New BC Government Expected to Address Years of Neglect
Prince George, B.C. – The head of an organization representing 500,000 British Columbians is looking forward to concrete action by Premier-designate John Horgan’s New Democrats on a number of files they say were long neglected by the BC Liberal government.
B.C. Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger says it was clear the now-defeated Liberals were finished. “Absolutely”, she says. “First of all they were a government that did a lot of damage. They didn’t raise welfare rates, they were slow at raising the minimum wage, they attacked unions a number of times. They had that sixteen-year battle with teachers that they eventually lost in the Supreme Court of Canada and then pretended that they favoured what they were forced to do by the Supreme Court. So there were a lot of problems with that government and I look forward to a new one.”
Lanzinger says the removal of the Clark government “was what British Columbians wanted, and it’s certainly what we wanted as a labour movement. We think the Clark government was not good for working people and the NDP government will be if they do the things they said they were going to do in their (election) platform, and I have faith in them in that regard.”
The Federation head says there are some files that need immediate attention: softwood lumber “which John Horgan addressed immediately when he walked out of Government House Thursday night.” Other files include the $15.00 an hour minimum wage, “lifting 500,000 people out of poverty”, child care and housing. “We live in a very expensive province and people are really struggling to make ends meet.”
On the Site C workforce, specifically claims that the dam project is employing mainly BC workers, Lanzinger says “my information from the building trades in that area is that many of them are not British Columbians. Some of them certainly come from Alberta, so that’s not too far away, but I’m not convinced that those jobs are going to people locally.”
“The other problem with what’s happening at Site C is that the vast majority of that work is non-union, so the wages are lower and the benefits are not there for the workers. We should have project labour agreements so that we can ensure that the people hired are British Columbians, that we’re giving apprenticeship opportunities to young people, First Nations, women, under-represented groups in the trades.”
She welcomes Horgan’s commitment to having a BC Utilities Commission review of the massive project and says “if that review shows that Site C should be built, the contracts will mean jobs for local people, better wages, better benefits and will be used for apprenticeship training.”
In the wake of the failed Liberal throne speech in which they abruptly, after years of opposition, adopted a long list of NDP and Green Party policies, we asked Lanzinger if she thinks the Liberals will vote to support those same polices when presented as legislation by the NDP government.
“How can you predict what a party’s going to do,” she says “when they have one set of principles one day and a different set the next day? Those principles could be different again tomorrow. And I thought it was a rather disturbing deathbed conversion to so many of the things that the NDP and Greens ran on. I don’t know. If they have any integrity at all they will support those things, but I find that political group difficult to predict.”
Premier Horgan is expected to recall the legislature in early September.