Skip to main content

House Publications

The Debates are the report—transcribed, edited, and corrected—of what is said in the House. The Journals are the official record of the decisions and other transactions of the House. The Order Paper and Notice Paper contains the listing of all items that may be brought forward on a particular sitting day, and notices for upcoming items.

For an advanced search, use Publication Search tool.

41st PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 014

CONTENTS

Thursday, June 23, 2011




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 146 
l
NUMBER 014 
l
1st SESSION 
l
41st PARLIAMENT 

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayers



Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

Commissioner of Lobbying

    I have the honour, pursuant to section 11 of the Lobbying Act, to lay upon the table the report of the Commissioner of Lobbying for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2011.

[Translation]

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

    I also have the honour to lay upon the table the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal's 2010 annual report.

[English]

Yukon Land Claims and Self-Government Agreements

    Mr. Speaker, under the provisions of Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, copies of the 2007-2009 biennial report of the Yukon land claims and self-government agreements.

Access to Information Act

     She said: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill is to ensure that timely responses to access to information requests are made. Delays have been quite common with these requests and the Canadian public deserve timely responses to their requests.
    The bill would require that a report be sent to the requester setting out a full explanation for the delay and that it include a projected completion date.
    I have made many access requests and have received lots of apologies, but months and months, even a year and a half later, I still had not received the information I required.
    The bill would also require that the Information Commissioner include outstanding requests in his or her annual report to Parliament.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Income Tax Act

     She said: Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the bill is to assist people who lose their jobs and enable them to better manage their money.
    First, to help people save for retirement, the bill would change the Income Tax Act to allow a taxpayer to apply for a one-time contribution of any severance pay to his or her RRSP.
    The bill also calls for changes to the Employment Insurance Act to exclude severance pay from the determination of earnings when determining deductions from benefits or the commencement date of the payment of benefits. This would ensure that those who were laid off would receive their benefits sooner. It would enable them to manage to continue with their mortgage payments and to pay for their kids' education instead of waiting and waiting for the employment insurance benefits they deserve. It would also allow older workers to invest their severance in RRSPs without penalty.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Breast Implant Registry Act

     She said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my former colleague, Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis, for introducing the bill in previous Parliaments. Like her, I believe the bill is very important for the health and safety of women. It is essential that there be a registry of breast implants and that it be maintained so that if there are health risks associated with any implants, the people involved can be identified and contacted.
    Women have suffered dreadfully in the past. We do not want to see that happen in future.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code

    She said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to introduce this bill.
    Firefighters put their lives on the line each and every day to protect us, our homes, our families and our communities. This bill would give added protection to firefighters because it would stiffen penalties for those who would attack or wilfully harm a firefighter.
    We know there are plans afoot to get rid of the gun registry. Firefighters have indicated very clearly to me that they would be very concerned if no one knew where the guns were and they were going into a situation where their lives were under threat.
    The bill also provides for stiffer penalties for those who directly and purposely commit arson.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1010)  

Food and Drugs Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, this is a reintroduction of a previous bill I had. It is timely as it would amend the Food and Drugs Act to ensure there is labelling with regard to genetically modified foods.
    Some may ask why this bill is necessary. Canadians are becoming more and more concerned about the food they eat. Independent research is difficult to find when dealing with this topic. There are scientists in the world who have found adverse effects. For example, studies were done on Monsanto's MON 810 corn in Europe. As a result, this corn has been banned in a number of European countries. Bulgaria has a total ban on GMOs because of health and environmental concerns.
    This bill is about the choice of Canadians to determine what they want or do not want to eat.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Parliament of Canada Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, this is a reintroduction of a previous bill I had. It comes as a result of tampering with previous board of director elections at the Canadian Wheat Board. It says that MPs should not interfere with any democratic process, such as electoral processes, of any organization such as the Canadian Wheat Board or other crown corporations. It is my hope that we will ensure that does not happen.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Excise Tax Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, this is a very important bill for school authorities in our country. Currently, school authorities get a GST rebate of 68%. We want to make sure it is 100%, the same that municipalities receive.
     School authorities in my riding are suffering because of a lack of adequate funding from the provincial government. They often have to make hard choices which involve decisions to shut down schools, which often pits one small community against another.
    This would be a small step the federal government could do to ensure that school authorities had a little more cash as they put forward their budgets and try to overcome those difficulties.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Statistics Act

    She said: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to reintroduce the bill. It would enshrine the mandatory long form census into the Statistics Act so that never again would we have a census without the comparable data, which unfortunately happened this year. At least in the 2016 census there would be comparable data to 2006 and we would know whether or not our programs were working.
     It puts the count in accountability. We hope that members opposite who care about accountability will understand the folly of removing the mandatory long form census and will support this bill.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1015)  

National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, what an honour it is once again to introduce this bill. This will be the third time that this bill has been introduced. I am pleased that the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound saw fit to second my bill.
    The member and I share a heritage that is shared by many Canadians right across the country from coast to coast to coast. That is the love of the outdoors and conservation. That means being able to harvest deer and other animals, which is a tradition in this country. Hunting and fishing are not only traditions of Canadians but to this day, first nations people subsist on them. Their main way of feeding their families is by hunting and fishing.
    My grandfather was a trapper. Many first nations, Inuit and aboriginals right across the country still use trapping as a major source of income.
    I am pleased to introduce this bill in the 41st Parliament in the sincere hope that it comes to fruition.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[Translation]

Holidays Act

    He said: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to introduce my private member's bill, An Act to amend the Holidays Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (St. John the Baptist Day). This bill is seconded by the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine and would make St. John the Baptist Day a national holiday in Canada.
    As Franco-Ontarians, my family and I have always enjoyed celebrating this holiday. French Canadians across the country have said that they support this important holiday.
    I invite all members to support this bill, which will allow us to celebrate our rich Quebec, Franco-Ontarian, Franco-Manitoban, Franco-Albertan and Acadian culture on June 24.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[English]

Canadian Human Rights Act

     She said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, for seconding this bill.
    This bill is important because it would prohibit discrimination on the grounds of social condition. It would prohibit discrimination against people who are experiencing social or economic disadvantage on the basis of their source of income, occupation, level of education, poverty, lack of adequate housing, homelessness, or any other similar circumstance.
    There are people in our society who have been economically and socially discriminated against based on those various grounds. They face terrible discrimination, whether it is with respect to housing or employment, or accessing public services or community services. It is important that the Criminal Code be clear, that it would be against the law to discriminate against someone on the basis of poverty.
    I am pleased to introduce this bill today. I hope that all members of the House will support the bill, because we recognize discrimination as a serious issue in our society that needs to be addressed.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1020)  

Criminal Code

    She said: Mr. Speaker, this is a companion bill to the bill that I just introduced that would amend the Human Rights Act. This bill would amend the Criminal Code on the basis that we need to stop discrimination against people who are poor, disadvantaged or face homelessness.
    This bill would create an amendment to the Criminal Code to establish an increased sentence where there is evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on the social condition of the victim.
    Unfortunately, we do have these kinds of cases in our society, and they are all too common. Therefore, it is important that there be recognition in the Criminal Code that it is a heinous crime and that a sentence be added to address when poor people are bashed, assaulted or discriminated against simply on the basis of their social condition.
    I hope that if this bill is enacted and supported by the House, it will prevent that from happening. We need to have equality in this country so that people who have low incomes or who are poor will not face this kind of discrimination.

    (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canada Post-Secondary Education Act

     She said: Mr. Speaker, this bill comes from the history of how our education system is right now. Post-secondary education is not something that is easily accessible and affordable for all Canadians. This bill would enshrine the principles of good quality education and make post-secondary education accessible and affordable to all Canadians.
     I sincerely hope that this House will adopt this motion during this session of Parliament.
     I am proud to introduce this as my first private members' bill in the Canadian House of Commons.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Petitions

Falun Gong 

    Mr. Speaker, since July 1999, the Chinese Communist Party launched an eradication campaign against the practitioners of Falun Gong. Its policy is to destroy their reputation, bankrupt them financially and eliminate them completely. It has led to the arbitrary detention and torture of hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners for their beliefs.
    Eleven Canadian members are serving jail terms of up to 12 years simply for their belief in the Falun Gong faith.
    The medical community, the UN Committee Against Torture and many other organizations have shown great concern that living Falun Gong practitioners have been slaughtered en masse for their vital organs for organ transplant tourism.
    Free and democratic nations have a responsibility to condemn crimes against humanity and the shameless disregard for human life wherever they occur.
    These dozens of petitioners publicly condemn the Chinese Communist regime's illegal persecution against the Falun Gong and ask for help to rescue the listed family members of Canadians who are incarcerated simply for their belief in the Falun Gong faith.

Asbestos  

    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise to present a petition on behalf of literally thousands of Canadians from all across the country calling upon Parliament to recognize that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known. They point out that more people die from asbestos than all other industrial causes combined and yet, they point out, Canada remains one of the largest producers and exporters of asbestos in the world.
    This petition calls upon Canada to stop spending millions of dollars subsidizing the asbestos industry, as well as to stop blocking international efforts to curb its use.
    Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to ban asbestos in all of its forms and institute a just transition program for any asbestos workers or miners and the communities in which they live in, to end all government subsidies of asbestos both in Canada and abroad, and to stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos, such as the Rotterdam Convention.

  (1025)  

Visitor Visas  

    Mr. Speaker, many families here in Canada have attempted to get family members from abroad, particularly in countries like Philippines and India, to come to Canada to visit.
    This petition asks the government to look at the way in which visitor visas are being issued and, in particular, how they are being denied. They ask that the government take more action so that family members from abroad are better able to come to Canada and participate in things such as funerals, weddings and other types of family celebrations. There are so many reasons.
    It is with pleasure that I table this particular petition here today.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
    The Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Government Orders

[S. O. 57]

[English]

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation

Motion that debate be not further adjourned  

    Mr. Speaker, with respect to the consideration of Government Business No. 3, I move:
    That the debate be not further adjourned.
    Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1 there will now be a 30-minute question period. I invite hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their place so the Chair has some idea of the number of members who wish to participate in this question period.
    Given the number of members who have expressed an interest, I will ask members to keep their questions to one minute and the minister's response to one minute. In that way we will try to accommodate as many as possible.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we are all aware, unfortunately, that Canada Post locked out its employees, even though they wanted to go back to the bargaining table to ensure that Canada Post would honour the previous collective agreement and give Canada Post workers the benefits to which they were entitled.
    The government refused to ask Canada Post to go back to the bargaining table, stating that it did not wish to interfere in the negotiations. But at the same time, it introduced back-to-work legislation and imposed wages that were lower than those that Canada Post had offered the workers.
    My question is for the government. Why is the Conservative government imposing legislation that will give workers lower wages than what had already been agreed to by Canada Post? Why does the Conservative government have such hatred for the workers of this country?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, the back to work legislation that is before the House today has a number of different aspects to it. Some are guiding principles.
    Indeed, the government has set wages in this bill, wages that had been negotiated at the table between the largest public sector union in Canada and the government. We feel that those are appropriate and fair wages, which is why we put them in there.
    Mr. Speaker, I think what this House has seen over the course of the last week or so is the government tilting negotiations and labour-government relations completely toward the corporation.
    We saw it with the Air Canada legislation and we are seeing it again here today with the heavy-handed approach that the government has taken. Any kind of objectivity or any kind of impartiality has certainly been compromised with the presentation of this legislation.
    The point made by my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst is absolutely true. To put forward legislation that identifies far less of a wage increase than what was offered by the company makes no sense at all.
    Does the minister see the folly in her ways in that she has absolutely kicked organized labour in the teeth? With her actions in the last week, she has sucker-punched organized labour in this country. Is that what we can expect to see over the course of the next four years?

