New Government, New Expectations: What The Newly Elected Liberal Government Has Promised Labour And The Middle Class

It has been over a week since the excitement of the election, and with the results in, we know we are in for four years of a Liberal majority government with Justin Trudeau at the helm.

There were a lot of promises made by all parties, but we thought we would take a look at what the Liberal Government has promised when it comes to labour and the middle class in Canada.

Labour Laws

The Liberal government has promised to restore ‘fair and balanced labour laws that acknowledge the important role of unions in Canada.’ They pointed out that under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party many fundamental labour rights have been rolled back.  They said they will begin with repealing Bills C-377 and C-525.

Skills Training

The economy was a hot button issue during the election campaign and the Liberal party has promised  to help Canadians get the training they need to find good jobs. They have said they will do this by making it easier for adults to access training programs, they will invest $50 million to renew and expand funding to Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training and provide $25 million each year for training facilities delivered in partnership with labour unions.

Infrastructure Investments

They have also promised historic new investments in infrastructure to grow Canada's economy. They are promising to nearly double federal infrastructure investment to almost $125 billion, make an immediate down payment to kick-start job creation and economic growth by doubling the current federal infrastructure investment in each of the next two fiscal years, and provide new, dedicated funding to provinces, territories, and municipalities for infrastructure.

Parental Benefits

Working with provinces and territories to amend labour codes, the Liberal government has focused in on more flexible parental benefits. They want to allow for parents to receive benefits in smaller blocks of time over a period of up to 18 months and also have the ability to take up to 18 month leave when combined with maternity benefits at a lower benefit level.

Veterans Entering The Workforce

The Liberal government has pointed out that veterans often find it difficult to build a new career after they have been serving. They have promised to invest $80 million every year to create a new Veterans Education Benefit, which will provide full support for the costs of up to for years of post secondary. They said they want to help veterans re-enter the workforce and help expand Canada’s skilled labour force.

Protect Middle Class Growth

Working with Canada’s labour movement, the Liberal government has promised to create jobs, grow the economy and strengthen the middle class. They stated that they will work with provinces and territories to enhance the Canada Pension Plan and develop a ‘made in Canada’ solution to solve the skills shortage. They have also promised a plan to invest in infrastructure, which they say will create jobs. They have also decided to give the middle class a tax break, which will save middle class Canadians $670 per person, per year.


Concerned Canadians: New Poll Suggests Most Canadians Feel Worse Off Than They Did At The Time Of 2011 Election

The 2011 election platform for the Conservative Party was titled ‘Here For Canada’, but four years later it seems the majority of Canadians are feeling a bit abandoned.

A new Forum Research poll asked Canadians ‘are you better off now than you were in 2011?’ – 51 per cent answered ‘no’ and only 34 per cent answered ‘yes.’

According to an article by the Toronto Star, concerns of many Canadians surround the soaring cost of living in the country, including the price of ‘everything from utility bills to food, clothing and transportation.’

As costs soar, paycheques have not been keeping pace.

“Housing prices have gone up and our salaries have not gone up equivalently, and that’s been the biggest hit for us,” said Chris Thomson , a medical adviser for a pharmaceutical company in an interview with the Star.

 The article states that survey results are broken down by age – 18 to 34-year-olds are split with 41 per cent answering yes or no, and half of 35 – 65 year olds believing they are not better off.

Lorne Bozinoff is the president of Forum Research and said these results are not good for the Conservatives chances of winning in the fall election, adding that she doesn’t think anyone who feels worse off now would vote for a party who has made the economy one of the keys of their platform.

The Conservatives recently increased the Universal Child Care Benefit and have promised a balanced budget this year.

It seems the negative backlash against the Conservatives has been spreading internationally with a scathing article in The New York Times titled ‘The Closing of the Canadian Mind’ and another in The Guardian called ‘Is the Stephen Harper Era Over?’

With the spotlight focused on the election, it will be interesting to see how the leaders address the Canadian economy and the issues of middle class Canadians over the next few months.


Teamsters Show Solidarity After Burnco Gives Lockout Notice

Teamsters’ members who work for Burnco joined together in solidarity on the picket lines in five locations on Monday as they were served with a 72-hour lockout notice on Thursday of last week.

“Morale is really good,” said Teamsters 362 business agent Bernie Haggarty, who said he called an emergency meeting last night to get things organized when he received the notice that Burnco would be taking lockout action against the employees.

The meeting was so packed with employees who had now learned that they would be locked out, that it was standing room only.

“The guys are solid, because this is about a fundamental thing – seniority,” he explained.

