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March 2015

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First District Readies for Federal Election

Good jobs. Training and apprenticeships. Retirement Security. The right to collectively bargain.

These are just some of the issues facing Canada's working families when they go to the polls in October's federal election.

While seven months away, the First District has been educating IBEW members since the start of the New Year on the importance of being an informed union voter.

A video message for IBEW members was posted on the IBEW Canada's YouTube channel on Jan. 16, featuring International Vice President Bill Daniels and international representatives explaining why they are voting in the upcoming election.

"On Oct. 19, you have the opportunity to vote in the next federal election," Daniels says in the video. "Get educated and vote for the party or the candidates that best represent you, your career and your family."

The video encourages members to get involved in their local political action committees and volunteer with a campaign. "Make sure your voice and your vote count in 2015," Daniels said.

A slow economy has driven down wages and living standards, while nearly a decade of Conservative rule has shifted the ground against working families in favor of big corporations and Bay Street.

The economy still has not fully recovered from the 2008 recession, with few new jobs being created.

"This latest [jobs] report simply pounds home the point that underlying Canadian job growth remains anemic," economist Sal Guatieri told the Financial Post last summer. "And, even those modest gains are almost entirely concentrated in piping hot Alberta, with the rest of the country managing just 0.1 percent growth in the past year."

Income inequality is expanding in Canada. A report from the Broadbent Institute shows the top 10 percent of Canadians have seen their median net worth grow by 42 percent since 2005. At the same time, the bottom 10 percent of Canadians saw their median net worth shrink by 150 percent.

"This unequal distribution — particularly for the wealthiest and poorest 10 percent segments of the population — challenges the narrative that suggests Canadians are getting wealthier across the board," said the report.

The Conservatives have taken a strong anti-union turn, passing Bill C-525, which makes forming a union in the federal sector more difficult. Tory MPs are also promoting Bill C-377, which singles out unions with onerous financial reporting requirements, while exempting other membership organizations.

There has also been talk by some MPs about introducing American-style right-to-work laws, overturning the Rand formula, which provides for automatic dues-check.

Other major issues facing Canadians include:

  • Retirement Security. Prime Minster Stephen Harper has chipped away at Canada's retirement system, hiking the eligibility age for Old Age Security to 67, while refusing to beef up the Canada Pension Plan. Canadians relying on the CPP receive on average $18,000 a year — less than the federal minimum wage. Harper has also proposed legislation that would make it easier for private sector employers to walk away from their pension obligations to their retirees.
  • Mobility. IBEW electricians in the construction sector often must travel long distances for jobs. The Canadian building trades are calling for a construction mobility tax credit — a personal tax exemption for construction workers and apprentices to help cover relocation expenses.
  • Infrastructure. Canada's aging infrastructure is in increasing need of renovation. Unions and many provincial lawmakers are calling on the federal government to increase infrastructure spending this year, which would boost jobs and growth. Approval of energy pipelines projects — for both natural gas and oil — would help reinvigorate Canada's energy sector, which has been hurt by the rapid drop in oil prices.

The First District will be sponsoring two political "schools" — one in Ontario for members in eastern Canada and another one in British Columbia for members on the West Coast — to train members on election law and mobilizing members to vote.

"We're trying to grow a grassroots movement in every province in Canada," said First District Political Action/Media Strategist Matt Wayland. "We want to have local activists on the ground and ready to go when the election occurs."

While scheduled for Oct. 19, Harper could move up the date if he so chooses.

Go to to see the video and learn more.