House of Commons Hansard #388 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was mennonites.


A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Canada Post CorporationAdjournment Proceedings

February 27th, 2019 / 6:15 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to follow up on some matters I raised in question period last fall. At that time there was a rotating strike by CUPW members at Canada Post. In the context of that rotating strike, and this was prior to back-to-work legislation being introduced and passed, Canada Post made a mean-spirited decision.

Workers were out on the rotating strike, which meant they were missing a few days in month they were on strike. They were being paid for the days they worked, but members who were not working, those who were on short-term disability, were deprived of their benefits. It was a mean-spirited decision taken by Canada Post. It was a tactic, and an ugly tactic at that, to try to put pressure on the union.

I am wondering how many postal workers showed up to work on the Liberals' campaigns. I know a lot of postal workers worked on the campaigns of Liberal MPs. They believed what the Liberals were telling them, that they had their backs. They were very disappointed when this all came to a head. They were not impressed with the back-to-work legislation. However, it was the Liberal government's prerogative to tell Canada Post to cease and desist on that decision, which it could have chosen not to take.

Canada Post could have chosen to continue on with the short-term disability benefit payments as well, not just on a case-by-case basis and not on a compassionate basis. When someone is sick or injured, he or she is already dealing with a substantial amount of stress and financial hardship. These workers had been on a reduced salary and now they did not collect a salary while applying for those compassionate grounds.

Canada Post did not have to do it that way. It could have said that as a matter of policy, it would continue to pay those short-term disability benefits. The fact that it chose not to do meant that those people who were already sick and injured had to suffer having no salary, while their colleagues who were able to work, and because it was not a full strike, were still largely getting paid.

I never did get a satisfactory answer from the government on why it did not choose the high road and decide to continue to make those short-term disability payments as a matter of course instead of on an exceptional basis for only some of the people who needed those benefits. I wonder what government members say to those postal workers in their ridings, those who came out and campaigned for them in 2015, when they express disappointment and anger at the fact that their sick and injured co-workers had to go without that money.

The other thing the Liberals could have done was to make those workers whole after they legislated them back to work and they did not do that either. We still want to know why.

Canada Post CorporationAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

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

Madam Speaker, during the last election campaign, there was a lot of talk about Canada Post and its future. We promised to destroy Mr. Harper's plan and adopt a new plan. We consulted at length with people across the country, including postal workers. We concluded these consultations with a good plan, a plan for the future that respects Canada Post employees.

I would like to clarify some of the facts about the benefits employees are entitled to in the event of a strike. It is an unfortunate fact that during a strike, some of the benefits that Canada Post employees receive could be affected because the collective agreement has expired. However, this would not be true for all benefits. For example, during a strike, employees could continue to have prescription drugs covered.

Moreover, during the strike action that took place in November 2018, Canada Post put in place a mechanism to make it possible for employees to request an exemption from any denial of benefits on compassionate grounds. I would like to also add that employees continued to keep their EI benefits, such as maternity and parental benefits, during the strike.

Although the employees are now back to work, negotiations on a final agreement are under way. I believe that we will reach a good collective agreement.

Our government urged the two parties to continue with bargaining for more than a year. We believe that a respectful dialogue between the two parties is the best way forward and the best way to reach a fair agreement.

We reached a turning point last year, with the stalled negotiations and weeks of rotating strikes across the country. Jobs, the well-being of the most vulnerable Canadians and our economy were all in jeopardy.

It is our job to do what is right for Canadians. That is precisely what we did when we introduced and passed Bill C-89, which got Canada Post back to work on November 27, 2018, while setting out a process for continuing negotiations with an independent mediator-arbitrator.

I am confident that Canada Post values its relationship with the union. Certainly, that is something that we have encouraged the new management and new board to pursue. I am encouraged that they have been able to find common ground on many issues. Moreover, I know Canada Post values its relationship with Canadians, who more than ever depend on it to deliver.

Both sides of this dispute are working hard to resolve these issues. The arbitration process outlined under Bill C-89 officially began on January 16 of this year.

As the Minister of Labour said when tabling Bill C-89, this was a last resort, something that our government had done everything in its power to avoid. While we did not take the decision lightly, we acted as we always do, with the best interests of all Canadians in mind.

Canadians should expect nothing less from us as parliamentarians. Our objective has always been to restore necessary services to all Canadians in the immediate term and to encourage those involved to find common ground for the long term.

Canada Post CorporationAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I think the member knows that we disagree about back-to-work legislation, as well as the government's characterization of the strike. However, I want to focus particularly on the issue of short-term disability benefits.

The question is not whether the collective agreement expired or not. I do not think that is the interesting question. The interesting question is whether there was anything prohibiting Canada Post from acting in good faith and continuing those short-term disability benefits. The expiration of the collective agreement does not require that it discontinue those benefits. It made it an option.

Therefore, will the member stand up and admit that Canada Post had the option, and that the minister had the option to direct Canada Post to continue those benefits, notwithstanding the fact that the collective agreement was deemed to have expired?

Canada Post CorporationAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

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

Steven MacKinnon

Madam Speaker, unfortunately, labour negotiations are very difficult. They certainly appear to have been in this case, and sometimes messy. The operational decisions of Canada Post are generally not something that the minister or the government interferes in. Our role, both legislative and on a day-to-day basis, is to name the CEO and the board of Canada Post and to approve its general business plan, all in accordance with its governing legislation. That is a job we take very seriously.

Of course, we have encouraged it to pursue a more meaningful dialogue and to meaningfully improve the labour-management situation in the corporation. That is something we are reassured it is continuing to do. We all look forward to the conclusion of this matter.

Canada Post CorporationAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:21 p.m.)