CALM sent the same questions and instructions to each of the four candidates running to be the next leader of Canada's NDP. We asked candidates to keep responses to around 200 words. Click here to read the responses from Team Angus, Team Caron and Team Ashton.
(current Member of Provincial Parliament for Bramalea - Gore - Malton)
CALM: Describe your relationship to the labour movement.
Jagmeet Singh: As a worker and an NDP MPP, I consider myself to be a member of the labour movement. The labour movement, from the rank-and-file to the leadership, are my brothers and sisters and it’s my role as an elected official to represent them. Each and every time I stand up in the legislature, I work to channel their voice. In order to do that well, I make it a priority to listen to and engage workers. I join picket lines, I help precarious workers organize, and I keep an open door for every single worker and labour leader.
CALM: What labour struggle (of past or present) are you most inspired by?
JS: As a kid growing up in Windsor, Ontario, I was inspired by the struggle during the 1930s and 1940s to organize the auto industry. Whether it was the GM workers at the Flint sit-down strike or organizers during the Battle of the Overpass, they were all willing to put their bodies on the line in order to win the rights workers enjoy today.
Of course, just across the border from Michigan in my hometown of Windsor, the Ford workers from Local 200 stayed on the line for 99 days to demand better for themselves and their families. We owe them tremendous gratitude for winning the Rand Formula for all Canadian workers.
CALM: What is the most important piece(s) of your platform that will help non-unionized workers?
JS: First, I will make it easier for workers to join unions without employer intimidation and retaliation. I will substantially increase the penalties for employers under federal jurisdiction that are engaging in unfair labour practices and I’ll scale up enforcement. I will also explore the best way to use the tax code to strengthen penalties for firms not under federal jurisdiction that are engaging in unfair labour practices.
I will also take action to help workers trapped in precarious positions by enforcing a living wage and ensuring that workers at temp agencies under federal jurisdiction receive equal compensation for their work. Through my Working Canadian Guarantee I will also triple the value of the Working Income Tax Benefit, to help lift every single worker in the country out of poverty. I encourage you to have a look at my Better Work Agenda, my Income Security Agenda, and my Green Economy and Climate Change Agenda posted at http://www.Jagmeetsingh.ca/policy for many more details.
CALM: How do you think the relationship between the federal NDP and labour would evolve with you as leader? What’s the role of the NDP when it comes to working with the labour movement to defend workers’ rights?
JS: Over the last 20 years, there has been growing distance between the NDP and several unions. All too often, the labour movement has been left out of the conversation. This has been a mistake and I will do everything in my power to rebuild the relationship between the party and labour movement.
I will talk to labour leaders and activists regularly while we plot our course for 2019. I’ll also make it a priority to engage with the rank and file, as well as unorganized workers over the next two years. We’re working hard to grow our party so that we can support workers on the picket line, in organizing drives, and in other campaigns to make our country more fair.
The NDP is the workers’ party and it is our duty to reflect that in our actions inside and outside the House of Commons. This is non-negotiable. We have to stand up for workers. That means opposing back-to-work legislation, strengthening labour laws to make it easier to organize, and ensuring that federal employees get fair contracts. Outside of Parliament, it means standing on the picket line alongside all workers, from migrant farm workers to auto workers.
CALM: As leader of the NDP, you would first sit in Parliament in opposition. Which piece or pieces of legislation proposed by Justin Trudeau’s Liberals do you think will harm working people the most?
JS: To me, the two leading candidates for Justin Trudeau’s most damaging pieces of legislation are the “Infrastructure Bank” (part of the recent omnibus bill), Bill C-27, which is an appalling assault on defined-benefit pensions, and Trudeau's national security bill C-59, which failed to fully repeal Stephen Harper's bill C-51.
Trudeau’s “Infrastructure Bank” is nothing more than an attempt to privatize Canada’s existing infrastructure en masse to fund additional P3 infrastructure. This will cost workers every step of the way. If Bill Morneau privatizes Canada’s airports, those private companies will find their extra profits by cutting the wages and benefits of people in those workplaces. And these cuts will be repeated across the board. This approach will hurt workers and cost taxpayers more, while it lines the pockets of corporations friendly to the government. Trudeau’s “Infrastructure Bank” needs to be stopped.
Bill C-27 has received less attention in the press, but is just as damaging. It will allow Crown Corporations and private firms that are under federal jurisdiction to back out of their defined benefit pension commitments. Pensions are deferred wages that workers have earned. I am disgusted by Justin Trudeau’s pandering to the corporate sector at the expense of workers and their hard-earned wages.
Lastly, I believe that Stephen Harper's bill C-51 with its draconian infringements on the civil liberties of Canadians needs to be repealed in full. Justin Trudeau promised to "fix" this draconian legislation, but instead his recent legislation, bill C-59, simply formalizes many of the most egregious elements of C-51. I will do everything in my power to ensure the immediate and total repeal of all elements of C-51.