Labour Views – October 14, 2015

Written by Todd Parsons, President, Union of Northern Workers

Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. But sadly, far too few people vote.

For the past 30 years in Canada, voters have been disproportionately people of higher income, older or more right wing in their interests.  Almost half of Canadians failed to vote in the last federal election.

Poor voter turn-out has coincided with widening gaps in wealth, reduced employment opportunities for youth and the increase in anti-union legislation. Governments increasingly contract out jobs and use Public Private Partnerships–P3s–to deliver public services.

Workers’ rights have been eroded and public service jobs have been lost, replaced by low-paid, non-union workers.  For union members and all working people, these trends frustrate social progress and turn back the gains made by a century of union struggle.

The last four years of the Harper regime have been especially brutal.  Union busting legislation, gutting and contracting out of public services, slashed health care funding, increased Old Age Security and CPP retirement ages and muzzling of public servants are only a few examples of Harper’s horrors.

Across the North, more than 200 federal public service jobs have been cut in the past eight years. Public services in environmental protection, fisheries, search and rescue, parks and employment services have been lost.  Communities have lost good jobs and families.  Across Canada, services vital to the safety of Canadians, including food inspection and border security, have been cut.  Four more years of Harper can only mean four more years of cuts.

For the first time in its history, the Public Service Alliance of Canada has mounted a public campaign specifically aimed at bringing down the government in power.  You can learn more about the destruction of our public services at the Public Service Alliance of Canada website, Vote to Stop the Cuts.  The Canadian Labour Congress is also mounting a campaign calling for retirement security, fully funded public health care and child care, and a national focus on good jobs.

This fall, union members and supporters can turn back the corporate agenda by voting for leaders who share union and public service values.  To meet workers’ priorities and objectives, unions need Members and other workers to engage and challenge the candidates, select progressive candidates and, above all, vote.

On October 19, voters will pick our next federal leaders, and our municipal leaders in cities, towns and villages. Territorial elections take place November 23 and hamlets elect leaders December 14.

In our northern communities, you can usually walk to the polling station.  You can find all the information you need for voting on the federal and territorial elections offices websites, and by contacting  your municipal government.  All it takes is the will to make a difference.

I urge all workers and citizens to exercise their democratic right to vote and help select leaders who will be partners in social progress.