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41st PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 014

CONTENTS

Thursday, June 23, 2011




House of Commons Debates

VOLUME 146 
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NUMBER 014 
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1st SESSION 
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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

The Speaker:  
    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

The Speaker:  
    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

Hon. John Duncan (Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, CPC):  
    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

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-253, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act (response time).
     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

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-254, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act and the Employment Insurance Act (severance pay).
     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

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-255, An Act to establish and maintain a national Breast Implant Registry.
     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

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-256, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (firefighters).
    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

Mr. Alex Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior, NDP)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-257, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (mandatory labelling for genetically modified foods).
     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

Mr. Alex Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior, NDP)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-258, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Canada Post Corporation Act (use of resources by members).
     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

Mr. Alex Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior, NDP)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-259, An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act (goods and services tax on school authorities).
     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

Hon. Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul's, Lib.)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-260, An Act to amend the Statistics Act (mandatory long-form census questionnaire).
    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

Mr. Rick Norlock (Northumberland—Quinte West, CPC)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-261, An Act respecting a National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day.
     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

Mr. Claude Gravelle (Nickel Belt, NDP)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-262, An Act to amend the Holidays Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts (St. John the Baptist Day).
    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

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-263, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (social condition).
     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

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-264, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (social condition).
    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

Ms. Rathika Sitsabaiesan (Scarborough—Rouge River, NDP)  
     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-265, An Act to establish criteria and conditions in respect of funding for post-secondary education programs in order to ensure the quality, accessibility, public administration and accountability of those programs.
     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. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, CPC):  
    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. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP):  
    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. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.):  
    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. Tom Lukiwski (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC):  
    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  

Hon. Peter Van Loan (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, with respect to the consideration of Government Business No. 3, I move:
    That the debate be not further adjourned.
The Speaker:  
    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. Yvon Godin (Acadie—Bathurst, NDP):  
    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]

Hon. Lisa Raitt (Minister of Labour, CPC):  
    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. Rodger Cuzner (Cape Breton—Canso, Lib.):  
    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)  

Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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.
Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):  
    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?
Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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.
The Deputy Speaker:  
    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.
Ms. Chris Charlton (Hamilton Mountain, NDP):  
    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.
Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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)  

Mr. Ed Komarnicki (Souris—Moose Mountain, CPC):  
    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?
Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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.
Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):  
    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.
Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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.
Mr. Marc Garneau (Westmount—Ville-Marie, Lib.):  
    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?
Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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]

Ms. Françoise Boivin (Gatineau, NDP):  
    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]

Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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.
Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill, NDP):  
    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?
Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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.
Hon. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.):  
    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?
Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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)  

Mr. Larry Miller (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, CPC):  
    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.
Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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.
Ms. Rathika Sitsabaiesan (Scarborough—Rouge River, NDP):  
    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--
The Deputy Speaker:  
    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.
Ms. Rathika Sitsabaiesan:  
    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?
Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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]

Mr. Guy Caron (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, NDP):  
    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]

Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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]

Hon. Denis Coderre (Bourassa, Lib.):  
    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]

Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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.
Mrs. Shelly Glover (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, CPC):  
    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)  

Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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.
Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP):  
    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?
Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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.
The Deputy Speaker:  
    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

The Speaker:  
    I declare the motion carried.

[Translation]

Mr. Louis Plamondon:  
    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]

The Speaker:  
    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 Speaker:  
    The hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour has 19 minutes left to conclude his speech.
Mr. Robert Chisholm (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NDP):  
    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.
The Deputy Speaker:  
    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.
Mr. Robert Chisholm:  
    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)  

Mr. Dean Del Mastro (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC):  
    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.
Mr. Robert Chisholm:  
    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. Rodger Cuzner (Cape Breton—Canso, Lib.):  
    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)  

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin):  
    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. Robert Chisholm:  
    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. Ryan Cleary (St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NDP):  
    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. Robert Chisholm:  
    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. Matthew Dubé (Chambly—Borduas, NDP):  
    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. Robert Chisholm:  
    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?
Hon. Lisa Raitt (Minister of Labour, CPC):  
    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. Yvon Godin (Acadie—Bathurst, NDP):  
    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)  

Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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. Massimo Pacetti (Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, Lib.):  
    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.
Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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. Rick Norlock (Northumberland—Quinte West, CPC):  
    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)  

Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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]

Mrs. Djaouida Sellah (Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, NDP):  
    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]

Hon. Lisa Raitt:  
    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. Rodger Cuzner (Cape Breton—Canso, Lib.):  
    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. Brad Butt (Mississauga—Streetsville, CPC):  
    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. Rodger Cuzner:  
    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. Marc-André Morin (Laurentides—Labelle, NDP):  
    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. Rodger Cuzner:  
    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]

Hon. Denis Coderre (Bourassa, Lib.):  
    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]

Ms. Kellie Leitch (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour, CPC):  
    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]

Hon. Denis Coderre:  
    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. Yvon Godin (Acadie—Bathurst, NDP):  
    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.
Hon. Denis Coderre:  
    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. Robert Chisholm (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NDP):  
    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)  

Ms. Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-6, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services.
    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. Malcolm Allen (Welland, NDP):  
    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.

  (1320)  

Ms. Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay:  
    Mr. Speaker, the fact is that in the labour environment we have in Canada, workers have the right to strike and employers have the right to lock out. These are balancing rights that they have. This is strike and lockout have been evolving over time. I gave the history of it, as my friend opposite acknowledged, as accurately as I could and now is the time for this government to act.
    The parties have been unable to resolve this dispute, much as we would have hoped they would. Now it is time to get back to work.
Mr. Sean Casey (Charlottetown, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, in business generally the parties want a level playing field. They want to be able to negotiate in a principled manner back and forth across the table, whether they are dealing with government, competitors, industry, or employees. The proposed legislation ties the hands of the arbitrator. It says to the arbitrator that wages are not negotiable, they are imposed. It says to the arbitrator that pensions are not negotiable, they are imposed. It says that the arbitrator is going to look at how postal services are delivered in other countries because there is no comparable postal service in Canada.
    Why is it that the legislation has to show such disrespect to the intentions of the parties and the integrity of the collective bargaining process in this country?
Ms. Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay:  
    Mr. Speaker, this government has been not only patient but actively engaged in trying to help the parties come to a mutual settlement, which is always preferable. However, that has not occurred.
    The proposed legislation includes wage rate increases which are consistent with other recent federal public sector collective agreements. The wage rate increases are the result of concessions in the public sector negotiations and take into consideration the future economic vitality of Canada Post.
     This government was given a strong mandate to shepherd a fragile economy and continue to do the good work it has done and intends to continue to do.
Mr. Ed Holder (London West, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, this is an important debate. I have thought long and hard about this whole dialogue. I appreciate the contribution the parliamentary secretary is making in this important discussion. It is critical for Canada's economy.
     I am going to ask her, in just a moment, to help me, Canadians and this House better understand what, by not ultimately bringing these people back to work, impact it would have on our economy.
    All parliamentarians have received many letters. I want to share one of the letters that I have received:
     As a small business owner I depend on the mail to run my business. While there are alternatives to using the mail service, we do not have the resources to use them. Using the courier, as well as the labour costs of contacting my customers to make alternative arrangements are additional costs that we just cannot afford at this time.
    My payroll depends on the mail, if this continues for any length of time I will likely be forced to close my doors....
    I am also sure that I do not have to stress to you that any of the small gains made in our economic situation in general over the past year will be quickly lost if this does not end ASAP.
    Because of the critical importance it has for communities like London, Ontario, and while we are the tenth largest city in Canada I will also tell members that we are as impacted as anyone by this, could the parliamentary secretary indicate the impact this has on business right across our country?

  (1325)  

Ms. Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay:  
    Mr. Speaker, Canada Post is a major economic enabler of the Canadian economy. Through its postal services, marketing is conducted, contracts are signed, long distance sales are made, and goods, bills and cheques are reliably delivered.
    It is estimated that the Canada Post group itself spends $3 billion annually on goods and services, thereby supporting an additional 30,000 jobs in the national economy.
    Canada Post is also one of Canada's largest employers. Some 69,000 Canadians in urban and rural areas work at Canada Post or its subsidiaries. These employees spend billions in the economy annually.
    As I set out in my comments earlier, small and medium businesses are the ones taking the brunt of the hit, along with individual Canadians in the hon. member's riding, in my riding and in ridings in all 10 provinces and the territories. This is a matter that needs to be addressed now.

[Translation]

Mr. Dany Morin (Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I fully understand that the workers will eventually have to return to work. However, why is the government so intent on using this special act to give workers less than what Canada Post’s management sought to offer its own employees, and opting instead to set its own limits?
    On Facebook today, I was asked whether there might be a conflict of interests, given that Canada Post is a crown corporation, whose profits go to the Conservative-led Government of Canada.

[English]

Ms. Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay:  
    Mr. Speaker, over the past five months, there have been proposals and counter-proposals exchanged. As the minister said earlier, unfortunately, the parties are still far apart. Therefore, it is time for our government to act.
    As I stated earlier, the wage rate increases that are being proposed are the result of concessions in the public sector negotiations and take into consideration the future economic liability of Canada Post, which is an enabler and a large part of our Canadian economy.

[Translation]

Mr. Thomas Mulcair (Outremont, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, sometimes debate influences a government’s actions and also public perception.
     If Canadians initially had the impression that the Conservatives were a heartless and untrustworthy bunch who flouted human rights and freedoms, well, the government's actions are now giving credence to this perception.
     If there is one area where good faith must prevail, it is labour relations. The Supreme Court has told us that labour relations are guaranteed by the charter because they constitute a subset of our economic rights, our freedom of expression, and our freedom of association.
     What have we seen over recent weeks from this Conservative government? Why does Canadians’ mistrust of the Conservatives now appear justified?
     Let us consider the government’s concrete actions, and the response we have heard here today. To begin with, this is a crown corporation. The government owns the corporation on behalf of all Canadians, and it has the last word when it comes to what Canada Post Corporation does. Throughout the bargaining process—with the government on one side, and employees and their union representatives on the other—everything was going along swimmingly. There were a number of attempts by the employees—legitimately and according to their rights—to voice their point of view through rotating strikes, for example, which did not significantly affect service to the public.
     That was one way for the employees, who had the right to strike, to say that the bargaining process had gone off track, and to give us a sense of the steps they intended to take to make management see reason.
     What happened then? The very same Canada Post Corporation, owned by the government, locked out its own employees. They locked their doors, with the employees on the outside. The government, through one of its own bodies, a crown corporation, has shut its employees outside and is keeping them there. Then they turn around and look at the situation they just created and pretend to be surprised, saying, “For God’s sake, this cannot go on like this. Look, these people have stopped working.” That is how one of the Conservative backbenchers just put it.

  (1330)  

[English]

    “We have to bring these people back to work”.

[Translation]

    Those creeps, those things, as if they were not citizens endowed with all due rights, which they are exercising in a calm, practical way under legislation duly passed by the House of Commons. That is what we are talking about here. These are people who exercised a right guaranteed by legislation passed by this House. Not content just to trifle with this, showing their usual bad faith, the Conservatives are going so far today as to tell us that they are not only going to throw these people out but they are going to lock the doors and come up with a solution to the problem they just created themselves by throwing these people out. Special legislation will be passed to deprive them of their rights, even though those rights are guaranteed under the Charter and in legislation passed by the House of Commons.
     This is not a new way of doing things. My colleague from Vancouver East already showed us how the very same thing was done in 1997 by a Liberal government. It was very interesting the other day to hear certain leading lights of the Liberal Party pretending to be outraged by the tactics employed by the Conservatives when they are a carbon copy of Bill C-34 passed by a Liberal government in 1997.
     Governments change but the tactics remain the same. When it comes to showing respect for working people and their rights, what the Conservatives are doing is clearly in line with all the social and economic policies of the Conservative government. It is as if we were in the early 1980s, in the Reagan era with the air traffic controllers. What could be better for a government of the far right than to flex its muscles at the expense of working people, look at its Reform Party base and say, “Finally you can see why you supported us from the beginning. We will put working people in their place”. The Conservatives will do that, even though the bad faith is as obvious as it is right now.
     It is the Conservatives who are imposing a lockout, bolting the door themselves, throwing everybody out, and saying how terrible it is that these people are not working anymore. But it is the Conservatives who locked them out, and now because they are not working any more, the Conservatives want special legislation to force them back to work. The funny thing is that the Conservatives are even going so far as to copy from the Liberals’ legislation the part where the Liberals lowered the salary offers already on the table. Several of my colleagues, including the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, asked about this. But as we all heard, there was no answer.
    They cannot answer because this makes absolutely no sense. If the objective is to settle a dispute between an employer and its employees, they would have at least put on the table what the two parties had already agreed on. But no, the Conservatives are rubbing salt in the wounds of workers who were just locked out and telling them not only that they are the bad guys for getting locked out, but also that they are being punished and getting less than they managed to agree on with the employer. They are being told they should have been happy with the crumbs they had been offered. Now even the crumbs are being taken away, because they did not appreciate the fact that their employer is a good employer and they should have accepted whatever they were offered. So it is their fault.
    To understand what a mistake this is, both economically and socially, one only has to look at everything the Conservatives have done over the past five and half years since they came to power. This is part of their right-wing ideology, which is at odds with the impression they like to give, since they always talk about families and future generations. In reality, however, all of their actions have been harmful to future generations, no matter what rhetoric they like to spew.
    Let me put this into context. As this time, by eliminating all guarantees of a decent pension, the Conservatives are dumping a huge social debt on future generations. Who is going to pay for the people who cannot afford to meet their own needs once they retire? Future generations will pay.

