February 1, 2016 • No. 2 | PDF Previous Issues
Steelworkers Hold Very Successful
Day of Action in Hamilton
About 5,000 people rallied in Hamilton on January 30 at a very successful Day of Action organized by Locals 1005 and 8782 USW with the support of United Steelworkers, the Hamilton and District Labour Council, the Ontario Federation of Labour and other labour councils and unions. Active and retired steelworkers from Hamilton, Nanticoke and the surrounding communities attended the rally along with entire families and people from all walks of life who identify with the cause of the steelworkers.
This was well expressed by Gary Howe, President of Local 1005 who hailed the 70th anniversary of the union and also drew attention to the plight of Max Aicher workers who have been locked out for 31 months while the company carries on production with scab labour. Defending the right of the steelworkers for their pensions and benefits Gary said, “Declaring that the new normal is an alleged rule of law sanctioned in bankruptcy courts and through secret backroom deals is the most self-serving and pathetic excuse for justice anyone could possibly give.”
“We do not agree that a foreign company has the right to march into Canada and willfully destroy production and walk away from pension, tax, production and environmental obligations,” Gary said. “Nobody agrees to that in the name of the right of these companies to do well. Companies, no matter where they come from, are not above the laws and regulations that should serve Canadians simply because people in power say their duty is to favour those narrow private interests.”
This was also captured very well by former President of Local 1005 Rolf Gerstenberger in an op-ed published in the Hamilton Spectator on the morning of the rally. Addressing the significance of the rally and why people should attend, Rolf said, “If the government does not use its authority to uphold the laws and if special [Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act] courts can be created to rule that might can make right, where does that leave the citizens who are supposed to be protected by the law? This is a very serious problem that goes way beyond the legalization of the theft of our pensions.”
Local 1005 published a special issue of their newsletter Information Update with President Gary Howe’s speech and the op-ed by Rolf Gerstenberger. For the information of Renewal Update readers, the text of both presentations is available here.
Left: Local 1005 Poet Bill Mahoney; right: Local 8782 USW President Bill Ferguson.
Left: Ken Neumann, USW National Director; centre: Hassan Yussuf, Canadian Labour Congress President; right: Chris Buckley, Ontario Federation of Labour President.
Left: Fred Eisenberg, Mayor of Hamilton; centre: Thomas Mulcair, federal NDP leader;
right: Andrea Horwath, Ontario NDP leader.
Left: Scott Duvall, MP for Hamilton Mountain; centre: Anthony Marco, Hamilton and District Labour Council President; right: Bob Bratina, MP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek.
Pipeline Debate in the House of Commons
A major preoccupation in the first week in the Parliament after it resumed work on January 25 was a debate about pipelines.
The underlying premises of the debate show the urgent need to renew the democracy so that the people are empowered to deliberate and decide on the important questions of the economy in a manner that favours them and provides the rights of all with a guarantee.
Opposition Conservative MPs, who proposed a motion to have the House express support to the proposed Energy East pipeline project, goaded the Liberals with accusations that they are obstructing the construction of new pipelines to get Alberta bitumen to markets in Europe and elsewhere. Liberal government MPs replied by taunting the Conservatives that they did not get one single pipeline built under the Harper government because their process did not result in a “social licence” to do so. A vote on the Conservative motion was postponed until February 1.
The Liberal government announced on January 27 that it is beginning reforms to the National Energy Board’s pre-approval pipeline safety reviews. Prime Minister Trudeau said the government is “creating the social licence, the oversight, the environmental responsibility, and the partnership with communities to get our resources to market in a responsible way.”
Trudeau also said that the previous government acted as “a cheerleader for such projects” whereas the government’s role is to act as “a responsible referee.” In the interim, existing project proposals, including Energy East will continue to be assessed under the current framework. Conservative Party interim leader Rona Ambrose urged the government to implement its reforms “as fast as possible so there’s certainty in the business community.”
Both parties agreed that the main matter of concern for Canadians is how to get raw bitumen to market. The Liberals say this can be done if the review process is perfected to allegedly take into account environmental impacts and consult with Indigenous peoples. The Conservatives contend that the government must be an active proponent of the project and that further regulatory requirements will unnecessarily delay future projects.
Meanwhile, regional Chiefs from the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) responded to the government’s announcement of reforms to the pipeline review process, noting that the main failings of the current system remain.” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the UBCIC said what “needs to be demonstrated is the federal government’s willingness to take NO for an answer from First Nations like Tsleil-Waututh Nation who are exercising their sovereign decision-making power.”
What is not permitted in the way the government and opposition frame the debate is any serious discussion of what makes a decision-making process legitimate and what are the aims of the preoccupation with pipelines. Renewal Update thinks that for the process to be legitimate, it must start by recognizing the rights of those who are affected by decisions to take part in arriving at them. This includes the right to say No! to what is not acceptable and the rights of the Indigenous peoples and Quebec. The people are more than capable of working out a new direction for the economy and decision-making process whose aims favour their interests. This is the requirement for nation-building in the 21st century. It can be done! It must be done!
For further discussion about the issue of pipelines and a new direction for the economy, read TML Weekly, January 30, 2016 – No. 5.
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour MaryAnn Mihychuk introduced Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act on January 28.
The bill has two purposes. Firstly, to “restore the procedures for the certification and the revocation of certification of bargaining agents that existed before June 16, 2015” when Bill C-525 received Royal Assent; Secondly, to “remove from [the Income Tax Act] the requirement that labour organizations and labour trusts provide annually to the Minister of National Revenue certain information returns containing specific information that would be made available to the public.”
