Is it fair to our postal workers in a collective bargaining process to threaten legislation and then bring it in? How does that lead to a balanced outcome during a collective bargaining process? It is just not right.

Postal Services Resumption and Continuation ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. No one questions the dedication and commitment of our postal workers. Walking around yesterday was proof enough of what they have to endure. There is also the greater good.

When we have small businesses across the country losing thousands of dollars a month because of a work stoppage or a rotating work stoppage, that is something that needs to be addressed. I understand the situation of the postal workers across the country, but they also have to understand the impact these rotating strikes, and potentially a full strike, would have on Canada's economy.

Let us not fool ourselves: They know what the current situation is, what time of year it is, and how much our small businesses rely on them. It is a tool in the bargaining tool chest, and I completely understand that. As part of that, they also have to understand the impact their decisions are having on Canada's economy and the crisis our small businesses are facing.

Postal Services Resumption and Continuation ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

John Oliver Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that our government has made huge strides for organized labour and Canadian workers.

We repealed Bill C-525 and Bill C-377 to restore fair and balanced labour relations. have amended the Canada Labour Code. We are modernizing labour standards. Now we are forced to look at this Canada Post situation.

It has been interesting to hear the conversations in the House. I have heard from my NDP colleagues that we should be doing nothing and let the collective process drag out through a very critical business cycle. I have heard from the member across who said that we should have acted earlier.

Does the member not see the value of collective bargaining? Does he not see the value of a allowing a mutually agreeable process to unfold so that these two parties can come together one last time in a mutually satisfactory way?

Postal Services Resumption and Continuation ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not questioning, and nowhere in my intervention did I question, the importance of collective bargaining.

I am not saying that the process should not be going on, but it has been going on since January. There is no question that the Liberals could have taken action much sooner. Again, let us be clear: They are not really doing anything. The Liberals have just put a motion on the floor today to maybe try to spark some discussion on this. What they are doing is really no action. The Liberals should have been acting before.

Again, we are not criticizing collective bargaining. My point on this is that under their watch, once again, the Liberals have waited until we have reached a crisis before they sort of take action.

Postal Services Resumption and Continuation ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I just want to get my colleague's comments.

The Liberals are crying crocodile tears, as I think they are called. They are bragging about all of the things they have done, when they are actually not that interested in union members. We have seen the Liberals raise taxes. We see the minister talking this morning about how Canadians are waiting for help, but they are certainly not going to get it from the government.

The Liberals are talking about how small businesses are going out of business. I do not think the postal strike is the reason small businesses are going out of business, after three years of this government's leadership.

We did make some moves on unions. I think they were good ones. We expected unions to report their spending and to hold secret ballots for union certification so that members could have their rights protected.

I just want to again ask the member about the Liberal government's failure to take responsibility. The minister mentioned earlier that she is worried about Black Friday and that she is going to get this done by Saturday. Why do the Liberals always leave Canadians a day late and a dollar short?

Postal Services Resumption and Continuation ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is exactly right. The Liberals are not taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

The member hit on a very important point. We are talking about the crisis that small businesses are facing, but this is yet another cut in what has been death by a thousand cuts under the Liberal government. We talked about the carbon tax, CPP, EI tax increases on employers, and now a Canada Post work stoppage that the government again refuses to take any definitive action on.

Our small businesses across Canada feel like they are being kicked in the gut over and over again by a Liberal government. Let us be clear, there is a reason for that. During the campaign in 2015, the Prime Minister was very clear that small business owners are just tax cheats looking for ways to hide from taxes.

That is not who small business owners are. They are the backbone and the foundation of just about every community in this country. It is high time the Liberals started treating them that way.

Postal Services Resumption and Continuation ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Foothills spoke about the greater good and the importance of getting parcels delivered. Nobody questions that Canadians want a reliable postal service, but the fact is that postal workers have been working under a settlement imposed by the Harper government since 2011. The injury rate in their workplace has gone up to five times the national average. There is a whole bunch of postal workers, people in our communities with families, being mandated to do overtime every day because their routes are expanding and they do not have enough time during the day to get the work done. They are going home at eight or nine o'clock at night and are not only working in the snow but also in the dark with headlamps on. That is why the injury rate is so high.