  (1030)  

    Madam Speaker, I am a little concerned that the member uses such violent imagery with respect to introducing back to work legislation when his party in 1997, in fact his colleague from Prince Edward Island, introduced the almost exact legislation, supported by the official opposition, which included wage rates that were lower than what was contemplated by the parties at the table at the time.
    Madam Speaker, we in the NDP are deeply disturbed that the government has gone to such extraordinary lengths to, in effect, cut out collective bargaining.
    I have heard various ministers, but certainly the Minister of Labour, say in the House that workers can go back to the table and bargain while we are debating this legislation. The reality is, and she said it herself in speaking about the legislation and referring to what happened in 1997, that because the back to work legislation includes wages that were lower than what was offered by the employer, what incentive is there at all for Canada Post to go back to the table?
    This has been done deliberately to preclude any collective bargaining taking place. Anybody can see that. How can the minister stand here and say that she hopes they go back and bargain?
    Madam Speaker, we put this legislation on the notice paper last week and from that point in time there were 72 hours of very intense negotiations. Unfortunately, as has been the case with these parties throughout the time since October, they were unable to conclude a deal. They were unable to even get close.
    The issue of wages was not on the table at all. Defining issues had to do with pension, new employees and short-term disability. There were significant issues on the table that they simply could not close the gap on in a short period of time. It is affecting the Canadian economy and Canadian citizens and we are acting.
    Before I proceed with more questions and answers, so that everybody understands the rules, I am advised by the Table that we will operate more or less like question period where questions are primarily given by the opposition, but I will recognize some members of the government. I want to ensure there is an understanding of the rules and fairness.
    The hon. member for Hamilton Mountain.
    Madam Speaker, the minister just said that wages were not the primary issue on the table. Why then would she feel compelled to bring in a wage package lower than what the company had already agreed to? It makes absolutely no sense.
    We are now dealing with a closure motion before we have even had a single minute of debate on the bill itself. How can closure be moved on something before debate has even started? It is contempt of the rights of members of Parliament, of Parliament itself and of democracy in this country.
    The minister needs to bring this bill forward and have it debated for however long it takes without moving a draconian closure motion before we have even started the debate.
    Madam Speaker, I will answer the second part first. We are moving this motion, of course, because the service is not moving. No mail is being delivered. It is a necessary means by which we can get people back to work.
    With respect to the first part of the question, setting the wage has been done in the past. It is something that makes a lot of sense because, at the end of the day, Canada Post is a crown corporation and we want to ensure there is future viability for the corporation as well.

  (1035)  

    Madam Speaker, one of my constituents wrote to me. She does not always agree with the government's position or mine. She says that she would like to see the legislation passed and passed quickly. This is what she wrote:
    We own a small newspaper business...[of course in my riding]...and we are unable to mail our newspapers to our readers this morning. ... We have staff employed whom we need and they need to be employed. We have customers buying ads which help pay for a community newspaper. All of these Canadians are being inconvenienced.
    She personally thinks that we need a government that will legislate for the good and the health of all Canadians. I am sure there are many Canadians facing the same concerns. What would the minister have to say to them and are their concerns part of the reason for taking the action that the minister is taking today?
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Souris—Moose Mountain for all his work with respect to employment and labour that he has given to the House, specifically in the last session of Parliament. I am very grateful for the time and for his question.
    That is the crux of the issue. We receive thousands of pieces of correspondence, as MPs, as ministers and as the government with respect to the concerns of small business. We heard them, we have introduced the legislation and we will commence the debate today.
    Madam Speaker, the minister has introduced a wage lower than the collective agreement that was introduced to the workers. I would like the minister to address the families of the postal workers, including those of Windsor and Essex County, who have relied upon this as a job to raise their children, to be able to send them to school and to be able to participate in the local economy. I want her to specifically talk to those families who are now going to get a wage cut and have actually been locked out and have not received a paycheque. Maybe she could address those individual people and their families who are getting a rollback right now, at a time when they actually need support from the government.
    Madam Speaker, as I have indicated in interviews, I have a family member who is a postal carrier as well. I am fully aware of the impact of the rolling strikes, the lockout, the breakdown of collective bargaining and indeed that the ending of the collective agreement has on families.
    However, what we are talking about here is not a wage rollback. What we have indicated is the fair and appropriate wage. The wage we have put in the legislation has been negotiated in both the private and public sectors. It shows what the intention of the government is with respect to the wage and to encourage the parties to collectively bargain, which has not happened. We have not had a collective agreement.
     However, at the end of the day, we are responsible to the great taxpayers of Canada. They have the responsibility of being on the hook for Canada Post. We want to ensure the viability of Canada Post Corporation and these are the appropriate ways to do that.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to correct something the minister said. Back in 1997, the Liberal government did in fact introduce back-to-work legislation after almost two weeks of strike. We do believe that sometimes there is good reason to put in an arbitration process when it is clear that the bargaining process is not working.
    Here we have Bill C-6 which makes a mockery of arbitration. It is very prescriptive. It does not allow arbitration in good faith in the normal sense. Why does the government not implore the management to lift the lockout, get the unions to get people back to work on a full-time basis and allow the bargaining process to occur? If it does not work after a reasonable amount of time, unlike the NDP that does not believe in arbitration, we do believe there is a place for it. Why does the minister not allow that process to occur?
    Madam Speaker, I believe the theory with which we both approached this analysis is one that the member pointed out, which is when it is clear that collective bargaining is not working. There is no more clear analysis of the situation that collective bargaining is not working. We have had rolling strikes since June 1. We have a lockout now. The parties are at an impasse and that is why we have introduced this legislation.
    One last point is that I do recognize that the Liberal Party introduced back-to-work legislation in 1997, but we have learned from the flaws that were inherent in that legislation. That is why we have final offer binding selection in the document. The Liberal Party's bill led to two years and millions of dollars of mediation arbitration that did not work at the end of the day. The parties settled themselves and the taxpayers ended up paying for that entire process that did not resolve anything.

  (1040)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I have two quick questions for the minister. I am trying to understand why she is rewarding the employer that locked out its employees by giving them even lower wages.
    My constituents in Gatineau, who were very eager to hear members on both sides of the House speak to this motion, asked me why members are being prevented from speaking, which is a fundamental right for all members in this House.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, as I indicated, the wages in the legislation are ones that have been negotiated in the private and public sectors and they are ones that a majority of Canadians across Canada would very much enjoy receiving on a continuous basis guaranteed over the next four years, as well as the opportunity to have a cost-of-living allowance attached to it.
    What is important is that the assumption is there that the arbitrator will be choosing necessarily to the benefit of Canada Post Corporation. I want to remind the House that this is final offer binding arbitration. The selection of the arbitrator could be either the union or it could be Canada Post Corporation.
    Madam Speaker, I would like to ask a question of the minister, on behalf of the people in my constituency, one of the largest constituencies in Canada, with many rural communities that not only depend on the postal service but on the wages, the income that postal workers make. I would like to specifically speak to the young people, people of my age, friends of mine, who work in the postal service who are looking ahead at building a future, hoping to invest in a home, hoping to getting their families started.
    What can the minister can say about the draconian measures being put forward by the government when it comes to a cutback in their wages and, ultimately, the silencing of their voices in this critical debate where they are speaking up for nothing more than fairness?
    Madam Speaker, for some clarity in the House, the opposition seems to think that we are cutting wages when, indeed, if the members would care to read the act they would see that we contemplate increases of wages and we have put in there the increases in wages that the workers would be receiving over a period of time.
    Indeed, I would direct the hon. members to paragraph 15 of the act, where it says salaries will be increased effective January 31, 2011 by 1.75%, increased again in 2012 by 1.5%, increased again in 2013 by 2%, and increased again in 2014 by 2%.
     These are increases that are not guaranteed for the majority of Canadians. These are guaranteed wages.
    Madam Speaker, I am amazed at the kind of shell game that the minister is playing on this important issue. There is one thing that is absolutely clear. The government is not moving to arbitration in a way that is fair and equitable, and that is where the government should be.
    I would encourage people to read the old Bill C-24 that was introduced by the Liberal Party. It did not have the kind of draconian measures the minister has put in this one.
    Yes, the minister talks about increases in wages in the bill, but the increases in wages that are in the bill are less than the wages that were already negotiated. That is taking the side of management, and the government should not be doing this.
    We recognize this is an extremely important issue to business and the mail needs to get moving again. I have Veseys seeds company in my riding which depends on Canada Post to move its seeds around the world and it is finding it difficult.
    The best way to get a solution that is going to work in the future is allow arbitration to work in a fair and equitable way. If that were in the bill and it was arbitration that was fair and equitable, it would be quite easy for us on this side of the House to support it.
     I ask the minister, why is she taking the side of management in terms of this issue and why is the government not coming forward with arbitration that is fair and equitable to both sides and let them negotiate?
    Madam Speaker, as we have indicated in the past, the parties have had an ample amount of time at the table. In fact, since last October, the parties have been at the table, trying to come to a solution on the matter.
    With respect to the choices in the legislation, there seems to be two issues that the member brings up. One is the fact that we have chosen to put in the legislation binding arbitration final offer selection which we believe is the most appropriate way to deal with the matter, in that we have learned from 1997. The process took over two years and indeed, at the end of the day, was a great cost to Canadian taxpayers and we had to proceed to ensure that we paid for those costs associated with it.
    We would like to have a clear, crisp decision in the matter and have it settled so that the mail can continue to move and Canada Post Corporation can go on to fulfill its mandate.

