For the first time in 16 years, B.C. workers have much to celebrate on Labour Day.
Both the B.C. NDP and the B.C. Green Party campaigned for a government that would make life more affordable, fix the services people count on, create jobs, act on climate change, and build a sustainable economy that works for everyone.
Now, with a new NDP government at the helm in Victoria, supported by the province’s Green Party, some important steps have already been taken to improve the lives of working people, their families, and those who rely on social assistance benefits.
Premier John Horgan’s first order of business was to announce a long overdue hike to welfare and disability rates – $100 a month – a move that signalled this government’s commitment to addressing the needs of those who are most vulnerable.
And with a commitment to raise the province’s minimum wage to $15 over a four-year period, government will establish an arm’s-length Fair Wages Commission tasked with designing a pathway to that goal and making recommendations about how best to address the discrepancy between minimum wages and livable wages.
The new government has also restored free Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning classes. By getting rid of the tuition fees that were levied by the BC Liberals in 2015, which charged up to $1,600 for a full-course load, no one will be denied the opportunity to get the basic skills they need because they can’t afford it.
Along the same lines, Horgan has repeated his government’s plan to eliminate interest from the provincial portion of B.C. student loans and introduce completion grants for graduating students.
And most recently, government has made changes at the Labour Relations Board, aimed at bringing the Board back into a fairer balance between labour and employer representatives.
For those who work with seniors, both the NDP and Green Party are fully committed to improving staffing levels in our residential care homes.
And finally, after a 15-year absence, government will be restoring B.C.’s. Human Rights Commission, bringing us back into line with every other province in Canada.
All this is welcome news to our members and families across B.C. We know there’s a lot more to do. British Columbians have suffered under policies that have damaged health care, social services, decent jobs, education, the environment, and more.
But on this Labour Day, let’s take a moment to celebrate a new direction for British Columbians.
Jennifer Whiteside is the secretary-business manager for the Hospital Employees’ Union