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Autumn View Edition 4, 2019

We the North
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A message from the chair

Thanks to the October 2019 election and the new minority government, Justin Trudeau has a golden opportunity to bring about some creative and mid to left of center legislation, for the betterment of himself his party and this country.

Any student of either history or politics can verify that some of the best legislation ever passed in Canadian Parliament came in times of minority government.

In the mid 1960’s a minority government under Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson and backed by the NDP, passed legislation that brought about our beloved Medicare, the Canadian Pension Plan and Federal funding for social assistance. It was at the time, and still is, a great step in helping low to middle class Canadians realize significant gains and improve their lot in life.

In 1972, when Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals were reduced to a minority they also seized the hot issue at the time, namely economic nationalism. With the backing of the NDP they established the Foreign Investment Review Agency. They also had NDP support in setting up Petro-Canada, a national oil company to confront the major foreign owned companies that dictated oil and gas policies. These popular moves at the time helped the Liberals get a majority win in the following election.

The question is, will Justin seize the similar situation that exists today and lead the way with NDP support, to bring about meaningful legislation on either/or Pharmacare or climate change, both of which are desperately needed and supported by most Canadians?    

Ed Faulknor, Chair
OPSEU Retired Members Division                   

A helping hand

How to handle a request for financial support

Many Canadians are grappling with debt as a result of soaring spending and a higher cost of living. A 2017 report by the Organization for Economic Co‑operation and Development showed that Canadian households are among the most indebted in the world1, and a recent survey by the Canadian Payroll Association suggested that nearly half of Canadian workers are living paycheque to paycheque2.

If a friend or family member is experiencing financial difficulties, it’s natural to want to help. It’s difficult to see someone in need but borrowing or lending between people who care about each other can present some risks and potentially impact the relationship in the long run. Careful handling of a request to provide financial support can prevent misunderstandings, conflict and financial mishaps.

Ask questions

There are many reasons why a person might ask for financial help, so the first thing to do is, as best as possible, try to understand the full context of the situation.

What are the details of the request – is it a loan of few hundred dollars or upwards of a couple thousand? What will the money be used for, and when and how will it be paid back? Is there a pattern of this family member or friend looking to borrow money from those around them? If so, this may indicate a bigger problem.

Explore alternatives

The information you gather can allow you to offer more valuable support than simply handing over money. If the individual is overwhelmed by unexpected expenses or debt, perhaps you can assist by helping to create a budget. If they’re unemployed, you may be able to help them brush up their resume or search for work. In some cases, it can be a great help to connect them with the right social or professional services in their community, such as social assistance agencies or employment programs.

You might also consider referring your friend or family member to your advisor to review their options. Your advisor will have the expertise and professional network to explore options for the individual that are specific to their situation and can help get them on the right path to a secure financial future.

Proceed with caution

If you do decide to provide financial support to a friend or family member, there are some things you can do to help avoid confusion or disagreements down the line.

Give a gift

If you can afford it, and you feel it fits the context of the relationship, you may want to simply provide a gift rather than a loan. This way, there are no expectations and no hard feelings. If the money is paid back, you can think of it as a bonus.

Put it in writing

Formalizing the details in a contract will help set expectations and show that you’re taking the loan and its terms seriously. It might feel awkward to ask for a contract, but it can help you avoid having to ask about repayment later. There are many standard loan agreements available online that can help you hash out the details – loan amount, interest rate (if any) and repayment schedule.

Think carefully before co‑signing

If your friend or family member can’t qualify for a loan from a financial institution on their own, they may ask you to co‑sign. A co‑signed loan can take on many forms – short‑term, long‑term, secured or unsecured. The need for a co‑signer means the lender considers the borrower to be a higher risk – either because they don’t have an established credit history or because their credit rating is not strong enough. It’s important to

understand that if the borrower defaults, you’re responsible for the balance of the loan. Also, co‑signing a loan could reduce the amount of money you may be able to borrow for your own purposes. If you decide to co‑sign a loan, it’s a good idea to monitor the account to make sure payments are being made on time.

Protect your own financial situation

Helping out someone whom you’re close with is a noble gesture, but the last thing you want to do is jeopardize your own financial health. If you’re taking the funds from your retirement savings, for example, you could increase your current tax burden and possibly affect the quality of your retirement. Before deciding, it’s a good idea to discuss the situation with your partner and ask your advisor about the potential impact on your own finances.

