Mr. Speaker, I would like to start my second speech by sharing with members of the House, the constituents of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, all Quebeckers and Canadians my firm intention to continue this fight beside the NDP members who have shown me, day after day, how amazing they are.
We have been gathered here for many hours to defend rights that are fundamental, in my view: the workers' right to speak, the right to dignity, the right to negotiate with an employer in good faith and, above all, the right to be heard.
What the government has been proposing is not a balanced agreement, but an imposed contract. You are putting a gun to the employees' heads and, in so doing, all Canadians—and I mean every single Canadian—are being held hostage because of this lockout. Small businesses and the public are worried about not getting their mail, and rightly so. I understand their concerns. All the government has to do is to remove the locks and let the two parties negotiate properly. It is important to recall that mail was being delivered during the strike. The union was ready to negotiate, while continuing to provide postal services, which are essential.
The government is sending a very negative message to the unions: there is no point in fighting because we will get what we want from you anyway. With this message, the government is literally trampling on the history of our country, the history of these people who fought tooth and nail during the industrial revolution and significantly improved the lives of everyone: my grandparents, my parents, the people of my generation and future generations. I do not have any children, but I am still fighting for them, for all these children, all these young people, all these young adults. I am fighting for the next generation.
What message is the government sending to them right now? Be rich, own a multinational corporation, be the CEO of a big oil company or a bank; otherwise, the government will not do anything for you because you do not matter to it. Once again, we are creating a gap between the generations, between younger and older workers. It is as if we are telling young people that we do not need them, that we prefer to pay them less because their work is not as valuable as the work of their counterparts.
This is also a struggle against social inequalities because the middle class is once more paying for the government's ideologies. I know that they are probably going to call me a nasty socialist, a nasty unionist, a left-winger, but that does not bother me. What is important to me is the rights of the workers, of all workers.
I have always understood, but now I understand even better why the word “progressive” is no longer next to the word “Conservative”. This word is the extreme opposite of the government's ideologies. The government is not working for a better society. It is working to set society back. It is working to undo the improvements that have been made to the living conditions of all Canadians.
We are talking here about workers' rights, but this is not the first time that the government has wanted to implement policies that jeopardize the rights acquired by Canadians. Let us remember when it wanted to reject the Kyoto accord and deprive future generations of a healthy environment. Let us also remember when it wanted to refuse to sign the agreement on aboriginal rights, jeopardizing the rights of first nations children to have access to a quality education, like all other Canadians.
Let us remember all the proposals to improve employment insurance that the government rejected for no good reason, preventing unemployed workers from living with dignity. Let us remember when abortion rights were threatened, leading Canadians to fear that we would return to the dark days when some women bled to death after trying to carry out their own abortions with knitting needles. Let us remember when the government cut taxes for large corporations, again making the middle class and organizations pay by cutting programs essential to the healthy development of our country.
This crisis is a calculated crisis brought about by the government itself. And the government wants to put the blame for this crisis on us—us, the official opposition that works with, and especially for, the people.
The government has a hidden agenda. This is the first offensive, but the war that the government has declared on the middle and working classes has just begun. Let us make no mistake, the government regards workers, and thereby Canadians, with contempt. It is shameful to see how little the government cares for people, not just Canada Post employees, but also the waiter at the neighbourhood restaurant, who at times has to count on the generosity of his customers in order to pay his rent, the shoe store assistant who has to sell a lot of shoes in order to afford a pair for herself, the carpenter who builds houses for us with the sweat of his brow in all kinds of weather, the chef who stands over his stoves even in the oppressive heat of mid-July, and the clerk at the corner store who spends all night on her feet at her cash register and still has to keep a smile on her face.
With this attack on Canada Post workers, the government is attacking all workers, each and every one of them. It is attacking their legitimate right to negotiate improvements to their working conditions. It is attacking their right to a decent standard of living. It is attacking their right to live in dignity. It is also attacking their families' standard of living.
The government will find that it has the New Democrats to deal with. To show how serious my message is, how deeply in my soul it is rooted, I will end my speech in the same way as I ended my previous one.
We will fight for a fair and just country where no one—and I mean no one—is abandoned and cast aside.