All CUPE members in B.C. should celebrate the election of a BCNDP government on October 24. Not only was Premier John Horgan’s government re-elected, it increased its seat count dramatically—from 41 in 2017 to 55 in 2020.
The election results showed how voters approved of the Horgan government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic—and of the work the government had done pre-pandemic. I’m not going to get into a deep analysis of the election here (for more on the results, see the wrap-up and BC Fed guest column on pages 6 and 7), but I do want to talk about why CUPE BC has campaigned so hard to elect a majority BCNDP government.
The first and most important reason is that you, our members, have told us that electing a majority BCNDP government must be our top priority. Long-time CUPE BC convention-goers will know that at every convention since 2001, delegates have voted for an action plan that put this priority at the very top. My predecessors as president, Barry O’Neill and Mark Hancock, and I have said it so many times over the years: the best thing CUPE BC can do for CUPE members in B.C. is to elect the BCNDP.
It took much longer than any of us would have liked to accomplish this goal—and it’s obvious that the victory last month depended on much more than CUPE BC’s support—but I firmly believe that our members’ futures will be greatly improved by the work of this government over the next four years. While the minority government supported by the Greens made important progress, the Greens refused to support BCNDP efforts to undo decades of BC Liberal attacks on workers’ rights.
From adversary to partner
From the day the Horgan government was sworn in in 2017, there has been a sea change in how our union is perceived in Victoria. Over the 16 years the BC Liberals were in charge, we spent a lot of time at rallies and protests resisting the mean-spirited, right-wing cuts that benefited the wealthy and big corporations. But for the most part, our efforts were unsuccessful. Today, however, our views are actively sought out by decision-makers, our voices are heard, and we have the opportunity to work together with government to make positive changes. Working quietly in partnership behind the scenes might not result in a big media sensation, but it’s much more effective.
For example, look at the work we did with the government and other stakeholders in our provincially funded sectors as we prepared to safely restart the economy this past September. Nearly half our membership work in those sectors, and one of the direct results of our efforts was that the vast majority of those members continued to receive paycheques throughout the pandemic, with minimal layoffs. (Contrast that with the anti-worker approach taken by other provincial governments during this same period.)
The difference between the former government and this one couldn’t be more stark. The bottom line is: we get a lot more done for our members working with a BCNDP government than we ever did at a protest march against BC Liberals governments.
A shared vision
I recognize that this government isn’t perfect—there’s no such thing as a perfect government. But the key difference between this and previous governments is that Premier Horgan and his team actually want our advice. We’re seen as partners in building a better British Columbia.
After so many years of fighting back against BC Liberal policies that attacked working people and their families—policies that gutted funding and slashed public services our communities depend on—I’m thrilled by the prospect of a majority government that’s committed to repairing the damage and building a province, and an economy that leaves no one behind. And that’s at least in part thanks to the work that countless dedicated CUPE BC activists have done over the past 19 years.
CUPE BC is the largest union in British Columbia, representing more than 100,000 workers delivering important public services in nearly every community in the province.