  1. http://www.macleans.ca/economy/congrats-canadians-youre-world-leaders-in-debt
  2. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/about-half-of-canadian-workers-living-paycheque-to-paycheque- survey/article36181891

NDP’s Horwath fights funding cuts and higher fees for long-term care

Changes revealed in government memos

OTTAWA — Two funding streams for long-term care are being eliminated by Doug Ford, taking millions of dollars away from care homes — but even as those cuts threaten to make life even less safe, healthy and dignified for seniors in care, the Ford government is hiking the fees residents pay by about $500 a year.

Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was in Ottawa Thursday, where she released government memos detailing the changes, and calling for a find-and-fix inquiry into long-term care to not only stop it from getting worse, but to actually make it better.

“For any of us with a loved one in long-term care, we know underfunding has real consequences,” said Horwath, speaking outside the Centre d’accueil Champlain long-term care home. “It means our loved one doesn’t always get the help they need to brush their teeth and get dressed in the morning. It means they could ring a call bell to get help to make it to the washroom, but be left waiting until it’s too late. And it means there are fewer staff to prevent falls, or even violence in long-term care homes.

“Cutting the funding to long-term care homes would take these problems from bad to worse.”

The memos from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care reveal that Ford is cancelling the High Wage Transition Fund, which helps pay for staff wages, and the Structural Compliance Premium fund, which helps keep long-term care homes up to modern standards. The two cuts amount to more than $34 million being ripped out of long-term care homes annually.

At the same time, Ford is raising the co-payment fees that long-term care residents pay by 2.3 per cent, which is one of the highest price hikes in the last decade. A middle class senior in care will pay about $500 more a year, as a result.

“Together, we can fight for care for our loved ones that’s dignified, that’s compassionate, and that’s safe. Seniors living in long-term care built our province and cared for us. We owe it to them to fight these cuts, and get to work building better long-term care in Ontario.”

The inquiry proposed by Horwath would look into the safety of residents and staff, funding, staffing levels, regulation, inspections, and more. For more than a year, she’s called for that inquiry to be a second phase of the Wettlaufer inquiry, which reported its recommendations Wednesday. Although the Wettlaufer inquiry’s mandate was specific to the conditions that failed to prevent a killer from attacking residents, Justice Eileen Gillese reported finding understaffing and underfunding, and called out systemic problems in long-term care that leave residents vulnerable.

Unite Against Racism

Equality is a core value of the labour movement. This is why we say, “an injury to one is an injury to all.” It is workers joining forces in solidarity that has won many of the benefits that are protected under the law today: the right to refuse unsafe work, the end of child labour, and for many workers, the weekend.

This year, the labour movement in Ontario is coming together under the theme Unite Against Racism.

Shamefully, many political leaders around the world are stoking the fires of hatred in order to strengthen their power. Where they should be blaming corporations and the super-rich for economic troubles, they put the blame on immigrants and racialized communities. And when these politicians gain more power, they push forward policies that hurt all workers.

Racist groups are emboldened by today’s political climate. According to an ongoing study by Dr. Barbara Perry, Dr. Ryan Scrivens and Dr. David Hofmann, Ontario is home to more than 30 right-wing extremist groups. Ontario is also regularly the province with the highest concentration of hate crime.

It’s time that we come together in solidarity to organize, educate, and resist the rise of racism. We must push back against electoral strategies designed to make us fight each other. Those strategies advance an agenda that hurts everyone.

In Ontario, we have seen the Conservative government cancel the $15 minimum wage and take away two paid sick days from workers across the province. The PC government continues to cut important public services such as health care and education that are essential for all Ontarians to thrive. Workers who are racialized, Indigenous, women, or who have a disability bear the brunt of these cuts.

The Conservative government has also made anti-immigrant cuts that specifically target racialized communities, such as ordering Legal Aid to stop providing legal representation to many migrants and refugees, an important service that many depend on.

Conservative cuts hurt Ontario workers and families, and with a federal election on the horizon, it is time for Ontarians to come together, demand a fair Canada for everyone and build an Ontario for all. We must stop the rise of hate, racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia; doing so is essential to ensuring rights for all of us.

The Ontario Federation of Labour’s Power of Many campaign continues to grow, bringing Ontarians together in the thousands to send a strong message to the politicians who are in government, and those seeking election, that tactics of division will not work on us.

This Labour Day, the Power of Many campaign continues its work for equality by joining with the Migrant Rights Network and Migrant Workers Alliance for Change in calling for an end to racism and hate. Together, we pledge to not let racism poison and divide our communities.

We demand justice and equality for all, strong public services, decent work, safe and healthy communities, and permanent resident status for all.