Haggarty said seniority is one of the most important elements of a collective agreement and it is something they felt was not addressed properly in the new agreement.

He said they had been trying to renew an existing agreement, with three meetings taking place in June, but no progress being made. Haggarty filed for mediation and on July 15 they met with a mediator.

The mediator told Haggarty that the company felt that there was no common ground and a 14-day cooling off period was implemented in which Teamsters could apply for a strike vote and Burnco could apply for a lockout.

The vote took place on July 20 and had 96 per cent in favour of strike action. On Aug 4 Burnco made another offer, and Haggarty scheduled a vote on Aug 13, until the lockout notice was issued.

In a statement to CBC news about the lockout notice, Burnco CEO Michael Powell said the company is committed to finding solutions in a timely manner.

"As the current economic environment in Calgary is more challenging, we believe that this is a time when all parties need to be working together to find solutions," he said in the statement.


A Decisive Date: Why It Matters When Stephen Harper Calls The Election

The Canadian political world has been buzzing as many sources have been speculating that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be calling the election as early as Aug. 2.

In 2007 a law was created to implement a fixed election date that must be held on the third Monday in October in the fourth calendar year. There is a rule that there must be at least 36 days between the date that people vote and when the Prime Minister asks the Gov. Gen. to dissolve parliament and formally call an election, also known as ‘dropping the writs.'

This has a lot of implications for political parties, tax payers and third parties running campaigns.  Here is a brief overview of what the Aug 2 announcement could mean for Canadians.

 1.     Election Spending

According to political science professor Thierry Giasson in an interview with the Huffington Post, election campaigns are organized 12 to 18 months in advance, but only expenses incurred during the official campaign period are capped.

Opposition party MP’s have stated that a fixed-date election extends that period considerably and there will be weeks and months of unofficial campaigning not subject to rules.

And as part of the Conservative’s Fair Election Act which was passed in 2014, spending limits for political parties are increased by $685,000 for each day past a 36 day period. A longer campaign and a larger spending cap would give a larger advantage to the Conservatives who have led fundraising efforts.

2.     Third Parties

Calling an election early could have negative results for third party groups such as Engage Canada or Public Service Alliance of Canada, both of whom have been campaigning against the Conservative government.

According to the Huffington Post, calling the election early would force these third parties to ‘spend money they do not have fighting a longer campaign.’ As of right now third party groups can spend unlimited amounts, but they would be capped at $433,849 nationally and not be allowed to spend more than $8,677 in one riding.

3.     Tax Payers

Political parties and third parties would not be the only ones who would be paying for an early election, so too would tax payers.

In an article by the Canadian Press they pointed out that most of the ‘money parties and candidates will be throwing around’ during the campaign comes from various donations, which are worth generous tax credits.

The article also points out that taxpayers will be paying ‘millions in extra administrative costs.'

4.     Who has the advantage

In terms of funds, Elections Canada estimated that the Conservative Party has ‘raised more than $69 million since 2012, while the Liberals have raised $41.8 million and the NDP almost $28.2 million.'

According to CBC’s Election Poll tracker as of July 31 if an election were called today, the Conservative party would win with 130 seats. In terms of public polls, the Conservative Party is in the lead followed by the NDP and the Liberals.


Controversial Bill C-51 Recently Passed In The Senate - What Does This Mean For Canadians?

On June 9, with a vote of 44-28, the Senate passed a controversial anti-terrorism bill. Bill C-51 has been hot topic on social media, debated by Canadians across the country since it was introduced in January. It was brought forward to extend Canada’s anti-terror laws, something that was heightened by the attacks on Canadian soldiers in October.

Although the government says this bill was moved forward to protect Canadians, many say it threatens some of our basic rights and free speech.

So exactly what is in this legislation that has been drawing so much attention from activists, union leaders and politicians? According to a CBC article there are several changes to the way Canada would deal with ‘terrorism.’

1.    Changes to arrest policy

Law enforcement agencies could arrest someone if the think a terrorist act ‘may be carried out’ instead of believing that it ‘will be carried out.’

2.    CSIS would be allowed to disrupt certain activities

This includes interfering with travel plans, financial transactions and online communications.

3.    Promoting terrorism will be criminalized

This is the ban of the promotion of terrorism or intentional advocacy, broadened from the previous legislation which criminalized encouraging someone to commit terrorism.

4.    Sealing of court proceedings

The government would be allowed to seal proceedings at any point during the court process

5.    Terrorist material to be removed from internet

Officials could foce a website to remove any material that they feel promote or encourage acts of terrorism

6.    No fly list expanded

Anyone who officials believe may be travelling to engage in terrorism would be added to the no-fly list.
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Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff said that the bill is so broad that it could ‘be used to stifle labour unrest, strikes and other forms of civil protests’.

