Mr. Speaker, some people have started their speeches by saying they are pleased to join in the debate. Make no mistake that it is difficult. The NDP likes to characterize it as something less than that, but members should be assured that this is an action this government has not undertaken lightly. This has been quite some time in the making.
Since coming to government after the October 2015 election, Canadians have seen, and certainly organized labour has seen, that we go about our business quite differently than the previous Conservative government did. We take a different approach to how we work with organized labour. Having been here during that 10-year period, it was nothing short of an attack on organized labour. From the outset, it was obvious that Stephen Harper had organized labour in his crosshairs and was willing to do what he had to do in order to throw a wrench into organized labour in this country.
We saw egregious bills like Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, bills which were purposeful in trying to handcuff unions in this country from being successful and from giving them any opportunity to grow and represent Canadian workers. It is unfortunate, because when we look at organized labour, we can certainly say that nobody has helped grow the middle class more than union leadership in this country, which fights for fair wages, fair benefit packages, overtime benefits and health and safety issues. It has been organized labour that has led those fights over the years. We, as Canadians, enjoy many of the benefits of those efforts.
When we became government, one of our first pieces of legislation was Bill C-4, which was legislation that led to overturning the egregious bills I just referenced, Bill C-525 and Bill C-377. We were trying to restore a fair and balanced approach to labour relations. We were trying to restore a tripartite approach to developing labour laws in this country, where we have workers, employers and the government sitting down and crafting labour laws that protect us all and benefit us all.
We saw that thrown out of balance. We saw the attempt to change the Canada Labour Code through backdoor initiatives. Rather than using a tripartite approach, we saw it being changed by private members' legislation. We saw how much benefit it brought the Conservatives in the last election. Any organized labour, any rank and file member, in this country knew two numbers. They knew the number 377 and they knew the number 525, because both those bills were earmarked for organized labour.
We strengthened occupational health and safety standards in this country, because we believe every worker in this country has the right to arrive home safe to be with their families. We passed Bill C-65 to protect federally regulated employees from workplace harassment and violence. I try to give credit where credit is due, and I must say that both the Conservatives and the NDP were very helpful and supportive of this legislation. We have good legislation, one which has been a long time in the making and a long time coming, but certainly both opposition parties were supportive of it.
We ratified ILO Convention 98 to ensure the rights to organize and to enter into collective bargaining. That convention had been advocated for for over 40 years, and it was our minister who was able to get that ratified at the ILO, something which we are very proud of as a government.
In budget implementation act No. 2, we brought forward legislation that will modernize labour standards to reflect today's workplaces. This is something from which many in organized labour will not benefit as it is for the many unorganized workspaces where shop floors are not unionized. It is for people in precarious work who are trying to knit together two or three part-time jobs in order to make a living and pay the bills. These are the most vulnerable workers in this country.
The modernization of labour standards in this country is going to be of help to all of these workers. This helps make sure that contracts are not flipped and that benefits are not lost when contracts are changed so that if there is a seniority list and certain people have worked for the company for seven years, they are able to maintain the benefits they worked for and earned over seven years and not lose those benefits in any way. We are very pleased to be able to move forward on that.
We have introduced pay equity legislation to ensure fairness. This makes sure that people and women in this country get equal pay for fair and equal work. We have also doubled the benefits in the wage earner protection program.
These are all positive initiatives we have embarked on and undertaken in this government.
The banning of the domestic use and the import and export of asbestos is very important. This is something that the CLC, Unifor, Canada's Building Trades Unions and many others in organized labour have been fighting to get for years. We are working with organized labour and employers as well, taking a tripartite approach to making sure we get right the banning and abolition of asbestos.
We as a government are committed to free, collective bargaining, and we believe that a negotiated agreement is always the best solution in any industrial dispute. That is why we refrained for so long before we got involved in this particular dispute.
This dispute has gone on for a year. We were engaged right from the start, appointing a mediator to let both sides share their grievances and find a way to come to some kind of agreement. A mediator was involved for a year. As the strike vote was taken and as the rotating strike began five weeks ago, we even appointed a second mediator and then a special mediator.
These mediators were selected from a list. We provided a list, and both sides were able to weigh in on who the mediator should be so as to build trust in the mediation process and in the mediator himself. The mediator was agreed upon.
The minister was very clear yesterday. She has worked tirelessly, as has her staff and the department. They have done everything possible to assist the parties to reach an end to this dispute. Despite their efforts, CUPW and Canada Post just have not been able to get to an agreement. Therefore, it is with great reluctance that we have been left with no other option but to introduce back-to-work legislation to get our postal service back functioning at full capacity.