You can take action. Join the fight for equality. Visit powerofmany.ca to join a rapid response network in your community. Go to migrantrights.ca to sign a pledge and find resources that you can access to help your co-workers and community members unite against racism. You can find Unite Against Racism placards and banners to carry on Labour Day at migrantrights.ca/Sep2.

Together we can build an Ontario for all and a fair Canada for everyone.

Together we must #UniteAgainstRacism.

In solidarity,

CHRIS BUCKLEY

This article was taken from the Ontario Federation of Labour web site

 

 

November 26, 2019                     WITHOUT PREJUDICE

Sent via e-mail

Barry Brown, Co-Chair

Frank Ramagnano, Co-Chair

OMERS Sponsors Corporation

EY Tower / 900-100 Adelaide St. W.

Toronto, Ontario M5H 0E2

Dear Barry Brown and Frank Ramagnano,

As you are aware, the Board of the OMERS Sponsors Corporation (SC) held a meeting on November 14, 2019 to consider amending its foundational by-laws. OPSEU members distributed leaflets outside the meeting expressing our concerns around the proposed amendments. You responded by threatening to sue OPSEU for defamation.

Let me be absolutely clear: OPSEU did not engage in defamatory conduct. It is our duty as both a sponsor of OMERS and as the representative of thousands of OMERS plan members to advise you of our members’ concerns. This duty extends to expressing such concerns publicly so our members are aware that we are taking action on their behalf. Raising issue with the proposed amendments is also in the broader public interest, as the amendments affect the pension entitlements of ever-increasing numbers of public sector workers across Ontario.

In the past week, you and the SC Board have taken the following actions, among others, in a deeply procedurally unfair manner. You have eliminated the requirement for equal representation of Employer and Employee members on the Board; transferred the powers of the Board’s Co-Chairs to a single Chair with unilateral decision-making authority; and diluted the right of Sponsor Organizations to appoint or remove members of the Board. OPSEU members are rightly concerned about these actions and are fully within their right to express

Warren (Smokey) Thomas

President of OPSEU/SEFPO

cc:

Fred Hahn, President of CUPE

OMERS Sponsors Corporation Board Members

M. Rolland, CEO, OMERS Sponsors Corporation

G. Cooke, Chair, OMERS Administration Corporation

M. Latimer, CEO, OMERS Administration Corporation

Canada’s largest companies could easily eliminate pension deficits, but choose shareholder payouts instead: Report

AUGUST 29, 2019

OTTAWA—Canada’s largest publicly-traded companies could have eliminated their defined benefit (DB) pension deficits five times over with the value of what they chose to pay out to shareholders instead in 2017 alone, according to a new report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

Put another way, these companies could have easily eliminated their pension deficits and still continued shareholder payouts.

The report updates research published by the CCPA in 2017, and compares the pension deficits of the roughly 90 companies on the S&P/TSX Composite Index with DB plans to shareholder payouts between 2011 and 2017. These company plans account for a large portion of all the country’s private DB assets.

”Year after year, companies are bringing in excess income, and year after year they decide to pay that out to shareholders instead of settling their pension obligations,” says CCPA Senior Economist David Macdonald, who co-authored the report with Chris Roberts, Social and Economic Policy Director with the Canadian Labour Congress.

“Shareholders are supposed to take on the firm’s risk. Instead, that risk is being shouldered by workers whose retirement security is compromised by outstanding pension deficits,” adds Macdonald.

Among the study’s findings:

  • In 2011, S&P/TSX companies with DB pensions paid twice as much to their shareholders as it would have cost to wipe out their pension deficits. By 2017, shareholders payouts ($66 billion) were over five times the value of their pension deficits ($12 billion);
  • Of the S&P/TSX companies with DB pension plans, two-thirds in any given year paid out more to shareholders than it would have cost to completely pay off their pension deficit;
  • Most of the 10 companies with the largest pension deficits pay out far more annually to shareholders than the value of a one-time payment to eliminate their pension liability;
  • Overall, pension deficits have shrunk since 2011, so it’s even easier to bring plans into solvency. But many companies are choosing not to.

“While requiring a minimal level of funding, Canada’s pension rules have left it to companies to decide whether to fully eliminate their pension deficit,” says Roberts. “Firms continue to push retirement risks onto workers in order to provide ever higher payouts to shareholders. It’s time for a new policy approach that considers firms’ financial strength rather than only focusing on the health of their pension plans.”

