Mr. Speaker, I would like to wish all Quebeckers a happy Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day. I would also like to thank the people of the Châteauguay—Saint-Constant riding for organizing festivities for this wonderful holiday. Clearly, I would have liked to have participated but the situation we are addressing here today prevents me from doing so. I hope that my constituents will understand and will not mind my absence.
We have been here since June 23 to hold an important debate on the government's bill to force the Canada Post employees on lockout back to work. We are here on Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, which is celebrated by all Quebeckers, because the government did not want to take a break on this day that is so important to nearly a quarter of the members of Parliament. This government continues to show its contempt for the people of Quebec.
There is a reason why most Quebeckers did not vote for the government party in power. The people of Quebec strongly disapprove of the Conservative's actions and values. They are not fools. The actions and values of the party on the other side of the House are light years away from the values shared by most Quebeckers. The results of the most recent election show that this is true. There are only six Conservative members left in Quebec. With the type of decisions, bills and other strategies announced in the Speech from the Throne, the Conservative party is at risk of being completely wiped out in Quebec.
The government claims to be the government of all Canadians but the people of Quebec have this strong feeling, if not the certainty, that the government is leaving them out in the cold. Perhaps it is because of the way the government invests in infrastructure in Conservative members' ridings and proves indifferent toward ridings that do not have a Conservative representative, such as the Montreal region, where aging infrastructure under the government's responsibility is not being adequately maintained. If, for example, the Champlain Bridge were in the riding of the current President of the Treasury Board, it would have been announced long ago that this bridge was going to be rebuilt. I am certain of this, and Quebeckers are too.
During the election campaign, some Conservative candidates openly stated that it is normal for Conservative-held ridings to receive more investments than the other ridings. This is scandalous. Thus, the current government has a long way to go to endear itself to Quebeckers. It is not going to do so with the policies it has announced: there is no significant action with regard to the environment; they want to dismantle the gun registry; they want to build prisons for young offenders; they are buying aircraft no one wants; they give subsidies to big business, banks and oil companies. In addition, they are reducing taxes for large businesses while small and medium-sized businesses, which create almost half of all new jobs, receive no consideration. This government is clearly the government of the wealthy, the privileged and big business. Employees and workers are scorned by government. Bill C-6 is another fine example of this.
It is clear today that this government does not respect workers. If need be, we will forget about all other national holidays in the coming years in order to defend workers' interests. This government will ruthlessly advance its political agenda, even if they have to ignore MPs from Quebec again. But we will be there to block all similar bills. We have been blocking this scandalous bill since June 23 and we would continue to do so until the next Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, if we could. We will do everything to delay Bill C-6, which is completely unacceptable and disrespectful of employees in general. I said in general, because this is just the first step by the government to chip away at employees' working conditions. In this instance, it is attacking the working conditions of postal workers. But which group of workers will it attack next?
In terms of this labour dispute, the government is saying that it wants to end the strike so that the economy is not harmed. It is also saying that it is not biased and that it is imposing conditions that are fair and equitable. What about this is fair and equitable? Does the government believe it is fair to side with the employer and impose lesser conditions than the employer was willing to concede? Is it fair to propose two classes of workers and keep younger workers from having the same wages and benefits as the others?
People are not stupid. Despite the misleading language being used by government representatives, people understand that this government is clearly biased in favour of the wealthy and employers.
People know that the government has a single goal: to privatize crown corporations so that they can reduce services and make more profit. Then a handful of higher-ups can receive huge salaries at the expense of services and workers' rights.
Canada Post is a very profitable crown corporation. We have the impression that this lockout was a government scheme to impose a labour contract that would gut working conditions for Canada Post employees to begin with and then for other groups.
I would like to focus on this scheme to impose a labour contract without consideration for workers' rights by briefly reviewing the events that we are concerned with here today.
On June 3, postal workers began rotating strikes that did not interrupt mail delivery. They simply wanted to use a legitimate pressure tactic to force the employer to advance the negotiations that had been going on for months. The union acted responsibly and with due diligence. The employer responded initially with a two-day-a-week lockout, which was also legitimate.
However, it did act irresponsibly by imposing a permanent lockout a few days later with the blessing of the government. It was good timing for the government because the end of the parliamentary session was in sight. The government thought that it would take the opportunity, a little while later, to set conditions that would benefit the employer by imposing terms that were less favourable than those that management had been prepared to give its employees.
And the government would like us to quickly pass this special bill, the way it is? I have said it before and I will say it again: we will do everything in our power to stop this outrageous bill. We will not help the government resolve the impasse that it alone has created and has blamed on the union.
I find it unfortunate that the Conservative government is holding Canadians hostage by putting the blame for the impasse on the union and the official opposition.
How can what started as a rotating strike end by causing great harm to Canadians? The workers chose to hold rotating strikes in different cities so as not to block mail distribution. The rotating strikes did not have much impact on businesses or at least they had less of an impact than a general strike would have. Even the Minister of Labour admitted that the rotating strikes had little effect on mail delivery. A spokesperson for Canada Post said the same thing. It is Canada Post that imposed the lockout on workers who, today, can no longer report for work to deliver the mail.
Now, Canada Post wants to establish a strategy to reduce operating costs. The employer wants to decrease the wages of new employees, reduce sick leave coverage and decrease contributions to employees' retirement, health care and security plans.
Bill C-6 imposes a salary cut on young workers and a salary increase lower than the cost of living and lower than the offer made by the employer on all workers. It also seeks to impose a new pension plan. It is a threat to the working conditions that were hard earned over the past few years and to the negotiations of previous years, a time when negotiations were permitted. Today, the government is taking away the workers' fundamental right to negotiate their working conditions.
The special bill the Conservatives have tabled is unacceptable, that cannot be said often enough. Even if we repeated it a thousand times, that would still not be enough. This bill will set a precedent and will put all Canadian workers at risk. It will give complete power to employers, including the power to impose working conditions on their employees, all with the complicity of the government, and the employees will be unable to bargain their own terms. Workers and unions are being told to give in to unfavourable terms proposed by their employer, or they will have terms that are even worse than all the concessions the employer was demanding imposed on them. And worse still, they will be forced to bear the blame for the deadlock their employer has put them in. They are being told that the government will favour the employer and in fact will reward it, even if the employer is guilty of holding the public hostage. Workers are being told they will be sent back in with a special bill that comes down on the employer's side.
If we do not find a solution to the lockout that has been imposed, the terms of employment in the previous collective agreement could still be continued. So let us allow the parties to negotiate without holding the public hostage as the employer and the government have done.
We are also very aware of the concern and worry that Canadians are feeling, and we understand that the lockout at Canada Post and the interruption of mail delivery is causing hardship. I repeat, however, that this is because of the lockout imposed by Canada Post, with the complicity of the government, that is preventing the workers from going back to delivering the mail. This situation could end tomorrow morning if the government lifted its imposed lockout and allowed the employees to go back to work on the terms in the previous collective agreement.
There was no urgency for imposing this special legislation. We can end the lockout by allowing the parties to bargain in good faith. The government will not succeed in making the workers bear the blame for this deadlock. The Canada Post Corporation is the one that locked the employees out, and it is the one that has caused these consequences. So why is this government rewarding the employer by coming down clearly on its side?