Mr. Speaker, I am here today to talk about our intention to take action to end the labour dispute between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, also known as CUPW.
Since the start of negotiations between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, we have been doing our best to help the parties find a solution.
We believe in the collective bargaining process. Negotiated agreements are always the best solution. We would not come down this road, however, we have exhausted every option.
Our government ran on a commitment to restore fair and balanced labour laws and relations, but we also have a responsibility to Canadian businesses that drive our economy.
As our country's primary postal operator, Canadians and Canadian businesses rely on Canada Post. Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers provide postal services that are of vital importance to Canadians and to Canadian businesses.
Older Canadians, persons with disabilities, low-income earners, as well as Canadians living in rural, remote and northern areas who rely on physical mail delivery, including indigenous peoples, are disproportionately affected during postal strikes. The costs of postal alternatives, such as courier companies, can be prohibitively high, especially in rural and remote areas. In some remote northern areas, there are no alternatives.
Canadians living in the north are more reliant on parcel delivery services than other Canadians, receiving approximately double the per capita parcel average in Canada in 2017. While e-commerce and e-communications are the norm for many, almost nine million Canadians, about 30% of the population, live in rural and remote areas where access to the Internet can be extremely limited.
We know that some of the most vulnerable in our country count on Canada Post for their cheques. These Canadians count on this money to scrape by, and they are put in very precarious positions by any delay, like Jack, who told me that as a person on Ontario disability any delay could mean a loss of housing for him. Many others rely on prompt payment to survive month to month.
The strikes have been going on for five weeks now. Canada Post said that it could expect delays of parcel and mail delivery into 2019 as a result of these rotating strikes. Canada Post has also told its commercial customers that at this point it cannot honour its delivery standards for any product because of the prolonged strikes. The strikes have created backlogs of mail and parcels just days before an expected rush of millions of additional parcels from Black Friday and Cyber Monday online sales.
Businesses are already feeling the negative impacts of the strikes. Significant delivery delays are resulting in order cancellations for the many Canadian businesses that are dependent on sales from Black Friday through to the end of the holiday to survive. There are reports of declines in e-commerce demand. The impacts of the rotating strikes are particularly pronounced for small and medium-sized businesses, because the fourth quarter is their busiest.
The reality is that if the strikes are left to continue through the holiday season, they would create significant hardship. That means job losses and fewer hours for Canadians who count on the extra money to get by.
At the same time, Canada Post has asked its international partners to halt mail and parcel shipments to Canada, as it continues to deal with a major delivery backlog that has grown as a result of the rotating strikes. This affects not only Canadians and Canadian businesses, but also Canada's reputation as a reliable market for commerce and trade.
Small and medium-sized businesses that rely more heavily on Canada Post for billing and order fulfillment are struggling. Some of these smaller companies, operating on eBay, Etsy and Amazon platforms as e-sellers, are disproportionately affected. According to a survey conducted on behalf of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, or the CFIB, two-thirds of small and medium-sized enterprises surveyed said that they were being affected by the rotating strikes at Canada Post. According to the CFIB, costs are around $3,000 per business in terms of lost sales, cancelled orders, delays, or costs due to the use of more expensive delivery alternatives.
E-commerce is a significant source of economic growth in Canada. Compared to the 2011 postal strike, Canadians in 2018 have become greater consumers of e-commerce generated parcels. According to Statistics Canada, Internet-based sales from all retailers rose 31% to $15.7 billion in 2017. Up to 40% of these sales take place in the fourth quarter, which is currently being affected by the strike. In the event of an even longer postal strike, many companies, particularly smaller e-commerce companies, are saying they may not make it through the season.
Let me provide some of the real-life stories.
There is a company called Monkeys & More based in Halifax, which is run by Dale Kearney and his wife Sherrie. They specialize in selling handmade scarves, mittens and aprons online. They get orders from Canada and the U.S. during the holidays. However, this year, customers are reluctant to place orders for fear they will not receive their purchase by Christmas. Mr. Kearney said, “Normal years we're sold out by now. The rotating strike, it's killing us.”
How about Red Ribbon boutique? This is a shop on Edmonton's High Street. It is run by owner Rychelle Tuck, who relies heavily on Canada Post, as most of her sales are done online. Mrs. Tuck said that she knew packages would be late arriving to customers, but exactly how late was a mystery to her.
Small businesses like theirs are slowly becoming casualties of the ongoing Canada Post dispute.
In an article, Craig Patterson, director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta's School of Retailing, said that the margins of small businesses were “a lot thinner than the major retailers” and “They're relying on Canada Post a lot more, whereas bigger retailers can go to an alternative supplier”. He said that instead of taking the chance, many customers “will choose to go to...malls, as opposed to seeking out local businesses”, meaning money will often leave the local economy.
The strike is having an impact on the workers as well. Canada Post workers and other businesses affected are counting on the extra wages from this time of year as part of their revenue. In some cases, they need these wages to get by. Canadians are calling on us to take action.
The Retail Council of Canada sent an open letter to the , which said that the situation was heading into crisis territory, that the pace of parcel traffic was about to double and that the postal system was already overstretched.
We are not debating this legislation today because we still believe that Canada Post and CUPW can get a deal. I believe the two parties can still reach a negotiated agreement.
We still believe a deal can be reached, but we must be ready to step in if the parties cannot come to an agreement.
The parties are still negotiating, and nothing in this motion prevents that from continuing. We continue to provide them with all of the tools necessary to reach an agreement. Their negotiations started this time last year. The existing collective bargaining agreement expired on January 31, 2018, and these agreements covered approximately 8,000 rural and suburban letter carriers and 42,000 urban operations employees.
On June 29, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service received two notices of dispute from the union. The following week, on July 6, two conciliation officers were appointed to assist in the negotiations. On September 5, I appointed two mediators. CUPW began strike action on October 22. On October 24, I appointed the special mediator, Morton Mitchnick, and I have reappointed him twice since then to facilitate an agreement. Voluntary arbitration was offered and declined.
My colleague, the Hon. Carla Qualtrough, the , and I have reached out to the parties directly on many occasions to urge them to continue to work toward reaching agreements. We have worked hard to restore fairness and balance to the labour landscape in Canada, and these efforts demonstrate that.
Through Bill , for example, our government's first piece of legislation—
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to this motion.
We have certainly heard from both sides of the floor different points of view. However, my NDP colleague put it quite profoundly. She took my opening line about talking through both sides of their mouths.
In the minister's presentation today, we heard the reasons for tabling this motion on back-to-work legislation for Canada Post. She said that small businesses across Canada are facing a crisis. She even talked about specific business owners who have reached out to her office saying that they are in jeopardy of closing their doors if they cannot have a dependable postal service. She talked about how important it is to address the issues business owners across Canada are facing, and that is the reason she is taking this step today.
However, at the same time, she said, in response to my question, that they are going to do everything they can to ensure that they come to some sort of agreement. She did not finish that sentence. The end of that sentence is, “small business be damned, regardless of the consequences this is going to have.”
Small-business owners have raised the alarm bells on some very real concerns, as we head into their busiest time of the season, that if they do not make the revenue during the holiday season, it impacts the rest of their year. I certainly have had those conversations with small-business owners in my riding. They make sometimes 60% to 70% of their revenue during the holiday season, and a lot of that business is through online sales.
I will name a couple of examples. Frontier Western Shop, in Claresholm, was a very small western wear business that grew over the last decade into an international success story. It sells its wares across the world. Who would have known that people in Europe want belt buckles and cowboy boots? They do. It has grown into an extremely successful business, built on an online platform. The same can be said for Flys Etc., in High River. It was a very small business that started as a one-man shop, but because of his success in selling reels and rods and his handmade flies online around the world, this small High River business has grown into a great success story.