  (1335)  

    What has been happening since the Conservatives have been here? They are in the process of leaving future generations with the most significant environmental, economic and social debt in our history. These three elements are interconnected and constitute the three pillars of sustainable development. This bill and all the Conservatives' actions are the antithesis to sustainable development. What they are doing is not sustainable.
    Let us take a close look at what their approach to developing our natural resources means. Take the oil sands for example. They have decided to take everything they can immediately and export the jobs. A pipeline like Keystone exports 16,000 jobs to the United States because we do not have what it takes to do the processing and refining here. We are exporting crude. With the Keystone pipeline alone, we are exporting 16,000 jobs to the United States without internalizing the environmental costs. Cost internalization is one of the basic principles of sustainable development. We are leaving it up to future generations to clean up the soil, water and air that we are polluting with the way in which the oil sands are being developed. The Conservatives likes to exaggerate things and say that we are against the oil sands development. That is not true. We are against the way in which the oil sands are being developed because it is disrespectful of future generations. As a result of this failure to internalize the environmental cost, we end up importing an artificially high number of U.S. dollars since the cost has never been included. This artificially high number of U.S. dollars is raising the value of the Canadian dollar, which, for a while now, has exceeded the value of the U.S. dollar.
    Such a high Canadian dollar makes it increasingly difficult to export our manufactured goods. The result is that, since the Conservatives came to power in January 2006, Canada has been experiencing what economic textbooks and writings refer to as the Dutch disease, named after what happened in the Netherlands in the 1960s. The Dutch were thrilled to discover large offshore gas deposits. It was a windfall. It was going to be good for the economy because everyone was going to buy gas from them. They were right, except that this occurred before the euro. Every country in Europe had its own currency. The Netherlands used the guilder, which began to shoot up in value because everyone was in fact buying gas from them and other countries' currencies were coming in. The value of the guilder spiked and completely destroyed their manufacturing industry.
    Statistics Canada has indicated that we are experiencing exactly the same thing here in Canada right now. Our manufacturing industry is being gutted. Since the Conservatives came to power, they have been gutting our manufacturing industry because they are not applying the basic principles of sustainable development. The Conservatives will deny it and say that they have created so many hundreds of thousands of jobs since the crisis began. And that is true. However, they are replacing jobs in our manufacturing industry with jobs in the service industry, which are often part-time and insecure. I do not wish to take anything away from someone who works in a shopping mall and sells clothing for $12 an hour, but someone who worked for GM, which used to be on the west side of the Laurentian Autoroute in Boisbriand before it became a mega-mall, earned enough money to take care of a family. That person also had a pension to live on after he or she retired. Simply put, what the government is doing is replacing these well-paid jobs that had retirement pensions—and this is yet another attack on retirement pensions—with lower-paying jobs in the service industry that do not give employees enough money to take care of their families and, of course, do not provide them with retirement pensions.

  (1340)  

    The government is responsible for sustainable development every time it makes a decision. It must look at the environmental, economic and social aspects of a problem. If basic environmental principles are not respected, there is a negative impact on the economy. We have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in the manufacturing sector. The social issue is that hundreds of thousands of people will retire without enough money to live on. What will happen? They will have to be supported by the government. Who will the government be then? Today's young people. They will be stuck paying for these people because we did not abide by the basic rules of intergenerational equity, our obligations to future generations.
    That is exactly the philosophy that is on the table today. The government is going after not only existing benefits, but also wages and working conditions. I urge everyone here to speak to a letter carrier, with someone who delivers the mail, with someone who does that job. They have been pushed to the limit. There is nothing left to squeeze out of them. Hours of work, working conditions, occupational injuries: everything will get worse because from now on, they must sort for themselves as they go. What they are being asked to do is unbelievable. But the government, still riding the same general wave that they created themselves—an anti-worker, anti-union one—says that it is no big deal, that they can surf the wave and that the public will support them. That is a lesson they learned from Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s. The more you go after the unions, the happier you make a certain segment of the population, particularly the Conservatives' base. They are playing this game for the benefit of their Reform base.
    They have never delivered anything. What is being left for future generations is very serious in terms of the economy. They are simply gutting the industrial and manufacturing sector. Look at what they are doing with the largest deficit in history. The largest deficit in history has been delivered by the Conservatives. They just beat the record set by the Mulroney Conservative government. They hold the deficit record and yet they claim to be such great managers of public assets. We saw that again this week.
    Auditing services within the government ensure, on our behalf, that government spending follows the rules. When it came time to trim excess fat from the government, where did they start? With the 92 people who audit and monitor government spending. How on earth are we supposed to monitor spending when they fired the people who monitor that spending? It is absurd, but that is where the Conservative logic leads.
    They are telling us that there are serious issues with government spending and that cuts will have to be made. It is funny: since these same people—who claim to be such wonderful public administrators—came to power five and a half years ago, the annual rate of inflation has been about 2%. Plus, government spending has increased at three and a half times the rate of the cost of living. Did you hear that? Annual spending has increased by 6% to 7% each year since they came to power. Now—and this is similar to what they are doing to postal workers—having created the worst deficit in history, never having managed to control government spending, they are saying that it is terrible, that there is a deficit, that there is waste, that public money is being thrown out the window, and that this needs to stop.
    Can we have a reality check here? They are the ones who have been running the country for five and a half years. Every time they say that public money is being wasted in government administration, they are criticizing themselves. They are the ones who have been managing this money for five and a half years. They are the ones who are responsible for the situation they are currently criticizing; however, that will not stop them. They are unable to take an honest look in the mirror. They are convinced that they are always right about everything.
    It is no different here today. The government's only problem is when they are asked clear and specific questions. They are never able to answer them. The system for negotiating working conditions must be based on good faith. How can they justify the fact that they are the ones who locked the doors? How can they justify their complaints that the employees are not working when they are the ones who locked out the employees?

  (1345)  

    They do not have an answer. We are asking them how they can make an offer that is not as good as what management was prepared to offer, if the system is in fact based on good faith and if they are not playing a political game.
    At the beginning of my speech, I said that the right to negotiate working conditions, the right to join forces with other workers to negotiate working conditions, and the right to collectively withdraw the offer of work in accordance with the law when the collective agreement has expired and all other conditions have been met are rights that are guaranteed under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and recognized by courts across Canada.
    There was initially some indecision in this regard, particularly in terms of the RCMP's right to unionize, but all these issues are currently being upheld by the courts. These rights are a subset of the rights guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I am thinking of our freedom of association, our freedom to work with others to ensure that these same rights are respected and our freedom to speak out when those conditions are not met.
    The moment the government enters into the negotiations, a major conflict of interest is created. When that same government controls the employer and the tools through a majority government in the House, it is a complete conflict of interest. The basic obligation to demonstrate good faith in all negotiations is even more important when this clear conflict of interest exists.
    Rather than rising above the fray, the Conservative government is playing a shamelessly partisan game. That is why the New Democratic Party, which has always understood the role it plays in defending the rights of workers, will stand up and do everything in its power to stop this despicable and draconian bill from passing.

[English]

Mr. Dean Del Mastro (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the member's speech. While I am sure he feels he has given a very thoughtful speech to the House, there is a major chunk missing when he talks about workers. He does not talk about all workers such as all workers in my riding, all workers in his riding, all workers in anyone else's riding in the House. He is talking about a very select group.
    All these other workers, by the way, are not at the bargaining table, but they are paying a price and that price is going to impact them at home. It is going to impact whether they can pay their bills. It is going to impact whether they can have a summer vacation with their kids this year because they are going to be concerned about the effects of the Canada Post stoppage.
    He has not thought about that at all. He has not thought about the impacts on the economy. That is why Canadians entrusted the Conservative Party with the leadership of the 41st Parliament. They know that only we will be responsible to act in the best interests of all Canadians.
    Does the member know that CUPW has refused to allow Canada Post workers the opportunity to vote on Canada Post's most recent offer? Does he support that? Does he think that is democratic? Does he really think he is standing up for those workers?

  (1350)  

Mr. Thomas Mulcair:  
    Mr. Speaker, sometimes Conservative demagoguery goes beyond the limits.
     When the member says “Canada Post stoppage”, what he forgets is that the workers have been locked out. It is not the union that has walked out. The workers have been locked out and they have been locked out by their employer, which is a crown corporation, and crown corporations are run by the government.
    The government has locked the workers out to allow the member to stand, rend his garments and say, “This is terrible, they're not working, let's force them back to work”. The problem is the Conservatives are the ones who have stopped them from working.
Mr. Rodger Cuzner (Cape Breton—Canso, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.
    We have to remind Canadians watching this debate that this is a lockout. CUPW has been engaged in something that is absolutely legitimate and has been part of bargaining for years in our country, and that is rotating strikes, bringing attention to their cause and issues.
    For Canada Post to go to the lockout, and I know this may be conjecture but I would appreciate the member's opinion on this, does he not think Canada Post would have had some indication from its insider sources that the government would support this by coming forward with back to work legislation?
Mr. Thomas Mulcair:  
    Mr. Speaker, the question is well posed, but I will take a slightly different tack in answering it.
    What incentive remains for an employer to settle? What incentive remains for an employer to act in good faith? What incentive remains for the employer to sit down, bargain and get a result in the public interest, because that is what we are all here to defend?
    However, Canada Post has their gang on the other side saying not to worry, even though the union has not broken a single law. On the contrary, it has respected every letter of every law, but we should not worry about that. It locks the workers out, then blames them and then special legislation is brought in because it is good for its base.
    This is Ronald Reagan politics 101.
Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question about the position in which the workers have been put.
    The intervention that the government has taken is like using a sledgehammer on the workers. These men and women have served ably under a government-run business for a number of years. They have been committed to our country and to their work. We actually have one of the best recognized postal services in the world. The government has decided to use this approach to undermine the bargaining process and reduce it to the point where they are in the back seat. Would my colleague expand upon that?
    Not only has the government not allowed the workers to have the process take place, it has interfered to ensure their wages, their values and also their pensions are diminished. It is a strategic plot by the Conservatives.
     Again, it is important to recognize that these workers are locked out. They want to be at work, but they need a fair and just agreement.
Mr. Thomas Mulcair:  
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Windsor West makes the point extremely well. In fact, the workers had been using their rights under their collective agreement, under existing legislation. They had been showing their determination to get a settlement that would work for everyone.
     At the same time, not only is the member right when he says that Canada Post employees are among the best of any post office in the world, which is a subjective evaluation, the objective fact is the price of a stamp in Canada is a lot lower than in most comparable countries with an economy similar to ours.
     It is an extremely well-run operation, and that is thanks to the men and women who do the work there.

