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Jack Layton used his first major public address since becoming official opposition leader to call on provincial and territorial leaders to work with New Democrats in pressuring the Harper Conservative government into expanding the Canada Pension Plan.

“Four million Canadians voted for New Democrats, and when they did they voted to improve public pensions for all Canadians,” said the NDP leader in his address to the Canadian Labour Congress. “To all the premiers who know expanding public pensions is the best way to improve retirement security, you have an ally in Ottawa.”

Just over a week after the unprecedented election of 102 New Democrat MP’s to the House of Commons, Layton received a thunderous welcome from over 2,000 union leaders and activists in Vancouver, B.C. for the 2011 CLC Convention.

I am happy to be here to start a new chapter in Canadian politics,” said Layton after an extended standing ovation, the first of six throughout his speech. “Canadians have sent a message, that change is indeed possible and it is time Ottawa starts working for the people of this country.” 

Layton commended the delegates for the CLC “Retirement Security for Everyone” campaign, advocating for improving public pensions for all Canadians.

The Canadian Labour Congress has been at the forefront of the best solution for retirement security, expanding the CPP and QPP,” said Layton. “The NDP won’t stop until that is done.”

He also committed to working with the labour movement across Canada to protect public health care and to put the interests of Canadian workers before those of banks and corporations.

We are the party of working people. Together we are going to build a country we always knew was possible,” said Layton, who was joined by his NDP B.C. caucus. “We are going to build the strongest movement for change this country has even seen.” 

Layton’s visit comes in the midst of a convention where much of the discussion has been framed by how the labour movement will deal with the majority Conservative government. CUPE National President Paul Moist says unions need to take a leading role to support the NDP in standing up to the Harper Conservatives.

The welcome Jack Layton got from this convention shows the labour movement has been energized by the remarkable result for the NDP,” said Moist. “We have a lot to do, but CUPE is ready to stand with the NDP to protect our public health care, expand our public pensions, and defend our public services.”