Top News

GUEST COLUMN: Wanted: a government that works for workers

The provincial government will spend more than $1 billion to service its debt in 2018-19, but that cost shouldn’t rise if bond-rating agencies don’t change Newfoundland and Labrador’s credit rating.
- SaltWire Network

By Thursday evening, people in Newfoundland and Labrador will know who will lead the province for the next four years. What can we expect?

History tells us many promises made on the campaign trail will never be realized. Openness and transparency will morph into back-room deals and insider secrecy.

Yet, we live in hope things will be different this time around.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour (NLFL) will be demanding fairness and equality at the heart of government decision-making.

We will soon have the lowest minimum wage in all of Canada, and under the Liberal formula we will stay the lowest. Our minimum wage is $11.40. In comparison the minimum wage in Alberta is $15 an hour, $3.60 more every hour. Over 70,000 workers earn less than $15.00 an hour. Imagine the boost to family incomes and the economy if we increased the minimum wage to $15!

It is time the government of N.L. addressed the gender wage gap, one of the highest in Canada. Women in N.L. on average, earn 34 per cent less than men. The Human Rights Act requires equal pay for equal work. We are demanding the next government enact pay equity legislation as promised.

We are proud of our province. Our rich culture and natural beauty are well recognized around the world. We are also aware of our challenges such as a small population spread over a large territory. We are fortunate to have the quality public services that allow us a quality of life we need and deserve. We count on our public services to be there for our families. These services must be protected.

Two areas that need government’s attention are child care and drug costs. No one should do without their prescriptions because of cost. It’s time NL supported a universal pharmacare program.

Child care must be affordable for all working families. Public, affordable child care will help put money in the pockets of families and help boost the economy.

Government has to be transparent on public private partnerships (P3s). There is no public oversight on these big money, long-term P3 contracts. Have we learned nothing from Muskrat Falls?

Back room deals with private corporations should never be allowed in any democracy. Auditor Generals from across Canada have reported P3 deals cost taxpayers more in overall costs.

That’s why we expect government to oppose all forms of privatization of public services.

Everyone wants a tax break.

The next government needs to address our unfair tax system.

Taxes on households make up over 30 per cent of the province’s tax revenue. Corporations account for less than six per cent. We ask government to revisit personal income tax rates for the richest earners. Both N.B. and N.S. tax rates are over 20 per cent on incomes greater than $155,000. N.L.’s top tax bracket is 18.3 per cent for incomes over $184,500. Why are we subsidizing those with rich incomes?

The real crisis in N.L. is the unemployment rate.

We need to address the job crisis. More people working and earning a living-wage will help provide the revenues needed to improve our public services. Government must embrace the future, focus on building a sustainable economy with good jobs for all, including a green jobs strategy.

We need to invest in clean energy, and an industrial strategy that protects our environment. We need a just transition for communities and workers affected by this change.

As our next government prepares to lead this province, the NLFL is ready to work with them to improve the lives of working people.

We have a lot to offer.

We represent 70,000 workers and their families. We will support any policies and programs that protect our public services, and that benefit workers in N.L..

We believe our vision of good jobs for all, fair taxation, and sustainable communities and environment will help reduce the debt and deficits, and make our economy work for all of us.

Mary Shortall is the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She writes from St. John’s.

Recent Stories