As reported by Rabble, Yussuf explained that the bill broadens the actual definition of a national security threat to include ‘interference with critical infrastrutucre and the economic or financial stability of Canada.' This is language that many have said casts too wide of a net.

Many others have spoken out against the bill including Margaret Atwood, First Nations Leaders and the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

In a statement released on the CUPE website they stated that Bill C-51 poses an enormous threat to Canadian democracy by limiting free speech, denying due process and violating personal privacy, creating a threat to every single Canadian.

What all critics seem to have in common is the concern over the rights of Canadians, asking all of us to think about what the future of free speech and activism will look like in our country.


Changing The Productivity Narrative: More Training Needed For Employees and Employers

Do you ever feel like your employer could be offering more training opportunities for your workplace? Apparently, they could be.

Employees in Western Canada are lacking skills in industries all across the board and productivity is being hurt because of it, according to a new study.

study by the Canada West Foundation found that 40 per cent of the workforce ‘does not have the essential skills needed’ and nearly one-third of 16 to 25-year-olds are ‘short of some essential skills for their jobs.’

The report pointed out that it is not highly advanced or technical skills that these employees are missing, but basic ‘computer skills, literacy, numeracy and the ability to work with others’

And employers should care because increased productivity and improved workplace safety are two of the biggest direct benefits of skill training. Other benefits include reduced absenteeism, greater teamwork amongst employees and a reduction in errors – essential to any functioning workplace.

“Increasing productivity means getting the most from your employees, and the best way to ensure their success is to invest in them,” the report stated. “Investing in upgrading essential skills would provide the West with an opportunity to change the productivity narrative.”

The solution for employers is fairly simple as laid out in the study, which suggested things such as funding for existing employees to enhance their skills, training as part of hiring new workers and adjusting job descriptions for employees to ensure skills are maintained.

“Building these essential skills would improve the capacity of workers to do their jobs well and provide a much needed boost to labour productivity,” continued the study. “Every sector of the economy could improve its productivity by helping its workers increase essential skills.“


The Precarious Problem - How Unstable Work Is Hurting The Canadian Workforce

Precarious work is a word that has been coming up a lot when discussing labour in Canada. Precarious is becoming prevalent, raising concerns about what that type of employment is doing to Canadian society.

This type of employment is insecure, unprotected and typically not well paid.

But precarious workers are not just employees making the minimum wage – they are freelancers, tech industry workers, people working multiple jobs, hired on contract and unpaid interns.

Professor of Labour Studies Wayne Lewchuk said in a recent interview with CBC news that precarious work has become a way of ‘keeping down wages’ and that companies have become addicted to it.

He said people involved in precarious work earn 46 per cent less than workers in the same field who have standard jobs causing major financial strain.

Micheline Laflèche with the United Way also pointed out in the article that this type of insecurity in a persons career can cause people to feel ‘socially isolated’ and are ‘less engaged with their community.’

"It hurts our democratic commonality and our democratic values because people don't feel like they belong. We don't have a healthy society," said Laflèche.

And this issue is starting at a young age, with close to half of temporary workers under the age of 30 according to another article from the CBC.

This is a major concern because the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found that the ‘opportunity to move out of low-wage, insecure employment as a worker becomes older is becoming increasingly limited.’

The Precarity Report, a study in Ontario on the impact of employment precarity, stated that people with insecure jobs don’t have pensions, don’t receive benefits, experience income stress, have trouble finding childcare and  little access to training.

The report advised that employers would need to embrace a more stable and adaptable workforce and implement changes to their employment practices.

 “The place to start is acknowledging that change is in our midst, and that it is having significant negative impacts on our workforce and our communities,” the report stated. “How we respond to the challenges created by the changing nature of employment will influence our shared prosperity and the economic health of our region.”


The Debate Over The Debate: Why Change Is Needed To Our Political Environments Before It's Too Late.

The number one topic surrounding upcoming election recently has been ‘the great debate about the debate.’

Last week the Conservative government announced that they were not going to take part in the leader debates organized by the four national broadcast organizations CBC, CTV, Global and Radio Canada – known as the consortium.

These are the debates that drew in an incredible 14 million viewers during the 2011 election campaign.

Last week on CBC’s Power and Politics Conservative spokesman Kory Teneycke said that the party was going to pick the five debates that they think are the best and that ‘the consortium didn't make the cut.'
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The Conservatives have said that this new approach to the debates is supposed to ‘democratize' or 'shake up’ the traditional format of the debate process in Canada.

