Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time this morning with the hon. member for Abitibi.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on Bill C-24. I regret that this government has been forced to legislate an end to this postal strike which started two weeks ago, but it is time. The circumstances are right. It is appropriate and I ask all members of the House to join today to support this legislation.
Last weekend when I went back to my riding, I was stopped time and time again by individuals, small business owners and volunteers at the local church, who said to me “Please, it is time now, it is time. We believe in the collective bargaining process but it is time. We need your help”.
In Canada we are fortunate to have an excellent system of labour management relations. A majority of disputes are resolved without a strike or lockout. The system does work. The government has repeatedly said that it would allow the collective bargaining process to run its course. Despite the appointment of a mediator and every effort to support a negotiated settlement, a settlement could not be reached.
For whatever reason, the parties have been either unable or unwilling to make difficult decisions needed to resolve the dispute. The Minister of Labour has been advised by one of the country's top mediators that the parties have become deadlocked and that it is unlikely that an agreement can be reached. We cannot ignore this advice from the mediator. With the advice from the mediator and under the minister's leadership, the government has been left with no other choice but to introduce legislation and resolve this matter.
I believe that both parties have tried to negotiate a settlement to the best of their abilities. We can no longer wait. Yes, small business has been affected. Unfortunately, small business relies very much on the mail, but small businesses continue to pay their employees. At times cash flow is very tight for the small business. As we know, small business is the engine of our economy, it runs our economy. We must now extend our hand to help it.
I want to speak with respect to the concern of the hon. member from the opposition about charities and his allegation that we as the government have not cared about charities. It is because the government is concerned about the well-being of the nation's charities that we are asking the House to join and pass this legislation and resume the postal service. We have been monitoring on a daily, weekly and monthly basis the amount of hardship that has been faced by the charitable sector. This postal situation has hurt charities in four ways. I am going to share those concerns of the charities with the member.
Charities are reluctant to mail and consumers are reluctant to respond. Charities may now have to lay off operational staff due to declining work. The most important giving season, the Christmas season, is now in jeopardy. The shortfall in revenues will have direct impact on charities' abilities to provide programs and services. We are aware. We are aware of what their needs are. Therefore being aware, it is time for us to legislate.
Again with respect to charities, the impact of the initial build-up and uncertainty about the postal situation has hurt a number of organizations. Some funds, diminished though they were, flowed into charities during the lead-up to the current situation. Cash flow for a number of organizations which are heavily dependent on direct mail revenues have now completely stopped. To put this in perspective, I know of several organizations that receive 90% or more of their fund raising revenues through the mail. The current postal disruption means that there is no need for gift processors or volunteers. Some organizations are now faced with laying off their processing staff.
Given that the Christmas season is now upon us, the anticipated revenues that are so vital to so many organizations are now in jeopardy. Fund-raising goals based on the needs of organizations are likewise in jeopardy.
I know of an organization in my riding that after a successful year prior to this strike is now looking at a 15% shortfall in revenues. There is no fat to trim in this organization. This shortfall will mean that it cannot sustain the same charitable activities in which it has been engaged.
Over the last 10 days articles have been appearing in a Toronto newspaper regarding the important and vital role played by our charities. I urge members again, in light of what the charities do for Canada and the people of Canada, it is now time to legislate back to work.
While most of us may not recognize it, charities also face a new threat once the postal strike comes to an end. These charities will be competing with each other with an intensity few have experienced within a compressed timeframe. Every organization that has delayed its mailing and every organization that has already postponed its mailing is going to be out there asking Canadians to help support them.
The charities are losing $10 million a day. It is important now that we put postal workers back to work.
I would like to say to the hon. member from the opposition that instead of bemoaning the fact that the government has done nothing and does not care about charities, I would urge him to not only vote for the legislation but to stand in the House the following day and speak to all Canadians. Tell them just how important those charities are. Ask them to look for their mail and to give more than they have given before and be responsible in that way. I will be doing that.
I regret that we have had to do this. I believe in the collective bargaining system. However, my constituents want the postal workers returned to work. I care and the government cares about those individuals and the charities. I would ask all members of the House to please vote for the legislation.