COPE/SEPB National Mid Term Conference Opens

February 3, 2012

COPE/SEPB locals from around the country met in Ottawa this week to take part in the first National Mid Term conference. COPE/SEPB National Treasurer (who is also MoveUP’s Vice President) Gwenne Farrell opened the the conference with remarks in English and National President Serge Cadieux followed welcoming delegates in French.

The first speaker was Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) Treasurer Hassan Yussuff. Yussuff told to delegates it was fitting that the conference was held in Ottawa as federal politics have never been as important or perilous to unions and working people as it is now with Stephen Harper as Prime Minister. From the omnibus crime bill to the scorched earth approach taken with the gun registry, Yussuff enumerated the damaging policies advanced by the Conservative government. He also explained the private members bill brought forward by South Surrey–White Rock–Cloverdale Member of Parliament Russ Hiebert which will try to put union finances under a public microscope beyond the internal democratic accountability measures which are already in place.

Yussuff finished his address by talking about pensions and the CLC’s campaign and lobbying efforts to increase by 50 per cent the government’s contributions to the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP). The CPP is one of the best, most stable means of providing for Canadians in their retirement, said Youseff. The CPP is fully funded and solid for the next 75 years. So far the government has not been receptive. And recently Stephen Harper made remarks abroad which hint the Conservatives are looking at pension reforms which will change the retirement age.

The next speaker was MP and NDP Leadership candidate Peggy Nash, who Skyped into the conference from a campaign stop in British Columbia. Nash was invited to speak as among the agenda items at the Mid Term Conference is the issue of women in politics – or lack thereof. She introduced herself by giving a brief history of her life and involvement with the labour movement and the NDP. The first of her family to go to university, Nash studied French literature and started working for Air Canada after graduation. She became involved with her union, the Canadian Auto Workers. She credited her involvement with her union for giving her the opportunities she needed to develop her skills as a political leader. Nash talked about our collective need to re-imagine what leadership means as many people, unconsciously or otherwise, don’t associate qualities associated with women with the qualities of leadership. Nash thanked the delegates for the opportunity to address the conference and for the opportunity to talk about the challenges – and opportunities – for women in politics.