Guided by delegates at our 2013 convention, this year CUPE went all in to elect Canada’s first federal New Democratic government. Armed with solid arguments and evidence the NDP was the best choice for CUPE members, activists logged countless hours on the campaign trail across the country.
While the results fell far short of our hopes, the Harper era of cuts, anti-democratic policies and attacks on working people is over. We’ve taken on the task of holding the Liberal government to account, and demanding more. And we will support the NDP as they rebuild for 2019.
In coordination with the Canadian Labour Congress, our campaign focused on four key issues. We distributed a report card highlighting the NDP’s strong positions on health care, child care, retirement security and good jobs. Our Fairness coordinators also worked with locals to distribute non-partisan information about these four priorities.
In addition to face-to-face conversations and material drops, our member mobilization included telephone town halls and more than 100,000 get-out-the-vote phone calls. Our online campaign reached hundreds of thousands of people through our website election hub, Facebook and Twitter.
Our efforts to engage members strengthened existing connections, and made new ones. Hundreds of CUPE members volunteered on priority NDP campaigns, and thousands of CUPE members canvassed, made phone calls and volunteered to get out the vote.
Fourteen CUPE members, retirees and staff ran for the NDP, with former communications staff person Alexandre Boulerice and former member Ruth Ellen Brosseau winning re-election. CUPE also helped contribute to breakthroughs, including in Saskatchewan where voters sent three New Democrats to the House of Commons.
Now, we will mobilize our members to put pressure on their MPs, and on the federal government. That work began in December, with an NEB resolution on improving the Canada Pension Plan, as well as advocating for the repeal of bills C-377, C-525 and C-51. In late December, the reporting requirements for Bill C-377 were waived, the first step in repealing the legislation.
Voters also went to the polls in two provinces this year, with stunning results in Alberta. The election of Rachel Notley and the NDP marked the first worker-friendly government in Alberta since the 1940s. Many CUPE members and staff volunteered on the campaign, and CUPE researcher Ricardo Miranda was elected to the legislative assembly.
Our outreach to engage members strengthened existing connections, and made new ones.
Since the election, CUPE has participated in consultations on issues like the minimum wage, essential services, and the budget. Less than a year into their mandate, the Alberta NDP is making life better for working people. The Notley government has raised the minimum wage, enacted progressive tax reform, frozen tuition fees, cancelled health care and education cuts, created a ministry devoted to women’s issues, scrapped hospital lab privatization, tackled climate change, given farm workers new labour rights and protections, and banned corporate and union donations to political parties.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, CUPE worked with our allies to make privatization of seniors’ care an election issue. The provincial Conservatives delayed a P3 decision that would have been finalized before voting day and were then defeated. The new Liberal government has pledged not to privatize long-term care facilities.
CUPE was active at this year’s annual gathering of provincial and territorial premiers, held in St. John’s, NL. We reinforced our pro-public message at a CUPE town hall on P3s and at a rally for Medicare, and we lobbied provincial leaders on the need for a national prescription drug program.
On the national scene, CUPE’s Airline Division fought attempts by the then-Conservative government and airline companies to reduce the number of flight attendants on Canadian flights.
Until August 2015, Transport Canada regulations required one flight attendant for every 40 passengers on Canadian flights. The Conservative government loosened the rules just before the federal election, allowing airlines to operate with one flight attendant for every 50 passenger seats. CUPE is challenging the new regulation, and will lobby the new federal government to improve safety in the skies.
Finally, we continued to build relationships with local elected officials who are our employers. CUPE focused on the dangers of privatization in workshops at annual meetings of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Canadian Library Association (CLA). At the FCM meeting, Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk shared the findings of her audit of the province’s P3 program with municipal leaders. CUPE’s CLA workshop also sounded the alarm about library P3s.