Labour Views – September 2, 2015

Written by Gayla Thunstrom, Acting President, Northern Territories Federation of Labour

As the northern affiliate of the Canadian Labour Congress, the Northern Territories Federation of Labour is part of the national federal election advocacy campaign Better Choice.

Better Choice focuses on four critical issues for action by the next government:  good jobs, retirement security, support for health care and affordable child care.

Our shaky economic recovery has left 2.8 million Canadians unemployed or underemployed. Nearly three quarters of the jobs created over the past six years have been precarious – part-time, temporary or in the self-employed sector. Nearly a million Canadians have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet.  The impact is most apparent among younger Canadians, with double the national unemployment rate.

Workers are our strongest competitive advantage. Instead of relying on $100 a barrel oil or a Canadian dollar that’s worth $0.80 U.S. to drive economic activity, we need to find a better choice.

Affordable child care will unleash the economic potential of those who can’t take work because they can’t afford child care.  Quebec’s affordable child care approach paid off for the economy. Investment in its $7 a day child care program more than paid for itself through mothers’ annual income and consumption taxes. The program increased the number of women in the workforce by 3.8 per cent, pumping an additional $5.2 billion into the Quebec economy and boosting the province’s Gross Domestic Product by 1.7 per cent.  A national accord is essential to make such gains nationwide.

Canadians are worried about their retirement, and the number of seniors living in poverty in Canada is on the rise. By 2026, one in five of us will have reached age 65, and over the next 10 years we face a shortage of 86,000 long-term care beds. As older workers near retirement age, many fear they won’t have enough money saved. For some, the investment returns they were promised never materialized. A small increase in Canada Pension Plan contributions could help make things easier. For less than a cup of coffee and a donut a day the average worker could double their CPP benefits at retirement.

The state of national public health care is deteriorating, with threats of privatization eroding universal access to medical care regardless of income.

Before the last federal election, Prime Minister Harper promised to renew the Federal Health Accord, committing to increasing health care transfer payments to the provinces by six per cent a year.  But in 2013, the government broke that promise, tying any further increases to economic growth. That means a funding shortfall of about $36 billion in health care transfers by 2024.

We need action on all these issues, and there is a Better Choice.  One that gets us ready to support and care for our aging population. One that gives Canadians high-quality, secure jobs instead of short-term, temporary positions. One that provides health and child care programs that benefit everyone.

Go to the website for more information.  Go to the Elections Canada website to make sure you’re registered to vote, or have the ID needed to vote in person.  Above all, vote on October 19 for candidates who put these important issues first.