Mark Hancock | National President
Too many working families in Canada are struggling with their grocery bills and housing costs. As the number of people living paycheque to paycheque climbs, more and more Canadians are wondering when the gouge is going to stop. People are rightly wondering why, after two and a half years of a pandemic, it feels like our governments are leaving us out to dry during an inflation crisis unlike anything we have seen in decades.
Workers didn’t cause this crisis. But we are certainly the ones paying the price for it, and young workers are hit even harder.
Meanwhile, governments are watching from the sidelines, acting as if they are powerless to fight inflation and its crushing impacts on working people.
But there are some who are thriving in these inflationary times.
In 2021, grocery chains like Loblaws saw their gross profit soar by 21% even though their costs only increased by 13%. While Canadians were getting gouged at the pumps, Canada’s largest oil producers were recording all-time high profits – up to 10 times what they earned last year.
And corporations aren’t the only ones profiteering off these inflation-driven windfalls. Governments are too.
Canada’s provincial governments took in a staggering $76 billion more in revenues than expected in 2021 thanks to inflation. For scale, Ontario spent $69 billion total on health care in the same year. That’s not peanuts.
Simply put, our leaders have the tools and the resources to blunt the impacts of inflation on working people. So far, they have chosen not to. That needs to change.
Governments at all levels need to step up and intervene.
For example, the federal government could curb corporate profiteering by bringing in an excess profits tax. The United Kingdom, whose Conservative government is not exactly a beacon of social democratic policy, recently implemented an excess profits tax on oil and gas. There’s no reason we can’t do that too.
But another important way that governments can make life more affordable for people is to take those inflation-driven windfalls and invest them in universal public services.
Affordable, reliable public transit saves people money when gas prices are through the roof. Affordable child care ensures children thrive and families make ends meet.
Our system of care is on the brink of collapse after years of underfunding and understaffing. Now is the moment to invest in recruiting and retaining the people who look after us and our loved ones when we are ill or aging.
New Statistics Canada data proves that there is no shortage of workers, just a shortage of sustainable jobs, decent working conditions and decent wages.
Working people are tired and fed up. We were left to fight the pandemic’s worst impacts on our health and our wellbeing on our own. Now we are being left to fight the ensuing economic hardships on our own too. That is simply unacceptable.
Our governments should be fighting for us, not against us. But as we are increasingly seeing in Canada and around the globe, workers will not wait for governments to give us a fair deal. We are prepared to organize, bargain and fight for what we deserve. And our younger members are leading that fight.