But some are doubtful of the Conservative’s motives, pointing to their documented dislike of the CBC and troubling policies regarding the media.

Globe and Mail national affairs columnist Jeffery Simpson wrote in a recent column that ‘ a more closed-shop government has never existed in Canada’ and neither has one that is ‘more hostile to the media or public dissent from the government’s line of argument.’

“The correct reaction must be complete incredulity to the Harper Conservatives’ claim that they are for more democracy and a more informed public discourse,” wrote Simpson.

A recent editorial by the Toronto Star also echoed this sentiment, pointing out that having at least a few nationally broadcast and independently organized debates are still ‘key to exposing the largest possible number of voters to the leaders and the campaign issues.’

These widely viewed televised debates allow for the largest number of Canadians to watch the debates between all party leaders, allowing for a more informed decision when voting.
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“The networks’ obligation, as holders of licences, is to provide opportunities for the public to be informed of the issues and personalities at play in the election. A debate, or more than one debate, provides that opportunity for the citizenry,” continued Simpson in his column.

And what about the other political parties?

According to the CBC, NDP leader Thomas Mulclair has ‘agreed in principle’ to the same debates as the Conservatives, but has said he will participate in others.

Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have not committed to any proposals, but said that they will be participating in an equal number of debates in French and English.

The question still remains of what the consortium debate will look like without Prime Minister Stephen Harper there to answer questions.


Building Trades Of Alberta Asks For Member Input For New Mentorship Initiative

One of the best ways to learn a skill is to be able to take a 'hands on' approach – this is why apprenticeship programs are so important. Part of the importance of apprenticeship training is being able to be properly mentored during the experience.

The Building Trades of Alberta (BTA) have launched the Building Trades Apprentice Mentoring Project to ‘investigate and develop a mentoring program specific to Building Trades apprentices.’

After the last BTA Conference a group was formed to explore what they could do to create a mentorship initiative that could be used across projects, employers and unions.

It is a large initiative and the BTA says that a critical part of the whole process is getting valuable input from their members.

In order to do this, they are asking people to take a quick survey that can be found on their website.

“We need to understand what our apprentices want and require, and we need to draw on the invaluable experience and expertise of our journeypersons and supervisors,” said the BTA in a statement on their website.

They said that the input they get will play a ‘significant role in the development of a successful program.’

Responses on the survey are confidential and will be kept with the BTA and your union.

For more information visit http://bta.ca/index.php.


Albertans Encouraged To Abandon Apathy This Election

It is no secret that voter participation in Alberta is not what it should be. With a turnout for the provincial election of 54% in 2012 and just 40% in 2008 – we have some of the lowest rates in the country.

While turnout is low overall, it is especially low when it comes to young people in both federal and provincial elections.

According to Statistics Canada in 2011 the turnout rate for the federal election among people age 18 to 24 was about 50%, and this was only a few percentage points higher among 25 to 34-year-olds. Voting rates for those aged 35 to 44 were also below the national average.

One organization has decided to do something about the lack of enthusiasm for elections.apathyis boring

In 2004 a group of young people came together who wanted to see youth voting rates increase while combating the issue of youth apathy. They are called Apathy is Boring and they are a non-partisan charitable organization. During the federal election in 2004 they started the ‘Get out the Youth Vote’ campaign, reaching over half a million young people in Canada.

They aim not only to increase voter turnout, but also ‘build a sustainable dialogue between youth and elected officials.’

The organization made their way to Alberta to gear up for the May 5 provincial election.

“Apathy is Boring works nationally, to educate youth about democracy through art and technology,” said Ashley Tardif-Bennett, communications coordinator with Apathy is Boring. “For the Alberta provincial election, we are conducting a youth mobilization campaign to get youth the information and inspiration they need to vote.”

She said this includes a ‘How to Vote’ guide, peer to peer outreach with volunteers at various events in Calgary and Edmonton and also developing partnerships with other organizations to help spread the word.

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“Voting – or not voting – is a habit. If a young person doesn’t vote in the first two elections when they are eligible, they are less likely to vote throughout the rest of their lives,” she explained.

According to Tardif-Bennet, ‘it’s not an attitude problem, it’s an action problem.’

She pointed out that a survey released in 2011 shows that 68% of 18 – 25 year olds think that their vote matters and only 30 % think voting is boring.

“If we don’t address this issue, overall turnout rates will continue to dip and we will be are setting ourselves up forthe dangerous reality of a fragile democracy and a disengaged generation,” she said.

For more information on how you can get involved email info@apathyisboring.com or tweet @apathyisboring.