I gave the following speech today (July 5th) at a national convention of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union of Canada at the Delta Hotel in downtown St. John’s.
And welcome to members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union of Canada.
Welcome to St. John’s south-Mount Pearl.
Even in the rain, drizzle, and fog, it’s the most beautiful riding in — not just Newfoundland and Labrador — but all of Canada.
We have Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America.
Petty Harbour, as quaint a Newfoundland outport or fishing village as you’ll find.
The Narrows — the sliver in the cliff that is the entrance to St. John’s harbor.
And Cabot Tower, which has been draped in fog lately, but — trust me — it’s still there, even if you can’t see it.
And that’s just a small taste of the breathtaking character you’re surrounded by.
I didn’t even get to John Crosbie.
John Crosbie — the political battle horse and long-time federal cabinet minister — is in the news as of late, right across Canada, because his son, Ches, was turned away as a Conservative candidate.
Try to imagine how it goes over down here when a Crosbie — practically Newfoundland and Labrador royalty — is rejected by the Harper Cons.
Hell hath no fury like John Crosbie scorned.
Now there’s much speculation as to why young Ches was rejected as a Tory candidate.
Some people believe it’s because Ches Crosbie took part in a skit back in the spring.
And as part of that skit he took a jab at Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff.
Personally, I don’t believe that’s the reason Ches Crosbie was rejected as a candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada.
Ches Crosbie told a joke — it wasn’t even funny — and he was rejected as a candidate.
While, as the same time, another politician in central Newfoundland — Kevin O’Brien, a former provincial cabinet minister under Danny Williams — was approved as a candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada when he once said publicly that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has “no integrity.”
I have my own theory about why Ches Crosbie was rejected by the Harper Cons, and it’s as good a theory as any.
It’s because John Crosbie is sporting a beard these days and he looks an awful lot like — too much like — Tom Mulcair.
I don’t think Stephen Harper is a fan of beards — he’s no fan of Newfoundland and Labrador, but that’s another story.
John Crosbie is always good for a quote.
He said once that he’d sooner have a foot in his mouth than be afraid to say anything.
And I certainly respect that.
Here’s a John Crosbie quote from this past week, and it’s a beauty.
“The NDP are moving forward with an unusual strength. Change is upon us. Anybody who doesn’t recognize that is a damn fool.”
Yes, my friends, I agree — change is upon us.
To quote Tom Mulcair: “For the first time in Canadian history, people will be able to vote for the change they want and actually get it.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers union has much in common with the New Democratic Party.
To quote the UFCW’s website: “Together we are building a stronger future for UFCW Canada Members, Families and Communities, while protecting and promoting employees rights and social justice for all.”
B’y that’s what I stand for — that’s what the NDP stands for — a stronger future for Canadian families and communities, while protecting and promoting employees rights and social justice for all.
I’ll tell you a little secret, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are all New Democrats — every last one of us.
Some of us just don’t know it yet, but we’re learning, more and more of us every day as the orange wave builds once again — rising from the east and preparing to sweep across Canada.
There is no doubt — it is beyond the shadow of a doubt — that we need to replace the Harper Cons with a real partner with labour, the true partner of labour.
A partner with labour that shares the same priorities and vision for workers and families.
And that’s the New Democratic Party of Canada.
There is no better example of the outright disrespect and distain that the Harper government has for workers and labour in this country, for unions in this country, than Bill C-377, the anti-labour bill.
The bill has been described as a clear exercise in political harassment rather than an attempt at transparency.
The Senate Speaker — a Conservative himself — ruled against a Conservative motion on the Senate floor to cut off debate and force a final vote on the anti-labour bill.
Then the Conservative Senators used their majority to overrule their own Conservative Speaker and force a vote.
If at first you don’t succeed, change the rules of the game — that’s the Conservative motto.
Bill C-377 passed and received Royal Assent, meaning unions will have to become compliant as of Jan. 30, 2016.
Bill C-377 is anti-labour — which is understandable considering the Harper Cons are anti-democratic.
Nothing gets in Harper’s way in distorting the face of Canada, a face that so many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and Canadians, no longer recognize.
To quote Nora Loreto of Rabble.ca: “Bill C-377 is meant to stop unions from engaging in political action despite the fact that unions only exist to engage in political action.
Fighting for fair and decent working conditions is a political struggle.