The report notes that enhancing public options for retirement security in the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement is the simplest and most comprehensive way to ensure a comfortable retirement for all Canadians

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives 

https://www.policyalternatives.ca/

Passage of Bill 124 makes a constitutional challenge all but inevitable says the Ontario Federation of Labour

November 7, 2019

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) is actively reviewing all options at their disposal, including legal action, against the PC’s Bill 124, Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, which allows the government to impose salary and compensation caps, including for pension and health care improvements, on a variety of unionized and non-unionized public sector workplaces.

“Bill 124 is a direct attack on the collective bargaining rights of every worker in the province,” said Ontario Federation of Labour President Chris Buckley. “The OFL is committed to fight this Bill at every step, and we are reviewing all of our options – both political and legal – including the launch of a Charter challenge.”

“Now that the Bill has passed, I cannot imagine a scenario that does not result in a charter challenge,” said Buckley. “The agreements unions bargain on behalf of their members must be negotiated at the bargaining table, not in the legislature.”

The OFL argues that Bill 124 strips public sector workers of their constitutional rights to free and fair collective bargaining. It also forces front-line workers to accept compensation increases that fall far below the rate of inflation.

Among the workers affected by Bill 124 are those employed by crown agencies, school boards, universities and colleges, hospitals, non-profit long-term care homes, and children’s aid societies.

“Once again, the government has passed ill-conceived legislation that fails to reflect the realities of life for workers and in communities in Ontario. This Bill will leave workers, their families and communities without the services they depend on.”

The Ontario government spends the lowest amount per person on public services of any province in this country. In 2017, Ontario spent more than $2,000 less on programs per person than the rest of Canada on average. Public sector and private sector wage settlements in Ontario have been below inflation every year for the past ten years.

“Ontario does not have a spending problem, it has a revenue problem,” said Buckley. “Hard-working public sector workers, and the communities in which they live and work are being forced to make sacrifices so that the government can give away benefits to the wealthy. At the same time, the PCs ignore obvious sources of revenue. For instance, this government is giving $3.8 billion in tax breaks to corporations, has lost $3 billion by cancelling cap-and-trade, and has forfeited $275 million in taxes from high-income earners.”

The OFL represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow @OFLabour on Facebook and Twitter.

-30-

For further information, please contact:
Meagan Perry 
Director of Communications, 
Ontario Federation of Labour
mperry@ofl.ca l 416-894-3456 

COPE 343

Tax scam

VANCOUVER — The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is warning the public of a recent scam involving email money transfers. It wants to remind the public the CRA will only send payments by direct deposit or by cheque, never by email money transfer.

There have been many reports of people receiving texts from an unknown number asking the user to click on a link to deposit their income tax return. Do not click on the link. There is also another version of the text message, telling people they need to unlock their account: 

The CRA says occasionally, taxpayers may receive, either by telephone, mail, or email, a communication that claims to be from the CRA but is not. In all these cases, the communication requests personal information, such as a social insurance, credit card, bank account, and passport numbers, from the taxpayer.

Canadian voters signal support for climate action

Polling shows that climate change was one of the key issues of the campaign.

Ottawa (04 Nov. 2019) — Climate change emerged as a top issue in last week’s federal election, as anticipated. Recent polling data confirms that many voters were influenced by the parties’ commitments on climate change, or lack thereof.

Environment, climate change are priorities for voters

Polling from Abacus Data has confirmed that climate change was one of the key issues of the campaign. Abacus Data asked voters to identify the top 5 issues that would have the greatest impact on their vote. Overall, the top issues were cost of living, access to health care, climate change and the environment, taxes, and poverty and inequality.

When comparing Liberal and NDP voters to Conservative voters, Abacus found that Liberal and NDP voters are 34% more likely than Conservative voters to rank climate change as a top issue.

Voters reject Conservative climate plan

Exit polling conducted by the University of Toronto’s Policy, Elections, and Representation lab, on behalf of Clean Prosperity, suggests voters were turned off by the Conservative climate platform.

This is what the survey found: “Of voters who did not vote for Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, 20% said that they would consider voting Conservative—but 77% also said that climate change was among their top issues. Those same voters were unimpressed with the Conservative plan for climate change, giving it an average rating of D.”

Voters support action on climate change

Voters made clear their desire for climate action when they went to the polls on October 21. Groups like Climate Action Network Canada have observed that over two-thirds of voters cast their ballots for parties that put forward platforms that included climate action, including support for a carbon tax.

Although there may be debate within the new minority government regarding the details and direction of climate policy, voters nonetheless delivered a clear message in support of action on climate change.

