Fighting for a Canada Where Everyone Comes Through the Front Door

November 27, 2012

The second day of the BC Federation of Labour started for MoveUP delegates at the United Way Union Counsellor’s breakfast. MoveUP President David Black talked to the assembled about the value of the Union Counsellor program in workplaces and the long history of partnership between the labour movement and the United Way.

Journalist and author Linda McQuaig delivered the keynote address on the Tuesday morning of the BC Federation of Labour Convention, speaking about fighting against neoconservative, anti-union agendas.

McQuaig says she has seen conservative ideology change over the last 30 years to abandon “red Tory-ism,” the belief in a common good, with a strong push from corporations and the business elite to maximize profit at the expense of working people. Paraphrasing economist John Kenneth Galbraith, McQuaig said, “The modern conservative is in the search for a moral justification for selfishness.”

She noted that over the last few decades, the income gap has widened, with the vast majority of gains going to the 1% and working people working longer and harder. “Up until a few decades ago, Canada was on its way to becoming a more equal … economic growth was shared more equally among society.”

"The federal government just stole two more years of our leisure time by raising the retirement age,” said McQuaig, attacking the move to raise the age of entitlement for CPP and OAS.

McQuaig talked about what she sees as a shift from the wealthy paying for social programs through taxes to paying to support institutions like hospitals and schools through philanthropy. The problem she identified with this is that it means the wealthy get to make the ultimate decisions of where the money goes, rather than true democracy where everyone gets to decide.

But McQuaig said she sees reason for optimism now more than ever.

“If we push together, we can achieve results,” she said. She cited the example of Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who proposed a tax on Ontarians earning over $500,000 per year. Although business immediately kicked up a fuss, Horwath stuck to her guns and with polling showing she had public support, business eventually backed down. She also cited polling that showed when asked to choose between tax cuts or more social investment, the public chose social investment. Finishing her speech, McQuaig asked the delegates to keep fighting for fairness: “It’s time that this country becomes a country where everyone enters by the front door.”

Following a BC Fed video montage which showed rallies, workshops, press events, picket lines (including footage of MoveUP ICBC workers) and other events, the delegates returned to resolutions.

After McQuaig, delegates spoke to the Executive Council Report and its recommendations. On the political action side, working with the NDP to ensure the Party and caucus embrace a progressive economic and social agenda for the province, the recommendations were to carry out a targeted political action campaign in the upcoming election and support political candidates who endorse and fight for progressive social, economic, and political change.

Other recommendations supported working in solidarity with diverse communities, rejecting austerity economics, continuing the Make Work Better (EARN) campaign, coordinating public sector bargaining, continuing ongoing alliances with environmental groups, and reaching out more broadly to activists and organizations who share our vision of a better BC.

When breaking for lunch MoveUP delegates joined several other affiliates to hold a strike co-ordination committee regarding the recent strike vote at D.A. Townley & Associates. 

Photo caption: MoveUP President David Black and Secretary-Treasurer Lori Mayhew