After nearly a decade in office, Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper’s Conservative government was ousted by voters Oct. 19, in a massive wave election that brought the Liberal Party back to power.
Led by Justin Trudeau, son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the Liberals captured 184 out of 338 seats in the House of Commons – more than enough to form a majority government.
But it wasn’t just the Liberals who were celebrating Monday night. The labor movement was also cheering the defeat of Harper, who is leaving behind a strong anti-union legislative record.
“The federal government has led an onslaught of attacks against the labor movement through various forms of right-to-work legislation, trampling workers’ rights, and watering down health and safety measures. These attacks have been hidden in omnibus budget bills or disguised as private members bills all the while being directed by the prime minister’s office,” said First District Vice President Bill Daniels.
This record includes Bill C-377, which imposed heavy reporting requirements on unions, and C-525, which made it harder for workers covered by the federal labor code to form a union, all while making it easier to decertify one.
The IBEW was particularly active in this year’s election, building a national grassroots political program to educate members on the issues and to get them to the polls.
“We’ve already had some of the elected MPs from both the Liberals and the New Democrats thank us publically for all our efforts in helping them get elected,” said First District Political Action/Media Strategist Matt Wayland.
Working with other building trades unions, the IBEW helped form the Let’s Build Canada coalition to help educate union members and promote a pro-worker message to the general public.
The group’s top two issues were infrastructure investment and creating good job opportunities for young workers.
In 1955, federal spending accounted for one-third of all infrastructure investments. Today, that number is 13 percent.
Canada is also facing a skilled worker shortage, particularly as the baby boom generation exits the workforce. Modernizing Canada’s roads, bridges and electrical system is expected to require approximately 320,000 new skilled construction workers. Let’s Build Canada focused on pushing the parties to support expanding apprenticeships programs to meet the need.
Trudeau promised to invest $125 billion (CA) in infrastructure, and support a $750 million annual increase in funds for training programs.
Daniels says that one of the prime minister-designate’s first acts should be to repeal Bills C-377 and C-525.
While a historic win for the Liberals, Monday was a bad night for the labor-friendly New Democratic Party, which lost dozens of seats, as many voters tired of the Conservatives swung toward Trudeau as the best chance to beat Harper.
But at least one New Democratic candidate got to celebrate Oct. 19. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Local 2085 member Daniel Blaikie narrowly defeated an incumbent Conservative Member of Parliament in his Manitoba riding.
Among his issues were reversing Harper’s cuts to health care services and protecting retirement security.
“My riding is a good representation of some of the issues that are facing the country,” Blaikie told the CBC. “There’s not a single issue but there is a single theme, which is that ordinary working Canadians are facing a lot of challenges when it comes to being able to afford some basic things like pension, child care or good health services.”
Photo: Justin Trudeau