It is important to understand that we knew as the process evolved that it was probably going to land here because both sides were very entrenched on a couple of different aspects of the negotiation. It is important that Canadians and Canadian businesses who rely on Canada Post and its crucial infrastructure are able to do their business. We know that 70% of online purchases are delivered by Canada Post. We know that Canadians rely on it as a service and that it is critical to many Canadian businesses.
In my own riding I have a small company called Galloping Cows, an exceptional company owned by Ron and Joanne Schmidt. They make pepper jellies and chutneys. They are very busy at this time of the year. We have many people from my riding and Atlantic Canada whose children have moved away and are living elsewhere, some in Fort McMurray. Thus, the packages to Fort McMurray from Port Hood are always a big part of the business that Galloping Cows does each year, which, certainly from Remembrance Day to Christmas, could make or break this young business. They have really felt the impact. It is not just that orders have not been sent, but also the fear of those who have sent parcels already. That is a big part of it, the threat of not getting the parcels to people in time for Christmas.
Throughout these negotiations, the Government of Canada has been proactive and tireless in its attempts to have the parties reach an agreement. The minister has discussed this at length. Federal conciliation officers and mediators have been assisting the parties throughout their negotiations. We know that there have been a lot of side conversations with people. Beyond the actual negotiators, many people have wanted this to be resolved and have offered their input to try to find resolution to this. We appreciate their efforts.
However, when bargaining reached an impasse, we appointed a special mediator to bring a fresh set of eyes to the table. It is always of benefit when we can take some issues and look at them with a little bit of a different perspective.
The negotiations stalled again, so we offered voluntary arbitration. That was our suggestion. However, our government's offer of voluntary arbitration was declined. Thus, we have tried pretty much every club in the bag.
We also appointed a special mediator this week, in the hope of getting a deal. We have strongly encouraged the parties to reach a mutually acceptable conclusion. We believe that a negotiated agreement is always the best solution.
No member of our government wants to be dealing with back-to-work legislation, but there is no end in sight and that is why we find ourselves in this situation. Canadians are feeling the effects of this dispute and it would be irresponsible for us not to act in the interests of all Canadians.
As I said initially, I can contrast our government's approach to organized labour to that of past Conservative governments. We can also look at the back-to-work legislation by the Conservatives in 2011. We know that after two weeks of rotating strikes, former prime minister Harper imposed back-to-work legislation on Canada Post and the postal workers of CUPW. It was interesting because we know that the minister at the time appointed an arbitrator herself, which is a little different from what we have done. We have appointed a mediator-arbitrator where mediation will be first and foremost.
That mediation I know was mentioned by the NDP member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley. He wanted me to remind him of the guiding principles, because he had talked about the health and safety issues.
I will quote subclause 11(3) of the legislation, which states:
In rendering a decision or selecting a final offer under paragraph (1)(b), the mediator-arbitrator is to be guided by the need
(a) to ensure that the health and safety of employees is protected;
(b) to ensure that the employees receive equal pay for work of equal value;
Those are the guiding principles, which are vastly different from the guiding principles of the legislation put forward by the Conservatives back in 2011. We know they worked against unions. We know that its legislation was very heavily weighted against unions.
That is certainly not the case with this legislation. We have proven to be a party that supports unions and workers, and that believes in the collective bargaining process. This is a last resort and not something that our government takes lightly.
When a strike or lockout impacts only the two parties involved, the government will help when asked and will not intervene. However, when it affects Canadians and Canadian businesses and all available avenues have been exhausted, the government has a responsibility to intervene. That is why we are bringing forward this legislation to require Canada Post workers to return to work.
In closing, Canadians need to know that the government has done and continues to do everything in its power to help the parties. In any industrial dispute, we are willing to help the parties resolve their differences without a work stoppage. A work stoppage helps no one, neither the workers and their lost wages, nor the communities and others impacted by the postal services that businesses use.
This legislation is no Harper-era legislation. We are not forcing specific conditions on the union. We just need to get to an agreement. If we had any hope at this point that the differences between CUPW and Canada Post were close to a resolution, we would not be tabling this legislation. However, after five weeks of rotating strikes, we are forced to say that it is time to act. The government has been working with CUPW and Canada Post for the last year and has done everything possible to prevent this dispute. Let us get back to work, get the postal service functioning at maximum efficiency and get the parties to a deal.