We can talk about the big businesses that are going to be impacted, but the messages we are getting from our constituents is that the very small rural businesses are the ones being impacted as well. The minister said in her presentation that she has heard stories from business owners who have asked her to take definitive action to get Canada Post back to work. Today the minister said, yes, she has heard their stories, but she is just going to put a motion on the table to talk about it. She is not taking definitive action. She just wants to talk about this some more, while each minute and each hour this goes on, small businesses across the country are suffering.
This is a bigger trend we have seen from the Liberal government. It is its inability to take action when it is needed. There is that desire to stand on both sides of the fence, and we all know what happens when people sit on the fence for two long. They get slivers, very painful slivers. Unfortunately, our small businesses are the ones who are feeling the consequences and the pain of that.
We have seen this story many times during the Liberals' three-year mandate. Let us go back a bit to the grain backlog. We had grain farmers across the country, specifically in western Canada, talking about the pain they were going through not being able to get their commodities to market. We encouraged the Liberal government for months to take action on this issue. It had definitive tools in its tool box to force the railways to start hauling more grain. This started last fall. We went through the winter. Every single time we brought this up to the Liberal government, the response was, “We really trust the railways to resolve this on their own. We are not going to get involved. They are meeting their targets. This is all going to resolve itself.” Meeting their targets meant sometimes meeting six per cent of the contracts they had signed. Six per cent is certainly not what I would say is meeting their obligations. We then went through the spring seeding period, and still no resolution. Finally, the summer came, and the Liberals tabled Bill , the transportation bill, which we asked them to do eight or nine months earlier. If they had taken the legislation the previous Conservative government had done and put it forward, we would have resolved that grain backlog when it still could have made a difference to Canadian grain farmers. However, the Liberals wait until we are in crisis mode.
That is exactly what the minister said today in her presentation, that our small businesses are facing a crisis. What are the Liberals going to do about it? They are going to do almost something, but not quite anything. We are going to come here and debate it a little more and once again try to walk the fence. Our grain farmers in western Canada sure felt the ramifications of that. Even with Bill , it does not force the railways to haul grain. There is no accountability in that bill. Again, it is window dressing so that Liberals can say eventually, when it really does not matter any more and it is way too late, they did something. Really, Bill C-49 does not address anything and hopefully this fall and winter as we go through the harvest once again, we will see what kind of an impact Bill C-49 will have on our grain producers.
Let us also go back to the Phoenix pay system, something that we have all dealt with. The Liberals like to pass the buck onto somebody else. They were told when they won the election that the Phoenix pay system was not ready to go. They needed to take some definitive action to address this situation, which would have impacts on federal employees across the country. Again, they did not take definitive action. They did not address the situation. They just pressed the green button and hoped for the best because hope and hard work solves all one's problems apparently. We have seen the consequences of that inaction. Federal employees across the country can certainly share that information and the impact this has had on their livelihood. Some of them have been overpaid and then been asked to reimburse the federal government. Some of them have not been paid at all. Again, we hear from the minister that they are taking definitive action and are fully aware of the crisis situation. Then what are the Liberals doing? Nothing or very little.
It is unfortunate, because our small business owners are now put in the crosshairs because of the labour disruption with Canada Post. As I said in my question to the minister, in 2011 when the Conservative government took similar steps to address the Canada Post work stoppage, we were criticized severely by the Liberal third party opposition members that we were being overly aggressive, that it was not something we should be doing. How interesting that the tables have turned just a few years later and now the Liberals are in the situation. They think this is something they should do, but they want to go halfway all the time. There is no ability to make a tough decision and follow through on that decision, to remedy the situation for businesses across Canada.
I want to bring some examples in the trend we have seen with the Liberal government over the last few years. One would be the outcry from Canadians, especially in Ontario and Quebec, with the illegal migrants coming across the border. This is a crisis. There is no question about it. We have seen the numbers increase over the last few years. Liberals like to take little snapshots to say in this week of July the numbers went down between two and four o'clock in the afternoon, so they have a handle on the illegal migrant crisis. If we look at the numbers in a broader vision, the numbers have continued to go up.
That is certainly not the impression that Canadians have of the situation, and this would resonate with my colleagues in southern Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. The situation is not in control. Building permanent housing with tents and trailers along the border is not what I would consider a long-term solution to an illegal migrant crisis. Again, the Liberals do not want to do anything about it except talk about it. They say they are putting things in place. The , the minister with no portfolio really, has said ad nauseam that they have the numbers under control. However, in every statistic, in every media report and certainly when we talk to people on the ground, that is certainly not the case. Again, we see this inability to take definitive action when definitive action is needed.
I compare that to the situation we are in now. Canadian businesses across the country are saying that the crisis they are facing now is real. As we get into this holiday season, we have seen the stats, and I think the minister even mentioned them today, that the rotating postal strikes are costing small businesses an average of $3,000 a month. That includes not only lost sales, but also receivables that are not getting to those businesses.
Let us talk about what that impact would be at $3,000 a month. That is two employees who would now have to be laid off. However, if they had that $3,000 over the holiday season, then a couple of employees could be hired to help through this very busy season. The Liberal minister talked about how much of a crisis this is for businesses. There is a ripple-down effect to this inaction.
I have a 20-year-old daughter who is looking for some part-time work over the holiday season. She has gone to some of the retailers for work during the holidays, but a lot of them have said that they are not hiring until they know what is going on with the labour dispute. They do not know if they can afford to hire those additional part-time workers over the holiday season.
A lot of Canadians rely on that extra income. It helps them pay for their own Christmas presents and holiday celebrations. University and college students over the Christmas break absolutely rely on that additional revenue to help them pay for their tuition and school books, which have become more expensive. On a side note, the Liberals felt that tax credits for tuition and school books were not really necessary and that university and college students were too wealthy to qualify for these tax credits. Unfortunately, because of that, they are now having to rely on those part-time jobs over the Christmas holidays; part-time jobs that are not going to be there, because these small businesses are losing up to $3,000 a month due to the disruption in Canada Post services.
My Liberal colleagues were demeaning this by saying that the contrast between the Conservative action and the Liberal action when it comes to these types of situations is that the Conservatives acted quickly but the Liberals took their time with it. I am very proud of the fact that we acted quickly and took definitive action when it was needed, which ensured that our small businesses and companies across the country knew that the government was standing behind them and ensuring they had the tools they needed to be successful. What is frustrating them right now is a government that is taking no action, allowing them to suffer, and would rather stand on the sidelines and let these two groups come to an agreement, which they have obviously been unable to do.
I appreciate the union's position on some of the things it is trying to address, but it is clear that they have not been able to come to an agreement. We understand the situation before us with a very busy holiday season. Therefore, I think it behooves the government to take some definitive action to ensure that our small businesses are not going to be suffering through their busiest season. This is when they make their gravy. This is when businesses make the revenue that keeps them up and running for the rest of the year. There is no question about that. As I said, a lot them make 70% of their revenue during this time of year.
I have certainly heard over the last couple of weeks the frustration from small business owners who do not understand why the Liberal government does not have their backs. We can go back to last fall when the Liberals brought forward these small business tax changes. These were going to be imposed on small businesses across the country that would have been devastated by these tax changes. If not for this tax revolt from our farmers, ranchers and small business owners, there is no question the Liberal government would have gone ahead with these changes. We heard from our farmers that it would be the end of the family farm, because they would not be able to pass their farms on to the next generation. This was shocking, but it was fact. The Liberals do not dispute that fact, because it was true. Even though we were able to get the Liberals to walk back on some of these changes, the changes to passive income are still there.
