Back to work legislation amounts to taking sides
June 17th, 2011 - 3:43pm
The government announced their intention to legislate an end to the Canada Post Labour dispute this week. This amounts to taking sides and standing with employers who seek to dismantle pension plans. It is a dangerous choice and shows that the government’s commitment to the average worker as well as rural and remote communities is not as strong as their commitment to the upper crust of Canada’s business community that benefit most from their policies.
That the government is fully behind management on this issue is a slap in the face to hard-working Canadians who can see for themselves the trends of failed pension plans and more seniors living in poverty. Defined contribution pensions are at best a guessing game. The only guarantee an employee working under one of these pension schemes has is the rate of contribution.
Many of the arguments used in favour of this type of pension are cynical at best. Claims that other people aren’t guaranteed pensions is no reason to dismantle those that exist. We should be working to strengthen pensions, not weaken them.
What is more worrisome about this dispute are the calls for Canada Post to be privatized; a development that would either lead to the end of rural and remote mail service or make it prohibitively expensive.
Canada Post is a national institution. It is an arm’s-length Crown Corporation with a mandate that guarantees postal service for all Canadians. If allowed to atrophy by ceding revenue generating elements to private interests, the fiscal health of Canada Post will be compromised. In the last parliament, the Conservatives carved away the lucrative International mail portion of Canada Posts operations and handed it to private remailers. This was a significant step in weakening the agency’s fiscal capacity. If private interests are allowed to take up more of Canada Post’s duties, they will focus on large markets not the expensive job of delivering rural and remote mail. It would be a prescription for Canada Post’s failure.
With a large land mass and most of our population living in cities that cling to our southern border, policies that make living in smaller and more remote centers more difficult must be avoided. We will need to have strong communities in the far-north as the Northwest Passage becomes a viable shipping route in the near future. Our claim to sovereignty in the arctic is strengthened by the presence of these communities. If Canada Post is allowed to wither, it is difficult to imagine there will be a line-up to replace those far-north routes and one more incentive to live in a remote community will be removed.
In the face of calls to privatize Canada Post, the challenge to the government is obvious. They must resist their urge to place blind faith in markets and accept there are times when a government has a role to play in a profitable enterprise that is both a business and an important national institution.