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Op-ed: The Struggle will continue in 2017. Danny Cavanagh looks back on 2016

Who would have thought that for two Decembers in a row we would see the trade union movement marching around the Nova Scotia legislature taking on the Liberal Government? One thing is certain is that this Government has united the trade union movement together like never before. Unions are ready to head to the Supreme Court on Bills 30, 37 and 148.

We see Facebook groups cropping up across the province, and students and parents taking up the cause in communities across the province.  And we are also seeing a slide in the polls for Premier McNeil.  Liberal backbenchers,and even one cabinet ministers it’s rumoured, are beginning to take a stand against the Premier and it seems the government is digging itself in deeper and deeper.

Teachers and parents rally at the Legislature. Photo Robert Devet

It’s apparent that the austerity budget decisions, along with so many anti-worker pieces of legislation, are not sitting well with the people of this province. People understand now that governing is about making choices. This Liberal Government is making many of the wrong choices – hiring several high profile media people directly in the premier’s office at exceptionally high salaries, while telling the people of Nova Scotia to tighten their belts just sends the wrong message.

The Nova Scotia economy continues its slow growth pace.  Finance Minister Delorey in his December budget update told us that revenues are dropping, specifically tax revenue collected. That’s because this government does not have a jobs agenda. They never mentioned anything about job creation. Laying off public-sector workers is why they are collecting less tax. When people have jobs they pay their taxes. This government, like many before, is lowering the corporate tax rate in the province. In December Stats Canada reported we lost just over 13,000 full-time jobs and added almost as many part-time jobs.

It begs the question, far too many Nova Scotians are making less than $15 an hour, far too many people are struggling to make ends meet with full-time work, let alone adding more part time jobs.  The Liberals just don’t have a jobs plan and in fact are happy to cut budgets to the point of layoffs at nursing homes, court houses , provincial parks and more.  Attacking the collective rights of homecare workers, nurses and teachers seems to be the norm and they side with corporations rather then stand up to them.

Corporations are sitting on billions of dollars in profits. Corporate tax rates were decreased on the promise that corporations would create jobs – they just are not doing that. It’s time to start increasing corporate tax rates to create much-needed revenue in the province. Maybe it’s time for the McNeil Liberals to look at doing some stimulus funding. Maybe they need to take a page from the the Federal government’s book and run a modest deficit to help stimulate the economy. The federal government did just that to help boost the economy through more public investment. Now is the time for governments to borrow money because they can do so when interest rates are at an all-time low. The debt to GDP ratio in this province is the best it’s ever been. I think it’s clear that this government’s economic platform is a bust.

In Nova Scotia we continue to see reports that tell us clearly poverty and specifically child poverty is at an all-time high. That is not progress. That is not what this government promised. We need to see a jobs plan. The average hourly wage in this province is going backwards. Even our own government cannot accept that workers deserve to keep up with inflation. That in itself will spell disaster.

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce says jobs in Canada are currently undergoing a slow but steady deterioration. That’s why many unions along with federations of labour are starting to build campaigns to fight for $15 an hour minimum wage. That’s why we will start campaigns to fight precarious work. For people to survive in today’s world they need to be working 40 hours a week at a decent wage. What drives the economy is good jobs, with good pay and benefits.

We need to work with our provincial and federal government to ensure that good full-time jobs are created. Governments need to show some leadership. After NAFTA and free trade, people in this province and country were promised that things would get better. For too many years we have been conditioned to expect less, and as workers we are told to work harder for lower wages. As citizens, we are told to expect less services and that we complain too much as services are cut. Emergency rooms remain closed in hospitals, cuts have been made to long-term care and veterans getting less after serving our country.

We are told we don’t deserve to have pensions. The most troubling part of this conditioning is that when workers and their unions demand better, they are called ‘greedy’, and should be thankful just to have a job. Politicians do not stand up to the greed of corporations. Our light bills and other costs increase while we watch the corporate CAO’s salaries outpace any increases we get. Why is it okay for them to get so much, but not the workers who sweat and blood grind away daily to turn the wheels of the economy. Workers watch as more and more jobs become more precarious. Jobs today have non-existent security, fewer and/or inferior benefits. Workers have less control over their own working conditions. Things are not better for workers and it’s time to intensify our campaign for a better life for workers and their families.

If you’re a woman, or are a young worker or are a member of an equity-seeking group, the odds that your work is precarious are much higher. You have suffered with low pay, fewer benefits and hours of work, no sick leave and no pension. It’s time to stand up and make our politicians accountable and to stop the growing gap between the richest of society and the rest of us. It is time that corporations pay their fair share of taxes and stop hiding their wealth in tax havens. Government austerity measures have to stop.  We need to step up our demands that our elected leaders ensure the wealth gets shared, that workers are treated well and that full-time jobs are created.

Now is the time for more workers to join a union, to help the fight to ensure that we have the kind of province and country we all want and deserve.

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One Comment

  1. Well written, certainly stating the ills people are experiencing.As a clinical social worker I daily hear the stories of those effected by all you have described.

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