(A special election message from IBEW First District International Vice President Tom Reid)
Sisters and Brothers, we’re weeks away from a federal election that will chart the course of our nation for the next several years. So, I want to take a moment to thank all of you for the work you do for the IBEW and the labour movement and to talk to you for a few moments about what’s at stake on Monday, Oct. 21.
Four years ago, the Canadian labour movement had endured nearly 10 years under Stephen Harper. It was a decade marked by attacks on unions and the middle class, a decade of rising inequality between the ultra-rich and the working class, and a decade when working families and the unions representing them had no access to Ottawa’s halls of power. We were shut out.
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals took over in 2015, they promised us that working people would once again have a seat at the table, that the attacks on labour would stop and that we’d be treated as partners in an effort to rebuild our country’s middle class.
There’s an old saying in the labour movement: If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. Well, I’m here to say that things have been very different since we’ve been at the table the last four years.
The current government has sought our advice and counsel and delivered on many of its promises to working people.
Since 2015, Trudeau’s government has expanded the Canada Pension Plan and increased the Guaranteed Income Supplement for the country’s poorest seniors. It’s reduced the employment insurance waiting period from two weeks to one and made good on its promise to repeal bills C-377 and C-525, two terrible pieces of Conservative legislation that tried to bury unions in paperwork so we’d have less time to spend looking after our members.
This current government has ratified a treaty recognizing the rights of working people to organize and collectively bargain and worked alongside labour to make sure there’s a just transition for workers and communities as coal-generation is phased out of the power supply.
This government has invested heavily in union apprenticeship training right across the country — including many IBEW-run programs. To date our locals have received close to $12 million. It has also finally banned asbestos in construction materials after we tried and failed for years to get Harper’s government to do the same.
I’m telling you all this again because Conservative provincial governments have been hell-bent on reducing labour’s influence over the last several years. Politicians like Doug Ford and Brian Pallister have actively worked against the best interests of unions and union members with punitive legislation and hardball politics, and now they want to turn back the clock on workers at the federal level, too.
I hope as you consider your vote over the next several weeks that you’ll put aside the political rhetoric from all sides and consider the facts. Unions and union members have a chance to remain at the table and to work with this government to continue to make things better.
I ask you to vote for politicians and parties that support and promote good union jobs and quality union training programs. That doesn’t mean the Liberals in every riding. Seek your local’s guidance if you have questions in your area. Our business managers and political action committees have worked incredibly hard to build relationships with leaders across Canada, and they know who listens to us and who doesn’t, regardless of party.
Most importantly, please vote. The IBEW’s ability to effectively fight for our members comes from the collective power of each and every one of you, but it’s amplified when you’re politically engaged and exercise your right to vote in each and every election. Together, we can make a difference for working families — especially when we elect politicians who make sure we have a seat at the table.