The member says this is not the time to deal with this. The time is during bargaining. Postal workers have been putting the interests of Canadians first for years under the settlement imposed by the Harper government. Now is the time to deal with it, and all they are asking for is the government to butt out instead of imposing back-to-work legislation and letting the employer know that whatever it does at the table, the government will have its back and management should not worry. That is what workers are asking for: a fair shot at the bargaining table.

That is all they are asking for and I cannot believe we are hearing that this is not the time to deal with it and that postal workers should just suck it up for another seven years. Is that what the member is telling them?

Postal Services Resumption and Continuation ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is great to finally hear some fire out of the New Democratic Party, which is reintroducing itself to Canadians after months of no-shows. This is great to see.

Not once did I say that we do not appreciate what postal workers do, but let us be clear. There are Canadians across the country who are working outside in this weather, whether postal workers, energy workers, oil and gas workers, farmers or ranchers. It is just not the case to say that it is only this one group that has to work under these conditions.

Canadians appreciate everything postal workers do. I talked about their being an essential service. This is exactly what we are saying: They are an essential service, but they have had almost a year to come to an agreement. They have had options that the union leadership has not even allowed its own members to vote on. Let us be clear: The leadership has taken a decision not allow members the opportunity to even vote on the options presented.

We have opportunity to get them back to work and ensure that service is not disrupted during the Christmas season.

Postal Services Resumption and Continuation ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must say that today is a sad day for me, and it is not an honour to take part in the debate on Motion No. 25 moved by the government.

It is also a sad day for postal workers, who are still delivering the mail, whether it be the cheques people rely on or parcels sent by businesses directly to homes in Canada and around the world.

Much like the workers' bargaining rights are being violated, we in the opposition are being muzzled by today's government motion, which will lead to a debate on Bill C-89 tomorrow evening. Here are a few excerpts from the motion to demonstrate what I mean. First of all, only two hours are being allotted for the consideration of the second reading stage following the adoption of the motion. I have seen many bills introduced in the House of Commons since I was first elected in 2015, but this is first time I have been in such a situation, where all our rights, the rules and our freedom of expression are being violated here in the House of Commons.

I was elected in 2015 to represent my constituents and debate bills. As MPs, we are the voice of our constituents, and that means we have to present opinions here in the House. Unfortunately, once again, the government is trampling on our freedom of expression and our democracy.

Part (e) of Motion No. 25 states that not more than one hour shall be allotted for the consideration of the committee of the whole stage. The motion goes on to say that not more than one half hour shall be allotted for the consideration of the third reading stage, provided that no member shall speak for more than ten minutes at a time during this stage. Worse yet, no period for questions and comments will be permitted following each member’s speech.

What is the point? We are here to debate important issues and represent our constituents. When this bill is debated tomorrow in the House of Commons, this motion will take away our right to speak, other than to ask the government questions at third reading. Is that because the government is afraid to answer our questions? This is unacceptable.

I want to say a few words about my own experience. I was a mail carrier in 2011. I delivered mail for 15 years, on foot, carrying a bag on my shoulders. For 15 wonderful years, I walked up and down the streets of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. It was amazing, and I always loved my job. I was proud to wear the uniform. Every day, I would deliver mail and packages right to people's doors. I was proud to be a part of this organization.

However, I lived through the 2011 lockout. I lived through the imposed restrictions and negotiations. At the time, Canada Post shut down for two weeks, but this was not what the workers had wanted. We wanted to negotiate a collective agreement. The right to strike is a constitutional right. We wanted to continue to deliver the mail while we were negotiating and using pressure tactics that were, and still are, constitutional.

Even though our employer locked us out and shut down Canada Post offices, all the workers, including both mail carriers and inside workers, got together to deliver the old age pension cheques that had to go out that week in June 2011. I remember that they did this in good faith, in good spirit, and on their own time.

This shows how much postal workers care about their work. However, our rights had been violated, and we had to live with the consequences of special legislation being imposed on us by the former Conservative government in 2011.

I spoke about my personal experience as an employee who was locked out and about the fact that my bargaining rights were violated.

