The path to a prosperous and inclusive post COVID-19 world will not be found or navigated without the full engagement of the Labour Movement and Organized Labour. This means full engagement with Labour at the federal, provincial and, most importantly, the municipal level.
Often noted by pundits addressing the social issues in the midst of this global pandemic, “the pandemic is not creating new problems in as much as it has turned a magnifying glass on the cracks in the social fabric of society”. Labour has never been silent or passive in speaking truth to power. This means that Labour gives no level of government gets a free pass when, as governments have done for so long, undermined and underfund valued public services like education and healthcare.
Being active on the federal and provincial fronts will always be part of Labour’s work, but no where is it more possible to actually influence decisions than at the municipal level of politics. Economies at all levels have been put under profound stress since the first days of COVID-19 lockdown. Government revenues have been adversely affected due to vast numbers of businesses being closed down or numbers of employees being reduced due to the COVID-19 lockdown. After decades of underfunding public services by successive Conservative and Neo-Liberal governments in Canada Labour fully anticipates that the same failed policies of austerity will be perversely used to excuse even more repugnant attacks on public services in the name of recouping the money spent to get people through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Labour has no intention of sitting back and permitting governments to pay for COVID-19 relief on the backs of workers in public services. In fact, the opposite is true, and Labour will be advocating for more spending by advocating to federal and provincial governments to support of municipalities through urgent and immediate emergency funding to prevent degradation of public services and staff lay offs. Furthermore, Labour is insisting that all levels of government take a hard look at taxation and “stop being afraid to make corporations and the most affluent of Canadians pay the taxes that they should and the taxes that will support a sustainable Canada for all and not disproportionately ask Canadian workers to pay for COVID-19 relief”.
Emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic will eventually take place. We see all too plainly each day the choices being made by people that will make this emergence more challenging. Missteps individually and in groups, such as neglecting simple acts of ignoring social distancing and putting others at risk by not wearing a face covering are the daily grist of the news and the fuel for a longer pandemic. Commitment to good behaviors in this context represent one facet of an expedient and successful emergence.
There is much more to this successful emergence. The resurrection of the economy is not a return to normal. Our most recent “so called” normal was a planned and deliberate attack by Conservatives and Neo-Liberals and their corporate enablers on social democratic institutions, the rights of workers, public services, and the environment.
The pandemic is forcing a dissection of all the failings of recent decades, but more importantly it is showing us the path to getting better. The Grey Bruce Labour Council, as the voice of Labour in our region, will be part of the setting the agenda for emergence and economic recovery in our region. The Council will look for a collaborative approach with government and business to ensure that no aspect of a society that cares for everyone is overlooked. Local economic development and government will hear from the Labour Council and will be put on notice that the “old” normal is unacceptable to Labour, working people and all those marginalized in the last forty plus years.
These voices of socially responsible change are looking for collaboration, but there must be no mistake. The pandemic is providing opportunities not witnessed in over one hundred years. A world reset is here and destruction of the institutionalized underfunding of public services and the intentional abandonment of our most vulnerable people must be left behind with our pre-pandemic world. Should collaboration by local governments and local economic development not be forthcoming, the voices working for socially responsible change will be heard by whatever means are necessary.
Grey Bruce Labour Council