Jan 06, 2020

The work begins now

Why we need a BC NDP majority government

Welcome to the first edition of Public Employee for the 2020s. It will come as no surprise to regular readers that my first column for the new decade is about politics and how essential I believe political action is to the future of our union. It’s also essential for the broader labour movement and for ensuring progressive policies at all levels of government.

Last October’s federal election didn’t go as well we’d hoped for Jagmeet Singh and the federal NDP. But here in B.C., our member-to-member campaign helped limit expected NDP losses to the Liberals, Conservatives or Greens. For example, CUPE member Laurel Collins held off a strong challenge from the Green Party candidate to hold the seat for the NDP and become the new Member of Parliament for Victoria. And she did so with plenty of help from CUPE members on Vancouver Island. Thanks to those members, and to the many more across the province who helped out on NDP campaigns in their respective communities.

In my opinion, our campaign could have been more effective if we’d started working with our members earlier in the electoral cycle. I’ll be raising issues like this with our National Executive Board as we collectively look at how our political action programs can be more continuous and not confined to the actual election campaign period—that deadline-driven, media-saturated part of the calendar when any gaps in planning or preparation can be glaring.

British Columbia:  progressive outlier

While the federal election didn’t deliver the results for working people that an NDP government would have brought, we can at least be thankful that the Conservatives are still in Opposition and not government. Just look at the right-wing nonsense being delivered next door in Alberta by Premier Jason Kenney, in Ontario by Premier Doug Ford, and in other jurisdictions across the country. British Columbia is an oasis of progressive administration and policy, by comparison.

While the next provincial election isn’t scheduled until 2021, we must always be aware of the possibility of a snap election coming sooner than that given the minority government situation we’re in. When I look at the positive changes the Horgan government has been able to bring in with a razor-thin voting majority in the Legislature, I imagine how much more a BC NDP government could accomplish if it didn’t depend on the Green Party caucus.

Working with the Greens, Premier Horgan and his team have made impressive progress on issues working people care about:  affordability, child care, fighting climate change and restoring fairness to labour laws. But on that last point, remember this: it was the right-leaning Green caucus that prevented the BC NDP from removing barriers that make it harder for workers to join unions.While the Greens have helped the government implement many of the much-needed changes to provincial policies, they’re no friends of working people or the labour movement.

Time for a mandate

In my view, the best way to ensure that the progressive policies of the Horgan government aren’t undone by a return to BC Liberal government is for organizations like ours to work hard with our members to encourage ongoing political activism within the BC NDP.

By doing that, we’ll be better placed to help elect a majority BC NDP government that will deliver progressive policies to improve the lives of working people—whether the next provincial election comes in May 2021 or sooner.

CUPE BC is the largest union in British Columbia, representing more than 97,000 workers delivering important public services in nearly every community in the province.

COPE 491