Senate adjourns vote on Canada Post back-to-work bill until Monday

Senate adjourns vote on Canada Post back-to-work bill until Monday
Senate pushes vote on Canada Post back-to-work bill until Monday
The Senate opted to push a final decision on the government's proposed Canada Post back-to-work legislation to Monday, after hours of debate and witness testimony. 

Senators were prepared to sit on Sunday, if necessary, but after nearly eight hours of witness testimony and debate, they decided to reschedule the third and final reading of Bill C-89 for Monday afternoon.

“I had hoped we could complete the debate this weekend, but I also understand that some senators might have wanted more time to study the bill in light of the testimony from ministers, Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers before it moves to the final stage.”

That means back-to-work legislation could come into effect as early as Tuesday afternoon, if the legislation is passed on Monday.

“It’s a position I didn’t want to be in, but our government has come to the point of last resort,” Hajdu told the Senate on Saturday as she urged senators to give Bill C-89 their collective nod of approval.

The rare weekend sitting saw intense discussions about the government's motivation for forcing workers back to their jobs, partisan quips and concerns over violations of charter rights. 

The controversial bill, if passed, would go into effect at noon ET on the day following royal assent.

Early on Saturday, a member of the Independent Senators Group (ISG) who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly, told CBC News several ISG members have concerns with Bill C-89 and whether it complies with charter rights. 

The bill would appoint a mediator-arbitrator to help Canada Post and the union representing its workers come to an agreement. If mediation fails, the two sides would enter binding arbitration.

In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that Canadian workers have a fundamental right to strike, protected by the constitution.

Canada Post says it could take weeks — even stretching into 2019 — to clear the backlog that has built up, especially at major sorting centres in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

The senator said there was uneasiness about the rationale behind the government applying pressure to have an "extraordinary" sitting of the Senate, to suspend the normal rules of debate, and attempt to pass the bill in one day.  

The minister of justice provided a charter statement to the Senate at 1 a.m. ET on Saturday to address concerns over workers' rights.

Critics — including New Democrat MPs, some of whom walked out of the Commons in protest on Friday evening — say it infringes on postal workers’ right to strike.

That statement outlines the considerations of the bill and how the government believes it incorporates the rights to freedom of association and expression.

According to the government, Bill C-89 is consistent with the charter because resuming postal services is important to the Canadian economy. And the legislation, the government argues, would prevent continuing harm to businesses and Canadians in particular need of postal services — like rural or elderly Canadians.

If passed Monday by the Senate, legislation mandating an end to the Canada Post labour dispute would take effect at noon Tuesday. Darren Calabrese / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms makes no mention of the economy or businesses, nor does it specifically address geographical inequality. 

"I had hoped we could complete the debate this weekend, but I also understand that some senators might have wanted more time to study the bill in light of the testimony from ministers, Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers before it moves to the final stage."

The statement once again defended the government's actions, saying "the Bill is introduced only following unsuccessful efforts to bring the collective bargaining process to a satisfactory conclusion for all parties. The government has taken significant steps to promote the collective bargaining process by encouraging a negotiated resolution of the parties' dispute." 

"Its a position I didnt want to be in, but our government has come to the point of last resort," Hajdu told the Senate on Saturday as she urged senators to give Bill C-89 their collective nod of approval.

Not all senators were thrilled with the document. Sen. Murray Sinclair was so unimpressed that he told the Senate he was "a little surprised it wasn't filed to us on toilet paper, it's that useless." 

As the proceedings began on Saturday, Sen. Peter Harder, the government's representative in the Senate, introduced the legislation with "regret." 

The legislation, known as Bill C-89, was sent to the Senate early Saturday after the Liberals pushed it through the House of Commons in a special sitting that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.

"Let me be clear, back-to-work legislation is a last resort," he said. "We are at the last resort."

Harder spoke about the disruptions in service to Canadians, and said he'd prefer that an agreement would be reached without Parliamentary intervention. 

Sen. Peter Harder, the Government Representative in the Senate, said in a statement that he was pleased the bill had moved forward, "particularly given the holiday season."

"The legislation before us demonstrates a positive approach to resolving a difficult and delicate dispute."

If the back-to-work bill is passed, it would designate a mediator-arbitrator to assist Canada Post and the workers' union in reaching an agreement. If that were to fail, they would turn to binding arbitration.

Outgoing Liberal MP for Brampton East Raj Grewal is resigning his seat to seek treatment for a gambling addiction, that has led him to rack up “significant personal debts.

Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos slammed the Trudeau Liberals for taking five weeks to respond to the rotating strikes. 

OTTAWA — After spending hours studying a bill that would order an end to postal workers rotating strikes, the Senate has voted to think things over for another day.

He ultimately supports the legislation, but said the Liberals respond "only when an issue becomes politically embarrassing."

Critics — including New Democrat MPs, some of whom walked out of the Commons in protest on Friday evening — say it infringes on postal workers right to strike.

"At stake is the long-term sustainability and affordability of postal services for Canada, as well as the rights and employment conditions of workers."

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He had urged the government not to pressure the Red Chamber to rush through Bill C-89 Saturday, pleading for the appropriate time for senators to digest the debate from the House of Commons.

Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) have held rotating walkouts for a month, causing massive backlogs of unsorted mail and packages at postal depots.

“It’s a position I didn’t want to be in, but our government has come to the point of last resort,” Hajdu told the Senate on Saturday as she urged senators to give Bill C-89 their collective nod of approval.

Canada Post said it could take weeks — even stretching into 2019 — to clear the backlog that has built up, especially at major sorting centres in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

Senators heard testimony from several witnesses, including Labour Minister Patty Hajdu, Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough, Canada Post interim president Jessica McDonald and CUPW president Mike Palecek.

CUPW's 50,000 members, in two groups, are demanding better pay for rural and suburban carriers, more job security and minimum guaranteed hours.

Union leaders this week continued to mount fierce opposition to what they say would be unconstitutional legislation, vowing to fight the government's actions in court and on the streets.

The bill would appoint a mediator-arbitrator to help Canada Post and the union representing its workers come to an agreement. If mediation fails, the two sides would enter binding arbitration.

Minister of Labour Patty Hajdu defended her government's legislation this week, saying it's not "heavy-handed."

Canada Post says it could take weeks – even stretching into 2019 – to clear the backlog that has built up, especially at major sorting centres in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

Hajdu and Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough appeared before the Senate on Saturday to deliver statements and answer questions. 

They were grilled about the length of time the Liberals took in responding to the strike, the alternatives possible to minimize the impact of the strikes, and the end goal of the labour dispute. 

Critics – including New Democrat MPs, some of whom walked out of the Commons in protest on Friday evening – say it infringes on postal workers’ right to strike.

"It is the government's perspective that the legislation we have crafted is incredibly balanced," Hajdu told the chamber.

On top of appearances from ministers, the interim president of Canada Post and the head of the union made remarks to the Red Chamber. 

"I didn't want to be here discussing back to work legislation," Jessica McDonald of Canada Post admitted. 

This weekend, Canada Post expects to deliver only 30,000 parcels, when they had originally planned for 500,000, she said, underscoring the toll the strike is taking on consumers. 

He shared multiple stories of workers who had been injured on the job, or who work such extensive overtime they barely see their families. 

"Our charter rights are about to be violated," he stated. "I don't believe this bill is necessary, I believe it is an impediment to improving labour relations at Canada Post."

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