  (1355)  

Mr. Dean Del Mastro:  
    Mr. Speaker, I have very simple questions, and I would hope that democracy within the NDP works better than it does within CUPW.
     Is the member aware that there have been three contract offers made by Canada Post over a series of months and the workers were not allowed an opportunity to vote of any of them, and that includes Canada Post's most recent offer? Is the member aware that there are salary increases in there for the workers? Is he aware that there is pension security in there for the workers? Is he aware that the issues that matter to the members of CUPW are addressed in that contract? Is he aware that they have not, as workers, been given the opportunity to vote on that contract offer?
Mr. Thomas Mulcair:  
    Mr. Speaker, is the member aware that we will not get a chance to vote on those salary and pension increases because the government has lowered them and removed them from the specific legislation that is before the House?
     CUPW has respected every article of every statute. All the workers' rights are being defended by CUPW. The problem is that the employer's offers are being lowered because of the interfering, manipulative government that wants to pick a fight with the workers.
    The workers were locked out and the government pointed to them as being the problem. It is lowering the offers of the employer and pointing to the workers as being the problem, but it is the government that is the problem.
Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I have some concern as I listen to the Conservative's attempt to turn the postal workers of Canada into the kicking dog of their ideological campaign.
    I ran a small business that was dependent on mail service. I ran a magazine for 10 years. Every day I was at the post office to see if cheques had come in to get our product out.
    A number of magazine owners have contacted me. They said that they did not want this lock out to be used as an excuse to attack the postal workers, even if it affects their business. People at various magazines are saying that they trust the workers at Canada Post. They understand that the government has picked a fight and it figures the public will turn away from the postal workers.
     If the government gets away with this with the postal workers, then folks back home should know that it will come after every other bargaining sector and do the same thing. This is the line in the sand.
    Could my hon. colleague comment on that?
Mr. Thomas Mulcair:  
    Mr. Speaker, that is precisely right. If Canada Post gets away with locking out its workers and then blaming the same workers for not working, if the government gets away with tabling a lower offer than was already negotiated and then turns around and wonders why the workers are not voting on it when the workers are not able to vote on it because the government has just lowered the offer, then that is their goal.
    The government's goal is to put so much pressure on honest working men and women in this country that no one will stand up for their rights any more.
    I can guarantee one thing. There is one party that has been standing up for workers' rights for the past 50 years and will continue to do so. It is the New Democratic Party of Canada.
Mr. Dean Del Mastro:  
    Mr. Speaker, I would view that last statement somewhat differently. There is one party beholden to big union bosses in this country. That happens to be the New Democratic Party of Canada.
    When it comes to being responsible, when it comes to being accountable to Canadians, I would note there was virtually identical legislation brought to bear in this House in 1997. There is precedent for this.
    However, I would argue that if the member feels that what is being proposed is so outrageous, how can he sit in this House and claim that he supports CUPW when it will not even allow its own members to vote on contract offers?
    Is that what he supports, an organization--

  (1400)  

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin):  
    The hon. member for Outremont.
Mr. Thomas Mulcair:  
    Mr. Speaker, here are the facts.
    The union respected every single rule every step of the way. The union is using a right guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, something that the Conservatives apparently know nothing about. The workers were unable to get the same offer in this legislation.
    What is happening is this. We have an employer that has locked out the workers. They are pointing to that as being the problem. It is a problem created by the government.
    When one deals in good faith, one negotiates in good faith, visor up and takes it straight on. When one is a bully, one does not respect the law and then changes it on behalf of the boss who is not negotiating in--
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Barry Devolin):  
    Order please. It being 2 o'clock, we will move on to statements by members.
    The hon. member for London West.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

[English]

Women of Excellence Awards

Mr. Ed Holder (London West, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, each year the YMCA of Western Ontario awards the Women of Excellence Awards to some of the many outstanding Canadian women who call London home.
    This year, as in all years, its decision has not been an easy one, but I congratulate it on choosing an exceptional group of women to honour. Each of these women has worked tirelessly to improve the London community. They include: Ramona Lumpkin for education, training and development; Judith Rodger for arts, culture and heritage; Helen Connell for business, professions and trades; Ruthe Anne Conyngham for community, volunteerism and humanity; Donna Bourne for sport, fitness and recreation; and Sandy Whittall for health, science and technology. Moreover, the Olympians Tessa Virtue and Christine Nesbitt were celebrated for their outstanding achievement.
    This annual event is a celebration of excellence and a small way in which Londoners can thank these remarkable women for their contributions.
    On behalf of all Canadians, and especially those in London, let me thank them once again for making a positive difference to so many lives.

Food Security and Sovereignty

Mr. Alex Atamanenko (British Columbia Southern Interior, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, along with farm groups from 66 countries, Canada's supply managed sector is calling for coherence between trade agreements and international treaties on poverty, hunger, climate change and biodiversity so that countries can better meet food security requirements.
    Our farmers are saying that trade agreements must not take precedence over food security.
    It is no secret that the Canadian Council of Chief Executives has formally called on the Prime Minister to sacrifice the Canadian Wheat Board and our supply managed sector. We see the government already moving to destroy the wheat board by 2012. We also know that if the current WTO Doha round is signed, each dairy farmer stands to lose approximately $70,000.
    I am asking the government to respect the underlying principle of food sovereignty as laid out in the international call for coherence. It could begin by rejecting any proposal that would weaken our ability to maintain supply management or our Canadian Wheat Board, both of which are vital to our long term national food security interests.

William Teleske

Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton East, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, William Teleske fought with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment in the Italian campaign. In late 1943 he was in the Battle of Ortona, called the Stalingrad of Italy for its ferocity. Christmas was a short reprieve from the front lines to a bombed out church for dinner.
    In Christmas 1998, Bill returned to Ortona with 30 veterans of his regiment and of the Three Rivers Regiment, Royal 22nd Regiment, Provost Corps and the Seaforth Highlanders. They visited their 1,400 fallen comrades resting at the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery and wondered: “So why not me?”
    Then they shared Christmas dinner in the rebuilt church, this time with their foes of old, a wonderful expression of the hopefulness for world peace in the season of Christ meant for such reflection.
    Bill passed away on Sunday, June 19.
    Bill Teleske was respected for his service to his country and will be missed by his family and his many friends. We will not forget.

[Translation]

Special Olympics World Summer Games

Mr. Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, the Special Olympics World Summer Games begin on June 25. Some 151 Canadian athletes and coaches will be in Athens to represent our country. They will do so with dignity and in the Olympic spirit.

  (1405)  

[English]

    Dignity, acceptance and a chance to reach one's potential, these are human rights that will drive our young Canadians through this competition.
    For more than four decades, the Special Olympics has been bringing one message to the world: people with intellectual disabilities can and will succeed if given the opportunity.
    I would like to congratulate our athletes for making it to Athens and I wish them great success at the games, but most of all I thank them for representing us well and making us so very proud. Go Canada go.

Lethbridge

Mr. Jim Hillyer (Lethbridge, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the people of Lethbridge and Southern Alberta for electing me as their new member of Parliament. They put their trust in me because they have grown to trust the Conservative Party. They know that we are the party of the hard-working working class.
    They know that they can count on me to work hard to reduce taxes and to strengthen the economy, to continue to let parents choose for themselves how to care for their children and to work toward a more just justice system.
    Southern Albertans also know that Conservative policies are the only sure way and the most compassionate way to help the poor and lift the downtrodden.
    We offer families real choices, real assistance and real results.
    I am here to listen and to serve and to ensure that Southern Alberta remains a place of rich diversity and independent thinkers who work together within a strong, vibrant community.

[Translation]

Ragweed

Ms. Anne Minh-Thu Quach (Beauharnois—Salaberry, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I rise here today to commend the entire community of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield for its involvement in the fight against ragweed. Over 400 partners, including the City of Valleyfield, public health workers, the health and social service centre and the people of this city in my riding, have all joined forces for the past three years to take part in a study on pollen concentrations.
    Ragweed is systematically cut down every year in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, and as a result, the intensity of allergy symptoms has dropped by over 58%. This goes to show that, by working together, it is possible to positively influence people's health. I would remind the House that 25% of Canadians suffer from this kind of allergy. I therefore invite all communities in Canada to follow the example set by Salaberry-de-Valleyfield in order to improve air quality and everyone's health.
    I would also like to take this opportunity to wish the people of my riding and everyone in Quebec an excellent Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.

[English]

Prince Albert

Mr. Randy Hoback (Prince Albert, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, on May 2, the constituents of the federal riding of Prince Albert honoured me by re-electing me as their member of Parliament.
    I want to thank them for the trust and confidence they have placed in me. I also specifically wish to acknowledge the commitment and hard work of my campaign manager, Larry Brewster, and my entire campaign team, who are too many to mention in this short statement.
    Most of all I would like to thank my wife, Jerri, and my children, Broc and Alicia, for their continued love and support.
    The voters of Prince Albert sent a clear message on May 2. They want to see the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry repealed. They want the ability to market their grain as they fit, just as producers in Ontario have the right to do. They want to see a Senate that is democratically elected. They want to see the economic policies of our Conservative government continue, polices that kept Canadians working during the global recession, and a balanced budget by 2015.
    Most of all, they want Canada to be governed by a Conservative majority led by the Right Hon. Prime Minister, and thanks to the leadership of our Prime Minister, their wants will be our realities.

Anniversary of Ukrainian Settlement

Mr. Robert Sopuck (Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, on May 2 the voters of Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette bestowed on me the honour of representing them in the House of Commons by re-electing me.
    On June 14, parliamentarians from all parties elected me as the chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group. I succeeded the former chair, the member for Langley, whom I thank for his distinguished service.
    In 1891, the first wave of Ukrainian settlers arrived on Canada's shores, and the rest, as they say, is history. This year marks the 120th anniversary of that settlement.
    Western Canada was a destination for many of these settlers who yearned for a farm of their own. The Ukrainian culture is alive, well and thriving in my constituency, as is the case in many regions of Canada. The many manifestations of Ukrainian culture in my constituency range from beautiful churches to lovingly tended cemeteries, thriving dance groups, beautiful gardens and, of course, productive farms.
    I am honoured to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the Ukrainian settlement, a testament to our great land of hope and opportunity.

[Translation]

Quebec National Holiday

Ms. Marie-Claude Morin (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I want to take this first opportunity in the House to thank my constituents for the confidence they placed in me on May 2. I want to wish them and all Quebeckers a happy Quebec national holiday and tell them I will be with them in spirit, as I will not be joining the festivities. Let us face it, the Prime Minister refuses to respect the holiday of a nation he claims to recognize.
    I look forward to returning to my riding and taking part in many summer activities with the extraordinary people who live there.
    I also want to add that I am proud that the NDP, unlike the current government, supports workers. I chose this party for its values, which I share, as do a vast majority of Quebeckers. I will continue to represent these values when it comes to social and affordable housing, for which I am the critic, because every citizen, without exception, has the right to have a decent roof overhead.

  (1410)  

[English]

Camp Nathan Smith

Mr. LaVar Payne (Medicine Hat, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, yesterday was a momentous day in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.
    The Canadian flag was lowered for good at Camp Nathan Smith, where Canadian civilians have been serving for the last six years.
    This solemn moment marks both the achievements and sacrifices of all Canadians who have served in Afghanistan. It is a step forward in the transition of that country's future to the Afghan people. It is also a chance to pay tribute to all those who have sacrificed, some with the ultimate price, in the fight against the Taliban and terror generally.
    Afghanistan today is a better, freer place than Canadians found it when they first arrived at Camp Nathan Smith. The people who have used the camp as a base for their work have helped tangibly to improve the lives of people in the region and the country as a whole. Canada's commitment to Afghanistan's future continues.
    I would ask all hon. members to join me in saluting the men and women who have served with honour and distinction at Camp Nathan Smith. Theirs is an impressive legacy, indeed.

[Translation]

Riding of Trois-Rivières

Mr. Robert Aubin (Trois-Rivières, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, one minute to talk about the important events in my riding is not very much. But I would like to mention a few situations that reflect the best things, and in some instances the worst, that are on the minds of the people of Trois-Rivières.
    First, I would like to wish all Quebeckers a happy national holiday. I apologize for not being able to participate in the festivities for reasons known to everyone and approved by very few.
    After the bundle of English-only documents that were presented yesterday, the battles to be fought in Ottawa are more urgent than ever.
    I also wish to reassure Claude Mercier and Louis Poisson of CUPW in Trois-Rivières that I will work relentlessly to defend their rights to fair and equitable bargaining.
    In another vein, I would like to congratulate Marie-Ève Nault and the entire Canadian women's soccer team, who are bringing us honour in the final round of the tournament in Germany.

[English]

Violence Against Women

Mrs. Nina Grewal (Fleetwood—Port Kells, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians were horrified to learn of the savage beating inflicted on Rumana Manzur, a barbaric act of violence. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ms. Manzur and her daughter, but prayers are not enough.
    Violence against women destroys families and weakens the fabric of society. Canadians know we are addressing violence against women and girls.
    Since taking office, our government has invested more than $30 million in projects to end violence against women and girls in communities across the country. We have increased funding to end this violence to its highest level ever.
    We are addressing these barbaric crimes by supporting programs like the Indo-Canadian Women's Associations' elimination of harmful cultural practises project. This initiative will empower immigrant girls and young women.
    Violence should not be and will not be tolerated.

Air India

Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, early this morning, on the coast of Ireland, a few families will be lighting candles and sending them into the water.
    In Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver today, people will come together and reflect on the terrible events of June 23, 1985 when hundreds of people were killed by bombs that were built and set in Canada.
    The Air India bombing stands as a terrible act of violence and terror, an event that took Canadians far too long to recognize in its full significance.
    We recognize the courage and dignity of those who died and those who lived. We dedicate ourselves to the struggle against extremism and against violence, and we remember the words that are found on each monument memorializing these lives:
    

Time flies, suns rise and shadows fall,
Let it pass by, love reigns forever over all.

  (1415)  

[Translation]

The Budget

Mr. Jacques Gourde (Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, in June we laid out the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a positive plan that will keep taxes low and stimulate jobs and growth.
    Canadians supported this budget and the important economic measures it contains. We are asking the NDP and the opposition to work with us to support Canada's forestry, mining, manufacturing, agriculture and aerospace sectors; to increase the guaranteed income supplement for Canada's poorest seniors; to bring health care and social transfers to record levels; to provide tax breaks to family caregivers, families with children involved in arts activities, and volunteer firefighters; and to attract doctors and nurses to rural areas.
    But the NDP voted against all of these measures. Let us work together for a strong Quebec within a united Canada.

Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to wish my dear friends in Quebec a happy national holiday. It is a time to celebrate our language, our culture, our heritage, our history and our nation.
    Quebec has a great deal to offer and many reasons to celebrate. On behalf of the entire NDP team and caucus, and especially the 59 members from Quebec, I wish all Quebeckers an excellent national holiday.
    I would also like to take this opportunity to point out that francophones across Canada will be celebrating Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day tomorrow. May the French culture, history and language be at the heart of our celebrations from coast to coast to coast.

[English]

The Budget

Mr. Brian Jean (Fort McMurray—Athabasca, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, in June, we presented the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a positive plan to keep taxes low and support jobs and growth. Canadians supported the budget and its important economic measures.
    We asked the NDP and the opposition to put aside politics and to work with us to support Canada's forestry, mining, agricultural, manufacturing and aerospace sectors; to increase income support for Canada's most in need seniors with a GIS increase; to bring health care and social transfers to record highs; to provide tax relief for family caregivers; to provide for families with a children's art tax credit; to provide for volunteer firefighters; to help attract doctors and nurses to rural areas; and much more.
    The budget won praise among many Canadians but the NDP voted against it all.
    Why did the NDP and the opposition members vote against seniors, vote against forestry, vote against record money for health care and much more? It is because they are in it for themselves and not for Canadians.

ORAL QUESTIONS

[Oral Questions]

[Translation]

Canada Post

Hon. Jack Layton (Leader of the Opposition, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, negotiations between Canada Post and its workers have broken off. After locking the doors of post offices and sorting stations, Canada Post has no reason to negotiate in good faith because the Prime Minister is doing the dirty work on its behalf. He is preventing a healthy bargaining process, and imposing a labour contract with lower wages.
    Where is the Prime Minister's good faith?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, the role of the federal government is to act in the best interests of the Canadian people and the Canadian economy, and not in the interests of those at the table. The reason for the legislation is to put an end to this situation that threatens our economy. The wage rates being imposed are identical to those offered in negotiations with our federal public servants.

  (1420)  

Hon. Jack Layton (Leader of the Opposition, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, we know that the Prime Minister likes padlocks. He locked the doors of Parliament when things were not going his way. He has locked the post office doors. He is punishing the workers who were trying to get better conditions while continuing to deliver the mail.
    Why is the Prime Minister punishing the workers for the decisions made by his government and his obedient servants at Canada Post?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, it was the opposition that decided to padlock Parliament for months for an election. For that reason, the Canadian electorate decided to give this government a majority so that it can govern this country and act in the interests of the electorate.

[English]

Hon. Jack Layton (Leader of the Opposition, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the government shut down the post office and is now trying to impose wages that are lower than the management was offering the workers.
    The Prime Minister has rendered collective bargaining pointless in this country. He is signalling that if employers cannot get what they want at the bargaining table, never mind, Ottawa will legislate it for them. Why bother to bargain? It is a terrible precedent.
    Will the Prime Minister at least remove the wage section from this bill and let an arbitrator decide on this particular important matter? It is only fair.
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, the wage rates, as set in the bill, are only fair. They reflect what we have negotiated with federal public servants.
    However, we need to be absolutely clear on the difference here. The government, unlike the NDP, is not beholden to one of the parties at the table. The government represents the wider interest of the Canadian economy. This strike is bad for the economy and we will act.

[Translation]

Afghanistan

Ms. Hélène Laverdière (Laurier-Sainte-Marie, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, on the surface, the documents revealed by the Afghan detainee committee yesterday contain little new information.
    After all this time and money, we are right back where we started. Torture and extrajudicial executions are not unusual in Afghan prisons, and Canada has handed prisoners over to these torturers.
    Why does the government not do what is right and demand a public inquiry?

[English]

Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, our government is and has always been committed to handling Afghan Taliban prisoners in accordance with our international obligations. We have just been through a 12-month $12 million process where an unprecedented amount of information has been put before a number of parliamentarians of this place. It has been ruled upon by former members of the Supreme Court who have done an outstanding job for this country.
     I think Canadians have a clear picture that our men and women in uniform fully accepted all our international obligations and have done a heck of a good job representing this country.
Mr. Jack Harris (St. John's East, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the minister is clearly grasping at straws here.
    What the government spent $12 million on was trying to suppress the truth. Less than one-tenth of the documents were reviewed by the panel of ex-judges and less than half were even looked at by the back-room committee of MPs. For what? It was so the government could put this off for a year and now falsely pretend that judgment has been rendered.
     Why did the Conservatives choose a process that hid the facts from Canadians and why not hold a public inquiry now?
Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I was, as I am sure many members in this place were, tremendously disappointed when the New Democratic Party refused to participate in this committee of parliamentarians.
    Yesterday some 4,200 pieces of documentation on this important issue were released. We offered a briefing to all three of the opposition parties and let me say that I was even more disappointed that not one person from the New Democratic Party bothered to show up for that briefing to have this information explained.

  (1425)  

Canada Post

Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.):  
    We would have come if we had been invited, Mr. Speaker.
    With respect to the current postal dispute, I wonder if the Prime Minister would—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Speaker:  
    Order, please. I cannot even hear the question there is so much talking going on from that end of the chamber.
    The hon. member for Toronto Centre.
Hon. Bob Rae:  
    They are an unruly bunch, Mr. Speaker, and there is not much we can do with them.
    I wonder if the Prime Minister would recognize that one feature of the legislation that he is proposing is in a sense unprecedented. The way in which the arbitration process is set up is extremely interventionist. I wonder if the Prime Minister might consider, even at this late hour, some modification of the arbitration clauses in the legislation which might in fact provide us with the possibilities of a resolution of this conflict.
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  
    Once again, Mr. Speaker, I certainly do not accept that there is anything unprecedented here, but what I do stress is the fact that this is a dispute that has gone on for some time. It is increasingly damaging to a wide interest of the Canadian economy, small business, charities and ordinary working people. This is not acceptable and the government is acting to ensure that postal services resume for Canadians.

The Senate

Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, on another topic, the question of the Senate, the Prime Minister seems to be fixated on continuing with a proposal which has now aroused the opposition of the province of Ontario, as well as the province of Quebec, as well as former Premier Getty of his own province, who points out that having an elected Senate in Alberta with only six members in fact seriously discriminates against that province.
    I wonder why the Prime Minister is persisting with a proposal that is unconstitutional, that is opposed by major provinces in the country and that does not have a hope of success?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, of course, the election possibility raised in the legislation is an option for provinces. Some may choose to participate, some may not, but it is important in this day and age that we move forward with reform.
    I know the Liberal Party will go to any lengths, including making completely false statements, to try to justify the status quo in the Senate of Canada and that is simply not acceptable to Canadians.

[Translation]

Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, I will take the Prime Minister's insulting comments they way he intended.
    The reality is that it is not the Liberal Party; it is the Province of Ontario, the Province of Quebec and the other provinces. It is also the former Alberta premier, who clearly shows that this proposal discriminates against his own province.
    The question remains. The Constitution protects the status of the Senate; not a party in the Parliament of Canada.
    What does the Prime Minister have against the Constitution of Canada?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, it is perfectly clear that the changes proposed by this government fall under the constitutional authority of the Parliament of Canada, the federal Parliament.

[English]

    It is very clear that the changes are within federal constitutional authority. I know that the Liberal Party, in both chambers, believes it is entitled to its entitlements, but we believe it is time to move forward with some reform.

[Translation]

Asbestos

Mr. Romeo Saganash (Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the finger is being pointed at Canada for its indefensible position on the Rotterdam convention.
    Two days ago, the minister explained that Canada's position was justifiable since other countries were preventing chrysotile asbestos from being included on the list. A number of those countries have since changed their minds and now Canada stands alone.
    Will this government explain once and for all why it is bent on refusing to add chrysotile to the Rotterdam convention?
Hon. Christian Paradis (Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture), CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, for more than 30 years, the Government of Canada has been arguing for the safe and controlled use of chrysotile at home and abroad. What is more, recent scientific studies clearly confirm that the fibres can be used safely in a controlled environment. Our position on the convention reflects the position adopted in Canada.

[English]

Mr. Nathan Cullen (Skeena—Bulkley Valley, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, former Conservative cabinet minister Chuck Strahl recently said that it was “logical and right” to list asbestos as dangerous.
    Tuesday, the minister stood and told Canadians that there was no need for Canada to get up in opposition to the listing because other countries would do our dirty work for us. However, when India and Ukraine stepped away, Canada was left alone in the spotlight, defending what the world knows to be wrong.
    Will the minister stop defending the asbestos lobby and realize that the time has come to do the right thing, to list asbestos as dangerous, as the world has come to agree?

  (1430)  

[Translation]

Hon. Christian Paradis (Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture), CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, the International Trade Union Movement For Chrysotile represents hundreds of thousands of workers who have taken a position in favour of the safe use of chrysotile because they know recent scientific studies show that chrysotile can be used safely in a controlled environment.
Mr. François Lapointe (Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, India, which is the main importer of asbestos from Canada, has thrown its support behind adding chrysotile asbestos to the Rotterdam convention. India could thereby control the harmful effects of asbestos and guarantee that the risks associated with using this product are clearly identified.
    Why is this government putting its energies into opposing a convention that could save lives instead of implementing a plan that would allow asbestos workers to move toward industries of the future?
Hon. Christian Paradis (Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture), CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, for more than 30 years, the Government of Canada has been arguing for the safe and controlled use of chrysotile. According to recent scientific studies, this can be done in a controlled environment. Canada's position on the convention reflects the position adopted here in Canada.

[English]

Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, asbestos is the greatest industrial killer the world has ever known. More people die from asbestos than from all other industrial causes combined, yet Canada continues to be one of the largest producers and exporters in the world.
    Without exaggeration, we are exporting human misery on a monumental scale and yet we are taking active steps to ensure that companies do not even warn their customers, the third world and developing nations, where we are dumping hundreds of thousands of tonnes of asbestos. Conservatives do not think it should even have a warning label on it.
    Our position is morally and ethically reprehensible. Do they not realize the black eye they are giving our country--
The Speaker:  
    Order, please. The hon. Minister of Industry.

[Translation]

Hon. Christian Paradis (Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture), CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, we know that recent scientific studies clearly show that chrysotile fibres can be used safely in a controlled environment. Today, the International Trade Union Movement For Chrysotile, which represents hundreds of thousands of workers—again, hundreds of thousands of workers—reiterated this position in support of the safe and controlled use of chrysotile.

Employment

Ms. Peggy Nash (Parkdale—High Park, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, Canada's debt represents 34% of its income, but household debt represents approximately 150% of household income.
    The government is constantly talking about its own debt, but it is not helping Canadians deal with their debt. The best cure for this is a good job.
    When will the government create real jobs instead of part-time solutions and help Canadians get rid of their personal debt?

[English]

Hon. Jim Flaherty (Minister of Finance, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I am proud of the job creation record of our government: nearly 560,000 net new jobs created since July 2009, of which more than 80% are full-time jobs. This is the best record of any country in the G7. Our country has been through a difficult time, a recession that came from outside our country, but we have managed our way through it and Canadians are doing well.
Ms. Peggy Nash (Parkdale—High Park, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, it is just not credible. The government talks about an economic recovery, but it has no plan to end the jobs crisis. That is not a recovery. We still have hundreds of thousands more unemployed than before the recession, a recession the government did not even see coming.
    Today, we learned that only 42% of the unemployed can access employment insurance, the insurance they paid into.
    Why is the government continuing to make working families pay for its failure to create jobs?
Hon. Jim Flaherty (Minister of Finance, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, Canada's economy has grown for seven straight quarters now since the recession ended in July 2009. I do not know where the member opposite gets her information, but not only have we recovered all of the jobs that were lost during the recession, we have also restored all of the economic output that was lost during the recession. Only one other country in the G7, that is Germany, has a comparable record.

  (1435)  

[Translation]

Poverty

Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, this government's lack of compassion for people living in poverty is shocking.
    The Conservatives want to cut nearly half a billion dollars from the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development, but they are refusing to say which programs will be affected.
    Canadians have a right to know.
    Which programs does this government intend to cut?
Hon. Diane Finley (Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, Canadians gave us a clear, strong mandate. They want us to respect the money they make, the money we receive in taxes, and they want us to spend it very wisely. That is what we will do. We will eliminate waste.

[English]

Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, that is simply not good enough. Twenty years after Parliament passed a New Democratic motion to end child poverty, Canadian children are still being left behind.
    Statistics released yesterday show that over 100,000 children in British Columbia are still living in poverty. That is 100,000 kids who are not getting a fair start in life. This is an urgent national problem.
    How can the government waste millions on gazebos and billions on tax giveaways to profitable corporations while leaving families to fend for themselves?
Hon. Diane Finley (Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, our government really is reaching out to help families right across this country, especially those in need. That is one of the reasons that we introduced the universal child care benefit. We have increased the national child benefit as well.
    These are all initiatives aimed to help low income families get over the welfare wall, just like the WITB that we introduced and then increased.
    Sadly, the NDP voted against every one of those initiatives to help the most vulnerable families.

