Mr. Lynn Myers (Waterloo—Wellington, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise today and speak to Bill C-238.
I listened with great interest to my colleague from the New Democratic Party on the opposite side speak about things American. My mind flipped back to the last election when the NDP found it necessary to go the United States to get some of its work done in terms of the election. I always find it interesting when members opposite, such as the hon. member, say one thing and yet the party, at least during the last election, does quite another.
Having said that, it is with great interest that I speak today about this very important bill. At the outset, I want to express my great respect for the hardworking Canadian men and women who deliver our mail.
I have a substantial background in this subject as my father was a rural route mail courier for 35 years. He did that with honour and in terms of doing the right thing for my family and for the community. I am happy to contribute to the debate to improve the working conditions of these entrepreneurs who are rural route mail couriers.
As I understand it, the member for Winnipeg Centre has received representation from the Organization of Rural Route Mail Couriers, as most of us have over the past little while. He has decided now to support them by tabling this legislation.
We know that Bill C-238 would allow contractors to be considered as employees of Canada Post. Ironically, I do not think the bill would benefit the very group it is trying to help. I agree with the hon. member for Kelowna on this point, and I think there are others in the House who would agree with us as well, that it would in fact harm them.
Rural route contractors continue to do this work, primarily because it gives them flexibility. They do not have to punch a clock and they do not have to do exactly what people tell them to do. More importantly, they can exercise their own initiatives and resourcefulness in this important area.
As the member for Winnipeg Centre knows, much of this work is of a part time nature. During the last hour of debate the member himself stated that rural route couriers do this work to earn supplementary income for their families. Repealing subsection 13(5) of the Canada Post Corporation Act, as Bill C-238 suggests, would eliminate all this. I would think this is not at all what we want to do here.
I echo the comments from the member for Kelowna who said that Bill C-238 would take away the flexibility these people enjoy today, both on the rural route courier side and on the Canada Post side. Clearly it would do away with that and do away with a way of life. I do not think that is what parliament and Canadians ultimately want.
We know that the small and medium size business sector in Canada is growing very rapidly. More and more Canadians are choosing this way of life because it offers them flexibility and opportunity. The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre said that rural route contractors do not want these freedoms and would prefer to become employees of Canada Post instead, paying union dues.
Bill C-238 would not only jeopardize the entrepreneurialism of the rural route contractors, it would also have a significant financial impact on Canada Post.
As the hon. member for Tobique—Mactaquac previously stated, changing Canada Post's contracting relationship with rural route contractors would potentially increase the operating costs of the corporation substantially with no corresponding improvement in service levels to the public. That is important to note.
I will not stand here today and pretend that I have not heard the concerns of rural route contractors. I have and I think they are important to listen to. It is important to understand and, as I said before, my father was one.
The good news is that Canada Post is listening. The corporation has taken concrete steps and measures to resolve their concerns. For example, during the first hour of debate on this bill, and again today, the common message that has been heard is that rural route contractors want a tendering process that is fair, open and transparent. Canada Post has said that this is exactly what they can expect.
At a recent appearance before the Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Government Operations, the president of Canada Post, the Hon. André Ouellet, said that the rural route contractors will be treated with respect and their work will be valued and remunerated according to the contract they have signed with Canada Post.
Mr. Ouellet also confirmed that he has had several meetings over the past few months with representatives of the contractors and the couriers. As a result, Canada Post has introduced a number of initiatives to improve its relationship with this very important partner, especially in communities in rural Canada.
These initiatives will provide rural route contractors with more information and greater support which they require to meet the needs and expectations of customers across this great country of ours.
This is clearly the best solution for rural route contractors, Canada Post and all Canadians. The rural route contractors maintain the entrepreneurial freedom that they have traditionally enjoyed over time and Canadians in turn maintain a high quality, cost efficient and effective postal service.
As a member of parliament, I am concerned that Canadians get the best service possible from their post office no matter where they live, and especially in rural Canada. I am very happy that we have now put in place a moratorium on the closing of post offices because there were some in my area that were in jeopardy.
Canada Post has now introduced a number of changes to improve postal service in rural Canada. Canada Post has implemented 96 local areas to help improve the speed and reliability of mail outside of core urban areas. Delivery standards in rural Canada are now the same as those in the urban communities. That is good news for all Canadians. As well, local staff in rural offices now have the flexibility to adopt community based hours to suit local needs.
The Canadian government and Canada Post are collaborating to make government information on programs and services more available to rural Canada and all Canadians. In this regard, 12 Service Canada access centres have been established in rural post offices across Canada. These are but a few examples of Canada Post's continuing efforts to improve the postal service for all Canadians.
Although I do not support Bill C-238, I agree with all hon. members who firmly believe that rural route mail contractors and carriers deserve to be treated fairly and with respect. I hope that Canada Post continues to listen and to act on the concerns expressed by these very important entrepreneurs.
I urge all members not to support the bill. I do not think it is in the best interest of Canadians. We should proceed on that basis knowing that we will ultimately, as the government, do the right thing for not only rural Canadians but for all Canadians no matter where they live in this great country of ours.
Subtopic: Canada Post Corporation Act