There are still some challenges for our small business owners. The Liberals hiked CPP and EI taxes on paycheques, which again impacts business owners as well as their employees. The government is going to impose a federal carbon tax and add a tax on the GST and the HST. For whatever reason, the Liberals do not understand that all of these things are devastating our Canadian small businesses.
These small businesses are the ones that create jobs, as much as the Liberal government would like to take credit for that. Governments do not create jobs. Let us get that on the table. Governments can put policies in place that encourage businesses to grow and create jobs, but governments do not create jobs, unless they hire a lot of public sector workers, which is a subject we can save for another day. That is one way the Liberals are creating jobs.
More than 90% of jobs in Canada are created by our small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEs. They are successful because they are entrepreneurs, willing to take the risks. We have to ensure that they have the tools to take those risks, to be comfortable to hire new employees, to expand their business and invest in new equipment, new technology and new innovation. One of those tools is a reliable postal service.
As we go through the past three years of the Liberal government's mandate, it seems that one by one, it is removing every single tool that our small and medium-sized enterprises need to be successful, whether it is by increasing taxes or creating additional carbon taxes or additional regulatory and red tape regimes.
I would like to touch briefly on yesterday's fall economic statement. From my perspective, there was nothing in that presentation that addressed the crisis that we are facing in Alberta. We have a massive differential in oil prices. The Liberals think we are talking about big international businesses, and we are, because they are being impacted also, but all the junior and middle companies that rely on those big businesses are being impacted and rural communities in Alberta are being devastated. They feel everywhere they turn they are being punched.
Three of the biggest companies in the world, Trans Canada, Enbridge and Kinder Morgan, were ready to put private dollars into three major energy infrastructure projects at the start of the Liberals' mandate, and all three have now gone. Unless they hit the ground in Alberta, people cannot understand the impact that has had. Investment has gone. Companies are leaving and jobs are going with them. The impact has been devastating.
My Alberta colleagues and I talk about this a great deal. We cannot understand why the Liberals refuse to see it, why they refuse to understand the impact this is having on Alberta's economy and its small rural communities.
Christmas is coming, and more than 100,000 energy workers are out of work. Some of them have been out of work for more than two years now. They were looking at Christmas as an opportunity to have a small celebration with friends and family but they will not be able to have that either, because small businesses in these rural communities are suffering because of their inability to access their customers and get their receivables.
This is just another hit by a Liberal government that does not seem to understand the importance of small business and how much our rural communities depend on these small businesses and our postal service. These communities are sometimes very secluded.
I understand that email and the Internet are an easy way to do these things, but that cannot be done if there is no postal service, and that is very frustrating. We want to see the Liberals take definitive action on this. We do not want them to just talk about it, but to do something about it.
I have talked a lot about our rural communities and our small towns, but this also has international implications. We have heard now from the United Kingdom, the United States and several of our large partners and allies, many of which are countries our new Canadians and immigrants have come from, that Canada Post has now told them not to send parcels or mail as we are not going to be able to handle it.
That is pretty tough for a trading partner that these businesses, which have operations in other parts of the world, now cannot do business with one another because they are unable to access reliable mail service. This will impact the more than 100 countries who are members of the Universal Postal Union, and the other United Nations agencies this is going to impact. Again, it shows that the Liberal government is not protecting our export markets, our global economy, and the ability of Canadian companies to expand and operate outside our own borders. This has far-reaching impacts on our economy, not just here at home but certainly around the world.
The Liberals, I hope, over the course of the next couple of days will understand that Canada Post is an essential service for rural Canadians in our small towns, who rely on it to do their business and pay their bills. I hope they will hear that message today. I am sure they are going to hear the message loud and clear from my NDP colleagues that they take the situation seriously. They should not just talk about it, but take definitive action. They should not think small businesses are not suffering and can wait. They cannot wait. They need action today.
Mr. Speaker, I must say that today is a sad day for me, and it is not an honour to take part in the debate on Motion No. 25 moved by the government.
It is also a sad day for postal workers, who are still delivering the mail, whether it be the cheques people rely on or parcels sent by businesses directly to homes in Canada and around the world.
Much like the workers' bargaining rights are being violated, we in the opposition are being muzzled by today's government motion, which will lead to a debate on Bill tomorrow evening. Here are a few excerpts from the motion to demonstrate what I mean. First of all, only two hours are being allotted for the consideration of the second reading stage following the adoption of the motion. I have seen many bills introduced in the House of Commons since I was first elected in 2015, but this is first time I have been in such a situation, where all our rights, the rules and our freedom of expression are being violated here in the House of Commons.
I was elected in 2015 to represent my constituents and debate bills. As MPs, we are the voice of our constituents, and that means we have to present opinions here in the House. Unfortunately, once again, the government is trampling on our freedom of expression and our democracy.
Part (e) of Motion No. 25 states that not more than one hour shall be allotted for the consideration of the committee of the whole stage. The motion goes on to say that not more than one half hour shall be allotted for the consideration of the third reading stage, provided that no member shall speak for more than ten minutes at a time during this stage. Worse yet, no period for questions and comments will be permitted following each member’s speech.
What is the point? We are here to debate important issues and represent our constituents. When this bill is debated tomorrow in the House of Commons, this motion will take away our right to speak, other than to ask the government questions at third reading. Is that because the government is afraid to answer our questions? This is unacceptable.
I want to say a few words about my own experience. I was a mail carrier in 2011. I delivered mail for 15 years, on foot, carrying a bag on my shoulders. For 15 wonderful years, I walked up and down the streets of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. It was amazing, and I always loved my job. I was proud to wear the uniform. Every day, I would deliver mail and packages right to people's doors. I was proud to be a part of this organization.
However, I lived through the 2011 lockout. I lived through the imposed restrictions and negotiations. At the time, Canada Post shut down for two weeks, but this was not what the workers had wanted. We wanted to negotiate a collective agreement. The right to strike is a constitutional right. We wanted to continue to deliver the mail while we were negotiating and using pressure tactics that were, and still are, constitutional.
Even though our employer locked us out and shut down Canada Post offices, all the workers, including both mail carriers and inside workers, got together to deliver the old age pension cheques that had to go out that week in June 2011. I remember that they did this in good faith, in good spirit, and on their own time.
This shows how much postal workers care about their work. However, our rights had been violated, and we had to live with the consequences of special legislation being imposed on us by the former Conservative government in 2011.
I spoke about my personal experience as an employee who was locked out and about the fact that my bargaining rights were violated.
Now I want to come back to the work that Canada Post workers do every day and explain why the negotiations are still happening and why demands are still being made regarding workplace safety. These days, mail gets delivered in a number of ways. I know that some people here are less familiar with how the system works than I am.
The cancellation of home delivery means that in some municipalities, the mail carrier uses a truck to deliver the mail. Other mail carriers deliver the mail on foot, for example, those working in downtown Montreal.
There are also mail carriers who work in rural areas. Most of them are women, and they cover thousands of kilometres for their routes. When I was a mail carrier, one of my colleagues told me that she would start in Saguenay and cover four municipalities. Her route was so long that she would cover nearly 250 kilometres each day. These people use their own personal vehicles. There is a double standard because these workers do not have the same working conditions as urban mail carriers. The salaries are not the same either. The majority of rural mail carriers are women, and they sometimes work in small, isolated offices. They may work alone or with one other person because they live in remote areas. Their safety is important, but so are their working conditions. We need to restore fairness. The federal government introduced a farce of a pay equity bill, and these women have yet to derive any benefit from it. There is still a huge gap, and it is creating inequity. There is a reason why we are hearing comments about that.
