Mr. Speaker, last night we heard a phenomenal speech by the leader of the official opposition. He raised the bar and raised the tone of civility of this debate. He also focused our attention on some of the really important things that matter and that mattered in the last election.
I want to remind those in the chamber of another speech made last night. It might have been this morning; I can't quite remember. It was by the member for Acadie—Bathurst, the official opposition labour critic. He talked a lot about the history and culture of working people. He reminded the House and Canadians of the battles that have gotten us to a place where so many people in this country take having a weekend off for granted. He talked about his father, who was a lumberjack. He himself was a miner. I thought it was a really powerful speech, because we forget that nothing comes without a fight.
The government has repeatedly asked why we are here. We are here because we want to bring it to the government's attention that we want to speak for all workers, not just unionized workers.
I want to speak to the fact that I have been a self-employed small-business person. My father was as well.
I represent a riding where there are a multitude of different kinds of small businesses and self-employed people, and they are workers too. They want pensions. They want benefits. They want job security. They would like to have access to EI. If their children get sick, they would like to take a couple of days off to look after their loved ones. This is not an option for many Canadians.
We are here tonight, and for as long as it takes, to focus the government's attention on the fact that workers in this country are hurting. A win for a trade union is a win for all workers, and a loss is a loss for all workers.
There are people in my riding who worked for companies for 23 years, were let go, and now have no workplace pensions. They have none. Do members know what they are doing now? They are competing with their grandkids for jobs at KFC.
The government asks what we are doing here. When we in the NDP see legislation like Bill C-6, which offers workers less than what management was offering in the first place, we have to say that this is not right. The leader of the official opposition, the member for Toronto—Danforth, drew a very clear and respectful line in the sand.
I too have received e-mails and phone calls from small-business people in my riding. For example, I received an e-mail from a member in my riding who publishes two magazines, not one but two. He is dependent on postal service. He e-mailed me to say that we have to stand with the workers at Canada Post and that the principle of collective bargaining is a principle that our grandparents and great grandparents fought for.
Last night I listened to many of the members opposite talk about how their fathers were in the trade union movement. I thought that was interesting. If it were not for the hard work and dedication of men and women over decades and decades, many of us would not have had the opportunity to end up where we are right now. That is very important for us to consider.
Another thing I respectfully ask the members opposite to consider is this. In 1995 a CEO's salary was 85 times the average worker's. That seems a little high. Most reasonable people would think there was something out of whack with that kind of equation.
I know some of our friends across the aisle like to characterize some of us on the official opposition side as some kind of wild-eyed folks that they do not want around their money.
However, today a CEO's salary is 220 times the average worker's pay. Whether one is a small business owner, a medium-sized business owner or a big business owner, or a worker, something is wrong with that.
That brings me back to Bill C-6. If we allow pensions to be chipped away at for workers who have fought for so long to achieve and to protect this benefit, then we will not help workers across the country who have no pension in the first place. If we let this happen, it moves the marker back for everybody else.
I was elected in the riding of Davenport on the promise that I would advocate for, speak up for and fight for, among other things, those who had no pensions, benefits or access to a safety net like employment insurance.
If we look at the data, we see a large-scale migration from the unemployed line of the ledger over to the self-employed line of the ledger. The problem is that for so many people who are self-employed, they are not really making enough money. They are trying to get businesses off the ground.
The government likes to trumpet the fact that it has supposedly created hundreds of thousands of jobs, but it never says whether these are full-time jobs. It never says whether these are jobs on which one can raise a family. We need a means test because one cannot raise a family on a $10 an hour or $12 an hour job. One cannot raise a family on a job where at the whim of the employer he or she loses a couple of days of work. That is happening all across the country.
At the same time, housing affordability has plummetted. It is almost impossible for most young families to afford to live in the city of Toronto.
We have postal workers who are key to our communities, to our economy and we have been asked to agree with the government to chip away at their living wage. We will not do that.
We have many workers in the country who are looking for leadership from the official opposition—