Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in this House today. On May 2, I received one of the best presents of my life from the people of Shefford. A total of 27,575 voters put their confidence in me. This is not merely a number. I am talking about people who took time during their day to go and put an X on a ballot. I am taking this opportunity to wish them a happy national holiday. I regret that I cannot be there to celebrate with them.
When it comes to my constituents, my priority is to respect them. “Respect” means to “understand”, and to “understand” means to “listen”. The problem with this government is precisely its inability to listen, to understand and to respect. That inability is illustrated by the fact that it refused to suspend our proceedings during Quebeckers' national holiday.
What do Canada Post workers tell us? I met with them last Friday. They told me they want the government to help them negotiate an agreement, rather than imposing one.
I am going to explain to the government what the term “negotiate” means. It means to listen, to discuss and to exchange views. Canada Post workers have been asking the other side to negotiate to reach an agreement, not to protest on a sidewalk because of a lockout. Postal workers want to deliver the mail. They want to provide that service to the public. They want to help Canada Post fulfill its mandate, which is to serve all Canadians, whether they live in urban or rural areas.
Eight months later, the government has still not figured out how to encourage the two sides to negotiate. The best that it could come up with was to impose unacceptable conditions, within which an arbitrator must try to do his job. The government has imposed salaries increases that are lower than what the two parties had agreed upon, before negotiations broke down.
Instead of ending the lockout, the government gave legitimacy to it. In fact, this is a measure which it has itself used on several occasions to shut down Parliament. The government knows full well what it means. It means that people cannot work and provide the service for which they were hired or elected.
My grey hair speaks volumes about my age. I belong to the generation which wrote its first love letters on paper, not on the Internet. In fact, I still do so. If I am sharing this information with hon. members here today, it is so that they understand the importance of mail in people's lives. To illustrate that importance, I should mention that ever since people began to write, the exchange of letters has played a critical role in discoveries and in the understanding process in a society.
Letters are not only important to people like me and my colleagues. They also play a key role in the creativity of many artists. Georges Dor used to sing:
If you knew how lonely we are at the Manic
You would write to me much more often at the Manicouagan
If you do not have much to tell me
Write the words “I love you” one hundred times
It will be the nicest of poems
I will read it one hundred times
One hundred times a hundred is not much
For those who love one another.
As the words of that song tell us, in remote areas such as the Manicouagan, where workers built a new part of Quebec, letters have always played a critical role and they still do. They have also inspired our artists. That is why we cannot understand Canada Post's decision to impose a lockout.
People in love can no longer write to each other since Canada Post imposed its lockout. The workers could continue to deliver these letters, but they can no longer do so.
Letters bring joy. There are love letters, friendship letters, postcards, and birthday cards. There are also pension cheques, child support payments, tax refunds and so on.
Sometimes, letters are also associated with sad events, such as condolences when our thoughts are with dear ones who are experiencing a difficult time.
As hon. members may have noticed since the beginning of my speech, I am a sensitive man, and I am proud of that. I want to preserve this sensitivity, because to me it is an essential quality in human relations.
All jobs have pros and cons. In the case of a letter carrier, it is to carry one's bag on a rainy day, in a heat wave, or when it is freezing, which happens a lot in our northern country, and also when the snow falls relentlessly, forcing those who deliver our mail to zigzag their way along the sidewalks and streets of our cities and towns that are buried in snow. But, no matter what, these men and women are always there to do their job.
I was able to see it for myself on numerous occasions, because I worked flexible hours. I had the opportunity to see my letter carrier when he would bring the mail to my house.
After my election, while I was waiting for my riding office to open, he took the time to come and explain the procedure to follow regarding all correspondence with my constituents.
This brings me back to the beginning of my speech. What exactly are Canada Post employees asking? The answer is simple. They want both sides to negotiate in good faith. They want the clause setting salaries for postal workers to be withdrawn. They want the lockout to end immediately, so that they can start delivering mail again and serve the public, since that is the reason they were hired. Finally, they want the previous collective agreement to remain in effect until the negotiations end and an agreement is reached.
Canada Post is not a bankrupt corporation that must urgently restructure itself at the expense of workers, as too many companies have done in the past.
No, Canada Post is a profitable business that has a duty to listen to the public and to its employees.
In closing, I wish a happy Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day to all francophones across Canada.