Over the past few weeks, I have also received many messages from mail carriers across Canada, thanking me for being their voice and for being here. They said they felt supported. Fortunately, the NDP is there for them. They feel the government has abandoned them, in spite of its promises. We talk a lot about the middle class. These people are part of the middle class. They are all members of the middle class, and they feel completely forgotten, ignored and let down.
I want to go back to the issue of safety. When the workload is not properly assessed, some sectors may be assessed differently. I will come back to my female rural mail carriers, who deliver the mail in remote areas. That is what they experience. They often end up working for free. If their contract says they will be paid for three or four hours, but it takes them longer because of stormy, icy or windy conditions or because there is an abnormally high volume of mail, they will not be paid for the overtime they put in. They work for free every day.
Some might say that people choose to volunteer. That is true. People volunteer for many community organizations because they want to do so. When people have a job and have a mortgage and car payments to make, they expect to be paid for their service. That is why this is unfair. Those people are right to want to improve their workplace safety and to want fair treatment. I do not blame them. They have been asking for these terms to be reinstated for several years now. Just like in 2011, the government is introducing legislation that infringes on bargaining rights.
People at Canada Post are not dumb. We have been hearing on the Hill for two weeks now that special legislation would be imposed. Why would they negotiate? Yes, it is true that reappointing the mediator was the right thing for the minister to do. That is good. That is fine. Anyone would do the same thing if they were about to buy an expensive new car and they knew the dealer was willing to drop the price by $5,000. People are not dumb. Anyone would wait for that. They would not accept the offer after the third time. That is exactly what is happening in this case.
I also want to talk about the false crisis that Canada Post is creating. It did the same in 2011. I know, because I lived through it. I was right there, in the trenches.
From the beginning of the strike mandate, Canada Post chose to completely stop replacing employees who were absent or to extend hours for postal clerks processing mail and packages.
Having a surplus of mail in a given month is not unheard of. Everyone is talking about Black Friday this year, but there was an increase in mail last year and there will be one again next year. Even though there have been work stoppages during the rotating strike, I say again: there is no complete work stoppage. There is no need to panic, unlike in 2011, when Canada Post itself decided to lock out its employees.
Right now, rotating strikes are going on across Canada. They last for a day or two, but never more.
Canada Post voluntarily decided to stop processing the mail on time and suspend the rules for people on disability, parental and maternity leave, for example. Canada Post itself created this crisis. The government seems to be out of touch because it is not going out there to see what is happening on the ground.
eBay sent a lovely letter about how this is catastrophic, their mail will not be delivered on time, and mail carriers will not even check ID. That is outrageous, and that is why we now have to debate Motion No. 25 to force the workers to stop negotiating. Their rights will be infringed upon, and that is unacceptable.
The government is listening only to Canada Post. Of course business is important. Small businesses do a lot of business with Canada Post, and that is a great source of pride because it proves that our public service is viable and cost-effective even though the Conservatives would have us believe the opposite. That is what they said in 2011, and I remember them wanting to privatize Canada Post. That was on the table and we kept hearing about it more and more.
I am pleased to hear the Conservatives saying that businesses use Canada Post for their exports and deliveries and that Canada Post is helping them to grow. It is wonderful to hear that. What is even more wonderful is that Canada Post is delivering packages on time. I have pictures to prove it and I even experienced it myself when I had to order something that I could not find in Ottawa. Canada Post is delivering packages on time. I even have a photo of a mail carrier with a message that says that the package he is holding was mailed on November 20 and that he was in the process of delivering it on November 21. I do not see any delays there.
Pressure tactics are part of the constitutional right to strike. All workers are entitled to exercise that right. They know that Canadians are waiting for their packages, shipments, payments or money. That is why they have not stopped working completely. They never wanted to do that.
What I am hearing in the House is that this is a catastrophe, that mail is no longer being delivered and that the workers are asking for too much. Is Canada Post trying to have it both ways?
What we are hearing from the government is that it is introducing bills, that we debated pay equity, that the middle class is important, and that it is close to unions. We also heard a lot of that in 2011. The member for was here then and was later re-elected. In 2011, he criticized the special legislation introduced by the Conservative government and asked questions about it. He said, and I quote:
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?
I would like to quote another question which was asked by the member for :
The best way to get a solution that is going to work in the future is to 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?
The Liberal government is proposing a motion, which we are debating today, that will result in legislation. Bill , which will be debated tomorrow in the House of Commons, will infringe on the right to collective bargaining.
I mentioned earlier that the right to strike is a constitutional right. Collective bargaining is important. If the people at Canada Post know right off the bat that there will be a special act, how can they negotiate in good faith?
I gave several examples earlier, but that is the reality. The workers are there today to deliver the mail. They will be there tomorrow and until Christmas and even afterwards. They want a safe place, measures tailored to their circumstances when they are working after dark.
It is not normal to use a headlamp to find an address when it is -35°C out when we just want to stay warm. We get out of our cars or get off the bus and rush into a building to seek shelter and stay warm.
Sometimes postal workers spend eight to 12 hours outside. I know from experience what that is like. One December 24 evening, at 8 p.m., I was sitting on my snowbank. As people were starting to celebrate the holidays, I was still delivering mail. That is the reality of all letter carriers.
Some routes are indeed different and are evaluated differently. Across Canada there are currently some serious safety concerns. This special legislation infringes on the negotiations. We are infringing on the right to negotiate and improve postal workers' safety.
To make the debate on Bill a bit more democratic, I move, seconded by my hon. colleague from :
That the motion be amended:
(a) by deleting paragraphs (a), (d), (e), (i), (j), and (k);
(b) by replacing the words “two hours” in paragraph (b) with the following “five days”;
(c) by replacing the words “a Committee of the Whole” in paragraph (c) with the following “the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities”;
(d) by replacing all the words after the words “not more than” in paragraph (f) with the following “five days shall be allotted for the consideration at third reading stage of the said bill”; and
(e) by replacing the words “at the expiry of the times provided for in this Order, any proceedings before the House or the Committee of the Whole” in paragraph (g) with the following “15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the last day allotted to the consideration at second reading and on the last day allotted to the consideration at third reading, any proceedings before the House”
I hope these amendments to the motion will be supported.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I want to inform you that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from .
Mr. Speaker, it gives me no pleasure to rise in this House to debate this motion. Our government believes in free and collective bargaining, and we have worked hard to restore fairness and balance to the labour landscape in Canada. In fact, one of the very first pieces of legislation introduced in this Parliament was Bill , which repealed two private members' bills passed under the Harper administration that undermined unions. We did this because we recognize the important role unions play in ensuring our workplaces are safe, equitable and just.
In connection with this commitment, we also took steps to close the gender wage gap and increase job opportunities for women. Furthermore, we took action to reduce workplace hazards and harassment. We proposed significant changes to the Canada Labour Code to bring it in line with today's needs. Our government is proud of its partnership with labour, which is clearly reflected in our efforts to protect employees' right to organize in order to improve workplace safety and training.
We know that harmonious labour-management relations are very important to maintaining individual economic security and Canada's economic prosperity. With this in mind, our government does not take this decision lightly.
In this case, we have done everything possible to help Canada Post and CUPW reach an agreement in their ongoing collective bargaining negotiations, but the time has come to take action. Indeed, we have allowed these rotating strikes to go on for five weeks now, with no end in sight. The two parties remain unable to find common ground on a number of outstanding issues related to wages, job security and workload.
While these are all important issues, ones that our government has worked hard to address for all Canadians since taking office, we need to find a way to move forward.
