Working families have a lot at stake this election

September 2, 2019

By Hassan Yussuff

You can be forgiven if you’ve avoided thinking about the upcoming federal election all summer, but Labour Day is here. That means it’s time to return to the fall routine and start thinking about how you are going to cast your ballot.

You may have seen politicians working the barbecue circuit, vying for the support of workers and their families. They often claim to know what voters need. Let’s tell them what voters want.

After all, voting for the country we want is both a cherished right, and a significant responsibility.  And it’s under threat.

Lies, misinformation, and propaganda proliferating online are dividing and distracting people like never before.

We know that domestic and foreign actors will likely continue to foment division through contentious topics like immigration and the environment. We must remain united and focused on what truly matters: a present and future that leaves no one behind.

Not only are we facing an uncertain future, but the strides working people have made in the last four years are also in jeopardy. 

Canada’s unions are cutting through the noise with a simple message to voters: Canadians must elect a government that is committed to a fair Canada for everyone.

This is much more than a slogan but a clear call to action on five key areas that will shape the future of this country. Each of them centre on the health and well-being of Canadians.

Canada’s unions have successfully worked with governments and health experts to make universal pharmacare a ballot box issue this fall.

That’s because over 3.5 million Canadians struggle to pay for the medications they need. Private insurers and pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in preserving a status quo that sees Canadians paying some of the highest drug prices in the world. Canada remains the only developed country with universal health care, without a universal pharmacare plan. A single-payer system would rein in drug prices and save Canadians over four billion dollars per year, according to the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

Also key to the well-being of Canadians is the assurance that they will be able to live in dignity in retirement. Following the Conservative party’s defeat in the last federal election, Canada’s unions lobbied for an expansion of public pensions and won a 50% increase to Canada Pension Plan benefits, along with top-up payments for 900,000 low-income single seniors and the restoration of Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement for those over the age of 65, down from 67.

We need a government that is committed to improving public pensions and protecting hard-earned private pensions when employers go bankrupt. 

We also need to talk about the economic health of our nation’s working people. With a rise in precarious, temporary, and low-wage work, more and more people are struggling to get by. We need to vote for a government that clearly defines what it will invest towards creating good jobs for all Canadians.

It’s also time for bold action that tackles our climate emergency while creating economic opportunities in green industries. We deserve a government that is committed to clean air and water, invests in public transportation, and supports workers and communities transitioning to a greener economy.

With hardline Conservative governments now running the majority of the provinces, we cannot forget what a decade of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives did to working people and their families and risk the rollback of hard-won social gains and the rewriting of the Canadian constitution.

Can Canadians afford a government that cares more about private corporations and tax cuts for the super-rich than it does about everyday working people? Can we risk electing a government that refuses to address the climate catastrophe? Can we accept a government that is prepared to exploit people’s fear and insecurity to fuel racism and intolerance?

This Labour Day, let’s recommit to standing together for an inclusive Canada where everyone prospers.

Hassan Yussuff is the President of the Canadian Labour Congress. Follow him on Twitter @Hassan_Yussuff.

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