The IBEW has had a productive relationship with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet since the Liberal Party swept into power six years ago.
That will continue after national elections on Sept. 20, when the Liberals won enough seats to lead a minority government when Parliament reconvenes later this year, just as they did in the previous one.
“It showed that most people are happy with the way things are going,” First District International Vice President Thomas Reid said. “The message was, ‘You’re going back to a minority situation. Now make it work.’ I think it’s important for all party leaders not to get up caught up with the ideologues and just get the job done.”
In other good news, Winnipeg Local 2085 member and NDP MP Daniel Blaikie won a third term representing Winnipeg’s Elmwood-Transcona riding.
That, along with the Liberals remaining in power, made for a strong election night for the IBEW and Let’s Build Canada, a coalition of trade unions that urged voters to support candidates with a record of supporting organized labour and working to improve infrastructure, said Matt Wayland, First District governmental relations director and an executive assistant to Reid. The IBEW is a member of Let’s Build Canada and Wayland is its executive director.
“Prime Minister Trudeau and his caucus have absolutely supported the labour movement,” Wayland said. “That relationship continues. Vice President Reid has had numerous virtual meetings with the prime minister and several members of the cabinet throughout the [COVID-19] pandemic on issues that are important to the IBEW and our members.”
In March, Reid joined Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough for a meeting where he successfully lobbied for a change in Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) System that would allow laid-off workers to receive vacation benefits while collecting EI without penalization.
Prior to the meeting, workers who received vacation pay on their weekly pay were not penalized when collecting the insurance. But those who accrued vacation pay that was held in trust and paid out at different points during the year in a lump sum payment were often penalized if they received their vacation pay while collecting EI. It was an issue that had particularly plagued skilled trades workers, Wayland said.
“That’s one of those things that not many people on the outside would notice,” Reid said. “But it has a big impact on a lot of our members.”
Reid said another positive is the three leading national parties all committed to making the Labour Mobility Tax Deduction available to skilled construction workers.
Most white-collar professionals in Canada can deduct on-the-job travel expenses on their federal taxes, but not construction workers when they incur out-of-pocket expenses for driving, travel and lodging outside their jurisdiction.
Fixing this tax fairness issue has been a priority for the IBEW and building trades in Canada for nearly 30 years. Wayland credited Scott Duvall, an NDP member of parliament from Hamilton, Ontario, and a Steelworkers member, for tabling a private member’s bill addressing the issue earlier this year.
Duvall did not run for re-election, but his bill and the subsequent inclusion of the fix the major parties committed to in their platforms is an encouraging sign that the decades-long injustice will be addressed in the near future.
In Winnipeg, Blaikie cruised to victory, receiving more than 49% of the vote.
“Daniel has always been a hardworking constituent-based member of Parliament,” Reid said. “He’s done a lot in the last six years in getting out and working with organizations in his community and the challenges they face. I’m very proud of his work on Parliament Hill and proud to see him win by a substantial margin.”
Two other IBEW members were defeated in attempts to win seats in the House of Commons: Lorne Newick, a former Hamilton Local 105 business manager, and Kingston, Ontario, Local 115 member James Babcock.
“I want to thank all our members who got involved and volunteered in the election and helped ensure we still have a pro-worker government and pro-union members of parliament at the federal level,” Reid said. “We’ve seen gains for Canadian working families during the last six years under the Liberals and with the help of other labour-friendly politicians. I’m confident that will continue.”