Our government is a strong supporter of the collective bargaining process, but we also have a responsibility to Canadians and to the businesses that drive our economy. They cannot do that if a significant part of our national postal system is not working. The services that Canada Post provides to Canadians and businesses are essential to our country's success. Our government realizes this, and we are committed to ensuring that these services are not compromised in the future.
This is exactly why our government implemented a new vision for Canada Post. I was proud to participate in this process. This vision is designed to keep Canada Post relevant and sustainable in the long term, while still providing good jobs and quality services to Canadians across the country. Through innovation, market trend analysis and the adoption of new technologies to meet Canadians' expectations, we intend to work with employees to make this vision a reality. This is the future of Canada Post.
These rotating strikes, however, hit our more vulnerable populations the hardest. Older Canadians, pensioners, persons with disabilities, low-income earners and particularly Canadians living in rural, remote and northern areas, including indigenous people, are feeling the effects more than anyone.
It is important to remember that while e-commerce and online communications are the norm for many, almost nine million Canadians live in rural and remote areas where access to the Internet can be limited. These people need Canada Post more than anyone else. They need it up and running, and they need it running smoothly.
Clearly, businesses are feeling the negative effects too, especially small businesses, many of which do the bulk of their sales at this time of year. These are the businesses that are growing our economy and providing good, well-paid jobs to middle-class Canadian workers. In other words, we cannot wait any longer.
Since the start of the bargaining process between Canada Post and CUPW, we have been doing everything possible to help the parties reach agreements that work for everyone. Federal mediators have been assisting negotiations for nearly a year. When those negotiations were failing, we appointed a special mediator to bring a fresh perspective.
We have offered voluntary arbitration, and members of our government have reached out to both parties, urging them to continue working toward an agreement. In fact, they are continuing right now to work toward an agreement, and we hope they conclude these negotiations successfully.
Having exhausted all other possibilities, if that turns out to be the case, this legislation will be our only remaining option. First and foremost, this legislation would ensure that letter mail and parcels start moving again from coast to coast to coast without delay, protecting the public interest and avoiding further harm to Canadian businesses.
Second, under the legislation, the most recent agreements would be extended until new collective agreements are established.
Third, an impartial mediator-arbitrator would be appointed by mutual agreement of the parties to address all outstanding issues.
The mediator-arbitrator would have seven days to mediate negotiations between the parties, and that could be extended to 14 days if the parties agree. If the parties do not reach an agreement during the mediation period, the mediator-arbitrator would be required to arbitrate all outstanding issues within 90 days.
This legislative measure would get Canada Post back to work and lay the foundation for a speedy resolution of the outstanding issues.
That is what this is about: restoring necessary services to all Canadians in the immediate term and encouraging those involved to find common ground for the long term.
Let me reiterate that we do not take this decision lightly. This bill is a last resort. The government has done everything in its power to avoid this.
Jobs are at stake, the well-being of the most vulnerable members of society is at stake, and our economy is at stake. That is why I encourage every member of the House to support the speedy adoption of the motion, and also, if necessary, of the bill. We owe it to our business people, our citizens, Canada Post, postal workers and all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to participate in this debate with some regret.
Since our election in 2015, our government has been working with organized labour and employers in finding ways Canadians can work together to address the issues facing our nation.
Let me be perfectly clear. Our government is committed to free collective bargaining and we believe that a negotiated agreement is always the best solution.
I listened very carefully to the as she outlined the steps she had taken on behalf of the Government of Canada to help Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers reach a collective agreement. Federal mediators assisted the parties throughout the negotiations. A special mediator was appointed to help break the impasse. Voluntary arbitration was offered.
The told us that she and her colleague, the , reached out directly to the parties. The special mediator was brought in once again to try to help the parties resolve their differences and reach an agreement that worked for everyone. All of these efforts could not break the impasse.
At the same time, rotating strikes have been disrupting Canada Post operations in more than 200 communities across the country. The strikes have been under way since October 22. We are well aware of the serious impacts these strikes are having on Canadians and Canadian businesses.
Let me begin with the people who are most impacted.
Canada Post is an iconic Canadian institution that has been connecting Canadians for more than 250 years. Even though more and more Canadians communicate by email and social media, we also know Canadians have a strong connection to personal letters, parcels from loved ones and holiday cards.
Canada Post has a network of over 6,200 post offices all across Canada, which serves as a vital link for many rural, remote and isolated communities, especially in the northern regions. Nearly nine million Canadians, 30% of our population, live in those areas. I think all of those families depend on Canada Post.
We simply cannot ignore the impacts that any disruption in mail and parcel services would have on our fellow Canadians, especially at this time of the year. For instance, Canadians living in the north received nearly twice as many parcels per capita as other Canadians in 2017. Any alternatives, such as courier companies, are simply too expensive. In some remote northern areas, there are no alternatives.
I am also thinking of Canadians with disabilities and those mobility challenges. We are talking about close to two million Canadians, nearly 50% of whom are seniors. Our government heard their concerns clearly and loudly when we put an end to the conversion of home delivery to community mailboxes. It seems to me that our most vulnerable citizens bear a disproportionate impact when access to important services are interrupted. For me, it is a matter of fairness and equity.
I will now turn the negative impact on Canadian businesses, of all sizes, that rely on Canada Post to deliver their invoices and payments. The rotating strikes have already caused significant delivery delays. Orders have been cancelled. Small and medium-sized businesses have far fewer resources to weather the impact of any disruption in their cash flow. This translates directly to less business, lost sales and fewer jobs.
There are reports of declines in e-commerce demand, reduced seasonal employment and indications that making alternative arrangements for shipping has been costly, especially damaging when businesses are normally getting ready for their busiest season and hiring more staff, including students, to handle the influx.
I want to speak briefly about parcel services.
The growth in e-commerce has been one of the greatest trends over the past decade or so. According to Statistics Canada, Internet-based sales from all retailers rose 31%, $15.7 billion, in 2017. It has generated significant business for Canada Post. This was confirmed by the independent task force that completed an in-depth review of Canada Post. I would encourage members to read the analysis entitled, “Canada Post in the digital age”.
The analysis states:
Canada Post segment parcels revenue increased by over $400 million between 2011 and 2015, representing an average annual growth of 7.8%. Volume growth has been driven by e-commerce, and has such been growing consistently over the last five years.
This trend is continuing to go upward.
We also know that up to 40% of Internet sales take place in the fourth quarter, which is bearing the impact of the rotating strikes.
Not to be overlooked is the disproportionate impact on the smaller companies who operate as e-sellers. They operate on very thin margins, which means many of them cannot afford the higher costs of shipping through courier companies.
We also cannot ignore the impacts beyond our border. As we heard, Canada Post has asked its international partners to halt mail and parcel shipments to Canada as it continues to deal with a major delivery backlog that has grown as a result of the rotating strikes.
As a trading nation, our reputation as a reliable market for commerce and trade is of paramount importance. That is why the government is taking action, with legislation, that will require the parties to continue postal services and return to work. As parliamentarians, we have an obligation to do what we can to help protect the public interest, the well-being of our fellow Canadians and the future of Canadian businesses.
Our government has shown tremendous faith in the collective bargaining process. We have allowed both parties to carry on their negotiations with the hope that they would find common ground and reach an agreement. Regrettably, that outcome was not achieved. We did not see a satisfactory conclusion to the impasse, and the strikes are having a serious impact on Canadians and Canadian business that depend on the services provided by Canada Post.
We must take action now. Otherwise, the impacts of the rotating strike will only continue to escalate and compound over the coming weeks. This legislation is our last resort and, as the had indicated, it is not something the government takes lightly. However, having exhausted all other possibilities, we believe it is the only option.
Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour to stand in the House today to discuss the very important subject of Canada Post and the effect the Canada Post strike is having on our country and the effect the back-to-work legislation will have on our country as well.
I cannot help but pause to think back to the last election, but before I talk about the last election and perhaps the philosophy that was communicated to Canadians and to unions by the Liberal Party, I would just like to say that this is a déjà vu Prime Minister Trudeau putting back-to-work legislation in place on Canada Post. I am not talking about the current Mr. Trudeau. I am referring to the previous prime minister Trudeau, who also had back-to-work legislation in place on Canada Post in the late seventies or early eighties.
Let us go back to the last election. It was incredible to witness the amount of union support out door knocking for the Liberals locally, in my riding, specifically related to, and I heard it all the time, back-to-work legislation and the relationship between legislation that had been put forward in the House by the previous Conservative government and what was being promised by the Liberals. The Liberals promised not to use back-to-work legislation. They said that they would respect the collective bargaining process, that they would respect unions and that they would not interfere with that process going forward.
I do not think it is any surprise that the Liberals would perhaps say one thing in an election and do something completely different once in government. Let us look at yesterday's economic update. I think everyone in the House thought that the Liberal government would bring forth a fall economic update that outlined a $10-billion deficit, not a $19-billion-plus deficit, because that is what they promised during the election. Unfortunately, what we heard was crass campaigning. They had no intention of following through and no intention of telling the truth to Canadians about the deficit. The Liberals also had no intention of telling the truth to Canadians about what their working philosophy in government would be when it came to working with unions.
The reality is that there are cases when the government needs to intercede. Unfortunately, the union workers who pounded on doors for the Liberal Party in the last election believed the mistruths communicated to them by the leadership of the Liberal Party at that point. The result was that they left it all on the line. In fact, the result was that a certain union was brought before the House and before Elections Canada for improperly making contributions during the election. It was paying people to campaign for the Liberal Party.
Now fast-forward to today, when we are going to end up closing debate. A vote will likely come in the next 48 hours to force Canada Post employees back to work. It really makes one wonder why the Liberal Party of Canada would communicate to unions across this country that it would not use this kind of legislation in the future and that it would respect the process. We heard day in and day out that the Liberals would respect the collective bargaining process and would not interfere. I am using their language, because I did not hold the same thought as they did during the 2015 election.
It has to be frustrating for Canadians who believed the words of the Prime Minister, back then the leader of the Liberal Party, and took what he and his party were saying at face value, and to have faith, not only in the person but in the entire political system, when someone makes a promise, looks one in the eye and says that this is what we will do, this will be the approach, then goes the opposite way. One can understand why there is a cynical attitude towards politics as a whole.
I will hopefully leave the cynicism about the hypocrisy of the Liberal Party behind as I move on to what I believe is the meat of this debate, certainly from where I stand.
There was legislation brought forward that we debated yesterday and will be debating today with regard to persons with disabilities. The legislation was supposed to be groundbreaking. It was supposed to be the start of a new era, where regulations would come into place to eliminate barriers across the country for persons with disabilities. The legislation was supposed to be brought forward roughly three years ago. It was not. The Liberals promised that within six months of the election date, it would be provided to the House to debate and vote on. It was not. They went around the country and consulted, or so they say over and over again. Two and a half years later, they brought forward that legislation.
One may wonder what this has to do with the Canada Post legislation. When Canada Post goes on strike, some of the people who are hit the hardest are those with disabilities. There are parcels they need to receive. Sometimes it is products. Sometimes it is medicine. Sometimes it is as simple as a braille book or a talking book. There are literally thousands upon thousands of products we rely on our postal system to deliver to people with disabilities across the country.
When a strike occurs, we know that those who are disadvantaged certainly feel the effects more than just about anyone else. Whereas businesses have the money to turn to private services, there might not be the money there in many situations for people with disabilities. Quite frankly, it becomes a very sad state of affairs. The cost to the government goes up. The cost to those individuals goes up. We are left with a scenario where we are once again leaving those who are most vulnerable in our society behind.
With Christmas and Hanukkah and so many different holidays coming up at this time of year, we all want to make sure that our brothers and sisters receive their presents and their cards. My mom wants to get her Christmas letter out that tells all about her family. However, none of that matters in the least compared to people living with disabilities not being able to access the products they need in their day-to-day lives. That to me is incredibly important.
I do not want to be too partisan and too over the top on this, but if we look at the spending on persons with disabilities in our country, it is roughly $2.2 billion. That is when we remove the CPP disability, which is not government spending but is peoples' money being used outside of government coffers. When we look at that $2.2 billion and the constraints in the country in actually delivering services that are so badly needed, and we look at the cost of increasing the movement of goods for people who cannot leave their homes due to major accessibility issues, the effects are very large. It is not just about the time of year. It is not just about the individuals who are on strike. It is not just about the collective bargaining agreement. It is about the people who without this service are put in a very difficult position.
I know we all have postal workers living in our ridings. We all know individuals who work for Canada Post. We all want a fair wage and a fair process.
I know that we all want to ensure that persons with disabilities have everything they need. I know that we all want to make sure that the $2.2 billion the government sets aside for persons with disabilities each and every year is going to the max in the most effective and efficient manner possible. When the cost of moving goods around goes up significantly because of things like this, that has a huge effect on the cost to the CNIB to move products to people who subscribe to their services. It has an effect on the cost of being able to access medicine and drugs and on the cost of different things that have such a profound effect on the lives of people living with disabilities.
I know this debate is not an easy one. I know there are ideological and philosophical differences. I know that the parties hold deeply held convictions on this issue. However, I would ask, as we move forward, that we think of those who do not have access to other services to replace Canada Post, that we understand the effect the Canada Post strike is having on their lives, and that we do everything we can to ensure that those people are not left behind any further.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to inform you that I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I rise to participate in this debate with regret. Since our election in 2015, our government has been working with organized labour and employers in finding ways Canadians can work together to address the issues facing our nation. Let me be absolutely clear. Our government is committed to free collective bargaining, and believes a negotiated agreement is always the best solution.
I listened very carefully to the as she outlined the steps she has taken on behalf of our government to help Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers reach a collective agreement. Federal mediators assisted the parties throughout the negotiations, a special mediator was appointment to help break the impasse and voluntary arbitration was also offered. The Minister of Labour told us that she and her colleague, the , reached out directly to both parties. The special mediator was brought in once again to try to help the parties resolve their differences and reach agreements that work for everyone. All these efforts have not yet broken the impasse.
At the same time, rotating strikes have been disrupting Canada Post operations in more than 200 communities across the country. That is certainly true in my riding of Brampton West, where Canada Post has an office on the same street as my constituency office. Those strikes have been under way since October 22. We are all aware of the serious impacts these strikes are having on Canadians and Canadian businesses.
Let me begin with the people who are most impacted. Canada Post is an iconic Canadian institution which has been connecting Canadians for more than 250 years. Even though more and more Canadians communicate by email and social media, we know Canadians have a strong connection to personal letters, parcels from loved ones and holiday cards, especially during this time of the year.
Canada Post has a network of over 6,200 post offices across Canada, which serve as a vital link for many rural, remote and isolated communities, especially in our northern regions. Nearly nine million Canadians, 30% of our population, live in those areas. I think of all those families who depend on Canada Post. I have received many calls, emails and visits from constituents who have been tremendously impacted by the strike.