Now I want to come back to the work that Canada Post workers do every day and explain why the negotiations are still happening and why demands are still being made regarding workplace safety. These days, mail gets delivered in a number of ways. I know that some people here are less familiar with how the system works than I am.

The cancellation of home delivery means that in some municipalities, the mail carrier uses a truck to deliver the mail. Other mail carriers deliver the mail on foot, for example, those working in downtown Montreal.

There are also mail carriers who work in rural areas. Most of them are women, and they cover thousands of kilometres for their routes. When I was a mail carrier, one of my colleagues told me that she would start in Saguenay and cover four municipalities. Her route was so long that she would cover nearly 250 kilometres each day. These people use their own personal vehicles. There is a double standard because these workers do not have the same working conditions as urban mail carriers. The salaries are not the same either. The majority of rural mail carriers are women, and they sometimes work in small, isolated offices. They may work alone or with one other person because they live in remote areas. Their safety is important, but so are their working conditions. We need to restore restore fairness. The federal government introduced a farce of a pay equity bill, and these women have yet to derive any benefit from it. There is still a huge gap, and it is creating inequity. There is a reason why we are hearing comments about that.

Over the past few weeks, I have also received many messages from mail carriers across Canada, thanking me for being their voice and for being here. They said they felt supported. Fortunately, the NDP is there for them. They feel the government has abandoned them, in spite of its promises. We talk a lot about the middle class. These people are part of the middle class. They are all members of the middle class, and they feel completely forgotten, ignored and let down.

I want to go back to the issue of safety. When the workload is not properly assessed, some sectors may be assessed differently. I will come back to my female rural mail carriers, who deliver the mail in remote areas. That is what they experience. They often end up working for free. If their contract says they will be paid for three or four hours, but it takes them longer because of stormy, icy or windy conditions or because there is an abnormally high volume of mail, they will not be paid for the overtime they put in. They work for free every day.

Some might say that people choose to volunteer. That is true. People volunteer for many community organizations because they want to do so. When people have a job and have a mortgage and car payments to make, they expect to be paid for their service. That is why this is unfair. Those people are right to want to improve their workplace safety and to want fair treatment. I do not blame them. They have been asking for these terms to be reinstated for several years now. Just like in 2011, the government is introducing legislation that infringes on bargaining rights.

People at Canada Post are not dumb. We have been hearing on the Hill for two weeks now that special legislation would be imposed. Why would they negotiate? Yes, it is true that reappointing the mediator was the right thing for the minister to do. That is good. That is fine. Anyone would do the same thing if they were about to buy an expensive new car and they knew the dealer was willing to drop the price by $5,000. People are not dumb. Anyone would wait for that. They would not accept the offer after the third time. That is exactly what is happening in this case.

I also want to talk about the false crisis that Canada Post is creating. It did the same in 2011. I know, because I lived through it. I was right there, in the trenches.

From the beginning of the strike mandate, Canada Post chose to completely stop replacing employees who were absent or to extend hours for postal clerks processing mail and packages.

Having a surplus of mail in a given month is not unheard of. Everyone is talking about Black Friday this year, but there was an increase in mail last year and there will be one again next year. Even though there have been work stoppages during the rotating strike, I say again: there is no complete work stoppage. There is no need to panic, unlike in 2011, when Canada Post itself decided to lock out its employees.

Right now, rotating strikes are going on across Canada. They last for a day or two, but never more.

Canada Post voluntarily decided to stop processing the mail on time and suspend the rules for people on disability, parental and maternity leave, for example. Canada Post itself created this crisis. The government seems to be out of touch because it is not going out there to see what is happening on the ground.

eBay sent a lovely letter about how this is catastrophic, their mail will not be delivered on time, and mail carriers will not even check ID. That is outrageous, and that is why we now have to debate Motion No. 25 to force the workers to stop negotiating. Their rights will be infringed upon, and that is unacceptable.

The government is listening only to Canada Post. Of course business is important. Small businesses do a lot of business with Canada Post, and that is a great source of pride because it proves that our public service is viable and cost-effective even though the Conservatives would have us believe the opposite. That is what they said in 2011, and I remember them wanting to privatize Canada Post. That was on the table and we kept hearing about it more and more.