Time to hold newly elected Parliament accountable

With a clear mandate from voters for action on climate change, we must hold the newly elected Parliament accountable to their climate commitments. We will be watching and maintaining pressure on the new government to ensure they take the urgent, transformational action on climate change that is required.

This article was taken from the NUPGE website

Angus Reid poll shows Canadians think Trudeau was wrong to break his electoral reform promise – support for PR is stronger than ever!

The results of our national poll, conducted in partnership with Angus Reid Global, are in – and they are amazing.

When Justin Trudeau broke his election promise to end first-past-the-post and make every vote count, he claimed that “there is no consensus” and that “only a few people” wanted proportional representation. Just before breaking his promise, he suggested that Canadians see less need for electoral reform since the Liberals had formed the government.

Today’s poll proves—again—that Trudeau is indulging in wishful thinking on electoral reform. The appetite for proportional representation in Canada is stronger than ever!

The Angus Reid survey of 1510 Canadians found:

77% support moving towards a system of proportional representation in Canadian elections. This even included 80% of those who voted Liberal in the last federal election, and 65% of those who voted Conservative.

82% agree that “In order for a political party to form a “majority government,” it should have the support of over 50% of Canadians.”

90% agree that “An electoral system should encourage parties to cooperate and compromise so that the important policies that are passed in parliament reflect the support of over 50% of Canadians.”

80% feel that the overall composition of Parliament should be an accurate reflection of how people voted.

When Trudeau broke his promise, he told a town hall, “It was my choice to make.”

Canadians disagree with that choice.

The survey found that 70% of Canadians disapprove of Trudeau’s decision.

The Liberal Party’s 2015 platform specifically mentioned proportional representation as an option. The party pledged to listen to Canadians and experts. Although 88% of the experts and 87% of the citizens who testified to the federal electoral reform committee recommended PR, Trudeau said no.

Today’s Angus Reid poll makes clear: 39% majorities are not working for Canadians.

Canadians are looking for parties to cooperate in Parliament to tackle huge issues, like the climate crisis.

In 2015, many Canadians voted for the game-changing promise of electoral reform – particularly those who voted strategically for the Liberals.

Sharon Sommerville, an organizer for the strategic voting campaign to elect a Liberal in her riding, told us she can’t count the number of times she heard at the door, “I’m just doing this once because I’ll never have to do it again.”

Sincerely,

Anita Nickerson

Executive Director, Fair Vote Canada

Fair Vote Canada

88 North Drive

Kitchener, ON N2M 1K8

Canada

With Mixed Member Proportional representation, the results for 2019 Federal Election *-would have been:

Con 116, Lib   112, NDP 54, Bloc 26, Green 24, PPC 6

New report reveals major gaps in care for Canadians with IPF

December, 2019

The current state of care for Canadians living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is in great need of meaningful change to alleviate the considerable burdens associated with the condition, according to a newly released report, The Burden of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis in Canada.

The prevalence of IPF is higher in Canada than in many other developed countries and leads to the death of 5,000 Canadians each year.

Developed in collaboration with CPFF and Hoffmann-La Roche Limited, with input and guidance from a committee of IPF experts, The Burden of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis in Canada shows there is a lack of understanding of the disease even amongst physicians, which leads to delayed diagnoses and major gaps and disparities in the quality and access to healthcare resources. The report reveals the drastic differences in these resources from province to province, and the significant economic impact on both patients and the healthcare system.

The report outlines workable solutions – some which can be implemented right away – that could contribute to alleviating the current burdens of IPF. Here are some highlights of the recommendations, which are discussed in greater detail in the report:

  • Improved education and awareness of IPF: for the public, patients, caregivers and health care professionals, particularly respirologists and general practitioners.
  • Joint treatment management strategies:  having these in place between community care and academic centers for individual cases will ensure that patients around the country have the opportunity to receive the best possible care, no matter where they are primarily treated.
  • Earlier integration of multidisciplinary palliative care: this will result in reduced health care use in the last year of life and more home deaths. In addition, conversations around advanced care planning helps support partners to understand and learn about a patient’s goals and wishes and to feel more informed and supported.
  • Expanded access to patient and support partner resources: access to patient and support partner peer support groups, patient empowerment resources, as well as palliative care, are critical to maintaining quality of life for patients and their loved ones. Digital access to such programs would lower barriers and broaden availability.
  • Equality of care across provinces: quality of care should not be determined by where you live. To ensure quality of care throughout Canada, progressive health care decisions and dedication of resources to IPF treatment need to be established everywhere.