Prohibiting them from taking political action is to stop unions from doing what they exist to do.”
Seven provinces have deemed the bill unconstitutional, while the federal privacy commissioner has raised concerns about the scope of the legislation.
Still the bill passed.
Nobody and nothing gets in Stephen Harper’s way, least of all the House of Commons or Senate, least of all democracy.
The Harper Conservatives used omnibus legislation — massive anti-democratic bills — to limit opportunity for debate and scrutiny.
The bills are so large, and they touch on so many unrelated pieces of legislation — all crammed into one — that MPs often don’t know everything they’re voting on.
On top of that, the Harper Cons introduced time allocation on bills in the House of Commons 100 times over the last four years, more than any other administration in the history of Canada.
Time allocation allows the government to limit the length of debate on a bill so that it can be passed at a quicker pace.
100 times they used it.
Bill C-377 require unions to publicly disclose any spending of more than $5,000 and the salaries of any members earning more than $100,000 — all to be publicly posted.
The bill will place an incredible burden on the bureaucratic structures of the labour movement.
The bill will “tilt the balance in collective bargaining because it will give employers an advantage in determining the financial health of the union.”
But the most incredible part of the Senate vote — the vote to pass the anti-labour bill — is the irony.
The Senate is a house of patronage, financial mismanagement and corruption.
It’s unelected and under investigation.
With a spending scandal that has landed 30 senators in hot water, including nine under RCMP scrutiny — not including Duffy, Brazeau, Harb or Wallin — it's high comedy that Senators think they can impose financial transparency on labour organizations.
What would John Crosbie have to say about that?
Oh right, he’d say: “The NDP are moving forward with an unusual strength. Change is upon us. Anybody who doesn’t recognize that is a damn fool.”
Change is upon us.
I can feel the change at the doors of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.
People are excited about New Democrats ever since the Alberta election.
Albertans showed it can be done — voting for change and actually getting it.
People see Tom Mulcair for all that he can be — Prime Minister of Canada.
Canadians like what they see and hear: a national, affordable child-care plan that would see no Canadian pay more than $15 a day.
Child-care costs can be crippling.
The Quebec model showed that 70,000 people — mostly women — went back to work after childcare became affordable.
That kind of labour thrust keeps the economy rolling, keeps families rolling.
Canadians like what they see and here in regards to a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour — which would set the bar for business and industry to follow.
This is a phrase I’ve repeated often in the House of Commons, “No full-time worker in Canada should live in poverty.”
I repeat, “No full-time worker in Canada should live in poverty.”
By boosting standards for workers under federal jurisdiction — like banks and financial services, telecommunications and broadcasting — the federal government can show leadership and set an example for provinces and improve wages across the country.
Let me repeat a quote from Russell Cochrane, a St. John’s resident in his 20s who’s worked several minimum wage jobs.
I mentioned this during one of my speeches in the Commons”
“It’s degrading when you work a full-time job, you come out of it with only enough money to pay your rent and then have one week of groceries, wondering where you’re going to eat for the second week.
That hunger sticks. And it’s a hunger that doesn’t only degrade your body. It wears at your soul. It wears at your sense of self-worth.”
I say that the Harper government has worn on the Canadian soul.
I say that if the measure of a great country is how well it looks after its most vulnerable, then we’ve fallen short under this Conservative government and Liberal administrations before it.
More than fallen short, the Harper Cons have written off the most vulnerable with policies like income splitting and tax free-savings accounts — breaks for the most wealthy.
The only break that Harper sees for unions is to their back.
He’s out to break the union back, but that won’t happen.
Not with Tom Mulcair as Prime Minister.
Not with Tom Mulcair and New Democrats as defenders of workers and their families, as defenders of balance between industrial development and the environment.
Not with New Democrats as defenders of the pillars of Canadian society — of Medicare, of a Canada Pension Plan that allows Canadians to retire with dignity.
We need to replace the Harper government with a real labour partner.
With a New Democratic government.
A final note on Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
And a question — a serious question — for the Come-from-aways (CFAs) in the room.
I’m sure most of you have had a chance to get out and about, to see the sights, to meet the characters that we are.
Our draw to this land and see, our passion for this place, is palatable.
I end with a question to the CFAs: how do you tell a Newfoundlander in heaven?
How do you tell a Newfoundlander in heaven?
They’re the ones who want to go home.