We simply cannot ignore the impacts any disruption in mail and parcel services would have on our fellow Canadians, especially during this time of the year. For instance, Canadians living in the north received nearly twice as many parcels per capita as other Canadians in 2017. Any alternatives, such as courier companies, are simply too expensive. In some remote northern areas, there are no alternatives. I am also thinking of Canadians with disabilities and all those with mobility challenges who rely heavily on Canada Post. We are talking of approximately two million Canadians, nearly 50% of seniors.
Our government heard their concerns clearly and loudly when we put an end to the conversion of home delivery to community mailboxes. It seems to me our most vulnerable citizens bear a disproportionate impact when access to important services is interrupted. For me, it is a matter of fairness and equity.
I will now turn to the negative impact on Canadian businesses of all sizes that rely on Canada Post to deliver their invoices and payments. I have heard from the business community in my riding of Brampton West as well.
The rotating strikes have already caused significant delivery delays. Orders have been cancelled. Small and medium-sized businesses have far fewer resources to weather the impact of any disruption in their cash flow. This translates directly into less business, lost sales and fewer jobs. There are also reports of declines in e-commerce demand, reduced seasonal employment and indications that making alternative arrangements for shipping has been costly, especially damaging when businesses are normally getting ready for their busiest season and hiring more staff, including students, to handle the influx.
I want to speak briefly about parcel services. The growth in e-commerce has been one of the greatest trends over the past decade or so. According to Statistics Canada, Internet-based sales from all retailers rose 31% to $15.7 billion in 2017. It has generated significant business for Canada Post. This was confirmed by the independent task force that completed an in-depth review of Canada Post. I would encourage members to read the analysis entitled, “Canada Post in the digital age”. It states, “Canada Post segment parcels revenue increased by over $400 million between 2011 and 2015, representing an average annual growth of 7.8%. Volume growth has been driven by e-commerce, and has such been growing consistently over the last five years.” This upward trend is going to continue.
We also know that up to 40% of Internet sales take place in the fourth quarter, which is bearing the brunt of the rotating strikes. Not to be overlooked is the disproportionate impact on the smaller companies that operate as e-sellers. They operate on very thin margins, which means that many of them cannot afford the higher cost of shipping through courier companies.
We also cannot ignore the impacts beyond our border. As we heard, Canada Post has asked its international partners to halt mail and parcel shipments to Canada as it continues to deal with a major delivery backlog that has grown as a result of the rotating strikes. As a trading nation, our reputation as a reliable market for commerce and trade is of paramount importance. That is why our government is taking action and is prepared to move forward with legislation that would require the parties to continue postal services and return to work.
As Parliamentarians, we have an obligation to do our best to help protect the public interest, the well-being of our fellow Canadians and the future of our Canadian businesses. Our government has shown tremendous faith in our collective bargaining process. We have allowed both parties to carry on their negotiations in the hope that they would find common ground and reach an agreement, and we continue to hope that will happen.
The strikes are having a very serious impact on Canadians and Canadian businesses that depend on the services provided by Canada Post. We must be ready to act and take action now, otherwise the impacts of the rotating strikes will only continue to escalate and compound over the coming weeks.
This legislation is a last resort and, as the has indicated, it is not something our government takes lightly. However, having exhausted all other possibilities, we believe it is the only option.
Mr. Speaker, small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEs, are the backbone of Canada's economy. These enterprises represent over 99% of business activities in the country. Moreover, they provide nine out of 10 private sector jobs that Canadians depend on. Their annual merchandise exports are valued in the billions of dollars, and if these firms can fully access e-commerce opportunities, they will be well positioned to make even greater contributions to the Canadian economy.
Trade has the potential to provide SMEs increasing returns to scale, enhance their competitive and innovative edge, and spur productivity. Increased trade by SMEs can play a role in boosting Canada's overall economic growth and prosperity. However, we also need to support the growth and development of SMEs here in Canada by ensuring that they have the tools they require to strive.
When the mail does not flow, then trade slows. A disruption to traditional delivery services is either bringing our domestic and international trade to a halt or forcing businesses to use costly substitute services.
We know that the ongoing disruption has been keenly felt by Canadian businesses. Over two-thirds of small businesses report a negative impact on their business. Over half have reported having to switch to higher-cost delivery services. Many note delayed shipments to customers. In a highly interconnected and competitive global economy, this disruption could lead to lost customers, lost market share and, ultimately, lost jobs. If SMEs cannot engage in international trade, they will miss out on real opportunities to scale-up and create jobs.
One of the most important vehicles for getting more SMEs into international trade is e-commerce. E-commerce has emerged as a leading platform for doing business across all sectors of the economy and, by extension, for international trade. Facilitating the use of e-commerce by consumers and businesses is a key trade policy objective for Canada.
Canada is seeking to encourage the use of e-commerce through a combination of removing, reducing and minimizing impediments to e-commerce while creating an environment of trust, certainty and choice for consumers and businesses. E-commerce is changing the ways firms do business, and it can increase their sales and market share while reducing the time and effort required to complete transactions.
For Canada's small and medium-sized enterprises, e-commerce platforms or information technology systems that enable lnternet-based business transactions provide access to trillions of dollars annually from the global online marketplace. However, as more sales occur online, firms that do not engage in e-commerce might lose market share to competitors that do. SMEs that may lack access to the same financial and human resources as large firms have may be particularly vulnerable if they less able to use new technologies, such as e-commerce platforms, to do business.
The disruption in these services creates many knock-on effects for businesses, especially with the increase in parcel mail and e-commerce. When Canada Post stops accepting freight, mail order and e-commerce companies stop shipping. When these companies stop shipping, they stop ordering too, because they have a surplus of inventory. This results in increased capacity in transportation firms, including ports, rail and trucking. These firms have to reduce the hours of their employees.
We have heard from e-commerce businesses that their operations have been impacted, since consumers are placing fewer orders by as much as 20% to 30%.
Smaller e-commerce companies may be disproportionately affected, given their razor-thin margins. These companies cannot afford the higher costs of shipping through courier companies. Rather than risk damaging their reputations with late deliveries, we have learned that many Canadian companies have cut back on selling and shipping.
This is about serving Canadians. While there are private delivery companies that compete with Canada Post for business, there is an ongoing concern that these cannot replace Canada Post's e-commerce customer base during this critical time for Canadian business. This constraint is especially prevalent in rural areas which are only serviced by Canada Post. This strike is having a disproportionate impact on rural SMEs and Canadians.
This legislation is a last resort, not something the government and the parties are taking lightly. The government has done everything it can to support and encourage the parties to reach a negotiated settlement. The government has a responsibility to Canadians and businesses with respect to this work stoppage, which has had a very harmful impact. The government must move now. That is why this legislation is a last resort.
Mr. Speaker, I thought it would be appropriate to start off my comments by referring to the Conservative labour critic's question. He said “table a motion to talk about it”, as if that is a bad thing. That encapsulates the Stephen Harper Conservative government's approach when dealing with labour issues. When I sat in opposition I listened to the government of the day bring in legislation through the back door by way of private members' hour, taking shots at the union movement across Canada.
I can recall the legislation the Conservative government brought in with respect to Canada Post. The Conservatives are trying to give the impression that what we are doing now is similar to what they did at the time. That is truly amazing. What we are doing is nothing remotely close to what they did with respect to the labour front.
I find it interesting that even my New Democrat friends appear to be trying to score some political points on this issue. They are putting aside the concerns of the average Canadian and business and those who have a vested interest in this debate. Both opposition parties are drawing conclusions. Instead of drawing conclusions, why do they not have some faith and some hope in the process that is still in place today?
This government is behaving in a very responsible manner. We understand the importance of the issue. That is why we are discussing this motion that has been tabled by the government.
