Mr. Speaker, first I would like to send greetings to the people of Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.
Today is the national holiday of Quebec. Of course, I should be in my riding, touring the municipalities, going from one celebration to another and meeting my constituents in Matane, Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, Cap-Chat, Mont-Joli, Amqui, Causapscal, Saint-Gabriel and Sainte-Flavie. Nonetheless, here I am. It is important to be here and that is why my Bloc Québécois colleagues and I have been on duty all night to speak and intervene in this important debate.
My skin is not pale and greenish today because I was partying all night, but because I stayed up late. It is not that the Green Party's colour has rubbed off on me, it is that we fought hard all night with the opposition members to make the government listen to reason.
Yesterday, there was a chance of getting unanimous consent to a motion moved by my colleague, the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, in order to suspend the sitting of the House. Even though the government formally recognized the nation of Quebec, in practice it does not. It would have been nice if the government had given unanimous consent and allowed all my colleagues from Quebec, regardless of their party, to be in their riding to celebrate with their family and friends.
Today, I am sad not to be in my riding, but I know that my comments and today's debate are right. Most of all, I am sad for the postal workers. From the start, we have been hearing the government blame the postal workers. It claims that these workers are exercising a right to strike or are engaged in a strike that is not fair and is undermining all workers in Quebec and Canada who have obligations. We understand that the postal service is a very important service, but do we need to remind the government that we are not talking about a strike, but a lockout? A lockout is not remotely the same as a strike.
The postal workers' decision to go on rotating strikes was completely legitimate. A union has every right to apply pressure. The pressure tactics chosen by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers were considered appropriate and were not overly disruptive to Canada's postal services. On the one hand, rotating strikes allowed postal workers to get their point across, while on the other hand, they did not unduly penalize other Canadians who also had commitments, who wanted to get their mail and send letters and so on.
The source of the conflict is not the rotating strikes; it is the lockout imposed by Canada Post with the—dare I say it?—complicity of the government. This lockout was imposed too fast and is an inappropriate government strategy to try to move things too quickly. The bill is completely inappropriate, too hasty and too coercive. In my opinion, the government's strategy is completely unreasonable.
Postal workers play an important role. I am from a rural community. We were talking about isolated areas earlier. Mail plays a very important part in our lives. In our communities, our municipalities and our villages, post offices serve as beacons. In addition to getting their mail and using the postal services, people get together there. Post offices are a meeting point, a focus point.
As you know, local services in our communities are extremely important. When services are undermined through proposed legislation, as the government is doing here today, this generally lowers the quality of service. Canada Post is in the process of conducting a strategic review to examine postal services in rural areas. Some of our country roads have rural mailboxes.
These mailboxes allow people to have their mail delivered to their home. However, rural communities are increasingly being undermined whether due to privatization of some sort, or a reduction in services. I know many Canada Post employees who work out in the field and are disappointed right now by the way the Government of Canada is treating them. It is treating them like pariahs, and as if they have failed to negotiate in good faith, when in fact the methods used by the postal union were entirely legitimate.
The difficulties our regions are facing in terms of regional development are primarily due to government decisions like this one, which weaken our communities.
Earlier, I listened to the Honourable Minister of Health speak about what has been done for northern Canada, and of the difficulties currently faced by northerners. I am fully aware that the existing situation affects them terribly. However, the blame cannot directly be laid upon postal workers. The lock out is obviously to blame for this situation.
Earlier, the minister bemoaned the reduction in services to northerners, but was it not the very same government that reduced government subsidies lowering the cost of foodstuffs, and then reversed tack and reinstated the program to help northern communities? This government is engaging in doublespeak.
The government needs to see reason. It should consider the proposals brought forward by the opposition, take a step back, and acknowledge that it acted too hastily. It might agree to a number of motions or amendments and see them as being for the greater good. It is not a question of interfering in the current negotiation process, but rather of finding some common ground upon which both the postal union and employer could agree.
In closing, I would ask the government to take note of the opposition’s unanimous condemnation of the deplorable manner in which the government is treating postal workers. I call on the government to adopt the amendments, when proposed.