I am pleased to hear the Conservatives saying that businesses use Canada Post for their exports and deliveries and that Canada Post is helping them to grow. It is wonderful to hear that. What is even more wonderful is that Canada Post is delivering packages on time. I have pictures to prove it and I even experienced it myself when I had to order something that I could not find in Ottawa. Canada Post is delivering packages on time. I even have a photo of a mail carrier with a message that says that the package he is holding was mailed on November 20 and that he was in the process of delivering it on November 21. I do not see any delays there.

Pressure tactics are part of the constitutional right to strike. All workers are entitled to exercise that right. They know that Canadians are waiting for their packages, shipments, payments or money. That is why they have not stopped working completely. They never wanted to do that.

What I am hearing in the House is that this is a catastrophe, that mail is no longer being delivered and that the workers are asking for too much. Is Canada Post trying to have it both ways?

What we are hearing from the government is that it is introducing bills, that we debated pay equity, that the middle class is important, and that it is close to unions. We also heard a lot of that in 2011. The member for Cape Breton—Canso was here then and was later re-elected. In 2011, he criticized the special legislation introduced by the Conservative government and asked questions about it. He said, and I quote:

Does the minister see the folly in her ways in that she has absolutely kicked organized labour in the teeth? With her actions in the last week, she has sucker-punched organized labour in this country. Is that what we can expect to see over the course of the next four years?

I would like to quote another question which was asked by the member for Malpeque:

The best way to get a solution that is going to work in the future is to allow arbitration to work in a fair and equitable way. If that were in the bill and it was arbitration that was fair and equitable, it would be quite easy for us on this side of the House to support it.

I ask the minister, why is she taking the side of management in terms of this issue and why is the government not coming forward with arbitration that is fair and equitable to both sides and let them negotiate?

The Liberal government is proposing a motion, which we are debating today, that will result in legislation. Bill C-89, which will be debated tomorrow in the House of Commons, will infringe on the right to collective bargaining.

I mentioned earlier that the right to strike is a constitutional right. Collective bargaining is important. If the people at Canada Post know right off the bat that there will be a special act, how can they negotiate in good faith?

I gave several examples earlier, but that is the reality. The workers are there today to deliver the mail. They will be there tomorrow and until Christmas and even afterwards. They want a safe place, measures tailored to their circumstances when they are working after dark.

It is not normal to use a headlamp to find an address when it is -35°C out when we just want to stay warm. We get out of our cars or get off the bus and rush into a building to seek shelter and stay warm.

Sometimes postal workers spend eight to 12 hours outside. I know from experience what that is like. One December 24 evening, at 8 p.m., I was sitting on my snowbank. As people were starting to celebrate the holidays, I was still delivering mail. That is the reality of all letter carriers.

Some routes are indeed different and are evaluated differently. Across Canada there are currently some serious safety concerns. This special legislation infringes on the negotiations. We are infringing on the right to negotiate and improve postal workers' safety.

To make the debate on Bill C-89 a bit more democratic, I move, seconded by my hon. colleague from Vancouver East:

That the motion be amended:

(a) by deleting paragraphs (a), (d), (e), (i), (j), and (k);

(b) by replacing the words “two hours” in paragraph (b) with the following “five days”;

(c) by replacing the words “a Committee of the Whole” in paragraph (c) with the following “the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities”;

(d) by replacing all the words after the words “not more than” in paragraph (f) with the following “five days shall be allotted for the consideration at third reading stage of the said bill”; and

(e) by replacing the words “at the expiry of the times provided for in this Order, any proceedings before the House or the Committee of the Whole” in paragraph (g) with the following “15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the last day allotted to the consideration at second reading and on the last day allotted to the consideration at third reading, any proceedings before the House”

I hope these amendments to the motion will be supported.

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Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech given by my colleague from Jonquière, and I agree that the principle of free bargaining is important and that it is as relevant today as it was when it first came into existence in the 1930s or 1920s.

