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.
"We have to bring these people back to work".
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.
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.