Labour Day 2016. Fighting for our jobs.
September 7th, 2016 - 5:01pm
This has been a tough summer for our region and our country.
In our region we have seen the announced shut down of the Port of Churchill and the Tolko mill in The Pas. Across the country our economy shrank with the loss of even more jobs.
My message at the Steelworker Labour Day event in Thompson was clear. We have to fight to save our jobs.
It starts by recognizing the root causes of the loss of these jobs. It didn't just happen. In Churchill it started with the decision by the then Liberal government in 1997 to privatize the port and the rail line and sell it to a company owned by a US billionaire. Then the Harper government got rid of the Wheat Board cutting off the port's main supply of grain. We then saw the bizarre spectacle of OmniTrax asking for the rail line to be treated as a public utility with them, presumably getting an ongoing subsidy to run it.
The solution is obvious. Take the port and rail line back under Canadian public ownership and look at partnering with First Nations.
In The Pas the announced closure of the mill didn't just happen either. Forestry has a history in The Pas for more than a century. The current operation has been in place since 1968. Tolko faced challenges in 2006 and announced its closure. The NDP provincial government acted immediately to work with all the key stakeholders to come up with solutions and the closure was rescinded. The solution today is also clear. We need the federal and provincial governments to get to the table to help save the mill.
What has been noticeable this summer is the callous indifference shown by both levels of government. It has been a combination of "no comment" or statements like "it is their company after all". The fact is that Churchill is our strategic asset and forestry is our resource.
What is particularly insulting is the lack of recognition of just how much our communities and our workers have given to this country and how it is now time to give something back. Not a hand out or a bail out but creative solutions.
There is a lot at stake in our region.
Today it is Churchill and The Pas. Tomorrow we are dealing with the mine in Flin Flon and the smelter and refinery and value added jobs in Thompson.
What we need to do is send a clear message. These are our resources and our strategic asset. These are our jobs. This is our Canada.
It is time for action!