Buzz Hargrove a keynote speaker at Labour Day convention

Following the Labour Day Parade in Port Elgin on Monday, September 2nd (2019), a large crowd headed to the Unifor Family Education centre for a BBQ and to listen to guest speakers.

Saugeen Shores Councilor Dave Myette welcomed everyone saying that the  municipality has been named on the list of Best Places in Canada to live.  “Saugeen Shores has been ranked number 14 on the list and there is no doubt that we are one of the best but we are also the fastest growing community in Bruce, Grey and Huron counties.”

The parade is the beginning of a week-long event for union retirees who come together to discuss issues and arrive at resolutions pertaining to subjects that affect retirees, such as pensions.

The first speaker was Kevin Smith, President of the Grey Bruce Labour Council who encouraged union members to  “… knock on doors for this election.  We must stop Sheer.  Everyone knows that we need a government that will create good jobs, create Pharmacare, tackle climate change and create inclusive communities.”

He went on to say that, in Ontario, people have a fight on their hands with the Ford government for another three years.  “Ford spent thousands of dollars on signs that said ‘Open for Business’ yet he sat by and watched the GM plant in Oshawa be slated for closure resulting in thousands of Ontarians losing their jobs and their livelihoods.  All he said was, ‘that ship has left the dock’.  Yet, he claims to be for the people.  We are the people and he is not listening.”

Smith said that the unions will not allow health and safety regulations, childcare, legal aid  to be disbanded by the Conservative government.  “Grey Bruce Labour Council has held many rallies this year and they will not stop.”  He urged those in the room to sign petitions that are circulating.  “All of the work we do is about fairness, equity and solidarity and these are shared values.”

“We are beginning to see the rise of hate in our communities,” added Smith, “as close as Owen Sound and social media is being used to grow these groups.  We must continue to fight against these groups because hate and racism has no place in society today.   The critical task today is about making life better for everyone and creating a better future for our children, grandchildren and for everyone regardless of race, sexuality or religious beliefs.  This is what makes it important for us to march in the streets, rally together and make Canada fair for everyone.”

Dave Trumble, Chair of the Labour Day Planning Committee and vice-President of the Grey Bruce Labour Council  added his remarks.  “Labour is what we do everyday in our communities and our workplaces.  It is more important to the well-being of Canada than anything else. Yet, we have a government that is more suited to a hundred years ago than today.  We live in a Canada with the very real threat of an Andrew Sheer Conservative government.  I want to congratulate Unifor and every single affiliate for calling out the uncountable damage that will be done to Canada should we elect  a ‘republic’ Sheer government.  If all workers everywhere voted for the socially progressive policies that we all claim to subscribe to, we would forever determine the outcome of every single election.  We would never seen another government like Ford of Harper or be threatened with the unthinkable future under a Sheer government.  Let’s convert our energy to a Canada for the people.”

Mike Gade, vice-President of the Society of United Professionals said that everyone should celebrate what the unions have done for workers, “… weekends, holidays, paid vacation, eight-hour work days, pension, safe work places, maternity leave, equitable pay – just to name a few. We have inherited these achievements thanks to those in the labour force who came before us and who fought for those things.  Let’s commit today to protecting those things.”

He went on to say that the ‘collective agreement’ is the most powerful document to ensure fair treatment in the workplace, fair pay, fair scheduling, pensions and benefits and health and safety.  “Through history, generations of labour won the war to improve the plight of workers and today we are still in battles against those who are trying to diminish what we have won.  There are forces at work, at every level of government and usually funded by big money, and there are those who think that power lies with the government but it does not.  It has always and always will lie with the people.”

“The one per cent are afraid of the power that people have,” added Gade.  “It is critical that the labour movement fights together.  Elections are upon us and we have seen the damage done to the people and workers of this great province done by the Ford government.  The effects on workers will be much worse if a Federal Conservative government is elected and unions have the power to make change.”

Last, but not least, to speak was Buzz Hargrove, former National President of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) trade union and currently serving as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management.  

                   Buzz Hargrove

Under his leadership the CAW broke away from its longtime support for the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP) and lent increasing support instead for the Liberal Party of Canada.  His stance, today, has not changed as evidenced by his recent speech at the Unifor centre.

He pointed out that, in the U.S. only eleven per cent of workers belong to a union and, in Canada, that number is 31 per cent overall, including the public sector. 

“When you don’t have unions or someone in the workplace that an employee can go to for help and talk about their problems, they will look for other options, such as those taking place in the United States where people are solving their frustrations with guns.”

“We are under attack in Ontario as never before under the Ford Government who got elected by hiding his agenda,” said Hargrove.  “He said ‘trust me to make the appropriate changes you have been looking for and with a smaller government.  What was the first thing he did?  Attack the labour movement. Then he lowered the taxes for the wealthy individuals and corporations.  Then, he says because of the deficit, he has to cut health care eliminating things that were paid for and are now not paid at all  He cut child care funding for over 3,000 spaces, with a waiting list of 5,000 wanting for affordable child care.  Ford is challenging the carbon tax by lying throughout.  He said gas will go up by four cents but in fact has dropped by eleven cents.  He says pollution is not bad and people should not worry about carbon and has forced gas stations to post a sticker and, if they don’t, they can be fined up to $10,000.  He is not interested in climate change.  But people are seeing through him and they are angry – angry about the cuts to things that will impact the most vulnerable people.”

Hargove then moved on to the Federal stage saying, “Now, we’ve got Sheer moving in behind saying he would eliminate the carbon tax completely by legislation  and not let the courts make the decision because he knows the courts would not allow a decision by the Appeals court to be overthrown …  because something has to be done about climate change.  He doesn’t say anything however about the rebates that will be a result of the carbon tax and that will put more money back into the pockets of Canadians.  There is a major opportunity here but, if we elect Sheer, that goes out the window.  We will have he and Ford holding hands, and it won’t be good for working people.”

“Then, we have Sheer hiding behind his missive.  He is anti-gay he is anti-anything except straight marriages and he is not respectful of the human race, of all Canadians and he won’t say he is.  He is anti-abortion and does not respect the right of the woman and her doctor to make a decision.  He says he won’t introduce legislation but, beware, beware of someone who doesn’t tell the whole story.  If he’s this obvious now, once he’s elected or has a majority government, imagine what it will be like.  So, signs have said ‘Make sure we don’t have Sheer’, said Hargove.

He went on to recognize that a lot of retirees have voted and supported NDP all their lives, as Hargrove did in the past.  He said however, “You cannot defeat Sheer by simply saying we are going to vote NDP. There is riding after riding across this country where the NDP doesn’t have a chance but another party may have a chance to stop Sheer and defeat the ‘Tories’.  You have to make sure that strategic voting is what the union is about and we should all make sure that we encourage our friends and families to do the same.  It’s the only way we will have a decent standard of living in this country for our children and the future.”

While Hargrove encouraged strategic voting, Huron-Bruce NDP candidate Tony McPhail railed against Hargrove from the back of the convention hall.