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Should union members care about the federal election?

Should union members care about the federal election?

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By Joe Grogan

Introduction

All union members should care about what happens in the federal election.  The results will affect them and their families and communities for years to come.  What factors should we consider when it comes to deciding who to support?  We must examine some of the recent history of the parties to help us to decide.  Some might argue that since this is a federal election, the issues don’t affect members of provincial unions.  That is the wrong approach.  Let’s look at some issues and see how the various parties have acted.

By their deeds, we shall know them:

The way the parties have acted in the past will show their priorities and commitments. Their actions show if they can be trusted.

Prime Minister Trudeau called this election hoping to get a majority.  Trudeau and the Liberals have promised to operate in an honest and trustworthy manner.  How can this commitment be considered serious when we see what happened over the Lavalin affair?  You will recall that then Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould was pressured to overlook the law to give Lavalin a break on legal procedures affecting the company. She was supported by cabinet colleague Jane Philpott.

Both women were kicked out of the Liberal caucus.  Both were strong feminists who hoped that in joining Trudeau’s team, politics would be done differently. Neither is again running, a loss for Parliament.

And what about the scandal affecting the WE Charity and the fact that members of the Trudeau Family benefited significantly in financial terms?  The Toronto Star reported in July: “It is revealed in media reports that Trudeau’s brother and mother received combined $282,000. in speaking fees from WE between 2016 and 2020.”

The same article reveals the following about Bill Morneau, who was finance minister: “July 22, Morneau pays back $41,366. that WE paid in expenses during 2017 when his family went on two trips to Ecuador and Kenya.”

And what about the appointment of Julie Payette as Canada’s Governor General, who recently had to resign due to controversies related to questionable human and employee relations that saw many staff leave over unresolved workplace issues? Payette was Trudeau’s choice for the job.

Let’s not forget another important issue from the Liberal past; NAFTA.  The 1993 federal election saw the Liberals come to power with Jean Chretien.  During the campaign, Chretien promised to examine the deal negotiated by Mulroney Conservatives, but guess what?  Chretien and his team then implemented the agreement that earlier he had fought against!  This 2021 election is about trust and integrity!

In Ontario, we have had many issues with Premier Ford and his team.  You will remember the campaign slogan from 2018 Conservatives: For the people!  Their federal cousins under Erin O’Toole are now promising to look out for the workers. By gosh, he is also making promises to protect gig workers in “our new wonderful economy”!!  Who knows, maybe a $15 minimum wage would be possible with his help?!  O’Toole is also making noises about the need for a National Industrial Strategy to protect and promote Canadian manufacturing! Geez, I guess we really do need such actions since the Conservatives destroyed a huge chunk of the manufacturing when they brought in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in the late 80s. Do these folks hope to seduce workers again? As for Ford and the Conservatives, we have seen what he has done to public sector workers in health care, education, social services and in particular, long-term care facilities. The Toronto Star reported in August that Ontario has lost 9,449 individuals due to COVID, most of them older adults, residents of long-term care, but also several PSWs who picked up COVID-19 on the job.  And is it true that former premier Mike Harris has a senior board position with Chartwell, a for-profit residential care company? Do federal and Ontario Conservatives really look out for workers, our families, and our communities?

And do we remember that in 2018, Ford reversed changes to the Employment Standards Act that had given workers some protection in terms of sick days and other basic benefits? He also rolled back the provincial minimum wage that our unions fought for. Should we trust Conservatives? No way!

The Green Party has been torn apart by internal fights with the present elected leader, Annamie Paul. They cannot be seriously considered in the present federal election. How could we trust a party that has spent most of its energy in 2021 in internal fights and trying to dump its current leader who was democratically elected last year?  Not a serious option for us.

The New Democratic Party is the solid option for working people:

The NDP and Jagmeet Singh merit serious consideration. I have my own biases and once again, I will support the New Democrats.  Here is why:

Jagmeet Singh is not Justin Trudeau or Erin O’Toole. Singh happens to be from a minority community, one of many minority communities that have been subjected to racism and exclusion. He has a completely different life experience than Trudeau and O’Toole. Furthermore, Singh has been unrelenting in his support for Indigenous communities that for years have suffered the real effects of racism and the tragedy of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and more recently the Residential Schools tragedy. Grassy Narrows is still suffering the consequences of mercury poisoning affecting the northern Ontario community’s residents. Grassy Narrows and hundreds of others in Canada still do not have access to reasonable housing and safe drinking water and must follow-boil-water rules. In the case of Grassy Narrows, the experience goes back to the late 1970s and early 1980s when Reed Paper dumped poisonous by-products of its industrial work into river systems that Grassy Narrows depended on for its way of life. Despite delays, obfuscation and much frustration by Liberals and Tories, the New Democrats continue to fight for Indigenous communities. The NDP also joined unions to fight against free trade deals.

In the ongoing current COVID crisis, Singh and other federal New Democrats fought to extend the financial security of individuals, families, and small businesses devastated by the layoffs that occurred during COVID. He was the person who demonstrated leadership when it was needed, leadership that helped many Canadians to have economic stability.

Singh also fought against this pointless election, which he rightly saw as a blatant act of opportunism in which our Prime Minister hoped we would be tired and preoccupied and not paying attention to present and past behaviours. Plus, the New Democrats correctly call for an end to for-profit long-term care. Furthermore, New Democrats will fight to increase the funding for a secure, Universal Health Care System.

Conclusion

For me, the choice is clear. Overcome fear and doubt: Vote NDP.