  (1045)  

    Madam Speaker, I want to thank the minister for her work on this very important file.
    Since the rotating strikes started a few weeks ago causing Canada Post to institute the lockout, and we all know the history of that, I have been inundated from rural constituents, small businesses in particular, which are suffering greatly because of this. We have already suffered an economic recession. Also, since the minister tabled the legislation earlier this week, it is clear that 70% of Canadians support this legislation. What I cannot get my head around is why the opposition continues to battle this legislation when most people want it. Perhaps the minister could explain that to me.
    Madam Speaker, I completely agree with the hon. member's assessment of what is happening in his riding. It is happening in my riding as well. Indeed, I received an email from a small business owner who is so concerned that it is thinking of moving the business to the United States because at least it can get service there. That is something that is of great concern because it shows the importance to small business in Canada for the mail service to continue.
    I am disappointed that the opposition is not co-operating with the government in passing this quickly, predominantly because in 1997, with very similar terms within the legislation of going back to work, of setting up a process, of setting wages, the NDP did support it. In fact the member from Winnipeg was very clear why members were supporting it, one of the issues being small business.
    Madam Speaker, the minister mentioned that mail not being delivered is an important thing.
    My question is multi-tiered. Why is it that you forced a lockout when workers were willing to work? I spoke with many workers in my riding who told me that they want to work, that they do not want to be living without a wage, that they do not want to be suffering to feed their children right now. That is why the workers instituted a rolling strike. Why is it that you pushed for a lockout?
    You also mentioned that--
    Order, please. I would just ask all members, especially in what can be a very tense debate, to direct their questions through the Speaker. I ask the hon. member to conclude her question.
    My apologies, Madam Speaker, I will ensure my comments are directed through the Speaker.
    I will rephrase my question. Why is it that the government pushed for a lockout situation for the workers and has not allowed them to work?
    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member from the greater Toronto area for her question and welcome her to the House.
    Perhaps for some clarity on the matter, the rolling strikes commenced on June 1. The lockout commenced soon thereafter, 13 days after. Through introducing this legislation we are attempting to actually stop the lockout so that people can go back to work, have their salaries, their benefits, so they can get on with their lives and the mail would continue to be delivered.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, the bill seems to be completely focused on the employer. A number of my colleagues have mentioned the fact that the wage increases imposed in the bill were lower than what the employer was offering. If the government wanted to legislate employees back to work, it could have included other provisions. It could have forced the two parties to accept the collective agreement that was already in force, as the union had agreed to do. It could have decided to eliminate the override clauses and ensure that they are not included in a collective agreement. It could have decided to ensure that employees were able to maintain defined benefits instead of defined contributions. It could have put an end to the lockout, while still upholding the employees' right to strike.
    I would like the minister to explain why this bill is so biased in favour of the employer.

  (1050)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, the concept of final offer selection binding arbitration is that both parties put forward their best and final offer to the arbitrator. After they determine what is not in dispute and what is in dispute, they put their final offers on the table. An arbitrator, taking into consideration the guiding principles that we have in the legislation, will choose between one or the other. The parties have that opportunity to ensure that they are within the spirit of the guiding principles.
    Having spoken to both sides of the table, intellectually and logically, both the union and management want Canada Post to remain viable, to do better and to ensure that pensions will be available for everyone. That is why the guiding principles are drafted in this way and both parties agree to those fundamental concepts. We want to make sure that the arbitrator understands that those are things that are important to the Canadian public and those are the things we want him or her to consider when looking at both offers on the table.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, what I find humorous in all of this, what I find shameful, is that it is as though the public were on one side and workers were on the other, as though the workers were not part of the public, as though they were not taxpayers. I find that a bit simplistic.
    In 1997, I was on that side of the House. When we voted on back-to-work legislation—and it is normal to do so—it was because a national strike had been going on for two weeks. A rotating strike is not a strike, it is a pressure tactic used to force a negotiated settlement. The employer decided to provide mail delivery three days a week, even though the workers wanted to continue delivering the mail. Then came the lockout. What the minister did with Air Canada is part of a pattern. And there is no way she can make me believe that a crown corporation, which belongs to the government, is not talking to the government.
    The question is, why play into the employers' hands? Why not ensure that there is a negotiated settlement? Let the arbitrator do his job. If he were to do it, there would at least be a possibility that the workers would get a little something, but this is take it or leave it, one or the other. Why take that stance and hang a sword of Damocles over the heads of the workers, denying their right to a negotiated settlement?

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I should not be surprised that a member of the Liberal Party would find it a source of pride to allow the economy to be put in a desperate situation and proud of the fact that his party has let a two week national strike go on, possibly harming the economy.
    We on this side of the House do not share that view. We believe that the risk to the economy is a great one, especially when it comes to any kind of work stoppage at Canada Post. That is why we acted as quickly as we did in the matter. We have heard from small business, charities and Canadians. They all have valid points of view regarding our great national economy, including the concerns of constituents.
    The act place takes into consideration that 45,000 employees at Canada Post want to go back to work and want a fair deal. We included the wage rates to ensure that in the case of a final offer selection, there would be a fair wage agreed to outside of the two selections currently on the table.
    What we have put before the House is very appropriate. We are thinking about Canadians in the long term and Canada Post as well.
    Madam Speaker, like my colleagues, I have received a number of emails that support this government's position. Many of them are actually from postal workers and some are from small business owners. I would like to read one of those emails:
    I am truly hoping that you and fellow reps are serious about getting Canada Post back to work. The union and all its members and the press need to know seriously their strike hurts small businesses and the self employed, which is the backbone of this country's economy.
    Many are virtually without a source of income as long as the strike continues. They cannot receive cheques in the mail, cannot send out invoices or statements. What happens to them, is the union going to help them???
    As we know, the union and management are far apart on making a deal. They have spent an enormous amount of time at the table. However, while all of this has been going on, small businesses have been worried about how they are going to survive.
    Could the minister please tell us why this legislation is so necessary to protect hard-working Canadians who are involved in small businesses?

  (1055)  

    Madam Speaker, I received similar emails while the rolling strikes were occurring across Canada. Although we did not have the enormous outcry that we heard with the lockout, we certainly did hear from Canadians about the possibility of increasing rolling strikes and the snowball effect these were having after 13 days. That is why we acted. We heard from Canadians. We saw the effect.
     We also saw the effect on Canada Post. It felt the rolling strikes. Economically, Canada Post felt the difficulties associated with the rolling strikes, especially when Toronto and Montreal were targeted on the same day. That is why it acted with a lockout.
    The government is acting in order to return everyone to work.
    Madam Speaker, I am also hearing from constituents. The Island Tides, a wonderful local paper in my area, cannot be delivered. I have received a heart-wrenching email from a woman who is waiting for a child support cheque from her ex-husband. However, I also recognize that this legislation is draconian and violates union rights, and I am deeply troubled by all of this.
    I am particularly troubled about the fact that while collective bargaining rights are what we are talking about at this moment, we do not seem to be negotiating with each other. We have a piece of legislation before us that is clearly not going to enjoy the support of the House.
    I would ask the hon. Minister of Labour if she would entertain amendments. Would she be prepared to meet with leaders of the major parties in the House to come to an agreement so that the back to work legislation will be fair? Since we have put a gun to the head of the union, I think we might want to do the same to management and demand that a fixed percentage of Canada Post's profits go to CUPW in the future.
    Is the minister willing to entertain negotiations here?
    Madam Speaker, we can see the work stoppages affecting everyone from coast to coast to coast.
    I would point out that this legislation does not violate anyone's rights at all. It is very much within the confines of what happens in fair collective bargaining. It is unfortunately the final solution with respect to the matter, in that Parliament is being asked to intervene in a dispute between two individual parties. It is a shame that it has come to this.
    It being 10:57 a.m. it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the motion now before the House.

[Translation]

    Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Deputy Speaker: All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.
    Some hon. members: Yea.
    The Acting Speaker: All those opposed will please say nay.
    Some hon. members: Nay.
    The Acting Speaker: In my opinion the yeas have it.
     And five or more members having risen:
    The Acting Speaker: Call in the members.

  (1135)  

[English]

    (The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
 

(Division No. 22)

YEAS

Members

Adams
Adler
Aglukkaq
Albas
Albrecht
Alexander
Allen (Tobique—Mactaquac)
Allison
Ambler
Ambrose
Anders
Anderson
Armstrong
Ashfield
Aspin
Baird
Bateman
Bernier
Bezan
Blaney
Block
Boughen
Braid
Breitkreuz
Brown (Leeds—Grenville)
Brown (Newmarket—Aurora)
Brown (Barrie)
Bruinooge
Butt
Calandra
Calkins
Cannan
Carmichael
Carrie
Chisu
Chong
Clarke
Clement
Daniel
Davidson
Dechert
Del Mastro
Devolin
Dreeshen
Duncan (Vancouver Island North)
Dykstra
Fantino
Findlay (Delta—Richmond East)
Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk)
Flaherty
Fletcher
Galipeau
Gallant
Gill
Glover
Goguen
Goldring
Gosal
Gourde
Grewal
Harris (Cariboo—Prince George)
Hawn
Hayes
Hiebert
Hillyer
Hoback
Hoeppner
Holder
James
Jean
Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission)
Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret's)
Kenney (Calgary Southeast)
Kent
Kerr
Komarnicki
Kramp (Prince Edward—Hastings)
Lake
Lauzon
Lebel
Leef
Leitch
Lemieux
Leung
Lizon
Lobb
Lukiwski
Lunney
MacKay (Central Nova)
MacKenzie
Mayes
McColeman
McLeod
Menegakis
Menzies
Merrifield
Miller
Moore (Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam)
Moore (Fundy Royal)
Nicholson
Norlock
O'Connor
O'Neill Gordon
Obhrai
Oda
Oliver
Opitz
Paradis
Payne
Poilievre
Preston
Raitt
Rajotte
Rathgeber
Reid
Rempel
Richards
Richardson
Rickford
Saxton
Schellenberger
Seeback
Shea
Shipley
Shory
Smith
Sopuck
Sorenson
Stanton
Storseth
Strahl
Sweet
Tilson
Toet
Trost
Trottier
Truppe
Tweed
Uppal
Valcourt
Van Kesteren
Van Loan
Vellacott
Wallace
Warawa
Warkentin
Watson
Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Weston (Saint John)
Wilks
Williamson
Wong
Woodworth
Yelich
Young (Oakville)
Young (Vancouver South)
Zimmer