At the time, there was less concentration of power in some respects. The machinery of government was much smaller, or sometimes non-existent. If a union wanted to strike in the private sector, consumers could simply go to a competitor. With free bargaining, there was a bit of a free market. Today there is a rather intense concentration of power within Canada Post Corporation and the union, for example.

In this modern context, where the actions of certain parties that have a lot of power, whether it be Canada Post Corporation or the union, can adversely affect the interests of individual consumers or small businesses, what should we do?

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Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is an odd thing to hear from my colleague, who was here in 2011 challenging the special legislation and work rules imposed by the Conservatives. We see that the Liberals say one thing and do another once they are in power.

As far as bargaining rights and power are concerned, it is true that the workers have chosen to exercise their right to strike, as I mentioned in my speech, but it should be noted that they opted for rotating strikes. The word “rotating” often gets dropped in the House. The mail is still getting delivered.

What I find the most shocking about all of this is that the workers are getting all the blame, as though they were the bad guys. The truth is that they are part of the middle class that the government has not stopped talking about in the House of Commons day after day for the past three years. They keep the economy going. There is power all around, but free bargaining is important.

They chose to do rotating strikes so that they could keep serving all those who need to receive their cheques and parcels. They will receive them on time. The delays people are talking about are made up, just like the crisis that Canada Post made up for all the reasons I laid out in my speech.

If the government were really interested in free bargaining, as I have heard several government members say, then it would allow the parties to negotiate. Postal workers have not stopped delivering the mail. In 2011, it was Canada Post that voluntarily stopped delivery. That is not happening this time around.

I hate that members here are painting postal workers, who go out every day to deliver the mail, as people acting in bad faith when the opposite is true.

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12:05 p.m.


Erin Weir Independent Regina—Lewvan, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member for Jonquière and I both worked on the government operations committee study on the future of Canada Post, which clearly showed that cutbacks and concessions are not the way forward for Canada Post.

Today the government is introducing a motion that would sharply limit the amount of time to debate and consider back-to-work legislation for Canada Post employees. This is particularly concerning in light of the 2016 Ontario Superior Court ruling that the 2011 Conservative back-to-work legislation had been unconstitutional.

I would ask the member for Jonquière whether she believes that the Liberal back-to-work legislation is any more likely to be considered constitutional, or whether it would be yet another unconstitutional violation of fundamental workers' rights.

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12:05 p.m.


Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech and his question. It is true that the committee did good work when we examined the future of Canada Post. There were a number of steps involved in that process. Unfortunately, the report was not taken into consideration, and the government overlooked many parts of it, no doubt deliberately. However, we did good work together.

I would like to come back to my colleague's main question. I am not a judge or an arbitrator, so I do not want to speak to what is constitutional or unconstitutional. I do not want to go down that road. However, as I mentioned, the right to strike is a constitutional right.

In 2011, the Conservative government imposed this type of legislation. Rulings handed down on this issue indicated that the proposals were unconstitutional and that Canada Post had violated many work rules, particularly in relation to unpaid leave. Some employees were not being paid while on sick leave following surgery. They finally got paid.

What is most unfortunate about this situation is that if they decide to sue, they will not get to court for two or three years. That is what happened in 2011, and I am concerned about that. Today, the major issue is the safety of workers, which is an important concern. They do not want a safe workplace in two or three years, as that is not something that can wait. We must implement the necessary measures and take concrete action. We must work together with the workers and Canada Post to find solutions. Who is better positioned than the workers to know what they need and the reality of their work?

We do not need the House of Commons to pass special legislation to force the workers to go back to work and stop the job action. This is being done on the pretext that people will not receive their mail, but that is not true. The mail is being delivered on time, day after day, and that is the important thing. Passing a special act will violate the workers' right to bargain freely, because the right to strike is a constitutional right.

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12:10 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the rotating strikes started on October 22. In the past month, Abitibi-Témiscamingue was only affected for one day, on November 6. That is what is happening on the ground.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks of the decision to impose special legislation when, in fact, the actual impact is limited to about one day a month in a region as large as Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

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November 22nd, 2018 / 12:10 p.m.


Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for pointing out that very important fact. It was the same for my riding. The entire Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region has experienced just one day of rotating strikes. In the past month, all the mail has been delivered and everything has gone smoothly. As I said in my speech, Canada Post itself manufactured this crisis.

The government got a letter from eBay and Amazon, and now it is siding with the corporations. It really seems to believe the mail is not being delivered. That is not true. There has been one strike day in Abitibi and one in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. The mail has been delivered. I have gotten messages on Facebook from postal workers across Canada. They told me that they are delivering the mail on time and that any delays are due solely to Canada Post. Canada Post manufactured this crisis.

It is outrageous for the government to deny people's rights and for us to be here debating this when the workers are negotiating and the mediator has been re-appointed. They want to negotiate. Now the sword of Damocles is hanging over their heads. The people running Canada Post know what is what. They know that special legislation is on the way. They are going to stop negotiating. That is what is happening now. Again, this is about safety. We cannot wait three years to fix the problem. People want to talk. As long as people are talking, there is hope. The mail is being delivered.

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12:10 p.m.

Steven MacKinnon Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I want to inform you that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me no pleasure to rise in this House to debate this motion. Our government believes in free and collective bargaining, and we have worked hard to restore fairness and balance to the labour landscape in Canada. In fact, one of the very first pieces of legislation introduced in this Parliament was Bill C-4, which repealed two private members' bills passed under the Harper administration that undermined unions. We did this because we recognize the important role unions play in ensuring our workplaces are safe, equitable and just.

In connection with this commitment, we also took steps to close the gender wage gap and increase job opportunities for women. Furthermore, we took action to reduce workplace hazards and harassment. We proposed significant changes to the Canada Labour Code to bring it in line with today's needs. Our government is proud of its partnership with labour, which is clearly reflected in our efforts to protect employees' right to organize in order to improve workplace safety and training.

We know that harmonious labour-management relations are very important to maintaining individual economic security and Canada's economic prosperity. With this in mind, our government does not take this decision lightly.

In this case, we have done everything possible to help Canada Post and CUPW reach an agreement in their ongoing collective bargaining negotiations, but the time has come to take action. Indeed, we have allowed these rotating strikes to go on for five weeks now, with no end in sight. The two parties remain unable to find common ground on a number of outstanding issues related to wages, job security and workload.

While these are all important issues, ones that our government has worked hard to address for all Canadians since taking office, we need to find a way to move forward.

Our government is a strong supporter of the collective bargaining process, but we also have a responsibility to Canadians and to the businesses that drive our economy. They cannot do that if a significant part of our national postal system is not working. The services that Canada Post provides to Canadians and businesses are essential to our country's success. Our government realizes this, and we are committed to ensuring that these services are not compromised in the future.

This is exactly why our government implemented a new vision for Canada Post. I was proud to participate in this process. This vision is designed to keep Canada Post relevant and sustainable in the long term, while still providing good jobs and quality services to Canadians across the country. Through innovation, market trend analysis and the adoption of new technologies to meet Canadians' expectations, we intend to work with employees to make this vision a reality. This is the future of Canada Post.

These rotating strikes, however, hit our more vulnerable populations the hardest. Older Canadians, pensioners, persons with disabilities, low-income earners and particularly Canadians living in rural, remote and northern areas, including indigenous people, are feeling the effects more than anyone.

It is important to remember that while e-commerce and online communications are the norm for many, almost nine million Canadians live in rural and remote areas where access to the Internet can be limited. These people need Canada Post more than anyone else. They need it up and running, and they need it running smoothly.

Clearly, businesses are feeling the negative effects too, especially small businesses, many of which do the bulk of their sales at this time of year. These are the businesses that are growing our economy and providing good, well-paid jobs to middle-class Canadian workers. In other words, we cannot wait any longer.

Since the start of the bargaining process between Canada Post and CUPW, we have been doing everything possible to help the parties reach agreements that work for everyone. Federal mediators have been assisting negotiations for nearly a year. When those negotiations were failing, we appointed a special mediator to bring a fresh perspective.

We have offered voluntary arbitration, and members of our government have reached out to both parties, urging them to continue working toward an agreement. In fact, they are continuing right now to work toward an agreement, and we hope they conclude these negotiations successfully.

