OTTAWA – I’d like to start off this week’s column by wishing you a happy Canada Day and hoping that you will all find some time to relax, enjoy the long weekend with your friends and family, and reflect upon how lucky we are to be living in this great country. After the living the last year as a global citizen and watching our fellow citizens battle earthquakes and tsunamis, war, oppression, and economic disaster it is safe to say that while things certainly aren’t perfect in Canada we do have a lot to be thankful for.
One of the greatest things about living in this country is that we have a peaceful and stable democracy where meaningful and legitimate debate can take place between elected representatives of the people. Last week in the House of Commons our democratic rights were exercised and tested during debate of Bill C-6, the back to work legislation put forward by the Harper government to end the lockout at Canada Post. New Democrats opposed Bill C-6 because it was unnecessary and punitive and was conceived to deny rights to hardworking Canadians rather than protect them.
One of the arguments put forward by the government to explain why this bill was that it would help protect the most vulnerable members of society – the elderly, ill, and disabled – who counted on government assistance cheques being mailed to them each month. However, this hardship that was supposedly being imposed upon the most vulnerable Canadians was by and large a myth. Many Canadians who receive government assistance have direct deposit, and for others our extremely competent public servants arranged to make such payments available for pickup, by the recipients themselves or their appointed third parties, at Service Canada locations throughout the country.
Were some inconvenienced by the lockout of postal workers by Canada Post management? Of course they were. Small businesses in particular are always vulnerable to such disruptions of services as their profit margins are lower and their customers more demanding of timely and affordable delivery of goods and services. So what could the Harper government have done to help them other than tabling Bill C-6? Well, being the elected agents of the owners of Canada Post, the Canadian people, the Harper government could have simply told management to let the postal workers back into their facilities to do their job while negotiating with them in good faith to resolve the dispute. Unfortunately, that would have been far too easy and not nearly vindictive enough for Mr. Harper and his Conservatives.
By tabling Bill C-6, the Harper government went out of its way to punish a small group of hardworking Canadians and their families. Even Canada Post management, the ones who locked out the postal workers in the first place, agreed that the labour of the postal workers was worth at least an extra 1.9% per hour, and probably more, but the Harper government? They looked at the books for a couple of hours and promptly decided that the workers only deserved an extra 1.7% in wages from a company that made $200 million profit last year and pays its CEO more $600,000 per year. Punishing the families of those who delivered those huge profits to both Canada Post and Canadian taxpayers is, by definition, a punitive action.
So faced with the unnecessary and punitive measures contained in C-6 New Democrats filibustered and procedurally delayed its passage because we simply don’t believe in passing unnecessary legislation or punishing hardworking Canadians and their families. We had hoped that, if given enough time, the two sides could come together and negotiate a settlement to end the lockout, but that wasn’t the case this time. Despite being unable to defeat Bill C-6 or provide enough time for a settlement, you should know that New Democrats will continue to stand up to oppose unnecessary legislation that target the rights of hardworking Canadians and their families moving forward – we always have and we always will.
John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay Atikokan