As the new president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, I am very pleased to report that after I was elected October 28th, we hit the ground running.
If you were at our recent convention, you know that we dealt with many issues on the provincial and federal levels and we left with a sense of renewal, committed to face all of the challenges that were mandated to us by over 250 delegates and expand on our pro-worker agenda.
When I ran for the job as President, two things to me were abundantly clear….
We are under attack in this province and country and together we ARE stronger.
With this in mind, I have made contact with all elected Nova Scotia MPs to meet and talk about Federal issues that affect Nova Scotian and their families, including a letter sent yesterday regarding what appears to be Liberal backtracking on the promise to re-open the nine Veteran’s Affairs Offices that were closed. We asked for immediate clarification as clearly the Liberal Party’s ‟Real Change” platform document explicitly states a Liberal government would ‟restore access to the support that veterans are due (and) re-open the nine Veteran’s Affairs service officers closed by Stephen Harper.
In the Harper era, the labour federation presidents called on the Premiers to draft an agreement endorsing:
- $15/hour minimum wage across the country;
- doubling of the Canada Pension Plan;
- creation of an affordable national childcare program;
- the revival of the Canada Health Accord;
- comprehensive immigration strategy with a pathway to citizenship; and
- establishment of a Green Jobs agenda for Canada.
These are still vital parts of our federal lobbying efforts.
Bill C-51 & the Trans-Pacific Partnership
In the lead-up to the federal election, labour lobbied hard in their opposition to the federal government’s flawed and dangerous anti-terror legislation, that would strip Canadians of their most fundamental rights as citizens for reasons that go beyond the security concerns posed by ISIS and its supporters.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – Harper was intent on signing this agreement and it means Canadians will pay more for pharmaceuticals and see the privacy of our health information compromised. It is bad medicine and a major hurdle that will make it much more difficult for the federal government to bring down drug prices and establish a national drug program for all Canadians.
The Liberals supported both of these initiatives, but said he would introduce changes, so we will continue to push for major changes.
Nova Scotia’s current political landscape…
Our battles with Premier Stephen McNeil and his Liberal Government have been many. He said he would put Nova Scotians first. In the last two years they have:
-Repealed pro worker legislation, making it harder for workers to join unions and bargain collectively.
-Turned their back on Cape Breton, letting the rail line shut down with no plans for new jobs in Cape Breton.
-Deregulated tuition fees, making post-secondary education unaffordable for Nova Scotian students.
-Froze income assistance, forcing thousands further below the poverty line.
-Turned their back on rural Nova Scotia, shutting down the Economic and Rural Development Department.
-Gutted the film industry, thousands of jobs put at risk without consultation.
-Froze health funding, increasing wait times and putting patients at risk.
As if that wasn’t enough, they cuts funding for:
-A walk to school program
-Eating disorder support
-Job and skills training
And the list goes on…
And the Provincial Liberals picked fights with health care workers. Instead of addressing the real problems in health care, the Liberals brought in anti-worker Bills 1, 30 and 37.
Now the McNeil Government has told all Public Sector Unions that there is no new money and if they want more money they will have to find it themselves – The leadership of all the unions are working together to cope with yet another anti-union tactic.
Another building block in our strength is the work we do with our social justice allies. We want to continue to work side by side with our partners in communities around Nova Scotia so we can help them fund core development and help them build capacity. This work is critical to our success as we partner we broaden our scope and become more inclusive.
In my vision statement, I said that together we can achieve great things by having a strategic plan with goals and action timelines. I am happy to say we are working on this and will have some of those plans ready to be approved at our upcoming NSFL executive meetings in November. We have and will approve committee chairs at the meeting and begin member selection process. Unions should submit names now for the committees. I hope that PSAC will, as always, be active in our committees.
I look forward to working with your Union on issues facing your members. I am looking forward to the challenges ahead.