Having exhausted all other possibilities, if that turns out to be the case, this legislation will be our only remaining option. First and foremost, this legislation would ensure that letter mail and parcels start moving again from coast to coast to coast without delay, protecting the public interest and avoiding further harm to Canadian businesses.

Second, under the legislation, the most recent agreements would be extended until new collective agreements are established.

Third, an impartial mediator-arbitrator would be appointed by mutual agreement of the parties to address all outstanding issues.

The mediator-arbitrator would have seven days to mediate negotiations between the parties, and that could be extended to 14 days if the parties agree. If the parties do not reach an agreement during the mediation period, the mediator-arbitrator would be required to arbitrate all outstanding issues within 90 days.

This legislative measure would get Canada Post back to work and lay the foundation for a speedy resolution of the outstanding issues.

That is what this is about: restoring necessary services to all Canadians in the immediate term and encouraging those involved to find common ground for the long term.

Let me reiterate that we do not take this decision lightly. This bill is a last resort. The government has done everything in its power to avoid this.

Jobs are at stake, the well-being of the most vulnerable members of society is at stake, and our economy is at stake. That is why I encourage every member of the House to support the speedy adoption of the motion, and also, if necessary, of the bill. We owe it to our business people, our citizens, Canada Post, postal workers and all Canadians.

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12:20 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to take issue with the idea that somehow the government has done everything it could to avoid getting to the situation we are in. I do not believe the government can say that because I think it has actually contributed to getting us to the situation we are in.

A couple of weeks ago, the government signalled a willingness to introduce back-to-work legislation. Even before that, Canada Post took a mean-spirited decision to cut off the benefits of workers on short-term disability and mothers on maternity leave, who were expecting a top-up as per their collective agreement. Canada Post took the decision to cut them off, I think as a cruel and cynical bargaining tactic, and the government was silent.

Therefore, from the beginning, the Liberals have been signalling to Canada Post that they are in its corner, and when Canada Post behaves badly or is not acting in good faith, they will have its back.

That kind of partisanship between parties at the bargaining table undermines the likelihood of being able to reach a settlement, because one side of the negotiation knows that the government is in its corner and so does not have a lot of reasons to settle. Therefore, the way the government has been dealing with this from day one has contributed to a situation where it was very unlikely they were going to get to a deal.

However, the Liberals continue to get up, with some nerve, frankly, in the House. They talk about how they are hopeful that the two parties are going to come to a deal, when everybody knows they are backing one side of the deal. I stand here to take issue with that and challenge the member to come up with any kind of credible explanation. They can appoint mediators, but if one side of the negotiations knows that the government is in its corner and is ultimately going to bring the hammer down in its favour, then no progress is going to be made at the bargaining table.

I am asking the member to explain himself in this place and let Canadians know how it is that he can say here that he has been an advocate for a fair solution, when the government has clearly been favouring one side.

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12:20 p.m.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, Lib.

Steven MacKinnon

Mr. Speaker, that is nonsense. In fact, I will do a little recap.

When we came to office, we came on a commitment to bring a new vision for Canada Post. We put a stop to the Harper reforms to Canada Post. We put a stop to Harper labour relations at Canada Post. We put a stop to the cuts and ongoing carnage at Canada Post. We brought in a vew vision. We brought in a new board. We brought in a new chair and interim CEO, someone who has brought incredible talent, drive, motivation and innovation to the table and who has responded proactively to the government's request that a new harmonious labour relations climate, one that respects employees, be installed at Canada Post. She in turn brought a series of proposed solutions and settlements to the negotiating table. Unfortunately, the union and the employer were unable to come to an agreement.

Meanwhile, my colleague, the Minister of Labour, has shown extreme proactivity in appointing a succession of facilitators, mediators and a special mediator. She has also shown an extreme amount of patience. However, we have come to a point, not where the government is taking sides, but where the government is saying that we must act in the national interest. We must act in the interests of my constituents and the constituents of my hon. friend, businesses and the people who work in them, and all Canadians who use our postal service.

That is the state of affairs as it now stands, and it is one we are prepared to stand by as being fair to both sides.