Total: -- 157

NAYS

Members

Allen (Welland)
Andrews
Angus
Ashton
Atamanenko
Aubin
Ayala
Bélanger
Bellavance
Bennett
Benskin
Bevington
Blanchette
Blanchette-Lamothe
Boivin
Borg
Boulerice
Boutin-Sweet
Brahmi
Brison
Brosseau
Byrne
Caron
Casey
Cash
Charlton
Chicoine
Chisholm
Choquette
Chow
Christopherson
Cleary
Coderre
Comartin
Côté
Crowder
Cullen
Cuzner
Davies (Vancouver Kingsway)
Davies (Vancouver East)
Day
Dewar
Dion
Dionne Labelle
Donnelly
Doré Lefebvre
Dubé
Duncan (Etobicoke North)
Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona)
Dusseault
Easter
Eyking
Foote
Fortin
Freeman
Garneau
Garrison
Genest
Genest-Jourdain
Giguère
Godin
Goodale
Gravelle
Groguhé
Harris (Scarborough Southwest)
Harris (St. John's East)
Hassainia
Hsu
Hughes
Hyer
Julian
Karygiannis
Kellway
Lamoureux
Lapointe
Larose
Latendresse
Laverdière
Layton
LeBlanc (Beauséjour)
LeBlanc (LaSalle—Émard)
Leslie
Liu
Mai
Marston
Martin
Masse
Mathyssen
May
McCallum
McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood)
Michaud
Moore (Abitibi—Témiscamingue)
Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord)
Morin (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine)
Morin (Laurentides—Labelle)
Morin (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot)
Mulcair
Murray
Nantel
Nash
Nicholls
Nunez-Melo
Pacetti
Papillon
Patry
Péclet
Perreault
Pilon
Plamondon
Quach
Rae
Rafferty
Ravignat
Raynault
Regan
Rousseau
Saganash
Sandhu
Savoie
Scarpaleggia
Sellah
Sgro
Sims (Newton—North Delta)
Sitsabaiesan
Stewart
Stoffer
Sullivan
Thibeault
Toone
Tremblay
Trudeau
Turmel
Valeriote

Total: -- 134

PAIRED

Nil

    I declare the motion carried.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, given that June 24 is the national holiday of Quebec and since this House has recognized that Quebeckers form a nation, I would ask that you seek unanimous consent for the following motion:
    That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of this House, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings on Government Business No. 3 at 5:30 p.m. and put forthwith, without further debate, every question necessary to dispose of the motion and that the House suspend, as soon as the motion is disposed of, until June 25 at 8 a.m.

  (1140)  

[English]

    Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    Some hon. members: No.
    The Speaker: I wish to inform the House that because of the proceedings on the closure motion, government orders will be extended by 30 minutes.
[Government Orders]

[English]

Government Business Motion No. 3  

[Government Orders]
    The House resumed from June 21 consideration of the motion, and of the motion that this question be now put.
    The hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour has 19 minutes left to conclude his speech.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to stand for a few more minutes and share some of my thoughts on the direction the government is taking in relation to the negotiations between Canada Post and the postal workers.
    When I last was on my feet, I said that I was somewhat surprised and perplexed that government members were justifying their decision by saying that small businesses in their constituencies were being adversely affected by the decision of Canada Post to completely shut down mail delivery. Their response was not to deal with the executives who made that decision and fire them, or bring in legislation that would rescind the decision to shut down mail delivery; instead they directed their anger, venom and frustration at the workers who, under a very difficult set of circumstances, tried to maintain the emergency delivery of mail. The workers tried to keep things operating while exerting pressure on Canada Post to get negotiations moving in a positive direction. That was why there were rotating strikes.
    I have heard from some constituents in the last day or so about a situation which really underlines the extent to which the workers at Canada Post have gone to rectify the consequences of the decision by Canada Post to shut down mail delivery. The Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship was organizing a trip to Kazakhstan and seven passports were caught in the mail. One of the people involved in organizing the trip went to the postal outlet in Wolfville, spoke to one of the workers and explained the problem.
    I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but there are many side conversations happening. Out of respect for the member who is speaking, I would ask all members to take their conversations out to the lobbies.
    The hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
    Madam Speaker, I appreciate that intervention.
    As I said, members of a university Christian fellowship group were organizing a trip to Kazakhstan and their passports were caught in the mail because Canada Post, the employer, decided to completely suspend mail delivery. One of the trip organizers explained the problem to a postal worker who committed to try to track down the passports and intervene in order to rectify the problem. After his efforts in Wolfville in dealing with members of management, the worker went to union officials in Halifax and they identified where the passports were. After some insistence by the union officials, they were able to get into the postal station and retrieve the passports and get them into the hands of the people who were going to travel to do important work on an important exchange with Kazakhstan.
    The point I am making is that the government is introducing legislation that pounds on the rights of the people who work for Canada Post when, in fact, it has been the people who work at Canada Post, the workers represented by CUPW, who have done everything in their power to try, at the same time as putting pressure to get negotiations moving forward, to not adversely inconvenience Canadian citizens and small business. In the case I mentioned, they even went so far as to intervene and make sure people could get their passports that were being held up as a direct result of the employer's decisions.
    Again, I say to the members opposite that it was Canada Post that shut down completely the mail service in this country. The government should be directing any action toward the employer to either get rid of the members of the executive who are making decisions that adversely affect that operation or have them change their decision. However, that is not what the government is intending to do.
    What the government has in mind is to engage in a direct attack on the rights of working people in this country. As a worker told me last night, workers across the country are not going to stand idly by and watch the government do away with rights which have been fought for so hard over the last century. That is an important thing to remember.
    I was in Nova Scotia on June 11. That day is officially known as William Davis Miners' Memorial Day to recognize miners who have died on the job. In 1927, William Davis, in a dispute with the coal company, was shot dead. It is an example of the commitment that workers, women and men, have made in this country to ensure that they have some rights over their wages, benefits and working conditions. That is why unionized workers in this country are so discouraged, animated and angry at the attempt by the government to take away those hard-won rights.

  (1145)  

    Unions do not only exist to protect the rights of their workers, although if they did, that would be important, and to improve the rights and benefits of the people who are represented by that union. The history of the trade union movement in our country and around the world has been to make an important contribution within its community. Unions have played a significant role in the advancement of women's rights. They have worked diligently and tirelessly to bring forward universal medicare and to support and protect it. They have worked to protect public pensions for all.
    The CPP is an initiative unions strove for and supported. Many union workers have negotiated pensions in their workplace, but unions recognize that all workers deserve to have a pension and deserve to live in dignity when they retire. That is why, to this day, we have a proposal coming out of the trade union movement to expand and strengthen the Canada pension plan. It has not asked the government to pony up and put all the money into it. It has asked the government to come up with a proposal, which we have endorsed on this side, that would see the Canada pension plan expanded. It would see the increase of premiums on behalf of the employees and the employers in a gradual fashion that would be sustainable. It would ensure that at the end of the day, once this plan is put forward after five years, people who have contributed for their full working lives would recognize a doubling of benefits from the Canada pension plan. People who are not now covered by the Canada pension plan would have access to that.
    Those are some of the important things that unions do in order to support the community, pushing for better occupational health and safety and for an increased minimum wage, a livable wage for all workers, not just union workers. Those are the kinds of initiatives that benefit society and all our communities, and unions have been and will continue to fight for that.
    This is important because the initiative undertaken by the government to strip away the rights of the workers at Canada Post is just the beginning. If the government can walk in and unilaterally make changes, which will inevitably change the Canada Labour Code that affects all federal employees, that will be just the beginning.
     I suggest that the government is inserting itself in the greater public sector and in the private because it has decided, and it will decide in this case, that these negotiations have gone on too long. It has decided that the conditions under which the collective bargaining positions are being determined are not sufficient. Contrary to the Canada Labour Code and, in fact, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the government is stepping in to make these unilateral changes and, frankly, it is just the beginning.
    As an aside, I think the government will have some trouble moving this forward in the court, given what has happened in British Columbia and other provinces, where the Supreme Court has struck down attempts by those provincial governments to insert themselves into the collective bargaining process, basically taking away rights enshrined in the charter, to ensure that workers have the right to assemble and to bargain collectively and freely, without the interference of the state.

  (1150)  

    We need to recognize these things.
    It was interesting when we talked the other day about the successful motion by my colleague from London—Fanshawe to properly fund and raise all seniors out of poverty. We talked about people who had reached retirement age being able to live in some dignity.
    Frankly, the disputes that the government has inserted itself into with Air Canada and Canada Post has some considerable significance regarding pension plans. The government members opposite support companies that say they cannot afford the pensions they have freely negotiated with their employees. Therefore, they want to change, dilute or ensure that new employees are not eligible for the same level of pension benefit.
    Surely the consequence of that is clear to all members. We are now dealing with 250,000 to 300,000 seniors living below the poverty line because they have inadequate pensions. If we continue to push down the pension levels of working people, that problem will only be exacerbated. What will the government do then?
    I believe the government does not think too far into the future other than maybe beyond the next election. In many cases, the people of small businesses in my community support the rights of working people to earn a fair wage and to get their benefits so they can live in some dignity when they are in their later years.
     It is important that all businesses recognize that if we continue to allow the government to push down wages and pension benefits, people will be unable to afford groceries, furniture, condominiums, nice apartments, cars, or the goods and services that make our communities work. If we continue to shove everything down to the lowest common denominator, the workers will not have enough money to pay for decent lodgings, for fridges and stoves, or to have their lawns cut, those services that are so important to small businesses, in my community anyway.
     What will happen then to those small businesses, some of which are now urging members opposite to start putting the strap to working people, hammering away and taking away their rights, their benefits and their ability to function appropriately and live in dignity, or to contribute to their families, their communities and their organizations?
    What will the end result be? I ask the members opposite to think about this.
    I suggest that in many jurisdictions the balance that has been struck in the Canada Labour Code and the Trade Union Act of Nova Scotia, as well as other statutes dealing with labour relations in the country, is already outweighed by employers. Having said that, the Canada Labour Code has existed for many years and continues to operate.

  (1155)  

    If the government inserts itself so clearly on the side of the employer to completely tip the balance in that regard, the Canada Labour Code, as we know it, will no longer exist. Why would any federal employer, or any employer that operates under the Canada Labour Code, come to the table in good faith and be prepared to negotiate with its workers? Even in non-unionized situations, why would employers be willing to negotiate a good wage, a fair wage, a good pension plan, a good health plan if they know the Conservative government would be willing to help them out any way it could to shove down their costs and, in many cases, reward inefficiency?
    That is another bizarre thing about this situation. Canada Post, because of its workers, has shown itself to be very successful in generating revenues.
    We will have the opportunity to speak more about this and I will certainly stand as many times as I can to talk about this legislation.