[Translation]

Persons with Disabilities

Ms. Manon Perreault (Montcalm, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, Canada signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities more than four years ago.
    The Conservatives have yet to do anything to implement the principles of this convention.
    Considering that there are more than four million people in Canada living with disabilities, when will the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development submit an action plan to implement the convention?
Hon. Diane Finley (Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome the hon. member to the House.
    However, she should know that we have done a lot for persons with disabilities in Canada. We have introduced a number of programs.

[English]

    For example, it was our government that launched the registered disability savings plan, one in which some 45,000 families are now perpetuating their ability to look after their disabled loved ones.
    Not only was it our government that signed the convention, but we also launched the enabling accessibility fund that has made over 600 new facilities across Canada accessible. Her party should have supported--
The Speaker:  
    The hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie.

[Translation]

Asbestos

Mr. Marc Garneau (Westmount—Ville-Marie, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, a pack of cigarettes very clearly warns us that tobacco causes cancer. Asbestos also causes cancer and yet this government refuses to put it on the Rotterdam Convention list of carcinogens.
    Nevertheless, other exporting countries, such as Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam and Kazakhstan have done so. India, which imports our chrysotile, has done it.
    Why is this government not doing the right thing?
Hon. Christian Paradis (Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture), CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, for over 30 years, the Canadian government has been promoting the safe and controlled use of chrysotile fibre, not asbestos in general as the hon. member mentioned, but chrysotile fibre. Recent scientific studies have shown that this fibre can be safely used in a controlled environment. This is the position that was taken by the previous government.

[English]

Mr. Marc Garneau (Westmount—Ville-Marie, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, the minister knows full well that it is very difficult to use chrysotile in the proper working conditions. The procedures, training, complex equipment are all needed to be able to use it in a safe way so that fibres are not accidentally breathed in. The minister knows this full well. He cannot assure us that it is not being used improperly in third world countries that import it.
    Why is the government deceiving Canadians and pretending that there is no problem? This is wilful blindness. The government is washing its hands of its responsibilities.

  (1440)  

[Translation]

Hon. Christian Paradis (Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture), CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, we are talking here about risk management. We know that chrysotile fibre can be safely used in a controlled environment. I would like to remind the hon. member that the International Trade Union Movement for Chrysotile, which represents hundreds of thousands of workers, supports the safe use of chrysotile. These people know what they are doing. They are experts in the field and are supported in the safe use of chrysotile. Canada's position with regard to the convention therefore reflects the country's position.

[English]

G8 Summit

Ms. Judy Foote (Random—Burin—St. George's, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, according to its mission statement, Treasury Board Secretariat is supposed to ensure that “resources are soundly managed across government with a focus on results and value for money”.
    By that criteria, the first program that should be audited is the G8 legacy fund where $50 million which Parliament authorized for border infrastructure ended up in gazebos and washrooms that had nothing to do with the G8.
    Is the President of the Treasury Board refusing to call for a value-for-money audit because he knows it would lead right back to him?
Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General looked at this initiative and made some helpful observations about how we could move forward in a more transparent and clear way in terms of the estimates presented to Parliament. The Auditor General also made some observations with respect to the administration of the program.
    The good news is every dollar is accounted for. All 32 projects came in on or under budget. In fact, the program itself was underspent by some $5 million.

[Translation]

Mr. Alexandre Boulerice (Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka approved $50 million worth of projects that benefited his friends. This is so suspicious that the RCMP is investigating. Today, members representing ridings that did not benefit from this preferential treatment are asking legitimate questions.
    Can the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka stop hiding behind his spokesperson and explain to the members from other ridings how and why the projects were approved in his riding?

[English]

Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I am happy to correct the record. Those projects with which the member opposite claimed were approved by the now President of the Treasury Board were in fact approved by the minister of infrastructure. I am happy to correct the record.

[Translation]

Mr. Alexandre Boulerice (Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I have a figure that is of interest to all of us. Had the President of the Treasury Board approved $50 million worth of projects in all of the country's other ridings, it would have cost the public treasury $15 billion. This gives some idea of the extent of the dubious spending that occurred in his riding.
    But, above all, does the President of the Treasury Board understand that by favouring his friends, he is creating a two-tier democracy—one for his friends and one for other Canadians?

[English]

Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, let us look at what some of these infrastructure funds were spent on.
    They were spent on rehabilitating the airport in North Bay. They were spent on fixing up a provincial highway. They were spent on building a community centre that was used during the summit. These are all public infrastructure projects which add great value to the municipalities that recommended and submitted these projects.
Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General's report shows how the member from Muskoka got away with giving out $50 million without any oversight. He deliberately froze out any accountable body. He blew off the checks and balances of Parliament. That is why we are having a police investigation.
    Do the Conservatives really think it passes the smell test that three amigos-- the minister, a mayor and a hotel manager--were allowed to lord over 242 projects without any documentation? When will the minister stand up and produce the real paper trail?
Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, much of what the member opposite said is not true. It is not fact. The fact that he has to exaggerate suggests that the facts cannot present a powerful enough argument.
    The reality is there were three individuals who reviewed the submissions, but in fact they had no decision-making authority in this regard.
    The good news is that all 32 projects were completed on time. We did get some very helpful observations from the Auditor General. We thank her for her work and are fully accepting the good advice and counsel that she has provided.

  (1445)  

Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, they pilfered $50 million from border infrastructure and the police have been called in, but that is just a start. The member raided FedNor. He raided the community adjustment fund. He raided the stimulus fund. He created a $100 million personal legacy project that was blown on sunken boats and paving the bunny trail.
    Now the guy is in charge of Canada's treasury. Why are the Conservatives showing such contempt for Canadian taxpayers by putting him there?
Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I have accepted the challenge of the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Winnipeg Centre to make this place more civil, to debate issues and not bring about insults.
    The reality is that the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka, the Hon. Tony Clement (President of the Treasury Board, CPC), has provided great leadership over 14 years in public service. He has done a heck of a job for the people of Ontario, a great job for the people of Canada. He has a lot to be very proud of.

Air India Flight 182

Mr. John Weston (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, today our Prime Minister marked the seventh annual National Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Terrorism.
    We honour and remember the victims of the Air India Flight 182 atrocity which occurred 26 years ago today.
    Would the Minister of Foreign Affairs give the House an update on what the government is doing to combat terrorism and mark this important day of remembrance?
Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his interest in this regard.
    On this day we pause to remember those who lost their lives through acts of terrorism here in Canada and around the world.
    On June 23, 1985, as my colleague has said, Canadians experienced the worst terrorist attack in Canada's history when a bomb on Air India Flight 182 killed all 329 passengers and crew members on board, most of them Canadian.
    Earlier today the Prime Minister unveiled the fourth and final memorial for the victims of this tragedy. This memorial and three others in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver will ensure that their deaths and the loss experienced by their loved ones will not be forgotten.

Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Don Davies (Vancouver Kingsway, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the government's record of deporting refugees to torture is troubling. The Benhmuda family, including two Canadian-born children, lived in Canada for eight years. The family was deported into the hands of Moammar Gadhafi and the father was tortured for six months.
    The family was able to escape to Malta. They are not safe there, and the UN has asked the government to repatriate them.
    Will the minister bring these Canadian children and the family back to Canada, where they belong?
Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, CPC):  
    First, Mr. Speaker, I have to take serious objection to the preamble of the hon. member's question. He knows full well that no Canadian government of any political stripe deports people to torture. We have the fairest asylum system in the world. Any one who our courts, our IRB or decision makers determines could face risk overseas is not returned to face risk.
    Having said that, this is a particularly complicated case. I cannot comment on the details because of the Privacy Act. If we receive an application from that family, I can assure the member it will be given every humanitarian consideration and dealt with on an accelerated basis.

[Translation]

Libya

Ms. Paulina Ayala (Honoré-Mercier, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the people of Libya are currently under a huge amount of stress. Right now, there are a number of students of Libyan origin studying in Canada. The freeze on trade relations with Libya is putting their scholarships and student visas in jeopardy.
    Will this government extend the temporary exemption granted to Libyan students living in Canada, and will it ensure that they receive financial assistance immediately?

[English]

Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, Canada has acted quickly and decisively to approve an exemption from the sanctions so students would not suffer.
    It is now time for the Libyan government to release the necessary funds to support the students and their families. We will continue to press Libya to provide the funding as soon as possible.
    We will continue to work with these students to ensure they can complete their education in Canada.

Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Dan Harris (Scarborough Southwest, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, 34 immigrant settlement agencies have lost their funding after $43 million was cut. It hits places like Toronto and Scarborough the hardest where 80,000 new Canadians are hurt by these service cuts.
    These cuts come at a time when Toronto schools are also cutting settlement staff, further eroding available services. Both the House and the immigration committee have voted to reverse these funding cuts, but Conservatives have ignored this.
    Why is the government putting up barriers to the integration of immigrants into Canadian society and our economy?

  (1450)  

Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on his election, but not on his question, because every single assertion was false.
    In point of fact, this government has more than tripled the federal investment in integration and settlement services for newcomers. It was $200 million five years ago. It is now over $600 million. It has increased in Ontario.
    It is true that there are now more newcomers settling in places like Atlantic Canada and western Canada than in Ontario, and the dollars are following them, because we have a responsibility to make sure that all newcomers get an equal chance to succeed in Canada.
Mr. Andrew Cash (Davenport, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, the minister's answer shows that he either does not get Toronto or he does not care.
     When he cut this funding, not only did he abandon new Canadians, but he took decades of on the ground knowledge and tossed it out the window. In my riding of Davenport, the South Asian Women's Centre and the Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Centre lost $1 million in funding, despite passing their official assessment.
    If these agencies are getting a passing grade, why is the government steamrolling ahead with cuts and ignoring immigrant families in Toronto?
Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, let me make this very simple for the NDP.
     We have tripled the federal investment in settlement services for newcomers. There are hundreds of organizations that deliver those services on our behalf, but we receive applications from thousands of organizations.
     I know the NDP believes that money grows on trees. I know the NDP thinks we can keep raising taxes to spend money without any limit. However, we cannot actually fund every one of the thousands of organizations that make an application. We have to make an assessment on their track record and on the quality of the applications and fund the best ones. That is exactly what we do, giving taxpayers value for the money.

Afghanistan

Hon. Stéphane Dion (Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, the newly released Afghan detainee documents have much to reveal. Transfer notifications to the Red Cross took up to a month. We lost track of hundreds of detainees. When the Afghan authorities claimed detainees were released, we did not verify. Our own monitoring was erratic and allegations of torture were numerous.
    How can the Prime Minister say nothing is wrong, knowing he failed to protect people under his watch?
Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, we spent 12 long months providing a significant number of documents to the parliamentary committee. We spent a considerable amount of money, $12 million. Regrettably, the member opposite did not find the damage he expected to find.
    What I was terribly disappointed about was with these 4,200 pages of information we had from professional people in the public service, from the Department of Foreign Affairs, from men and women in uniform, from the Department of National Defence, why did the Liberal Party and the member not take advantage of the briefing? There was only one single member who--
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Speaker:  
    Order, please. I will ask hon. members to allow the minister to answer the question. There is not much point in asking a question if you do not listen to the response.
    The hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville.
Hon. Stéphane Dion (Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, the next time the minister wants to invite me, he should tell me.

[Translation]

    Among the information in these documents, there are allegations of torture, such as a case in which a detainee we transferred for interrogation by the Afghan secret service may have been subjected to abuse and death threats; yet we did not follow up.
    What will this government do to ensure that in the future, our mechanism for protecting detainees is transparent, effective and worthy of Canada?

[English]

Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, it was likely. There were no facts that brought the conclusion that any Canadian transfer detainees were. Let us look at what certain detainees had to say.
    One detainee, whom I will call Bob, indicated that the food and water he was provided and the things he was given to eat included meat, rice, fruits, bread and beans. He indicated that he was treated well. That is what some of the documents released yesterday said.

Disaster Assistance

Mr. Kennedy Stewart (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I am very sad to say that floods and forest fires continue to devastate large segments of western Canada. Millions of acres of farmland have been flooded or have gone unseeded. Cattle producers may have to reduce their herds because of pasture damage and entire communities lay devastated.
    The western provinces cannot handle this alone. What will the government do to help western farmers, businesses and workers deal with the aftermath of these natural disasters?

  (1455)  

Hon. Peter Van Loan (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, we are following, together with the provinces, with great interest the difficulties many are facing in the west due to these floods. Canadians can count on us to assist when disaster strikes. Because of this year's unprecedented floods, we have also offered to pay for half the costs of permanent mitigation measures constructed ahead of this year's floods that are not otherwise eligible for disaster financial assistance arrangements. We think it makes a lot of sense to put in place permanent mitigation measures to prevent damage like this from happening again, where possible.
Mr. Kennedy Stewart (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, what the provinces are saying is that they are looking for leadership and the government is not stepping up to the plate.
    Western premiers are calling for the federal government to have a national disaster mitigation plan and extra help for those whose livelihoods have been damaged. They see the need for federal help but the Conservatives seem content to stand idly by.
    Will the government listen to the premiers and develop a plan that includes a special compensation program for families and communities devastated by the floods and forest fires?
Hon. Peter Van Loan (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I really must disagree with the hon. member. We have been quite impressed by the leadership the western premiers are taking in their jurisdictions where it is their primary responsibility to manage these affairs. We think they are doing a pretty good job.
    We are certainly willing to do our bit to assist with permanent mitigation measures arising out of this incident specifically, and to discuss a national mitigation plan in the long term.
    Again, we think it does make sense to put in place permanent measures to avoid problems from happening again when we have the opportunity to do that.

