October 22, 2021
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
RE: Advancing a program for Canada’s fair, resilient and inclusive recovery
Dear Prime Minister,
As you consider the key priorities that will guide the work of incoming Cabinet ministries under Canada’s 44th parliament, I want to impress upon you the importance of delivering for working people who continue to battle their way through this pandemic.
Despite critical progress made to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on public health so far, and investments made to keep Canada’s economy afloat, this extraordinary period is not yet behind us. Transmission rates differ across the country, forcing some governments to re-impose local restrictions. There are ongoing threats that a Delta-driven fourth wave pose to hospital ICU capacities. Workers, in key sectors and those in precarious jobs, are still facing challenges. Your decision this week to prematurely end recovery benefit supports is creating panic and uncertainty, and should be reversed.
Perhaps most concerning is the insufficient access to vaccine and vaccine production capacity across the globe that continues to hinder efforts to slow the virus and potential new variants. Some of the poorest countries in the world have vaccination rates barely at two percent of their eligible population. Our union subscribes to the view that this pandemic cannot be over for anyone until it is over for everyone – a mantra we hope guides your government’s action in the months ahead, including your support for the proposed TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organization. Canada must help those in need, in every way possible, as an act of true global solidarity.
The direction you set for your incoming Cabinet must reflect a sober, cautious, and realistic view of the state of this crisis. I agree with your public statements that Canada has done a better job than most at tackling the crisis within our borders. Canada’s vaccination rate is high. The economy is bouncing back. To pretend that the virus is in any way defeated, however, and to have such a false view drive haphazard legislative and regulatory decisions, will undo much of the progress made to date. On this front, Canada must stay the course.
Your government committed to ‘Build Back Better’ from this crisis. That requires an ongoing commitment to engage actively and progressively in building a fairer, more just economy. That also requires a demonstration of courage to confront long-standing practices that prevent workers from benefitting from economic growth.
The effectiveness of Canada’s response so far is reflected in the government’s willingness to consult with stakeholders, all stakeholders, including unions on key decisions. In many respects, Canada’s success is a testament to a model of collaboration you previously mandated your Cabinet ministers to follow. I anticipate a similar approach among the representatives of your next Cabinet, and encourage you to impress upon each minister to consider an inclusive, gender-based and worker-centered analysis to guide policy decision-making.
Through this past election campaign, important ideas surfaced from progressive parties. Unifor believes there is fertile ground for a more progressive agenda to flourish in this next minority parliament, informed through strategic collaboration and common purpose.
As ministerial mandate letters are drafted, I ask that you consider the following items to form part of the government’s priorities as Parliament reconvenes.
- Take swift action to extend paid personal leave under the Canada Labour Code to 10 days for federally-regulated workers, and initiate dialogue with provinces towards legislating paid sick days in all jurisdictions.
- Introduce legislation, in the first sitting of Parliament, to create a fairer collective bargaining system by expressly prohibiting the use of replacement workers by employers during a labour dispute.
- Immediately announce funding commitments for a national pharmacare program that is comprehensive public, universal, accessible and portable, as well as a national formulary.
- Undertake to work in partnership with provinces and territories to establish minimum long-term care standards of daily care and a comprehensive strategy to improve working conditions.
- Establish a Just Transition Ministry and Just Transition Fund, partially financed through levies on large industrial emitters, with the mandate to support workers affected by climate-related job displacements through enhanced income insurance, pension bridging, severance pay, retraining and relocation support, and local just transition centres.
- Ensure foreign-based online streaming firms contribute to Canadian content in media, and that digital platforms like Facebook and Google pay for news content created by Canadian news outlets.
- Commit, within the first 100 days of Parliament, to end the ongoing boil water advisories in all Indigenous communities and ensuring that all Indigenous communities have access to safe and clean drinking water.
- Develop a trade adjustment assistance program that enhances labour market supports for trade-impacted workers.
- Provide sufficient resources to the Pay Equity Commissioner and Pay Equity Unit to ensure smooth and effective implementation of the Act, including staffing of officers to provide mediation, conciliation and alternative dispute resolution services.
- Support the Employment Equity Act Review Task Force with timely implementation of improvements to the legislation, and better enforcement of current legislation in the meantime.
Prime Minister, our union looks forward to ongoing, constructive dialogue on these and other priority matters, and anticipates a positive response outlined in your mandate letters.
We also look forward to your government delivering on previous commitments, and initiatives currently underway, that address critical needs for workers including fair, inclusive and permanent changes to Canada’s Employment Insurance system as well as finalizing child care funding agreements with all provinces and territories.
By delivering on these measures we can continue to Build Back Better from this pandemic and ensure a fair and inclusive economic recovery is available to all workers in Canada.
Unifor National President