  (1200)  

    Madam Speaker, I listened intently to the member and what I did not hear from him was discussion about the workers themselves and perhaps where they stood on this dispute. He gave the position of the union bosses.
    However, I have received a number of emails from postal workers in my riding, friends of mine, and I would like to share a few words from one of the emails with the member and get his response.
    It is addressed to me and the subject is, “VOTE YES TO BACK TO WORK LEGISLATION”. It states, in part:
     I am a postal clerk and I feel that legislation is our only hope to keep our jobs. Our union has not allowed us to vote on any of the revised offers that CPC has made. Most of us think the final revised offer is fair and wanted to vote but were not allowed to by the union
    On this side of the House, we actually understand.
    Yesterday, we had a motion on small business from the NDP. We know those members do not really believe in supporting small business or they would understand that Canada Post is an essential service and this commands responsibility from the House.
    However, does the member know that the big bosses, the people who are really intimidating people right now, are the union bosses? That is who he is standing up for, not for the workers.
    Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's intervention. I saw him paying close attention to what I had to say. I hoped he would rise to his feet and engage in this because this place is all about that, a democracy and people participating in the discussion.
    Speaking of democracy and democratic organizations, trade unions are one of the most democratic organizations in our society. The decisions taken by the union are as a result of majority votes and as a result of consultation with employees. That does not mean there will not be dissent within the organizations. There is dissent in many democratic organizations, as opposed to the Conservative Party, where we do not hear any dissent on the prevailing wisdom of the Prime Minister's Office because that is not allowed on the government side. The Conservatives are not allowed to oppose. They are not allowed to dissent. They are not allowed to speak their own minds.
     Good for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers for allowing its members to express their opinions, while at the same time respecting the democratic wisdom of the majority.
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments that were made by my colleague from Nova Scotia. What came out during his presentation was the fact that both opposition parties understood full well that there was an inconvenience to the Canadian public and to small business. However, it is because of a lockout by Canada Post. That is what has to be underlined here. It is because the corporation locked the workers out and I think it did that understanding full well that this legislation would end up making its way to the House.
    It certainly is not a level playing field and that level playing field has been taken away by the actions of the government
     Today nurses at IWK have signed a contract with their employers. Their contract had lapsed October 31, 2009, but due process was followed.
     In this case, the contract of the postal workers lapsed January 31 of this year. Does the member agree that if due process is followed, if given the opportunity, both—

  (1205)  

    Order, please. I would ask all hon. members to look to the Chair for guidance in terms of keeping their questions within a reasonable period of time.
    The hon. member for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour.
    Mr. Speaker, the point my colleague made was absolutely right. What gives the government the right to decide what is a reasonable time to negotiate a deal? I have to watch my language, and I will in respect to you, Mr. Speaker, and the House and the member opposite.
    I do not think members opposite understand the process. It is about two parties that have conflicting interests. The point is that negotiations are done through a process in order to bring the parties as close together as possible in order to reach an agreement. Sometimes that takes longer than others but we need to let the parties work it out so they are both in agreement once the document is signed and then there is peace in the workplace for the duration of that collective agreement. That is key.
    Mr. Speaker, I spent a lot of time knocking on doors during the federal election, especially in the afternoon, and I met a lot of seniors and people on fixed income. These people were often dressed in jackets, hats and mitts. The reason they were dressed that way is because they could not afford to turn on the heat. I know that seniors, people on pensions and people on fixed income are having a hard time paying their bills, especially with the rising prices of food, oil and gas.
    Pensions are becoming a major issue in this country and now the pensions of postal workers are under attack. Does the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour see pensions becoming more of a major issue facing Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl is absolutely right about pensions, and I spoke to that a bit in my speech.
    It is so important that we not take pensions away from those people who now have them. We should be strengthening existing pensions and creating opportunities for more Canadians to have access to pensions.
    Instead of driving everything down to the lowest common denominator, we should be raising things up so that all Canadians have an income that will provide them with the opportunity to house themselves, feed themselves and live in dignity.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his comments.
    What people seem to be forgetting in this debate, despite the importance of the situation, is that this is about more than just Canada Post. It is about all employees working in various situations. What sort of precedent will be set if this is how the government acts whenever it is confronted with such a situation?
    I would like my colleague to go into further detail about the following issue. It is very important that seniors have pension plans, but many workers have young families, and we are here to protect them too. I wonder how important it is to have a good argument in order to ensure that we do not set a precedent that might negatively affect workers' rights.

  (1210)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, that is the real concern when I talk about this being the beginning. This is the slippery slope.
    If the government is allowed to continue forward, stripping away the rights of the workers at Canada Post, who will be next? What rights will be taken away next? It is not just workers' rights, but the rights of people in our community to live a fair and equitable life, to make a living and to contribute to their community. It is all the hard-won rights that we, our parents, grandparents and the generations before have fought world wars to protect our rights.
    What is next once the government gets beyond this point, feeling that it can take any right away from anybody it decides to?
    Mr. Speaker, before I commence my speech, I want to pick up on something the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour said.
    He mentioned Davis Day, which is on June 11, and it is celebrated in mining communities across Nova Scotia. It is a very important day in the culture that I come from. However, it is also important to note that it is a day when a very tragic incident happened. It was the day when William Davis was shot in cold blood as a result of protests at the mines because employees were not receiving wages and, indeed, were being asked to take a further cut.
    My take from Davis Day, however, is one that is even more important, which is that it only escalated to that level of violence after the government refused to intervene, even though the families and the men asked it to do so. That is valid. The Government of Canada should intervene when it is appropriate to do so in the public interest.
    This government has been given a strong mandate by Canadians to complete our economic recovery. As Canada's labour minister, it is my view that the Government of Canada must take decisive action now before further damage is done to our economy. That is why our government introduced in the House Bill C-6, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services.
    After eight months of collective bargaining and mediation, a labour dispute between Canada Post and more than 50,000 employees, represented by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Urban Operations Unit, has resulted in a work stoppage. It is an event that, if left unresolved, could jeopardize Canada's economic prosperity.
    Today I will discuss the specific details of this proposed legislation, but, first, there are some important facts that will help put this extraordinary legislative measure in its proper context.
    Canada Post is one of Canada's largest corporations and delivers a service that many Canadians count on. It supports 70,000 full-time and part-time employees and contributes $6.6 billion to our country's GDP. A reliable postal service without interruption is an important part of what keeps our economy running smoothly.
    As a result of a labour dispute between Canada Post and more than 50,000 of these employees, the service is now interrupted and at a standstill. However, this labour dispute has been simmering for many months and, now that postal services have stopped, this dispute is having more of an impact on the Canadian public, not just Canada Post and its employees. It could affect the livelihood of many Canadians across the land.
    Contrary to the assertions of the opposition, we do not take back to work legislation lightly, but this measure is necessary. All other avenues have been exhausted. This is the right thing to do. There is too much at stake for Canadians and our economy on the whole. We must and we will act now.
    I will take a few minutes to outline the potential economic risks entailed by this work stoppage. I will also talk about the intent of the proposed legislation.
    As I indicated, a reliable postal service is far more than just personal mail. It is a fundamental part of doing business in Canada and the economic risks of no longer having that service are significant. Canada Post is an integral part of what keeps Canada in business and what puts money in the pockets of its citizens. Many small and large businesses rely on Canada Post to issue bills, to process orders and to receive payments. This is a service that matters.
    There are Canadian families waiting for their tax refunds or HST rebates to arrive. There are citizens in the far north who rely on the mail for essential goods, like prescription eyewear, dental products, drugs and legal documents, and there are those who still make payments by mail. They will tell us that there is much at stake in this dispute.
     Quite frankly, Canadians and businesses should not have to deal with this kind of uncertainty. They should not be the ones expected to bear the brunt of a labour dispute that shows no sign of being resolved through the collective bargaining process.

  (1215)  

    Just as important, our economy cannot afford to deal with a postal disruption brought by the lockout. Consider the costs that we are all having to pay. It has been nearly 14 years since Canada last had a work stoppage at Canada Post. A work stoppage could result in losses to our economy of between $9 million and $31 million per week. That means every day, more jobs at risk, more productivity lost, more challenges for business and more uncertainty for consumers.
    Therefore I ask the following question. Can we afford to have this happen, especially when Canada's recovery from the recession is really starting to gain speed? I think the answer is clearly no.
    As I said, every other avenue has been exhausted to help bring a full and lasting resolution to this dispute. Let me tell the House what has transpired over the last eight months.
     On October 4 of last year, the union, CUPW, served the employer notice to commence collective bargaining for the purpose of renewing their collective agreement, the first step in the process. The parties negotiated directly from October 2010 to January 2011. On January 21 of this year, the union filed a notice of dispute and requested services of conciliation from the federal government. I appointed a conciliation officer on January 31 to help the parties reach a resolution. Through February and March, the conciliation officer met with the parties and on April 1 the conciliation period was extended until May 3, 2011 to get us through the general election. During that time, the conciliation officer continued to meet with the parties. As per the Canada Labour Code, the parties were released from conciliation in early May, and on May 5 a mediator was appointed. Throughout the month of May, the mediator from the labour program's federal mediation and conciliation service met very frequently with the parties. Unfortunately, despite all these efforts, an agreement between the parties remained elusive.
    We need to take decisive action now. Canadians deserve no less.
    This act provides for the resumption and continuation of mail services at Canada Post. First, it brings an end to the growing uncertainty that has characterized so much of this dispute in the last several months. As well, consistent with the recent settlements in the federal public service, it imposes a four-year contract and provides new pay-rate increases. The pay outcome will be a 1.75% increase as of February 1, 2011; a 1.5% increase in February 2012; a further 2% increase in February 2013; and a further 2% increase again in February 2014.
    The act also provides for final-offer selection, which is a binding mechanism on all matters still in dispute and outstanding. Furthermore, in making this selection of a final offer, the arbitrator is to be guided by general principles that take into consideration the need for terms and conditions of employment that are consistent with those in comparable postal industries and that provide the necessary degree of flexibility to ensure both the short- and long-term economic viability and competitiveness of the Canada Post Corporation. It also takes into consideration the need to maintain the health and safety of the workers and to ensure the sustainability of their pension plan.
     More specifically, the terms and conditions have to take into account two things: first, that the solvency ratio of the pension plan must not decline as a direct result of a new collective agreement; and second, that the Canada Post Corporation must, without recourse to undue increases in postal rates, operate efficiently, improve productivity and meet acceptable standards of service. It is a decisive approach and it is aimed at resolving this labour dispute.