[Translation]

Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day

Mr. Royal Galipeau (Ottawa—Orléans, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, a holiday celebrated by all descendants of New France. I would like to take this opportunity to send greetings to all proud Franco-Ontarians, who, like myself, celebrate this day with love and dignity.
    For our cousins in Quebec, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day is celebrated as a national holiday, a day off on which people get together with family and friends to celebrate the rich language of Rabelais and the French culture.
    Can the Minister of Industry, the government's Quebec lieutenant, tell us what the government has in mind for Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day?
Hon. Christian Paradis (Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture), CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, since arriving on this continent over 400 years ago, we have been fighting to preserve our language, our culture and our values. One of our most cherished values is democracy.
    That is why I ask the Leader of the Opposition to let democracy prevail in the House, because by voting sooner rather than later, instead of sending good wishes for Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day from the House, we could return to our constituencies to celebrate Quebec, to celebrate our culture, to celebrate our nation and to celebrate French Canada.

[English]

Rail Transportation

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, for the second time in this young Parliament, I would like to ask the minister of transport about the federal rail service review.
    After four years of study, that review was completed last October. It identified the key problem as an unfair imbalance in market power favouring railways, harming shippers and resulting in globally inferior service.
    There is no excuse for more delay. Will the minister guarantee that the legislation to meet the needs of shippers will be presented in this House and enacted before the end of this calendar year?
Hon. Steven Fletcher (Minister of State (Transport), CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, the rail freight review is an important part of the overall economic potential growth of western Canada. The government has received the review and will be taking a close look at its recommendations.
    We look forward to working with all parties and stakeholders to ensure we get the best results for Canadians.

Search and Rescue

Mr. Ryan Cleary (St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, last night, the Prime Minister spoke with the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and, despite objections from everyone, except, it would seem, the hon. member from Labrador, the Prime Minister confirmed that he has no intention of reversing the decision to close the search and rescue centre in St. John's.
    This so-called decision reduction measure will reportedly save $1 million a year.
    Could the Prime Minister tell us exactly what price he is putting on the safety of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians?
Hon. Keith Ashfield (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated on more than several occasions, this decision in no way will compromise the safety of mariners whatsoever.
    I must say that we have invested heavily in Coast Guard resources in Newfoundland and Labrador with a 33% increase in personnel alone and the deployment of two icebreakers to Newfoundland. We are very proud of the investments that we have made.

  (1500)  

Canada Post

Mr. Jeff Watson (Essex, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, hard-working Canadians across the country are calling for an immediate restoration of mail services.
     I have heard from many of my constituents who are strongly supportive of the government's clear and decisive action to proceed with back to work legislation and bring an end to this unfortunate work stoppage.
    Could the Minister of Labour please update the House on the status of this important bill?
Hon. Lisa Raitt (Minister of Labour, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his unique input and insight into the matters regarding labour issues here in our caucus.
    The government received a very strong mandate from Canadians with respect to ensuring that we had an economic recovery. The parties at the table were unable to reach a deal among themselves toward a resolution. As such, we have introduced this legislation.
    That is why I am calling on all members to support and join me on the quick passage of this very important piece of legislation to get--
The Speaker:  
    The hon. member for Windsor West.

Canada-U.S. Border

Mr. Brian Masse (Windsor West, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, a year ago, the then minister of transport said that the Windsor-Detroit border crossing could no longer wait, that it had to move forward. The minister acknowledged the importance of this infrastructure and also acknowledged that it was actually one of the most historic opportunities to build infrastructure for the prosperity of our country.
    However, now it hangs in the balance. It will cost thousands of jobs, affect the viability of our economy and put one of our most important trading partners at risk.
    I want to know why the Minister of Transport has not addressed this issue. Why has he not publicly backstopped the problems in Michigan and ensured that the time, money and effort to solve this problem do not go to waste?
Hon. Denis Lebel (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, this is still a very important issue for us. We are working with our American partners on this issue and with MPs in the area. It is a very serious issue and we will manage it as such. Hopefully the member will help us and we will be in a better position in the future.

[Translation]

Asbestos

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to share with all members an excerpt from an international newspaper about what happened yesterday in Geneva.

[English]

    As opponents to listing chrysotile became sparse, the elephant was left with nowhere to hide. Tempers flared as Canada confirmed it would not join any consensus on listing chrysotile.
    When will, in the name of God, the government change its mind? I ask you in the name of your friend Chuck Strahl. Twenty-four hours remain. Change your position.
The Speaker:  
    I would remind the hon. member to address her comments through the Chair and not directly to colleagues.
    The hon. Minister of Industry.

[Translation]

Hon. Christian Paradis (Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture), CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, for more than 30 years, the Government of Canada has promoted the safe use of chrysotile, which can be used safely in a controlled environment. Today, the International Trade Union Movement for Chrysotile, which represents hundreds of thousands of workers, came out in support of this position because it believes that chrysotile can be used safely. That is the position reflected in the convention.

[English]

Presence in Gallery

The Speaker:  
     I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Right Honourable John Turner, 17th Prime Minister of Canada.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
The Speaker:  
     I would also draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of the Premier of British Columbia and two ministers: the Honourable Christy Clark, Premier; the Honourable Barry Penner, Attorney General; and the Honourable Shirley Bond, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!

Points of Order

Canadian Forces Ceremony  

[Points of Order]
Mr. Marc Garneau (Westmount—Ville-Marie, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, this morning around 10:30, I happened to be in the foyer of the Centre Block and I saw a wonderful ceremony whereby three ministers of the government, surrounded by about 20 Conservative colleagues, were honouring our armed forces on behalf of Parliament and transferring a flag to, I believe, a chief warrant officer. There were a couple of other members of the armed forces as well.
    I am also a very proud member of the armed forces. The Liberal Party also believes in honouring our men and women. I would like to know why we were not notified and invited to this ceremony.

  (1505)  

The Speaker:  
    Unfortunately, question period is over. The hon. member had a chance to ask that question during question period. It is not a point of order. Perhaps it is a matter he can ask the minister.

1997 Postal Mediation Costs  

Hon. Lisa Raitt (Minister of Labour, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, this morning, in my remarks, I indicated in the question aspect of my debate that the cost of the 1997 mediation arising from the legislation at the time was in the millions. I was asked for further clarification and I have that now.
    The cost of the mediation arbitration process in 1997 was $2,321,952.65. Each party was charged half. In this case, the employer paid its half. However, litigation had to be resorted to by the Government of Canada in order to obtain a decision rendered in 2004 to recover the monies from the union.

[Translation]

Business of the House

[Business of the House]
Mr. Thomas Mulcair (Outremont, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, this would normally be the end of the current session. As we know, the Parliament of Canada can do as it pleases. Last Thursday, we sat as though it were a Friday. Tomorrow, Friday, we will sit as though it were still Thursday. In fact, this could end up being the first-ever week of four Thursdays.
    The government has mastered the art of this type of transformation. It can turn losers into winners. If someone loses in an election and is not chosen to create legislation in the House, they can always be appointed to the Senate and sit as a parliamentarian. During question period, the Conservatives spoke about the importance of respecting the Quebec nation. Yet tomorrow is Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day and they still want us to sit.
    With all of these contradictions—in particular, the fact that they decided that the best way to monitor public spending is to fire those who monitor public spending and that they locked out workers and are now blaming the workers for not working—are there any more surprises like this in store for us this summer?

[English]

Hon. Peter Van Loan (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments from the member for Outremont. He did speak of respect. I hope he will take a look at his comments, have in mind Standing Order 18, and reflect upon how his comments fit into Standing Order 18.
    Since today is the last scheduled sitting of the House before members return to their constituencies for the summer, my answer will be relatively brief.

[Translation]

    When this bill is passed, the House will adjourn until September 19.

[English]

    As for the business of the House upon our return in September, I will advise my counterparts of the government's plans closer to that time.
    In case this is the last time I am on my feet this summer, let me thank the staff of the House and the clerks at the table for their support and their usual kind assistance, in addition to the pages, who I acknowledged fully yesterday.
    Finally, I thank all hon. members for the very productive sitting we have had this month. A great deal has been accomplished in just about 12 sitting days. I hope they will all have happy and productive summers with their constituents.

Points of Order

Documents Regarding Afghan Detainees  

[Points of Order]
Hon. Stéphane Dion (Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to know from the House leader why he did not invite me to the technical briefing yesterday when he communicated to me about Afghan detainees?
The Speaker:  
    That is not quite a point of order, but I see the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs is rising to respond. I will allow that.
Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I am told that he and his party were invited to a briefing held yesterday by senior officials responsible for the transfer of Taliban prisoners.
    I am told invites were in the opposition lobby. One member of the opposition did attend the briefing, the member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia. We had an ambassador there who was familiar with the file. We had members from the Canadian Forces to provide detailed briefings for the members.
     Regrettably only one member did attend.

  (1510)  

The Speaker:  
    If there are any further questions, I encourage members to take that up with the minister. It is not a point of order.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

[English]

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation

    The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the motion that this question be now put.
Mr. Phil McColeman (Brant, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to represent my government in its support of Bill C-6, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of postal services.
    This legislation, once enacted, will bring an end to the work stoppage at Canada Post. The labour dispute between Canada Post and CUPW relates to the renewal of collective agreements covering some 50,000 workers, including plant and retail employees, letter carriers and mail service couriers.
    It is always better when two parties can reach a collective agreement at the bargaining table without the need for Parliament's intervention. The best solution in any labour dispute is one where the parties resolve differences on their own.
    The Minister of Labour has been clear and has, at every occasion, encouraged both parties to reach an agreement on their own. In this case, however, the parties are too far apart, and that is too bad. The last thing we want to see is the situation deteriorate and see business—
The Speaker:  
    The hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Points of Order

Documents Regarding Afghan Detainees 

[Points of Order]
Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the member for Brant. I am told that the copies that were provided to each party in the House, the 4,200 pages of documents, included an invitation to attend the briefing. Officials were there. It was on top of the binders that were provided to each party.
     I thought that would add further clarification, and I thought you, Mr. Speaker, would want to know it, too.

Resumption and Continuation of Postal Services Legislation

[Government Orders]
    The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the motion that this question be now put.
Mr. Phil McColeman (Brant, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I was at the point of saying that the last thing we would like to see is this situation deteriorate any further and see businesses fail, unemployment increase and our economy go into a tailspin. Canada Post, a crown corporation, has more than 70,000 full and part-time employees. It is one of the largest employers in Canada. Every business day, it delivers service to 14 million addresses. Canada Post spends about $3 billion a year on goods and services and it contributes $6.6 billion to the country's GDP.
    The Canada Post direct marketing sector accounts for $1.4 billion of its revenue. During the recent economic recession, this sector suffered financial losses. So many businesses still rely on Canada Post to get their business done and connect with their clients and customers across the country and internationally. While many aspects of business can often be accomplished online, not everything can be done in the absence of the mail. Mail service is still essential to the functioning of many small and medium-sized businesses and even large corporations.
    Canada Post provides a crucial connection for Canadians in rural and remote areas.
    Seniors are finding this work stoppage very difficult to deal with. Many of my colleagues have heard from seniors in their constituencies who would like to see an end to this work stoppage. A prolonged work stoppage at Canada Post may well affect some of the most vulnerable sectors of our economy.
     How would Canada Post be affected as a viable business? Over the past decade, with the growth of the Internet, email, electronic billing and electronic funds transfers, there has been a corresponding decline in personal mail. However, small and medium-sized businesses still rely on the postal service for direct marketing, billing and filling orders. It is this sector of the business that could be jeopardized with a long-term work stoppage. Right now there is co-dependence. Now is not the time to put them at risk.
    What is at stake is our economic recovery. All the job losses incurred during the global economic recession have been recovered. Our government has a responsibility to act on behalf of all Canadians to ensure the momentum continues. We have a process in place to deal with labour conflicts in the federal domain. It is called the Canada Labour Code and it has been followed each step of the way in this conflict.
     The collective agreement covering CUPW and Canada Post expired on January 2011. Both parties have been bargaining since October 2010.
    When those talks stayed at an impasse, a reconciliation officer was appointed. Throughout the month of May, a mediator from the labour program's Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service met frequently with the parties. The Minister of Labour even met with both party leaders. Despite all these efforts at mediation and conciliation, CUPW announced, on May 30, its intent to strike. On June 3, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers walked off the job. On June 15, 2011, the employer declared a lockout.
    The postal workers have now been without a contract since January 2011, despite many rounds of bargaining. Of course, there are always cases when collective bargaining hits an impasse and the parties involved reach a stalemate. When this happens, the parties can request the Minister of Labour to appoint an arbitrator.
     It is certainly not the preference of the government to intervene in labour disputes. Our government respects the right of free collective bargaining, which includes the right to strike or a lockout. However, when employers and unions choose a course of action that has harmful effects on the economy and the country as a whole, then it is incumbent on Parliament to stand up for the country and to protect our economic recovery.
     That is why our government has introduced Bill C-6. We are taking decisive action on behalf of all Canadians.

