Holding Government to Account
OTTAWA – POLITICS – Friday was a busy day in Ottawa for me as I delivered a Members’ Statement and ask two questions of the government regarding life in Northern Ontario.
My statement paid tribute to the Unifor #1075 workers at Bombardier in Thunder Bay who went on strike over the summer and fought for a better deal. I was happy to rise in the House to commend those members for upholding three distinct values that we all hold dear; fairness, equality, and solidarity.
Bombardier has doubled its workforce at the Thunder Bay plant in the last four years and has more than $3 billion in orders waiting to be filled, so it seems only fair that the workers negotiated for some concessions since they made several concessions to the company in 2011 when times were tough. The striking workers also fought for equal benefits for all members of Unifor #1075 by rejecting the company’s proposal to eliminate the defined benefit pension plan for new hires, while keeping that plan for existing workers. Finally, the solidarity displayed by members was also impressive as the vote in favour of strike action was more than 99%, a mid-strike offer was rejected by more than 80%, and the final agreement supported by 85%. In short, Unifor #1075 workers fought for a fair deal that treated all workers as equals, and by standing together they won just that.
My other task Friday was to hold the government to account in Question Period for their lack attention to the main issues facing the people of Northern Ontario. The first failure being the virtual collapse of the Ring of Fire mining project north of Thunder Bay, and the other being the very real collapse of the forestry sector and the disproportionately high, and increasing, cost of gasoline and propane in our region.
The Ring of Fire development is no closer to getting off the ground today than it was when the Conservatives first came to power in 2005. It wasn’t long ago that Treasury Board Secretary and the Harper government’s point-man for Northern Ontario, Tony Clement, declared that the Ring of Fire would be “Canada’s next oil sands.” Indeed, the Ring of Fire could hold tens of billions of dollars’ worth of metals and minerals, but you can’t just click your heels and hope. Cliffs Resources wants out, and negotiations with First Nations have stalled. As for the federal government? Well, they’re missing in action with no dollars committed to the project. They’ve even refused to sit at the table while the difficult issues facing the project are dealt with by others.
Missing in action is also the best way to describe the Conservatives efforts on other important Northern Ontario issues, specifically the forestry sector and the ever increasing of gasoline and propane. The forestry sector was Canada’s largest industrial sector when Stephen Harper became Prime Minister. Since then, Canada has lost more than 134,000 forestry jobs and there have been more than 28,000 jobs lost in small communities in Northern Ontario alone. On gas price gouging it’s the same policy and the same result. Conservatives don’t believe gouging exists, but at the same time oppose New Democrat efforts to create an Ombudsman who would have the power to investigate claims of gouging and fine companies when they are caught. The Conservatives have also stood idly by as we raised concerns about the price of propane, which rose more than 80% over the past year. Again, there was complete inaction from the government and the result has been more pain for the people of Northern Ontario.
The people of Northern Ontario need a new federal government, and the New Democratic Party is the only party that shares and upholds our values day in and day out, and that is offering real solutions to the problems we face. In 2015 you will have the opportunity to finally elect a government that will take your concerns seriously and actively work to improve the economic development and standard of living in our region. We’re ready.
John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay Rainy River