Bill C-4 would effectively repeal two anti-worker private member’s bills, C-525 and C-377 introduced by Conservative MPs and supported by the previous government.
Bill C-525 introduced certification rules for labour unions to increase the barriers to workers forming unions and make it easier to decertify them. The new legislation to repeal the bill mandates that applications to certify a union made or processed after Bill C-525 went into effect shall now be “disposed of in accordance with that Act as it read immediately before.”
Bill C-377 would have subjected trade unions to an onerous system of public reporting of expenditures not required of any other organization or enterprise. The law was scheduled to take effect on January 30. Bill C-4 will repeal Section 149. 01 and Subsection 239(2. 31) of the Income Tax Act created by Bill C-377.
The Professional Institute of the Public Service called the introduction of repeal legislation a “positive step in the right direction.” The Canadian Labour Congress said that unions are “pleased that the federal government has tabled legislation to repeal controversial bills C-377 and C-525.”
Conservative MPs protested the introduction of Bill C-4 while Minister Mihychuk said that the measures in the Conservative private member’s bills were “not called for by industry or labour.”
Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland announced via an open letter on January 25 that the government will sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement at a February 4 ministers’ meeting in Auckland, New Zealand.
Freeland also said that the government intends to then have a “full and open debate in Parliament” and a “fully public” consultation process.
Even though the government will be formally acceding to the agreement this week, Freeland informed that “Signing does not equal ratifying. Only a majority vote in our Parliament can allow the Agreement to take force. Signing is simply a technical step in the process, allowing the TPP text to be tabled in Parliament for consideration and debate before any final decision is made.”
“For Parliament to fully evaluate the merits of the TPP and for consultations to continue, Canada needs to stay at the table with the other TPP countries,” Freeland said. The government’s consultations to date on the TPP have included meetings of Minister Freeland or other officials with various business, academic. NGO and labour leaders (see full list below). Freeland and others also met with numerous representatives of provincial and foreign governments to discuss the TPP.
These “stakeholder” meetings to date were publicized after the fact but were not “fully public.” Freeland proposes in her January 25 letter that this process will include “extensive, non-partisan consideration, analysis, and testimony from all regions, sectors, and backgrounds.”
Canadians have been through similar public consultation and review processes, including in the lead-up to Canada signing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on December 17, 1992. At issue is who will be consulted and whether the decisions of government will be based on the results of such consultation. Canadians spoke loudly and clearly against North American free trade, including experts from all fields pointing to the dangers to the well-being and rights of the people which have now come to pass, and called on the government to oppose NAFTA. Jean Chrétien’s government was even elected in 1993 on the basis of opposing NAFTA but subsequently ratified the agreement.
A repeat of the debacle of NAFTA, which has had such nefarious effects, is not acceptable. Serious study of the text of the TPP is now underway after the release of its 500-plus page text, and organizations are pointing to concerns for Canadians. For more information about matters of concern in the TPP and the growing opposition to the agreement, read TML Weekly, January 30, 2016 – No. 5.
List of TPP Consultation Meetings
– “leaders from academia and business,” (November 13, 2015)
– “Canadian business leaders,” (November 17, 2015)
– “representatives of the Entertainment Industry from BC and Los Angeles,” (November 20, 2015)
– “Jim Keon, President of the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association,” (November 26, 2015)
– “the Auto Parts Manufacturers Association,” (November 20, 2015)
– “representatives from the Canadian supply-managed sector,” (December 2, 2015)
– “representatives from the Canadian Labour Congress,” (December 9, 2015)
– “representatives from the auto industry and Unifor,” (December 11, 2015)
– “the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association,” (December 12, 2015)
– “representatives from the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association,” (December 22, 2015)
– “Doctors Without Borders (Canada),” (January 5, 2016)
– “SMEs in the Waterloo region,” (January 5, 2016)
– “representatives from… the University of Alberta, and agriculture industry representatives,” (January 11, 2016)
– “representatives from the Petroleum Services Association of Canada,” (January 11, 2016)
– “SME representatives from Alberta,” (January 11, 2016)
– “representatives from Alberta Women Entrepreneurs,” (January 11, 2016)
– “representatives of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada,” (January 12, 2016)
– “Robin Silvester, President and Chief Executive Officer, Port Metro Vancouver,” (January 12, 2016)
– “Raymond Louie, President, Federation of Canadian Municipalities…” (January 12, 2016)
– “Asia Chambers of Commerce,” (January 12, 2016)
– “professors and students from the University of British Columbia,” (January 12, 2016)
– “Nicholas Rémillard and Louis Lévesque from the International Economic Forum of the Americas,” (January 14, 2016)
– “representatives and students from McGill University and The Montreal Centre for International Studies,” (January 14, 2016)
– “representatives from the auto industry and Unifor,” (January 14, 2016)
– “members of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Services Coalition,” (January 14, 2016)
– “Québec International,” (January 18, 2016)
– “representatives from the Port of Halifax and Nova Scotia stakeholders,” (January 20, 2016)
– “the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council,” (January 20, 2016)
– “students at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax,” (January 20, 2016)
– “Saskatchewan businesses and representatives of the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership,” (January 21, 2016)
– “students from University of Regina,” (January 21, 2016)
– “heads of Manitoba universities and colleges in Winnipeg,” (January 22, 2016)
– “Manitoba business leaders,” (January 22, 2016)
– “members of the Business Council of Manitoba,” (January 22, 2016)
– “Manitoba agriculture business leaders,” (January 22, 2016)
– “the International Institute for Sustainable Development in Winnipeg,” (January 22, 2016)
– “Canadian labour leaders,” and (January 25, 2016)
– “members of the Canadian Labour Congress,” (January 26, 2016)