  (1515)  

    What would the act do? It would impose a four-year contract and new pay rate increases. That would mean a 1.75% increase as of February 1, 2011, 1.5% as of February 2012, 2% as of February 2013 and 2% as of February 2014.
    It also means, for final offer selection, a binding mechanism for all outstanding matters. In making the selection of a final offer, the arbitrator is to be guided by the need for terms and conditions of employment that are consistent with those in comparable postal industries. It will also strive to ensure the short and long-term economic viability and competitiveness of Canada Post Corporation, maintain the health and safety of its workers and the sustainability of the pension plan.
    The terms and conditions of employment must also take into account: (a) that the solvency ratio for the pension plan must not decline as a direct result of the new collective agreement; and (b) that the Canada Post Corporation must, without recourse or undue increases in postal rates, operate efficiently, improve productivity and meet acceptable standards of service.
    As we recover from the economic downturn, it is more important than ever that we encourage co-operative and productive workplaces.
    Let us recognize that this has not been an easy situation for the postal workers and for Canada Post. Our hope is that both parties can now turn this around and make the most of this agreement. I would urge them to focus on making Canada Post relevant to Canada for the 21st century.
    I also ask my hon. colleagues to join us in supporting the bill.

  (1520)  

Mr. Brad Butt (Mississauga—Streetsville, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my good friend from Brant for speaking very calmly and rationally about what Parliament is being asked to deal with today. We have a situation that none of us, I believe, wanted. We certainly do not have a situation that the government wanted to step into.
     However, we do have two parties that clearly cannot come to an arrangement. They have been negotiating since this contract expired in January. We have a very difficult situation on our hands today, with millions of Canadians clearly affected by this.
    Perhaps my hon. friend could share a bit more from his riding's perspective. I have been to Brant, but I do not know the riding particularly well. Perhaps he could give some more specific examples of the types of individuals who have been directly affected by the fact that mail is not flowing.
Mr. Phil McColeman:  
    Mr. Speaker, many of us in the House would prefer not to be in this situation. I think that is the case on all sides.
    However, we must take action to protect especially the small and the medium-sized businesses, like the ones in my community.
    I have heard from, and many MPs have heard from their constituents, the owners of these companies. One in particular is a small rural weekly newspaper. This particular newspaper, the Burford Times, relies on the post office for the delivery of its revenue from advertisers. Also the businesses of that small community rely on getting their word out. Therefore, they are suffering as well. These are the one, two, three or five-person operations, which are affected the most.
    I received another interesting email from another individual who totally relies on the postal service for his revenue into his company. He said that if this went on for another seven days, he would be out of business.
    This is especially hitting the small operators.
    Yesterday, we heard about the call for respect of the workers. We are calling for the respect of all small and medium-sized Canadian businesses.
Mr. Jamie Nicholls (Vaudreuil-Soulanges, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, does the member opposite know the names of the postal workers who deliver the mail to his home? Does he know their families and their situations? Does he know how they live their lives? Does he know their families and the condition of their families?
Mr. Phil McColeman:  
    Mr. Speaker, the member's question is completely relevant to my personal situation. I have two nephews and a niece who are postal carriers. I also understand that many postal carriers prefer that this situation had never arisen. They would like to have more control of their own job situations.
    I do have a relationship with a lot of people. I was a small employer and I know what makes for success. It is the people who are on the ground and are actually doing the work.
    A lot of people in this country, including postal workers, would prefer not to be in this situation. I do know their situation personally. They are somewhat upset that we must be here to face this for our economy. However, we must do this to protect their rights.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, the former speaker would know that we are talking about a lockout as opposed to postal workers going on strike, and many believe that the government had a good idea that the lockout was going to happen.
    Could the member give the House any assurances that cabinet had no idea that Canada Post was going to lock out its workers, or did the government have an idea that this was going to occur? Could he provide some information on that point?
Mr. Phil McColeman:  
    Mr. Speaker, I am not in a position to have any of the information the member is asking for, but I do know many of the people in my community who are being directly affected by this, as I mentioned earlier. In fact, I have received numerous emails not only from businesses but also from seniors and people who live on disability allowances from government sources, who are being greatly affected by this.
    This is a situation that is untenable for a lot of the individuals who rely on mail service for the money they need to sustain themselves. Frankly, right now there are certain people who are panicking because of this.
    This government must take action. We are being decisive and we will pass this legislation.

  (1525)  

[Translation]

Mr. Alexandre Boulerice (Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, since this morning, our Conservative Party colleagues have been shedding crocodile tears over the fate of small and medium-sized businesses, while forgetting the fundamental fact that the current dispute at Canada Post is a lockout. That makes all the difference in the world. The unions had planned to use moderate pressure to raise public awareness, by taking action for just 24 hours in one city at a time. Canada Post was told to put an end to the dispute and only aggravated the situation by imposing a lockout. It got out the bazooka and shut everything down across the country.
    I would like to ask our hon. colleague if he cares at all about the interests of the small and medium-sized businesses that are suffering because of the lockout imposed by Canada Post. Would he be willing to stand up and ask Canada Post to lift the lockout?

[English]

Mr. Phil McColeman:  
    Mr. Speaker, even before the lockout I was receiving emails from business people, the ones who own the three or four person operations, about the rotating lockouts that were happening. In my community we rely--
Mr. Royal Galipeau:  
    Strikes.
Mr. Phil McColeman:  
    Yes, they were strikes, Mr. Speaker. There were walkouts by employees or strikes in various centres, meaning that the mail was not moving. Invoices and things that people needed to get out were not being received at the local rural post offices.
    There was such disruption to the system at that point before the lockout happened that this government had to do something decisive to make sure that our economy was protected, that the jobs in those small companies were respected and that we got this country back to work.
Mr. Royal Galipeau (Ottawa—Orléans, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, would the hon. member for Brant agree with me that the rotating strikes before the lockout were just as crippling to the system as the lockout itself?
Mr. Phil McColeman:  
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question underscores what I said previously, that this is not just because of the lockout, as the opposition would now characterize the situation, but of an ongoing series of disruptions right across the country.
    The issue then from a management point of view is, how do we prioritize? How do we tell some people that we will get mail through and others that we are not, and to give those directions to the people on the ground?
    If one has a sense of business and knows that one has a responsibility to all business customers, not just to a certain few that are regarded as more important than others, a decision must be made to deal with the larger picture in a quick and decisive fashion. That is what our government is doing.

[Translation]

Ms. Anne Minh-Thu Quach (Beauharnois—Salaberry, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, what I find most irritating is that the Conservatives do not seem to realize that they are violating the rights of workers. Over the noon hour today, I spoke with a Canada Post union steward who turned up in my office on the Hill. He told me that the workers feel as though this government has sided with the employer. The workers want to negotiate. They were locked out by the employer and, more importantly, they are saying they that contribute to the profits.
    Why punish the workers when their duties are constantly increasing and they have already gone through staff cutbacks?

  (1530)  

[English]

Mr. Phil McColeman:  
    Mr. Speaker, nothing can be more distorted than that comment. Obviously, the member did not listen to the fact that although the workers have the right to strike, the employer also has the right to a lockout.
    By all means, let us get them back to the table. We are not siding with one side or the other. We are saying, let us get both parties back to the table, let us make sure that we can get this resolved, hopefully without this kind of legislation. We have been saying that for a long time.
    The member needs to get her facts straight.

[Translation]

Mr. Alexandre Boulerice (Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I would like first to say I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Vancouver East.
    Today is a dark day for Canada. The tabling of Bill C-6 is a blot on respect for democratic rights and workers’ right of association. This day will not go down in history as one where the government showed great respect for Canadians and for the rights of union members. The good news is that maybe the Conservative government has finally been unmasked. The mask has fallen away, revealing its true face. Unfortunately, it is not a pretty sight to behold. What we see is a government that is authoritarian, arrogant and contemptuous of working people, who just want to do their jobs in a reasonably healthy, safe environment. Instead of extending them a hand and pushing for real negotiations with the postal workers’ union, the government gets out its bazooka and bludgeon and tries to force the employees back to work by means of a special act, which even imposes salary conditions while not allowing the arbitrator to make a decision in full knowledge of the facts after drawing comparisons with the market and the economic situation at Canada Post.
     I want to emphasize that this is a crazy, surrealistic, even Kafkaesque situation. I would encourage my colleagues to read The Trial by Kafka. It is very interesting and there are some strong parallels with the situation in which the postal workers now find themselves.
     Since their negotiations were going nowhere and the employer was insisting on cutbacks in the collective agreement—I will talk a little later about the health and safety problems and the discriminatory treatment, especially in regard to the pension plans, which are a topic of great concern to many Quebeckers and Canadians these days—the union wanted to start applying gradual pressure. It did not want to launch a general strike because it did not want to paralyze the system. It wanted to use gentle pressure tactics at first, affecting one city at a time for 24 hours. The rest of the country would continue to function. This would get the employees talking and raise the awareness of Canadians, and the media would take an interest. That is how a dialogue is started with the public to move the issue along while pressuring the employer in a way that is legal, peaceful and progressive.
    After only a few days, what did the employer do? The employer is a crown corporation and the government is ultimately responsible for it. The employer imposed a lockout. It shut down Canada Post across the country. It created the problem itself. The Conservative government is telling us that this is a terrible situation that is jeopardizing the economic recovery and the economic health of the country. But it is the one that created this situation by locking out the employees. If it is responsible for this paralysis, why is the government now riding in like a knight in shining armour to save the day and solve the problem, saying that everything will be fine, that it will bring in special legislation to force workers back to work? That is absurd. The Conservatives are the ones who stopped the delivery of regular mail across the country. Why do they not stand up and urge Canada Post to put an end to the lockout and to return to the bargaining table? This would enable members from Quebec to return to Quebec to celebrate Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day tomorrow with their constituents.
    I would imagine that Michel Chartrand is rarely quoted in the House of Commons, but the Conservative government cannot invoke its own turpitude. It created this situation. It must take responsibility and put an end to the lockout in the interests of the unionized workers and their rights, and also in the interests of the people and the small and medium-sized businesses of this country.
    The situation is even more absurd, since Canada Post is a remarkable, efficient, economical and profitable public service. Let me be clear: the private sector does not offer an alternative way to move such a high volume of mail every day from coast to coast. This is the best way we have to ensure that Canadians can send mail to other Canadians and to people around the world.

  (1535)  

    As well as being efficient, it is economical, because it is a public service that does not cost a lot of money. If we draw comparisons with many other countries, like Finland, Germany and the Netherlands, the price of regular stamps to send a letter in Canada is lower than in most other OECD countries. Furthermore, and this needs to be emphasized and repeated, last year, Canada Post made about $281 million in profits.
    Why attack the rights of workers? Why create a pension plan that will be less beneficial for new employees? Why risk the health and safety of workers when we have a public firm that works well and makes money to boot? Where is the problem? Why does the Conservative government want to force these people to take a step backwards? Why attack the working conditions of 50,000 people across the country? Why attack the living conditions of 50,000 families across the country? Is that how the Conservatives plan to treat workers and their families over the next four years? Is this how the Conservative government envisions the future for workers and the working class: moving further and further backwards? That is unacceptable.
    Another very important aspect of all this, beyond working conditions, is that we are dealing with the fundamental issue of respecting people's rights. In the Canadian federation, certain rights are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I think it is important to remember this. Canadians have the right to associate. They have the right to organize. They have the right to express themselves. They have the right to negotiate freely and to exert pressure, as set out in the Canada Labour Code. And that is what the Conservative government is attacking. It wants to destroy these rights. It wants to sweep them under the rug and tell people, “Hey, you have no choice; now get back to work”.
    This is a threat to respect for the rights of all Canadians. All of the groups that are making demands, talking, protesting, getting organized and trying to peacefully improve things are worried today. Has history taught us that this is how progress is made? Is this how we moved past the middle ages, the industrial age and the widespread exploitation of workers? No, those things happened because people got together, joined forces, organized themselves and defended themselves, which resulted in social policies, social rights, the right to unionize, to bargain collectively, to have a labour contract that the employer must respect and to strike. That is why today, workers and Canadians are better off than they were a century or a century and a half ago.
    The Conservative bill does not give the arbitrator the freedom and opportunity to decide on the best salary increase for Canada Post employees. This is unusual, new and very, very strange. We think that it adds insult to injury by setting salary increases that are lower than the employer's last offer. Should it not be the arbitrator, along with the two parties, deciding on the appropriate salary increases? How is it that the government is trying to save money by using special legislation that strips an arbitrator of the powers he usually has to settle this type of dispute?
    If the employer felt it could offer these salary increases, then why is the Conservative government getting involved and imposing lower increases than the employer was offering? The employer itself acknowledged it could offer more and show more respect for the workers. Forcing the arbitrator to decide on lower salary increases is akin to stealing $35 million out of the pockets of Canada Post employees over the next four years. Just imagine what future labour relations are going to be like in that sector. Imagine how motivated these men and women are going to be if a labour contract is shoved down their throats. Is that how the government shows respect for those who provide good service across the country?
    I think the government should react and respect the Canada Post employees, forget this special legislation, lift the lockout, ask both parties to negotiate and allow Quebec MPs to celebrate their national holiday.