  (1220)  

    In the absence of solution that is crafted by the parties themselves, which we have spent many hours trying to achieve since the rolling strikes of June 1 and which we would have preferred to see, this proposed legislation takes the steps that are necessary to safeguard our recovering economy and to ensure that Canadian families and businesses do not wind up suffering as a result of a dispute they had no part in creating.
    Our government has put procedures in place to ensure the efficient delivery of services and benefits to Canadians, such as the use of courier delivery, early release of some benefit payments and in-person delivery through regional Service Canada centres. These are things we needed to do to ensure that Canadian citizens are still served by the Government of Canada during this postal stoppage.
    However, by introducing this proposed legislation, we are not taking sides in the matter. What we are doing, and what all parties in this House have a responsibility to do, is working on behalf of all Canadians because that is what they expect of us. We are showing leadership in this matter. That means taking decisive action to keep business in Canada moving.
    In conclusion, I would reiterate that we are taking extraordinary measures. We are doing so because no workable solutions have been found to resolve the dispute at Canada Post. Parliament has an obligation to respond in turn and we have to act in the best interests of the country. Canadians, quite frankly, deserve much better than delays or excuses or random rhetoric. They have a right to expect that Parliament will do the right thing to protect our economy and to ensure that the business of Canada keeps moving.
    I would ask all members of this House to join me in meeting our collective responsibility to Canadians and support this proposed legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, this morning the minister said in the House that the arbitration between Canada Post and CUPW in 1997 had cost the taxpayers many thousands, probably millions, of dollars. However, from the information we have, all of the arbitration costs were paid by the union and Canada Post, not by the taxpayers of this country. Therefore, I would like the minister to correct her statement.
    Second, the minister said she was not taking sides. How could she say that when in the last proposal of June 9, 2011, Canada Post offered its employees 1.9% for 2011, 1.9% for 2012-13, and 2% for 2014, or 3% below the inflation rate, and the Conservative government has come up with 1.75% for 2011 and 1.5% in 2012, or 0.4% less?
    What have the workers done to the government that it hates them so much? How can the government say it is not taking sides?

  (1225)  

    Mr. Speaker, on the comment I made with respect to payment, that was the information I was given. I will correct the record if I am incorrect on the costs associated with that. I will do that this afternoon. I will just get more information on it. I thank the member for bringing that to my attention.
    With respect to the wages, we believe these wages are fair. They are wages that have been negotiated within collective bargaining processes both in the federal service as well as in the private sector. They match what has been going on in industry. These are good increases that would happen over four years, as I indicated in my remarks.
    The other point to remember is that we have an obligation to the taxpayer with respect to the ongoing viability of Canada Post, and that is an important aspect of this too.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for her speech, but after listening to it and to some of my colleagues from the NDP, we now know more than ever before why the Liberal Party is needed. Both parties are obviously picking sides. The government has chosen to be on the side of management, and the NDP is on the side of labour. Meanwhile, the Liberal Party has to defend Canadians.
    I listened carefully to the minister's speech. She started by saying that all avenues had been exhausted, and yet all we heard about was why we needed Canada Post. I am glad I became a member of Parliament so I could sit in this House and learn about Canada Post. Meanwhile, she is the labour minister. I did not hear how she had intervened or become involved at all in trying to resolve this issue.
    What has the minister done for Canadians? I did not hear that in her speech. The only thing the minister was able to tell us is why we needed Canada Post. I think we are all aware of why we need Canada Post. Let us get the mail delivered, but it does not have to come about through a lockout.
    Mr. Speaker, the importance of talking about Canada Post was that it set out the economic reasons that we felt it was necessary to move as quickly as we have.
    With respect to what Labour Canada and I have done with the dispute, we have been engaged on the issues from very early on, since we returned to the House in May. I have met with the parties about six, seven or eight times each. I brought the parties together on June 1 and June 3. I have spent that last 72 hours working with the parties.
    I know their issues and I know exactly how far apart the parties are. That is the concern I have, and why I see no prospect of a resolution either. Indeed, last evening, competing press releases came out from both Canada Post and the union indicating that their collective bargaining was at an end and that they saw no hope of a resolution.
    We tried very hard to bring the parties together, to narrow and define what the dispute was. However, at the end of the day, there was no will at the table to do the deal, and the will of Canadians is, of course, for the service to resume.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened to the minister and prior to that I listened to the comments by a member of the official opposition. I heard him mention the word “rights”.
    I want to ask the minister about the right of Canadians to receive their mail. What about the right of the single owner, the taxpayer who owns Canada Post? What about their right to make sure that the service is provided?
    Could the minister talk not only about the rights of Canadians to receive their mail but also how this is affecting the Canadian economy, in particular small- and medium-size businesses who are the generators of our economy and how they are being affected by this strike?

  (1230)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question and all the work he has been doing with small business, especially in his area.
    As a member indicated this morning, we have heard from groups as diverse as a seed company to magazine delivery companies to people who produce nutritional bars to people who operate in very niche industries that rely upon the mail service. They are indicating that they are hurting with respect to the actual delivery of their product to their consumers. We know in this day and age that if companies are unable to deliver a product or provide a service, the consumer will go to the next company, especially in this competitive world we are in.
    The other aspect, too, is the actual doing of business, the collecting and making of payments and companies being good to their receivers and to those who owe them money, so the business can continue. They need those profits to look after their families and to give back to their communities.
    It is a very large issue that has been brought to our attention. After all, the government indicates all the time that it is on the side of small business. It is here to make sure that small businesses are able to operate efficiently and as well as they can.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the minister. Why is the government in such a hurry to impose back-to-work legislation? We know that Canada Post officials were the ones who imposed the lockout. The Conservatives talk about the best interests of Canadians, but are the workers not Canadians? Are those workers not part of Canada? Why do the Conservatives always want to protect employers' rights while abandoning the workers?
    Why are they trying to violate workers' rights and open the door to privatization through this government's insidious actions?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, with respect to the rights of workers, this government supports the Canada Labour Code and supports the charter section 2(d) that provides for freedom of association.
    The courts have been very clear. They indicate that a collective bargaining process needs to be in place, and I think members can agree with me that eight months for a collective bargaining process is indeed a very long period of time. That is an ample amount of process for the parties to reach a deal. They have been unable to do so and third party harm to the Canadian economy and to the public is just too great for it to continue. We had to act. We acted decisively and that is why we have introduced this legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Bourassa in the debate today.
    We had the chronology from the minister, but one thing she did not identify or point out was the political chronology that paralleled the negotiations through the last number of months, that being the fact that we were approaching an election during those contract talks. We had the election and now the minister is certainly buoyed by the fact that she is in a majority situation and the Conservatives will deal with it like they would have liked to deal with it a number of months ago. Their fingerprints are all over the final outcome of this labour dispute.
    We do not doubt in any way, and certainly the government members have said time and time again throughout the course of this debate, that it is important to get Canada Post workers back to work. They have said that businesses, charities and individual Canadians are being inconvenienced. The opposition parties do not dispute that.
    I had the opportunity to speak with a number of the striking workers in Sydney this past weekend. CUPW members had made it perfectly clear that they were willing to go back to work. They wanted to go back to work. They had a meeting with Mr. Chopra. They identified three particular points, one of those points being that they would go back to work under the past collective agreement. They would be willing to go back to work under those terms. However, the corporation knew full well that it was supported by the government and that the government, in tabling legislation, would reinforce its position, its seat at the bargaining table. He asked, “Why would we do that? We will get the legislation coming forward from the government and we will maintain this lockout”. Let us be perfectly clear, this is a lockout. It is not a strike by CUPW. This is a lockout by Canada Post.
    The workers wanted to get back. They were content to go back under the terms of the last agreement. They were willing to do that. We in the opposition understand that. Government members portray it like this is a nefarious plan to really jig up Canadians by not delivering cheques or not providing services. Anyone who has been in any strike before, whether it was on the union side or on the management side, knows that strikes are absolutely no fun.
    I remember as a student working with Nova Scotia Power Corporation and being a casual member of the pool. We were members of CBRT & GW. In the work term one summer there was an information picket and we were out on the picket lines for a couple of days. The first day was a little bit of fun. It was almost jovial the first couple of days, but I was a student and all I had to worry about was putting a few bucks together to go back to school the next year. But by day two, day three, people really started to feel the impact. They had to provide for their families and a tension is created because those people had to go back to work in that environment again. There is a tension created through the course of a labour dispute that does no benefit. There are strikes which have taken place and the scars still remain from past union-company management disturbances that take years and years to heal.
    CUPW workers offered to go back. They wanted to go back, but again, the company maintained the lockout. That is why we are in the situation we are in today.

  (1235)  

    I shared with my colleague from Halifax earlier that union-management negotiations and collective bargaining follow their own path.
    Today the nurses at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax signed off on an agreement that should be ratified. Their past contract lapsed in October 2009.
    The last CUPW agreement finished on January 31, 2011. That is not a long time. Both Canada Post and the union should be encouraged to sit down in good faith, agree on what they can, sign off on what they agree on, and then take outstanding issues to arbitration mediation. That would make more sense than what is being rammed down the throats of the workers right now under this legislation.
    The workers were having rotating strikes and getting attention to their issues, but Canada Post went forward with the lockout and that caught some people by surprise.
    The fact that the government has come forward with this type of legislation should not be a surprise to anybody, because we have seen this movie before. We saw the action taken by the government during the Air Canada strike. Air travellers had numerous opportunities to take other flights to get around this country. Even with this private corporation, the government felt obliged to bring forward back-to-work legislation. The government did that to a private corporation, so none of us should have been surprised when the government presented back to work legislation once Canada Post locked the workers out.
    I think the common view in this chamber is that Canada Post would not have proceeded had it not been given some indication by the government that it would present back-to-work legislation. We would be naive to think that Canada Post did not have that in its back pocket before it went ahead with the lockout.
    Coming forward with this legislation is equivalent to someone with a broken wrist walking into the doctor's office expecting it to be put in a cast, but instead the doctor cuts it off at the elbow. The government has done exactly that by presenting this legislation. Rather than encouraging the parties to get back to the table and bargain in good faith, the government has pushed that all aside. It has cut off the arm at the elbow.
    It is obvious that this legislation is loaded on the side of Canada Post. With the final offer arbitration, the government has handcuffed an arbitrator who will have to find a resolution that is fair to both sides. We just need to look at the salaries in this legislation. Canada Post had offered far greater than what is being offered in this legislation. The government felt compelled to send a message out to organized labour in this country that workers' rights are no longer going to be respected, it is back to work and this is what they are going to get. It is unfair. This legislation is not fair. Other avenues should have been pursued before the government came in with a hammer, before it cut the arm off at the elbow. Shame on the government for this particular piece of legislation.

