By Hassan Yussuff, as published in The Hill Times.
Across the generations, our loved ones are anxious about the future. Polls show that millions of Canadians are worried about the rising cost of living, the increasing precarity of work, climate change, and so much more. The newly elected federal government has a lot to do to alleviate these types of concerns in the months and years ahead.
The good news is that there is in fact strong precedence for bold, transformative policies when the governing party falls short of majority territory, as it does today.
Previous minority governments brought Canadians the 40 hour work week, universal health care, equal marriage and the Canada Pension Plan.
This new government must seize the opportunity to make historic change.
Almost all the parties have put forward big ideas that could change lives. High up on the list is the long-awaited opportunity to implement universal, single-payer pharmacare. The time is also right for meaningful investments in green manufacturing and infrastructure. There is finally a clear will to provide retirement security for all.
No doubt private interests are again preparing to lobby for a preservation of the status quo.
But there is a force that can have a deeper influence – the power of everyday working people. The labour movement continues to organize workers in every community to speak up for their well-being and prosperity. That work helped get out millions of progressive votes on Election Day.
Canada’s unions are continuing to advocate for a fair Canada for everyone. That means building on the results we’ve already produced in the last four years.
We won a comprehensive ban on asbestos in workplaces and public spaces, a 50% increase in Canada Pension Plan benefits over time, and advocated for billions of dollars worth of investments in skills training and apprenticeships, to name a few of our achievements.
And in that time, the labour movement was also instrumental in pushing for a universal, single-payer pharmacare plan. Years of advocacy, including dozens of town halls across the country and tens of thousands of letters written to Members of Parliament, eventually helped lead to the creation of an Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare and its subsequent report.
Over 90% of Canadians support making pharmacare a reality.
On the environment, the labour movement has also led the way, working closely with the government on a blueprint to balance climate action and good jobs. We must move forward on the recommendations of last year’s groundbreaking Task Force on Just Transition for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities report. This report is a template for environmental action.
Furthermore, workers across Canada deserve a $15 minimum wage. Federal leadership would place a standard for provinces to follow. This change would lift up countless numbers of people working in the federal sector, including truck drivers, airport support workers and many more who help keep our country running.
With the rise of precarity and insecurity in the economy, our government must additionally preserve defined benefit pension plans and enact policies and incentives to increase the number of Canadians with access to these plans.
While there are provincial governments determined to block progress for working families, we cannot let them derail this necessary national agenda that will improve the lives of millions of people across Canada.
We may have a minority Parliament—but it’s made up of a majority of MPs that have committed to progressive change. As history has taught us, these are the perfect conditions for generational progress.
Hassan Yussuff is the President of the Canadian Labour Congress. Follow him on Twitter @Hassan_Yussuff.