  (1540)  

[English]

Ms. Michelle Rempel (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has said much about the rights of workers today and I would like to raise a concern of a constituent in my riding who is also a worker who said:
    I strongly encourage you to legislate an immediate end to the postal strike. I am the head of finance for a business which employs approximately 80 people across the country. The nature of our business is such that we supply our products to many smaller and owner operated businesses who pay us by cheque and utilize the mail. In the first three days of this strike/lockout we have delayed sufficient receivables that we have now maxed out our credit line...We are in serious risk of going under if this situation is not resolved immediately.
    Why will the member opposite not acknowledge that this legislation is needed to protect the rights of all Canadian workers?

[Translation]

Mr. Alexandre Boulerice:  
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her question. I appreciate the message she just read. I understand how difficult the situation is for that person's business. Indeed, it is not funny.
    I just want to make a correction: I take issue with a word that was used in that constituent's message. It is not a strike; it is a lockout. The employer is responsible for this. The Conservative government is responsible for this. The government should do that constituent a favour and lift the lockout.
Mr. Claude Gravelle (Nickel Belt, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his presentation on Canada Post. The corporation posted a $281 million profit last year. Its postal system is one of the best in the world. In his opinion, why did the Conservative government wish to create a crisis with Canada Post employees? Did it do so on purpose?
Mr. Alexandre Boulerice:  
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the excellent question.
    This is a very troubling start for this new Conservative majority government, which seems to be very proud of the strong mandate it was given, as it likes to repeat when answering every other question. They are off to a bad start. Confrontation has been their first response to dealing with labour relations, unions and workers. They do not show any respect.
    The Conservative government, which is a right-leaning government, is sending the following message to all workers, and to the country's union, association and rights movements: be careful over the next four years; we do not like you; we will be breathing down your necks and we will try to break you.
    However, the NDP knows which side it is on. We support the workers, families and ordinary people. We will continue the fight to defend and ensure respect for their rights.

[English]

Mr. Brad Butt (Mississauga—Streetsville, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, I have listened to New Democrats in the House wax poetic about what great champions of democracy they are, that they believe in the true democratic spirit, that everyone should have a right to vote and that everyone should have the right to self-determination. Yet I have not heard New Democrats stand in the House and suggest to the president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers that his own members have the right to vote on any one of the three contract offers that Canada Post has made to the union.
    The union bosses have refused to let their own members vote on any contract that is being offered. I happen to know that other members have indicated to me that they have had emails and phone calls from those workers who are very upset that their own union membership will not let them vote on the contract.
    Would the member stand in his place and say that the union members deserve the right to vote on a contract?

  (1545)  

[Translation]

Mr. Alexandre Boulerice:  
    Mr. Speaker, I greatly appreciate this very pertinent question which allows me to set some things right. Perhaps my colleague is not very familiar with labour relations.
    For the past nine years, I served as a union representative with the Canadian Union of Public Employees. I can assure him that unions, as democratic institutions, are still very vibrant and dynamic and they respect their members' freedom of expression.
    In the normal bargaining process, members have had input into the list of demands, they have been part of the process, they have been consulted, they have voted on their executive, on the negotiating committee and on the strike mandate. Then, it is up to the negotiating committee to determine if it is in the interest of their members to present management's offer to a general assembly. It is their strategy, their decision, and it is respected. They have a legitimate democratic mandate.

[English]

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):  
    Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to follow our member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie to speak today to this motion.
     I want to say right at the outset that I feel shameful that we are here having to debate this motion regarding back to work legislation and that the first order of business that has come from the Conservative government is to force workers back to work and not give them a fair shot and a fair chance at collective bargaining.
     I was first elected in 1997 and in December of that year we faced a similar situation of back-to-work legislation for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. What is ironic though is that at that time it was a Liberal government. The legislation that we are dealing with today is very similar to the legislation that we dealt with in 1997. The same incredible, outrageous fines, $50,000 for union leaders and $100,000 for the union as a whole, were in the Liberal legislation, and the same kind of restraints on the arbitrator that we see in the legislation today. Back then it was also a lower wage that was legislated, a wage restraint, than what had actually been at the bargaining table. It has been ironic to hear some of the Liberal members rise to say how they feel about this legislation when they forget their own history of what they did in 1997. I just wanted to remember that because I was a new member at that time and I remember that debate also went through the night.
    I want to begin by thanking postal workers. I think they have had a really rough ride from the Conservative members in the House. They have been vilified, demonized and have been set up as the bad guys when, in reality, what the union and the members of the union want is a fair collective agreement. They do not want to see back to work legislation. They are willing to go back to the table.
    Look at the circumstances that are now unfolding. We have a Conservative government that is using a sledgehammer and putting forward legislation, Motion No. 3, that we are now debating, that would actually put workers in such a constraint in terms of any collective bargaining that we might as well say goodbye to collective bargaining.
    I want to reference that because some of the Conservative members have said that this is only about this situation, that it is only about the postal workers, that it does not affect anybody else other than, of course, the various people whose messages they are reading. But the fact is that the back to work legislation affects all workers in this country.
    It may surprise members to know that even today Canada is not a signatory to one of the very important International Labour Organization conventions, ILO Convention No. 98, the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention and so, that right is not even enshrined in terms of Canadian practice. Is it any wonder that we see this assault on Canadians workers? What happens to these workers is a signal of what is yet to come. For that reason we should be deeply disturbed and concerned about the legislation and how it would affect other workers, whether they are under a collective agreement or not.
    The other issue that we have to be very concerned about is the implication and impact on pensions. Every Canadian is concerned about what is going to happen to their pension system. One of the issues in this particular round of bargaining is the employer trying to change the pension system so that workers would no longer have an assurance of what it is they can expect from their pension when they retire
    This is a very basic value to all Canadian workers, again, whether they are unionized or not. For the employer, which happens to be a crown corporation controlled by the government, to run the gauntlet, lay this down and say it is going to change the pension system is really a warning sign of what is to come.
    As New Democrats, we know that we have to fight this tooth and nail with the labour movement, with progressive people in this country, because we can see the signal and we see the direction that the government is taking.
    In addition, one of the proposals that the union has had to deal with is facing a two-tiered wage system. Again, this is about an employer now supported by a government that is trying to put in a wage restraint through legislation.

  (1550)  

    It is pretty outrageous when the government itself tables a proposal in the legislation that would actually decrease the wages that were put on the table by the employer, which in itself would start workers 20% lower than existing postal workers. We can see where this is going.
    I find it very ironic that the government says it is interested in economic recovery and stability on the one hand, but on the other hand everything it is doing is driving wages and working conditions down and making things less secure and more difficult for workers whether they are unionized or not.
    These are all elements of this back to work legislation. The idea is that this is a one-off piece of legislation and we do not have to worry about it. In the debate unfolding today, which will go on for several days, it will become very clear that there are much broader implications for all workers in this country and it is something we should be concerned about.
    Today in the House I tabled two private members' bills relating to what we call social condition, which is a recognition that people who are poor and have low incomes face discrimination based on their economic circumstances. I see a relationship between the tabling of those bills and what we are trying to do by removing discrimination from people who are economically disadvantaged or living below the poverty line and what the government is trying to do in this back to work legislation.
    The fact is that when public policy goes in a direction that takes away people's rights, drives down wages and says collective bargaining will not be tolerated, that affects everybody. When unions do well and minimum wages go up, it benefits all workers in this country, including people who are living below the poverty line and struggling on minimum wages, whether it is $8, $9 or $10 an hour depending on where they live.
    These issues are related. We can see that the legislation that will be coming forward after we vote tonight, presuming this motion passes, will have a huge impact not only on CUPW members but on workers as a whole. Those in the labour movement are watching this with very keen interest. They are very concerned about what is taking place.
    I noticed that one such union member, Fred Wilson who works at the CEP, noted in a blog on rabble.ca:
—the Conservatives have rigged this game completely. The outcome is now determined; there is nothing left for free collective bargaining to accomplish.
    I would certainly echo those comments. I feel the sense of shame and distress about the road we are going down.
    The government did not have to intervene. We often hear that the Conservatives do not like to intervene in the marketplace. Why is it in this case they decided to intervene on the side of Canada Post? Why is it that they have not said anything about the lockout of the workers that is taking place?
    We have heard Conservative member after Conservative member attack the union and those who are trying to get a fair deal with their employer, and yet I have not heard one word from any of those members about what the employer has done. The reality is the government is backing the employer. The government is saying it is onside with Canada Post 100%. Where is the balance? Where is the idea that fairness should exist?
    We are very opposed to this motion. We are opposed to the process of bringing in closure on the bill that will be before us tonight.
     We believe in collective bargaining. We stand for the rights of workers to get a fair deal as outlined by the International Labour Organization. We support convention 98 as all people in this country should do. We demand that the government respect those rights, that it think about the position it is taking and what it is imposing in such an unfair and discriminatory manner.

  (1555)  

Mr. Brad Butt (Mississauga—Streetsville, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is a veteran of this House and I greatly respect her thoughts and comments on this piece of legislation.
    I am quite concerned about the position of the New Democrats. They never talk about the viability of Canada Post as a company, as a service provider to Canadians.
    A first class stamp costs 59¢ now. The cost seems to go up every year. I think the cost of stamps is likely hurting lower income people. I never hear a comment about that from the NDP.
    I never hear the New Democrats say they are concerned that Canada Post can be viable for the long term. It is to some degree a monopoly. Many Canadians do not have an alternative service provider other than Canada Post for basic mail delivery.
    We have heard about the impact on small business and on community groups specifically that rely on the mail for fundraising and much needed donations that come in the mail.
    Why is it that we do not hear from members like the member for Vancouver East about their concerns regarding the long-term viability of Canada Post?
Ms. Libby Davies:  
    Mr. Speaker, it is possible that the member has not been in the House all day, but I have been because I have been on duty today. I have listened to the debate and I have heard NDP member after NDP member get up and actually talk about the viability of Canada Post and the fact that last year it made $281 million in profits. This corporation has made profits year after year. That money has gone back into general revenue. Surely at least some of that money should be reinvested in the corporation to allow it to improve the working conditions and the environment for its workers.
    We believe very much in the viability of Canada Post. In fact, we have been saying just the opposite of what the member is saying. It is a viable operation. Why is the government trying to knock it into the ground? Why is it trying to knock into the ground the workers who go out day after day delivering our mail, sometimes in incredibly difficult environmental circumstances?
    In terms of the rates, again NDP member after NDP member has pointed out today that our postal rates are among the most affordable in the world. There are many countries where the rates are much higher.
    I do not think the member has his facts correct.
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.):  
    Mr. Speaker, I was a bit disappointed in terms of what the member for Vancouver East had to say.
    We in the Liberal Party do not support the legislation that is being proposed by the government. I must say that she is not alone. The NDP attempts to say there is no difference between the 1997 legislation and the current legislation. Surely she can understand the difference between a lockout versus a strike. Today it is a lockout. Back then it was a strike.
    Surely she can understand the difference in the legislation. All she has to do is read the legislation that was proposed back in 1997 compared to the legislation today.
    I care about the workers. I care about the Canadians who are receiving the mail. I think it is important that we have some facts on the record.
    Are there any circumstances whatsoever that the member could possibly imagine where the NDP would support back to work legislation?

  (1600)  

Ms. Libby Davies:  
    Mr. Speaker, I was only responding to what I heard from Liberal members both on Tuesday and today in debate. I heard the Liberal House leader say earlier today that he believes the bill makes a mockery of arbitration, and I would certainly agree.
    I was just pointing out that in 1997 very similar legislation also restrained the arbitrator in terms of what he or she was able to do. I find it ironic and surprising that the Liberals thought it was okay then but they do not think it is okay now.
    When we started debating this motion on Tuesday, I heard the interim leader of the Liberal Party express his concerns about the wages and the fact that the wages in the legislation are lower than what was on the table. I agree with that too. Again in 1997 the same situation existed and apparently the Liberals were not concerned about it.
    I am only responding to what the Liberals said and pointing out their inconsistencies.
Mr. Larry Miller (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, CPC):  
    Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak to this issue. I wish that we were not here having to deal with this, but unfortunately we are.
    I would like to thank the Minister of Labour for bringing forward the legislation on Monday evening. This measure is certainly necessary under the circumstances to restore an essential service to all Canadians.
    I have a very rural riding. Since the start of the rotating strikes and then the loc