Madam Speaker, I am truly appalled to have to speak to a motion and special legislation forcing Canada Post employees back to work. I was here when the same thing happened in 2011. At the time, I had only been a member of Parliament for about two months, and I thought it was a terrible thing to do.
I was very upset with the Conservatives, but I have to say that even though we could not stop debating the motion they presented once we started, at least they did not limit the time for debate. I was therefore able to speak at each stage of the special legislation.
Now, the Liberals are doing something that I did not even think was possible. They have moved a motion to limit debate on the special legislation that would force Canada Post employees back to work. That means there will be only two hours of debate at second reading. Then, the House will resolve into a committee of the whole. Finally, only 30 minutes will be granted for debate at third reading.
That is absolutely pathetic and ridiculous. What is more, it is a serious attack on democracy. To top it all off, we will not even be able to ask those who give speeches at third reading any questions.
In concrete terms, this means that about two opposition MPs will be able to speak to the bill forcing employees of a Crown corporation back to work. This is a serious attack on workers' rights. I wish I could say that they are simply copying what the Conservatives did, but it is worse than that. What they are doing is even worse than what the Conservatives did, which I did not think was possible. At least when the Conservatives introduced their special legislation, they said they knew they would have to work, but that was the life of an MP.
However, the Liberals are too lazy. They think two hours is enough. They could not care less, because the rights of workers are not important to them. They think they can solve all this in two hours.
It is also an attack on women. One of the union's key demands is that rural mail carriers receive wages equivalent to those of urban mail carriers. Incidentally, 75% of rural mail carriers are women.
The government is attacking those women directly by imposing special legislation, preventing them from going on strike and preventing them from fighting for better working conditions.
There is another major impact on women that is caused by the current working conditions at Canada Post. Since they finish their work day at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. because the routes are too long and they have to finish their deliveries, what are they supposed to do about day care?
Most day cares are almost ready to kick children out if they are still there five minutes after closing time. How can someone manage a family if they never know when they will finish work or when they will be able to pick up their kids? That is why many women simply have to give up their jobs at Canada Post, because it is impossible to manage if they have children, especially if they do not have a partner.
When I talk about the working conditions of rural workers, a large part of the vagaries of rural life and the working conditions are not directly related to the mail carriers. Mail carriers cannot control snow removal in rural areas. I can say that thanks to all the cuts to the transfers to municipalities, more and more municipalities are having difficulty clearing snow on rural roads.
When a mail carrier has to start delivering mail at 8 a.m., through snow that comes up to their ears, driving along a three-foot-wide track in the middle of the road, of course it takes longer for them to get around and deliver the mail.
This is in addition to the fact that many people may not have had time to clear their front walkways. Female letter carriers have to brave the snow and the road conditions. This creates total uncertainty as to when they will finish work. How can they manage a family life when they simply have no idea when they will finish work?
To add insult to injury, after a certain number of hours of work, mail carriers work for free. They are not paid for overtime. That shows precious little respect for the working conditions of women in rural areas.
The right to strike is another key factor. It is important to understand that the right to strike is protected by the Constitution and by many court decisions.
Some classes of workers do not have the right to strike. They are governed by essential services legislation. Generally that means police officers, firefighters, or nurses. Their absence from work has a direct impact on public safety. Obviously, safety is at risk if there are no police officers patrolling the streets. If someone shows up at an emergency room and there are no nurses on duty, then that is not good.
Although postal workers provide a very important service to the public, it is not considered an essential service. They have the right to strike. That right is protected under the Constitution.
When the government announced two weeks ago that it was introducing back-to-work legislation, the balance of power was lost. Of course, strikes have repercussions, but that is what it takes to maintain the balance of power. It is very hard to negotiate without the right to strike.
For example, the government is failing the House of Commons security personnel, who do not have the right to strike. They have been wearing their green hats for three years now because that is all they can do, is change the colour of their uniform since they have been denied the right to strike. Their work falls under the category of essential services. If the House of Commons security officers decided not to come to work, there would be serious concerns. For three years the government has been failing them and doing nothing to speed up negotiations.
Without the right to strike it is very hard to negotiate and improve one's working conditions. I experienced that as a nurse. When the only way to pressure the employer is to go to work in pyjamas, it is pretty hard.
The workers' right to strike is protected. Nevertheless, these workers decided to hold a rotating strike because they care about the people they serve. They said that they would not hold a strike that affects the entire population all at once. There are cheques to deliver. They want to strike but they do not want to have a major impact on people. Since the start of the rotating strikes on October 22, there was no mail delivery in Abitibi—Témiscamingue on just one day, November 6. There were delays only on one day out of the entire month. Personally, I think I can live without postal service for one day a month in order to recognize the right of these workers to improve their working conditions. It is just one day a month per location.
Do we understand what the government is doing? It is imposing special back-to-work legislation. It is using the biggest hammer possible. It is mobilizing all of Parliament to force these people to go back to work even though the strike affects mail delivery only one day a month in a given region.
In real life, it can be a little complicated to get presents by mail in time for Christmas, especially when you live in the country. You do not order something just two days in advance if you want to get it by mail. As Christmas is still one month away, everyone can get their gifts in time if they order what they went in the next few days. There is no need for special legislation. People just have to get organized a little in advance.
Postal workers have said that the cheques will be delivered. All government cheques will be delivered. The less fortunate will not be impacted.
The government is totally ignoring what is really going on on the ground. It says there has to be special legislation. It is forcing that special legislation down MPs' throats by preventing them from debating it and moving the most restrictive motion I have ever seen in my entire career as a member of Parliament. This motion, the most restrictive one I have ever seen in my career as an MP, was moved not by the Conservatives, but by the Liberals.
Despite their claims of being open and working to ensure respect for democracy, the Liberals have moved the most restrictive motion to limit debate I have ever seen. They have also scrapped electoral reform and many other key measures. They are laughing in our faces. They said there would be transparency and democracy, but they are doing the exact opposite. They are failing workers, and I do not think they should ever be forgiven for that.