The All Canada Progress meeting took place August 22-24 in Montreal, QC, with International Vice President Bill Daniels welcoming delegates to the annual conference themed, Reflecting Back, Looking Forward. Not only did the Conference take place during Canada’s 150th, it was also the city of Montreal’s 375th birthday, making the theme that much more relevant.
Brother Daniels welcomed International President Lonnie Stephenson who surprised wife Dawn with a beautiful bouquet of flowers while the delegates serenaded her with Happy Birthday, since her birthday fell during the events of the Progress Meeting.
President Stephenson turned to the business of the day, reflecting on our history in Canada, and the contributions of the labour movement to shape that history, from the Canadian Pension Plan, universal healthcare, and improving safety legislation for all Canadians. But union density has fallen, specifically amongst 25-34 year olds, or the “NextGen generation”, who are consistently less likely to unionize.
“If we lose this generation, we lose the labour movement,” said President Stephenson before commending IVP Daniels on hosting COMET Training for the NextGen delegates in attendance at their Caucus. “By giving your full support to NextGen, you’re nurturing the next leaders of the IBEW.”
The necessity to not only engage with our members, but to look outwards and organize the unorganized, while at the same time building out political action program are all key areas we need to focus on for the future of our organization. Because, while we have a Federal government that is more willing to engage and with whom we have built a great working relationship, as evidenced by our Prime Minister bringing greetings to the delegates, the fight continues. As President Stephenson pointed out, “When you have conservative politicians openly talking about bringing US-style right-to-work policies up to Canada, you know we have a problem.”
The need to engage members and organize future members, stayed as a common theme throughout the day, as recently appointed International Secretary Treasurer Ken Cooper addressed the All Canada for the first time.
“It’s a true honour to serve with our great leader, Lonnie Stephenson and to serve our great brotherhood,” said Brother Cooper. “It’s a great honour to serve not only our members, but the workers out there that aren’t our members but should be. With every new member, it means a stronger IBEW, a stronger IBEW means a stronger middle class, and a stronger middle class means a stronger democracy.”
“You are successfully educating and mobilizing members across this great nation, on issues that matter to us as working families” He noted the provincial elections in BC and Alberta, as well as the work being done at the Federal level. “Repealing Bill C377 – it was nice to see a politician keep their promise.”
International Executive Council member for the 8th district, representing Canada, and Business Manager of Local 37, Ross Galbraith addressed delegates for the first time since he was re-elected at our International Convention in St. Louis. Brother Galbraith provided delegates with an overview of the role of the IEC and how he works with not only the other district, but our International President and Secretary Treasurer, to perform the business of the IBEW as outlined in the Constitution. IVP Daniels addressed delegates, announcing the upcoming Canadian Membership Development Conference and Canadian Women’s Conference taking place in Toronto in November. IVP Daniels remarked on the need to recommit ourselves to organizing, highlighting COMET Training as a way to do that.
“It’s important to remember that we are all organizers, and as part of the Obligation to becoming an IBEW member, it clearly outlines our responsibility to organize.”
“We represent workers in some of the most viable sectors of the economy. A powerful labour movement needs a powerful IBEW, and we can’t have a powerful IBEW without making organizing a number one priority,” President Stephenson reminded delegates. The Code of Excellence (COE) continues to play an important role in not only our current workplaces, but in attracting employers to work with IBEW members and recognize the value of the COE. To highlight the COE at work in the different branches we represent, check out the SPARQ Code of Excellence newsletter.
The afternoon continued hearing from industry speakers including the head of labour relations for Quebec Hydro, Nathalie Saheb, CLC Researcher, Chris Roberts, Pierre Laliberte, commissioner (Workers) for ESDC Canada Employment Insurance Commission, , head of the Quebec Building Trades, Michel Couillard, and director of marketing for Ontario’s Joint Electrical Promotion Plan, Sherri Haigh on the campaign between the ECAO and the IBEW called poweringcommunities.ca.
The day closed out with Political Representative Matt Wayland briefing delegates on the annual National Political Action Committee Report and an update on the specific issues the IBEW has focused on over the past year and the direction of our political work moving forward. Key to our success is the effort put in by all IBEW members across the country to become more politically active at all levels. For more information on how you can get involved with your Political Action Committee, or to start one at your Local Union, Check out the Political Page on our website.
Wednesday was Caucus day at the All Canada Progress Meeting, with delegates from different sectors meeting separately to discuss issues that specifically pertain to their respective industries.
Following a lovely reception put on by the host committee Wednesday night, where the winners of the Harley Draw were announced, Thursday including closing speakers Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Patty Hajdu, Vice President of the CLC, Larry Rousseau, NETCO Director Carol McLeod, MS Society representative Francine Labelle and First District Representative on the IBEW Women’s Committee, Nicole Biernaczyk.
Thank you to all of the delegates who were able to attend and continue to fight for better workplaces for not only our members, but all Canadians. Keep up the great work!