We really want to see a negotiated agreement. The , the and all members of this caucus have been very clear on the issue. We do not want to bring in any form of back-to-work legislation. Our first choice is a negotiated agreement. I appeal to individuals around the table, whether it is the union or Canada Post management, to get the job done and get something signed as soon as possible. That is what I am hoping for.
I have listened to New Democrats talk about the plight of postal workers. I do not need to be reminded of that. I was sitting in opposition when Stephen Harper and the Conservatives made profound changes to the services provided to Canadians by Canada Post. I remember the legislation they introduced. It was shameful.
Let me remind the members that back in the days of Stephen Harper, his government brought in reforms that dealt with things such as door-to-door delivery and jacking up the cost of postage stamps. Many individuals believed, myself included, that the Conservatives really wanted to privatize Canada Post. That was the real objective of the Conservative Party. Stephen Harper had a hidden agenda with respect to Canada Post. There was a general lack of respect for postal workers and the whole system.
We believe Canadians respect the system. They want to see a Crown corporation in place that continues to deliver the type of services it has delivered for decades.
When we became government after the last election, it did not take long for the and the minister responsible to strike up a group of individuals that represented Canadians as a whole. That group would sit on a special standing committee of the House or on the committee that was established by the minister to canvass the opinions and thoughts of Canadians in moving forward with Canada Post.
I believe a general consensus was achieved. There might have been a few dissenting individuals within the Conservative ranks, but generally speaking we saw a fairly consistent message that there was a positive future for Canada Post. We recognize the valuable work of our letter carriers, our mail organizers and those who fill the infrastructure do. The backbone, the workers, make Canada Post what it is today. It is recognized even outside of Canada with respect to the valuable contributions they make to our society. We have a changing society, and I will to pick up a bit on that shortly.
I use Canada Post on a regular basis, whether it be for my householders, my ten percenters, my mail or the feedback from my constituents. This is all done through Canada Post. I can assure those people who are following the debate that every member of the Liberal caucus values and appreciates the fine work our postal workers put in day in and day out in order to deliver our mail and ensure that communication is there. It is not only for us as members of Parliament, but those workers provide a service that even goes beyond that.
I have talked to letter carriers who have met with individuals in the community. They grow concerned when mail is not taken out of their postal boxes, whether it is the community box or the mail box on their home. They are concerned that maybe there is a health issue, which, at least in part at times, is dealt with because of a caring people. It even goes over and beyond.
Let us get this upfront. Unlike what the New Democrats are trying to communicate in their spin, we do care, value and appreciate the work those front-line service people provide.
However, as we continue to go through this rotating strike, a vast majority of Canadians will recognize that in the changing times, there is a responsibility. The union group and the management have a responsibility. We are still hopeful. That is one of the reasons we have a federal mediator in the situation today.
When we look at the federal mediation individuals in the conciliatory branch of government, the success rate is well over 90%. Therefore, Ottawa has been indirectly at the table, supporting positive negotiations and encouraging good and healthy negotiations between unions and management.
However, it would be highly irresponsible for the government to sit back and not respond to the needs of the Canadian economy and society as a whole. When I hear in particular my New Democratic friends try to say that we should never legislate back-to-work legislation, I remind them that it is only the New Democrats who ever say that conclusively. To try to give the impression that the NDP has never brought in back-to-work legislation is just wrong. The New Democrats have done this. They have not done so at the national level, because they have never been in government, but they have been in government in provinces where they have brought in back-to-work legislation.
However, in Ottawa, the New Democrats like to take the moral stand of never ever. Part of being in government means we have to make decisions that are in the best interests of all Canadians, the Canadian economy and the national interest. That is why my New Democrat colleagues need to realize that times have changed. Thirty years ago, there was not the same sort of Internet activity that we have today. They should compare the Yellow Pages from 30 years ago to what they is today. They will see there is a significant difference. There are no Yellow Pages in many homes today.
As an example, with the Internet, we have seen a profound change in the purchase of products. Everything from health to consumables to TVs, just name a few, can now be purchased online. For a vast majority of those purchases, consumers do not pick up the items. Rather, organizations and corporations like Canada Post are relied on to deliver those products. The delivering of those products provides the ongoing growth of our economy and opportunity for seniors to receive, for example, their contact lenses, or other medical requirements or Christmas cards from a grandsons or granddaughters, whatever it may be, all of which is really important.
I cannot provide the percentage breakdown offhand for the amount of merchandise purchased over the Internet and delivered through corporations like Canada Post, but it would definitely be well into the double digits. I like to believe, which may be due to my sense of pride for Canada Post, that Canada Post is leading the way on the delivery of these products. That is why the future for Canada Post, in good part, is so solid going forward.
We are in a very interesting time of the year. We know many companies rely on this busy season to generate the necessary profits to carry them through months like January and February. To believe that is not the case is somewhat insensitive to the needs of small businesses.
The labour critic said that we had this new-found love for small businesses by the Government of Canada. The labour critic is wrong. We understand how important small businesses are to Canada. Quite frankly, they are the backbone of the economy. Helping to feed Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it is going to be driven by businesses of all sizes in every region of our country. We have recognized that from day one.
Members on this side of the House, for example, often talk about the middle-class tax cut, which put hundreds of millions of dollars into the pockets of Canadians. Those individuals are spending money in small businesses. That might mean, for example, buying an item on eBay and having it shipped via Canada Post. Whether it is the middle-class tax breaks, or the reduction of the small business tax or the amazing announcements by the yesterday, this government has the pulse of Canada's small businesses in every region of the country. All our policy directions support small businesses and encourage the growth of Canada's middle class.
If we are to listen to the New Democrats, they are prepared to gamble it away. We know, from provincial experience, they would not do that. At the federal level, they are prepared to make those sorts of statements. It is highly irresponsible because many companies are having a difficult time getting their merchandise to consumers. It is very important. If we start to see job losses as a direct result of a prolonged strike, that could hurt our economy. If we start to see an individual who requires some sort of health care benefit, such as contact lenses, not being delivered in a timely fashion, that also has a negative impact. As much as a good portion of this is about the economy, it is much more than that.
We hear a lot with respect to the politics. I have listened to the debate over the last couple of hours. The Conservative are saying that we are not going far enough. Why would we table a motion today and not debate the legislation? They are anxious. They want the legislation. If it were up to them, not only would we be bringing in legislation, but we would maybe be doing what Stephen Harper did and roll back the wages of the letter carriers. It is truly amazing. We could not believe it when the government of Stephen Harper did that within its legislation.
Further to the right, we have the New Democrats who are left of centre to the right of the Conservatives. Sometimes it gets confusing because they like to work together on certain things. The New Democrats are saying that we should not be doing this, that we should be putting the interests of Canadian small businesses, consumers and those who rely on the services provided to the side. Those really do not matter.
As one of my caucus colleagues said, that is not going to work. At the end of the day, we want to see a negotiated agreement. We are hoping for this. That is what my personal request is for both labour and management. Let us get this issue resolved. However, it would be highly irresponsible for the government not to have something in place if we have to get the mail going. This is of the utmost importance.
I commented on the importance of collective agreements. I have had many opportunities to stand in the chamber. There is a wonderful list of things which we have done as a government to reinforce the importance of labour. Whether it has been in the Manitoba legislature on a debate of final offer selection or the debate we had in Ottawa on getting rid of the old Harper bills, Bill and Bill , I have argued consistently for the importance of collective bargaining and the important role unions play in society.
In 2019, we are going to be recognizing the 1919 general strike in Winnipeg. Maybe in response to questions, I will be able to provide further comment on that.
I thank the House for the opportunity to share a few thoughts.