Mr. Bill Gilmour (Nanaimo—Alberni, Canadian Alliance)
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-238 put forward by the member for Winnipeg Centre.
The bill basically is an act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act to repeal section 13(5) of the act dealing with rural route mail couriers.
What section 13(5) deems is that rural route couriers are not dependent contractors and are therefore not eligible to collectively bargain or form an association so they can negotiate contracts with Canada Post. In other words, they cannot form a union.
Repealing this section would allow rural route couriers basically to join the public workers' union. Although we agree with the concerns that the bill highlights, we do not agree with the solution.
Currently rural route mail couriers must submit a tender for their jobs and then negotiate with Canada Post.
The problem is that Canada Post does not have a tendering or contract guideline to ensure that the process is fair. This is the crux of the problem that the rural route couriers have. Many members in the House have rural areas in their ridings, as I do, and have heard about this issue many times.
As a result, many rural route mail couriers feel they are working under extremely poor conditions and substandard wages. For example, Canada Post officials are forcing independent contractors to lower their bids in order to maintain their contracts. Unfair limitations are being placed on their ability to act as independent contractors. These problems need to be addressed.
Four years ago when the Canadian Alliance was the Reform Party, I was critic for public works. George Radwanski tabled an exceptionally good report dealing with Canada Post issues. A couple of the issues are quite relevant to this discussion. One is that Radwanski found:
The corporation is not subject to any adequately effective accountability mechanisms. Neither the minister responsible for Canada Post, nor any branch of the government, nor even the corporation's own board of directors has any way of providing the sustained supervision necessary to ensure that its priorities and behaviour are fully consistent with the public interest.
This is the crux of the matter. We have people in Canada Post who are running their own show. It is supposed to be a corporation for all Canadians, yet it is not being run in that manner.
We agree with the member that rural couriers are being done in. They are not being treated fairly. However, where we disagree with the member is on how to deal with this problem. We feel the mechanisms within Canada Post need to be addressed rather than unionizing those postal workers.
Radwanski also found that Canada Post businesses practices were aggressive and unfair. It is no surprise to hear the concerns of the rural route couriers coming forward. However, as I have said, we feel that repealing subsection 13(5) of the Canada Post Corporation Act, as proposed in the bill, is not the answer.
Eliminating subsection 13(5) will eliminate the tendering process and prevent anyone other than a union member from vying for the job of a rural route mail courier. We think that is wrong. In other words, the bill overreaches what we feel is the stated intention.
Bill C-238 creates an ungainly situation where several unions may be competing for the same members. The bill may also lead to a conflict of interest between what a dependent contractor is and what their employers are. We feel that there are other options available. As it stands, the tendering and contract process is not fair, not honest and is simply not above board. The way to go is to fix that problem and the rural route problem will be fixed.
The basic issue is that we need a mechanism that obliges Canada Post to conduct fair and open tendering processes within its contracts. Everyone needs to know what the conditions are. This is the principle of the issue we are facing today. If we could fix the contract tendering process I believe we would solve the problem. As well, if the mechanism is not put in place to guarantee these conditions, the Canadian Alliance will investigate the possibility of making treasury board contracting policy applicable in this case.
In summary, we agree there is a problem that has clearly been identified by the member. We disagree with his manner of solving it. We do not believe that eliminating the section is the solution. We believe the solution is to deal with Canada Post to get fair tendering processes in place which will solve the issue.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Canada Post Corporation Act