Stephen von Sychowski: Unions celebrate Labour Day by calling for a fair Canada for everyone

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      by Stephen von Sychowski

      On September 2, as working people across Canada celebrate Labour Day, a pivotal moment will be taking shape. With a federal election looming, we have a critical choice to make about the direction of this country.

      Working families in Canada are facing mounting uncertainty and finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. Canada’s unions recognize that families are being forced to further tighten their belts and have tough conversations about how to balance the household budget.

      Things like Medicare, minimum wage, and parental leave were won thanks to working people across Canada. This is why every year on Labour Day Canada’s unions celebrate working people as we all continue our work to improve the lives of all Canadians.

      But there is a threat creeping across Canada. The rising voice of hatred, and the normalization of racism are tearing apart the fabric of this country. There are those—including some politicians—who would seek to undermine the tolerance and inclusivity that we hold dear.

      We must not be fooled by politics of fear and division. Those who exploit people’s fear and insecurity to fuel racism and intolerance do not have our best interest at heart. We need a government that will stand up to the rise of racism and intolerance in this country, and that will uphold values like equality and inclusion.

      We need to elect a government that prioritizes a fair Canada for everyone.

      We are closer than ever to winning universal public pharmacare system. So close, in fact, that we’ve succeeded in making pharmacare a ballot box issue for this fall.

      With over 3.5 million Canadians struggling to pay for the medications they need, Canada’s unions campaigned tirelessly for over two years to make universal pharmacare a top priority for the federal government.

      Most of us know someone who struggles to pay for their prescription medications. Even charges as low as $2 have been found to be a barrier to taking medication as prescribed. 

      We need a federal government that prioritizes retirement security by improving public pensions, and protecting private pension plans when employers go bankrupt.

      Too often, workers lose their pension when their employer goes bankrupt. These workers paid into a pension plan in good faith over the course of their career, but are in line after wealthy shareholders and creditors for any remaining funds. There usually isn’t much left, if anything at all. We need to fix this and prioritize retirees when their employer goes bankrupt.

      We need a government that puts people first by ending precarity in the job market. Precarious work is on the rise, and many workers don’t have access to the training required to do their jobs effectively and safely. Our government must commit to creating good jobs that ensure decent work for everyone.

      We are also in the midst of a climate emergency. Our next government must be willing take bold action on climate change by investing in green manufacturing and infrastructure, better transit, and green home and building retrofits. Ambitious climate action will help create good jobs to support families and communities, while ensuring that Canada does its part to protect the planet.

      This Labour Day, let’s commit ourselves to engaging in the political process this Fall, and electing a government that listens to working people and takes Canada in the progressive direction we need.  

      Stephen von Sychowski is president of the Vancouver & District Labour Council.

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