Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with my distinguished colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue.
I am very sad to rise in the House today to speak to Motion No. 25, which we are currently debating. This motion sits in the broader context of back-to-work legislation for Canada Post employees that will be introduced and debated a little later today, from what the government is telling us. That is why Motion No. 25 was moved and is being debated today.
It is sad because I honestly never expected this. I do not want to spend too much time repeating what they said, but some of my colleagues who were here in 2011 remember the Harper Conservatives and their special back-to-work legislation. Our NDP colleagues criticized it profusely and passionately, but so did our Liberal colleagues, who were on this side of the House at the time. I remember very well their position in that debate, and so I am very surprised and sad today. I honestly never expected the Liberals to do the same thing.
Back in 2011, I would not have thought it possible that the Liberals, who were in this corner at the time and were standing up for workers, would do exactly the same thing as the Conservatives seven and a half years later. I would never have believed that could happen, but the Liberals have shown us their true colours, and reality is staring us in the face. We now see that they too are comfortable tabling back-to-work legislation that infringes on a fundamental right in Canada, a right that is protected and recognized by our courts, a constitutional right: the right to strike.
Throughout our history, there have been some incredible battles to claim the right to strike, the right to protest by not reporting for work in order to exert pressure on the employer during negotiations. Workers also have a constitutional right to freely negotiate their working conditions with the employer without interference from a third party.
That is the core of today's debate, even though we are spending a little time talking about the process. Today, we are being hit with a motion that will fast-track the bill through all the stages so it can be passed in a few hours. As we know, bills go through many stages in the House. It normally takes weeks, if not months, before they are passed and receive royal assent. Today, we are being told that we will study and pass a bill at first reading, at second reading, at report stage and at third reading, and then send it to the Senate, all in a few hours.
Committees are often the best place to get more information and fulfill our duties as members of Parliament. This is where we can call in experts to talk about the clauses of the bill, share their opinions, and contribute to the parliamentary debate. However, today, for such an important bill, the government wants to speed through all these steps in a few hours, between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. What a disgrace for our democracy.
I speak for all parliamentarians when I say that this government's cabinet is asking us to pass a very important bill in just a few hours without allowing us to call any witnesses or experts to give their opinions on the bill. Some Liberal members were even asking questions about whether this bill is constitutional. Why not take the time to study it?
That is what I have to say about the process. It is important to talk about it, but we must focus on the workers who will be affected by this bill, which will be rammed through a little later today.
This bill also affects the right to strike. We know that striking has consequences. Government members remind us every time they speak, but we know it. Fortunately, the union is being respectful. It could have organized an even bigger strike that would have been even more harmful to the employer, since that is its right, but it chose not to.
It is a strike that I think shows respect for Canadians and for society and shows a certain awareness on the part of Canada Post employees. During the lockout in 2011, Canada Post employees even agreed to deliver important cheques to many Canadians in Sherbrooke and elsewhere in Canada, citizens whose daily survival, their bread and butter, depends on getting this federal or provincial government assistance. They agreed to do it, so they are aware of the impact it can have and the value of their work. Their job is to deliver letters, cheques and parcels, which are even more numerous these days, in 2018.
Unfortunately, the government will not even recognize that the union has shown openness and respect for Canadian society by opting for a rotating strike, which affects certain regions at a time. It has affected Sherbrooke, I must say, but there was no general panic in Sherbrooke. No one shouted from the rooftops that they were not receiving their parcels or letters. There is no general panic in Canada right now because of the Canada Post strike. The only people who see it as a panic or a disaster are the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour and the Minister of Public Services and Procurement. They see a crisis where there is none, a crisis manufactured by them, not by Canada Post. The crisis does not exist, thanks to the respect shown by the union.
Let us ask ourselves one question. If the bill is passed later today, and the right to strike is taken away from the union and the postal workers, what do they have left to negotiate with their employer? What other leverage will this union have to sit down and demand compromises?
Yes, both sides have to compromise. That is what negotiation means. If the government tells the union that it no longer has the right to strike, what other recourse does it have? Workers will no longer have the right to protest against the employer and form picket lines around their workplaces. They will no longer have the right to show the employer that they are important and that the employer is nothing without them. Without workers, the employer is absolutely nothing.
That is why there are economic impacts. That is why strikes are important. Strikes force employers to acknowledge that workers make a vital contribution to the business and to the bottom line. Without workers, Canada Post cannot make a profit at year end. Office-bound managers who have never set foot on a sidewalk to deliver the mail are certainly not going to be doing the work. That is the point of the right to strike.
The government is ready to sacrifice that power, that vital leverage in the negotiation process. It is ready to sacrifice the only tool available to Canada Post employees, the only avenue they have to make their employer listen to them. As a result, the members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers will end up with the same working conditions they have had for the past 10 or 20 years, working conditions they want the employer to acknowledge and improve.
There has been a staggering number of injuries on the job at Canada Post. There are issues of fairness between urban and rural workers, which are also leading to issues of gender inequality. The fact that the government is taking away the right to strike, and therefore the right to negotiate, will in reality only perpetuate the problems at Canada Post that the employees are trying to get the employer to recognize. The workers will no longer be able to make their case to their employer, because it is not in the employer's interest to sit down and negotiate. Once the law is passed, why would Canada Post managers negotiate? If the union asks them to improve working conditions, why would the employer agree? It can just say no. The employer will keep saying no to all union demands because the employees will no longer have any leverage to make their case. That is what the Liberals are taking away from them.
Unfortunately, this is what it took for the federal Liberals to show their true colours.