  (1240)  

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to get some clarification on a couple of the member's points.
    The rotating strikes at Canada Post were clearly affecting mail delivery and in some ways affecting the health and safety of workers at various depots across the country. Is the member suggesting that the rotating strikes that could have gone on for a prolonged period are acceptable, but a lockout to protect workers' safety and the interests of Canada Post, which the taxpayers of this country own, is unacceptable? Are rotating strikes ad nauseam acceptable? Is that the member's position?
    Mr. Speaker, I welcome the member from Mississauga—Streetsville. We have spent some time together on the human resources, skills and social development committee. It may not have been brought up in his briefing, but he should know that rotating strikes are a perfectly legitimate tactic that can be undertaken during the bargaining process. It is written in the Canada Labour Code.
    There was talk about undue hardship regarding the rotating strikes that were taking place over 25 different sites. Certainly, the actions taken by Canada Post far exceeded simple inconvenience. When it talked about reducing the service to Monday, Wednesday, Friday delivery, that was a far greater inconvenience than the rotating strikes that occurred across the country. It was purposeful.
    Workers did not mean to bring any inconvenience. They wanted to bring attention to the issues. They wanted to bring attention to their plight. Certainly, it is absolutely acceptable. It has been an accepted tactic. It is recognized under the Canada Labour Code.
    The member should understand that before he asks a question like this.

  (1245)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I have noticed something. I am sure that all across the country, in every bar, kitchen and living room, there are people who do not have a pension plan, there are people who do not have job security, and there are people who have lousy salaries. They will all say that union workers have it good and that they are overprotected. They will make comments that do not take every aspect of the situation into account.
    We can expect to hear that type of argument being made over a beer, but not in Parliament.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, let me elaborate on some of the offhanded comments that have been made by members on the other side.
    The members figure that the postal workers in this country have some soft, cushy jobs and that the perks are elaborate. They should know that anything that the postal workers have is as a result of negotiations over years and years of bargaining. They may have given up wage increases in a particular contract in order to get a benefit in another area. That is just due process. Every organized labour group in this country finds itself in a different reality and a different situation.
    We just came through an election so we had five weeks of going door to door knocking on doors. It is not a whole lot of fun. Think about letter carriers carrying 40 pounds of letters while being chased by dogs or dealing with whatever the weather might be.
    I would like to share this story. I spoke with a guy in Sydney who was delivering mail and as he went up to a property, a dog came around the corner and jumped at him. He fell off the step, shattering his arm. It is a tough job. Postal workers deserve our respect and deserve the respect of the government.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, ironically, 14 years ago I took part in this same debate, but there were significant differences: after two weeks of strike action by Canada Post postal workers, the Liberal government of the day wanted to introduce back-to-work legislation. That is obviously when an arbitrator is appointed. However, unlike what we are seeing today, the arbitrator spoke to both the employer and the union. A binding agreement was reached. Having an arbitrator makes the decision binding. It ends the strike and people return to work.
    I would say, for the benefit of the thousands of people watching us on television, that a number of things are going to happen today. First, since the government has a majority, it will not matter who tears their shirt over this; the bill will pass. Then, the official opposition will tear its shirt and engage in what we call a filibuster: it will take all the time in the world in order to look good to the workers and the union. The opposition will have done its job, but the bill will pass nonetheless.
    I think we must take this opportunity to help people understand what is really happening and how dangerous this bill is. This tactic is often used by this government. It is important to remember that we are not just talking about Canada Post. The government showed its true colours in the case of Air Canada; in less than 24 hours, the government was ready to introduce a bill. It was a warning. That means that, as of now, the government no longer believes in bargaining power. The government no longer believes that employees and unions can sit down and talk with management. The government is on management's side and that is that. There are no more collective rights.
    What is troubling is the way this bill is being introduced. I want to talk today about respect because, as the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle said earlier, the government is also starting to label: unions are bad and management is good. The bad guys are the greedy employees who have a very big collective agreement and who, when it comes right down to it, are well paid. Does the government need that? Now, it is going to try to make the public believe that this bill is important because some people are losing a lot of money and others are not receiving their cheques, etc.
    Can we put things into perspective? The Liberal Party believes that we must take a pragmatic approach. Yes, it is true that Canada Post is an essential service and is linked to an economic reality. However, it is also important to understand that, unlike 14 years ago when the strike lasted two weeks, this time the workers were not on a general strike but, rather, a rotating strike. Service was still being provided. It was the employer itself that decided to reduce the number of days that the mail would be delivered: three days a week rather than five. In addition, according to the union—and this information must still be verified—a little bit of mail was being set aside. This made it more difficult to deliver all the mail. Then, after 12 days, Canada Post declared a lockout.
    The problem is that Canada Post is owned by the government . It is a crown corporation. I refuse to believe that the Minister of Labour was not speaking directly to Canada Post's management. In summary, this whole situation does not really hold water.
    The Canadian public must understand that, yes, the mail is an essential service; yes, the mail must be delivered; yes, there are economic considerations, particularly in rural regions. We understand all that.
     To demonstrate the good faith of the Canada Post workers, I note that some people were to receive their cheques last week. They received them because the postal workers did deliver social assistance cheques, for example, and cheques for seniors. That shows that there is some element of good faith in this situation.
     What exasperates me in this kind of debate is that everything is black or white. Unfortunately, the NDP is dogmatic, with its all or nothing approach. We heard the member for Acadie—Bathurst who was fit to be tied. We are also fit to be tied, but he should watch his blood pressure.
     Even on the Conservative side, just now, there was a member who did not understand that in the Canada Labour Code there is a right to stage rotating strikes. Things are not going well.
     That is why this debate is important: people have to understand how things work.

  (1250)  

     What I find even more disrespectful, as a Quebecker and a French Canadian, is that with the NDP's symbolic obstruction and the way the Conservative Party is proceeding, it has been decided that even though June 24 is the national holiday of Quebec, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, we are going to sit anyway. The national holiday is being treated as something of no importance. I agree with the Bloc, as I mentioned this morning, that we could have adjourned. If we believe Quebec is a nation, we should respect the Quebec nation. I do not see why we would sit on that day. In any event, let us not panic; on the 24th, there is no mail delivery in Quebec, and so we would not have received any, in any event. At some point, we have to have some principles.
     That being said, it is unfortunate to see a bill offering employees a lower wage than what the employer had offered in the first place. We have an arbitrator who is essentially being held by the throat and told what he has to impose, how he is going to achieve it, that it is either the employer’s package or the union’s package. The way things are working, I would find it very surprising if the union’s package were accepted. We are on a very slippery slope in Canada. At some point, the issue is one of rights and values.
     Certainly if there had been a general strike for two weeks in the same circumstances as the strike 14 years ago, the situation would be different. After two weeks of a general strike, the bill could have given the arbitrator some latitude and the binding authority to look at both sides of the coin and pick some things from each side. When there is an arbitrator, there are losers on both sides, the employer’s and the union’s. I have seen enough examples in my lifetime to know that. But in this case we get the clear impression that the dice are loaded.
     I think it is really very sad that we find ourselves in this situation. The government is going to try to tell us how awful it was during the Liberals’ time, and that this government believes in the economy. We believe in the economy too. In 1993, when we took power, the Conservatives had left us with a $42 billion deficit, and we balanced the books, as my former leader Jean Chrétien said. And now we have another deficit.
    It is odd; Canada Post is earning a profit. They cannot pick and choose. The hot topic concerning the economy this fall will be the future of pension plans for those who have them. Look at what is going on with the City of Montreal and others. All collective agreements are being reopened. There is something going on with pension plans. Furthermore, young people are entering the labour market. They will notice they do not have the same working conditions and will perhaps not have any pension plan.
    Bullying tactics, like the action being forced down our throats, will not solve anything. They are simply sweeping things under the rug. It looks good, people return to work, but the problems will still be there. The government could have been more creative and respectful of collective rights, while still respecting individual rights, by creating appropriate legislation. I hope that the minister will want to make some amendments.
    As a member from Quebec, I will not be here on June 24. If we are still sitting on June 25, I will be happy to return, but out of respect for Quebeckers and French Canadians, I will not be here on June 24. If there is something on the 25, we will be here. We believe that we must have just as much respect for French Canadians and Quebeckers as for workers.
    The Liberal Party has a pragmatic approach. I congratulate and thank my colleague from Cape Breton—Canso, our labour critic. He has shown how different our approach was compared to the NDP's and the Conservatives'. At some point, any government, regardless of the political party, will introduce back-to-work legislation. There must be a balance to help the general public, but we must not ignore the fact that workers also have rights and that, above all, they deserve decent working conditions.

  (1255)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will first address the orthopedics analogy that was used earlier by the member for Cape Breton—Canso.
    I am a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and it is not as he depicted it. This is more like a patient being brought into the emergency department, fast-tracked to the trauma room and treated immediately. That is what we need to do. We are taking action to act for Canadians and Canadian businesses and to keep the economy moving in this fragile time.
    I have a question for the member. There have been numerous instances in history, as the member commented on, when the member's party introduced and supported back to work legislation, including in 1997 when wage rates were imposed. Why is the member so decidedly against this particular back to work legislation? Does he not feel that Canadians deserve to continue to receive mail in a timely fashion?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I do not know if it makes sense to use waiting rooms as an example, but I know that this will disappoint some people even more. Given the number of people in waiting rooms, it is pretty sad to think that there is a fast track. That would explain why the government is in favour of a two-tier or two-speed system.
    I said earlier that I agree with back-to-work-legislation, but that each situation is different. A balance needs to be struck between collective rights and individual rights. Bargaining is normal, as is tension between employers and employees, or between unions and employers. I believe that the rotating strikes were a good choice. It was a pressure tactic, not a national strike. I have been involved with unions enough to know that.
    The NDP member spoke about how democratic unions are. As an aside, Local 144 is one example that contradicts that idea of democracy, and there may be others. It is true that talks can sometimes be difficult, but they work. Disputes are normal. I find it sad that we are imposing this sort of thing, especially given that the current context is entirely different from 1997.

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Bourassa for his speech.
    He says that this situation is different from the 1997 strike. From experience I know that negotiations are never identical. The Liberals are using the excuse that the strike lasted 12 days and that they had every reason to legislate employees back to work. I would like the member to explain what was different in 1997. In their legislation, the Liberals also stipulated lower wages than what had been offered by Canada Post. It is exactly the same problem that we are facing today with the Conservative government. That was in 1997, under Jean Chrétien's Liberal government, and I believe that the hon. member was in the House at the time. They voted for a bill that included lower wages than Canada Post was offering. I have a problem with that.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Acadie—Bathurst. His blood pressure is fine today. I am pleased to see that he did not explode. I do like him personally.
    You have to be pragmatic when it comes to bringing in back-to-work legislation. All governments, even provincial NDP governments, have introduced back-to-work legislation. A dogmatic approach should not prevail. It looks good, it will be make a good news clip, we can rip our shirts to shreds over it—the shirtmakers are the only ones doing all right in Parliament during the recession. We show our anger and that works, but we must find a balance between respect for the rights of workers and those of the general public, because it is an essential service.
    Naturally, circumstances lead us to make decisions. In 1997, there was no lockout or rotating strike. After 12 days, the employer had not taken the action that it has at this point. Thus, decisions were made and it was right to do so at that time. I am saddened by the NDP's dogmatic approach. It is clear that only the Liberal Party has a pragmatic approach.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. When I was on my feet earlier, I may have misspoken some dates. I was talking about Davis Day, also known as Miners' Memorial Day, and now, since November 25, 2008, officially known as William Davis Miners' Memorial Day. At 11 a.m. on June 11, 1925, William Davis was shot dead in a protest against the mining company. It is a day that has been recognized. I have had the opportunity to attend numerous services in both Glace Bay and Springhill. It is a very important day to me and to many Nova Scotians. I would not want anyone to think that I did not appreciate how important it is to ensure the record is clear.

  (1305)  

    This bill would bring an end to the work stoppage involving Canada Post and about 50,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Urban Operations Unit, or CUPW.
    As my fellow members know, the government has used every tool available under the Canada Labour Code to bring the two sides together, without success. This legislation would end the strike. It would impose a four-year contract and new rates of pay. The legislation also provides for final offer selection, a binding mechanism on all outstanding matters.
    Furthermore, in making the selection of a final offer, the arbitrator would be guided by the need for terms and conditions of employment that are consistent with those in comparable postal industries and that would provide the necessary degree of flexibility to ensure the short and long-term economic viability and competitiveness of the Canada Post Corporation, maintain the health and safety of its workers and ensure the sustainability of its pension plan.
    The terms and conditions of employment must also take into account that the solvency ratio of the pension plan must not decline as a result of the new collective agreement, and that the Canada Post Corporation must, without recourse to undue increases in postal rates, operate efficiently, improve productivity and meet acceptable standards of service.
    The best solution in any dispute is always the one that the parties reach themselves. It is always better when employers and unions can negotiate contracts at the bargaining table without the need for Parliament to intervene. We have come a long way since the 1920s.
    No member of this House is pleased about having to vote on this kind of legislation. However, it is absolutely vital that we do intervene. Parliament must act. In a moment I will talk about what is at stake for our national economy, but first I will take a little time to summarize the events that brought us to this point. I will start with some background on this dispute.
    Canada Post is a crown corporation that employs more than 70,000 full and part-time employees. Every business day, Canada Post delivers approximately 40 million items. That adds up to 11 billion pieces of mail every year. Canada Post has to be reliable and efficient and offer services at a reasonable price if it is going to keep its customers. It also has to generate revenue and control expenses, like any other business.
    For its part, the union, naturally, wants the best possible deal for its members in terms of salary and working conditions. The dispute between Canada Post and CUPW relates to the renewal of collective agreements covering some 50,000 postal workers, plant and retail employees, letter carriers and mail service couriers. The latest collective agreement expired on January 31, 2011.
    Negotiations for a new agreement began in October 2010. Major and complex issues had to be addressed at the negotiating table, including the introduction of a short-term disability plan and Canada Post's interest in moving toward a two-tiered wage approach.
    On January 21 of this year, the parties informed the Government of Canada that they had reached an impasse. The Minister of Labour immediately appointed a conciliator to help the parties resolve their differences. When no progress was made after the initial 60-day conciliation period, it was then extended by another 32 days.
    A solution was still not forthcoming and on May 5 a mediator was appointed. Throughout the month of May, an officer from the labour program's federal mediation and conciliation service met frequently with the parties.

  (1310)  

    Despite this lengthy process and the breadth of federal government support, on May 30, CUPW gave 72-hours notice of its intent to strike. On June 3, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers started rotating strike action and, on June 15, 2011, the employer declared a lockout.
    I heard the member opposite talk about what our minister and our government have done with respect to this matter. This gives a very good idea of the lengths that have been gone to over many months to attempt to resolve this dispute in a different way.
    The postal workers have been without a contract since the end of January of this year despite many rounds of bargaining. The two sides have been unable to close the gap between their positions. It is unfortunate when employers and unions cannot find a way to reach settlements that are in their mutual interest.
    However, the reality is that sometimes collective bargaining fails. When that happens, the parties have several options. They can jointly request that the Minister of Labour appoint an arbitrator. Employers can also bring pressure to bear on the union by locking out workers and trying to continue business without them. Workers can pressure the employer by withdrawing their labour. All of those options are of course legal as long as certain conditions are met.
    Under normal circumstances, the Government of Canada does not intervene in labour disputes of this kind. We respect the right to free collective bargaining, which includes the right to strike or lockout. Parliament will stand aside as long as the people most affected are the parties to the dispute themselves and there is no threat of serious harm to the national economy or public health and safety.
    When employers and unions choose a course of action that has serious consequences on the country as a whole, this situation changes. Parliament can no longer stand aside. Parliament may then decide that the right of the parties to exert pressure through a strike or lockout has to be weighed against the rights of all Canadians in all provinces and territories.
    The losses caused by a shutdown of postal services are not borne only by Canada Post and its employees. They are borne by hard-working Canadians and their families across the country. Jobs are at stake and businesses are on the line. Whole sectors of the economy will be affected and the ripple effect will reach everywhere.
    Bringing in back to work legislation is always a difficult decision, but in this particular case we feel we have no alternative. We must do what is necessary to keep Canada and the Canadian economy running. That is the strong mandate we were given in the last election.
    We need to consider what a strike means in the mail order sector. By definition, these businesses depend on reliable postal services. They could hardly exist without them. Many of these enterprises are mom and pop operations run out of someone's home. Not all of them can afford to switch to courier services. If the strike continues, many small businesses will go under. As all parties in the House have been expressing support for small businesses, they should support this government initiative.
    This is not speculation. Interestingly, my notes have me saying that I am sure everyone here remembers the mail strike of November 1997. However, mindful of many young parliamentarians, I would say that everyone over a certain age perhaps remembers that mail strike of 1997. It lasted for 15 days and many small and medium-sized businesses suffered or went under.
    Reliance on postal services has diminished somewhat since 1997 due to the advent of the Internet and the increased use of faxes, email, electronic billing and electronic funds transfers, but small and medium-sized businesses still rely heavily on postal services for billing and order fulfillment. A work stoppage at Canada Post is hitting small and medium-sized businesses much harder than large corporations.

  (1315)  

    Again, if the opposition members are determined, as they have stated, to champion small business, I encourage them to proudly support the legislation.
     Is it fair that hard-working Canadian entrepreneurs are held hostage by a postal dispute? Small- and medium-size businesses are engines of growth, and every day they make a significant contribution to Canada's recovery from the recession, a recovery, by the way, that is still fragile.
    The 15-day strike in 1997 did a lot of damage. The strike we are now experiencing could cost our economy a lot more. I will give some figures.
    Members of the House may not be aware that directly or indirectly Canada Post contributes $6.6 billion to this country's GDP. We know that past mail strikes have had a crippling effect on the economy in a very short period of time. Can our economy afford such a heavy blow when some sectors are still struggling?
    The Canadian direct marketing industry, for example, suffered serious financial losses during the economic downturn. How would it cope with a prolonged postal strike?
    What about the Canadian magazine industry? Those businesses have no practical cost-effective way to get their product to customers in the absence of postal service. For them, this postal strike could be nothing short of a disaster.
    I could go on and on. If we do not do something soon about the postal strike, Canadian businesses will suffer. They already are. Canadian consumers will suffer. They already are. People who just want to communicate with family and friends will suffer.
    I have a couple of examples of emails that I have received from constituents in my riding. One of them, which is addressed to me, says:
    Canada Post does definitely affect the economy! A good portion of Canadians many of them Seniors, and the disabled, rely on Canada Post to deliver cheques, bills, bank statements, etc. Without the mail, they are stuck.
    Another email came from a resident of Vancouver, B.C. I assume she thought that this might fall on deaf ears with her Liberal member of Parliament. She wrote in the subject line “I really need your help”, and said in the email:
    I live in Vancouver, BC, I have a big problem, my young sister is going to marry on 01 of July this year in Mexico, in 15 days. My husband and I appl[ied] for visas to go to Mexico. Citizenship and Immigration Canada [says that] you need to send an Xpresspost from Canada Post to receive your documents faster. After 20 days of waiting they are all ready but I have a stranded envelope in a Canada post office in London, Ontario...with the passports and visas [for] my daughter, my husband and [me]. For the decision of putting down the labours in Canada post, I'm going to lose the opportunity to see my family and go to my sister's wedding. I have very important documents that are going to Mexico my country. Please help me to receive this envelope. I hope you understand....
    She also said:
    I really care about the problem between Canada Post and the CUPW but they really need to think of mine too.
    We cannot do everything, even in this modern world, by email. For the sake of all Canadians, we must act now and pass the legislation. We must not wait until jobs are lost, until businesses start closing, and until the damage is too severe to be repaired. We must act now.
    I hope all members of the House will join me in supporting the legislation.
    Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest as my hon. colleague went through the chronology. She very accurately job laid out the events over the last number of years. She was accurate about the fact that there are a great many members on this side of the House who probably do not remember the strike of 1997, which is a good thing. It actually livens this place and brings a breath of fresh air to this Parliament and the country.
    After very accurately laying out the chronology, she switched to the second part of her presentation and continually referred to “the strike”. I would remind my hon. colleague that this is no longer a strike; indeed it is a lockout. The employer, not the union or its workers, but the employer has decided to terminate all of the business of Canada Post across the country because it has locked out all of its employees.
     Partway through the rotation strikes, the postal union said to the employer that this was going to take a long time. The union leaders said that because, as the member has outlined, it has a history of taking a long time to get to an agreement. We saw that at Vale Inco in Sudbury where it took over 14 months.
    I would say to my hon. colleague that if the government had taken the advice of the union leadership who said it would return to work and just go through the bargaining process and leave the agreement in place, the person the member talked about would be going to the wedding in Mexico and small businesses would be getting their transactions done. Canada Post should have been ordered by the minister to adhere to what the union wants, let the workers go back to work and get back to the bargaining table.