Political Action and Awareness Committee (PAAC) member, Janine Lazaro, engaged with the CLC (Canadian Labour Congress) campaign, Jobs and economic recovery for working families by writing her Member of Parliament, (MP) Brad Redekopp as a constituent.
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Below is Janine's letter and Brad's response.
Dear Brad Redekopp (MP), Saskatoon West, Conservative:
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the structural weaknesses and deep inequalities within our economy. The road towards recovery remains long and uncertain. We must keep working together to lay the groundwork for an equitable, inclusive and sustainable recovery that ensures no one is left behind in this crisis.
Canada’s economic shutdown hit low-wage workers the hardest – especially women, youth, people of colour, and vulnerable workers in precarious forms of employment. To encourage job creation and ensure essential service workers receive permanently higher wages, the federal government must immediately implement a $15 an hour minimum wage (as promised in the recent federal budget) and work with the provinces and territories to ensure they also raise their minimum wages to $15 an hour.
An expansion of public child care and employment services are needed to facilitate increased participation in a full-employment economy. There can be no recovery without high quality, accessible, public child care – it supports women in the job market, but is also an important source of employment for women and an economic driver itself. The recent federal budget committed $30 billion over 5 years to create a national early learning and child care system. Turning this promise into reality requires collaboration and funding from provincial governments. I urge both levels of government to work together and act with urgency to implement this crucial priority for parents, children and our economy.
With over two million jobs lost to the pandemic, we need a plan to replace those jobs with better ones. Canada’s economic recovery plan must include major public investments in infrastructure, public services and procurement.
We need investments in physical infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals, transit, libraries, roads, bridges, air and marine ports, water and wastewater, and power generation. Working with local governments, the federal government should identify shovel-ready physical infrastructure projects for public investment. Governments must also respond to unmet infrastructure needs revealed in the pandemic, such as providing free high-speed broadband access to all parts of Canada, especially to low-income, isolated and rural communities.
We need investments in social infrastructure, including investments in long-term care, home care, skills training, post-secondary education, recreation centres, and arts and cultural institutions. Investing in and expanding quality public services will reduce inequality and ensure a broad-based, inclusive economic recovery.
We need investments in green and climate-resilient infrastructure projects. Green infrastructure investments in public transit, renewable energy, energy conservation, and home and building retrofits will generate decent jobs and allow Canada to achieve its climate change targets.
We need governments to use procurement policy to foster domestic manufacturing capacity to produce much needed personal protective equipment, steel and forestry products, light-rail transit, and zero-emissions vehicles. Governments have an opportunity to facilitate the conversion of shuttered plants, as it has through the pandemic, to manufacturing essential medical equipment and supplies. Strategic public procurement with a focus on Canadian-made products should be a priority.
We need government actions to help workers in the services sector recover from the economic lockdown, particularly workers in the hospitality, airline, gaming and tourism industries. These industries face the prospect of a long recovery and workers in these industries will be grappling with deep uncertainty for a long time. Government actions to support these industries must focus first and foremost on workers. It must protect jobs and return laid off workers to their jobs, protect collective bargaining rights, and come with legal guarantees that any financial support from the government will go first to support workers’ wages, salaries, and benefits.
I urge all levels of government to reject calls for cuts, austerity and privatization. Now more than ever, we must move forward and make bold, overdue investments in our country and in each other. We need bold investments in infrastructure, public services, manufacturing and a clean energy economy. That is how we will move Canada forward together and build a stronger, more inclusive and sustainable economy for our families and the next generation.
Thank you for taking the time to write to me as your Member of Parliament for Saskatoon-West regarding a basic income and homelessness in Canada.
You may know that prior to my entry into politics in 2019, I owned and operated a company that built houses. This business came out of my passion to help the underserviced communities of Saskatoon such as indigenous cultures and homeless individuals, as my wife and I were deeply involved for over twenty years with the Bridge on 20th Fellowship Centre.
I fully agree that Canada needs a strategy to defeat poverty and homelessness. I want nothing more than to see my fellow Canadians not living on the street struggling for food and desperate to find a place to sleep night after night. This strategy must look at more than just throwing money at the issue. It must provide money for mental health and addiction recovery. Once people are on the path to permanent housing and other needs are addressed, employing them is an essential so they can keep their home.
Housing is especially important to me. In my past career I was a home builder and chairman of the Bridge on 20th Fellowship Centre, helping Saskatoon’s core community. After the Liberal Government announced its Rapid Housing Initiative in September, I was asked by community leaders about this program. There was excitement that the Liberals may do something to help ease the homelessness problem in Saskatoon. Unfortunately, I had the sad task of informing them that Saskatoon didn’t rate on the Liberal radar and our city was left out of the program. Yes, that is correct, Saskatoon did not rate for funding for housing by the federal government.
What I am not in favour of is simply passing out free money in the form of a basic universal income. An aspect often forgotten when discussing universal basic income is the importance of the job itself.
The late Ronald Reagan famously said “The best social program is a job”. I realize this statement is overly simplistic since not every person is always capable of working. But the basic premise is still correct for most people, most of the time. Why is that?
The most obvious purpose of a job is to provide income. But a job provides far more than that. A job teaches work ethic, useful for many aspects of life. A job provides routine, meaning and purpose. A job offers challenges and causes growth. A job provides important social connections along with physical and/or mental exercise.
People who lose their job experience grief, uncertainty and self-doubt. Not having a job causes people to feel like they aren’t productive, like they are falling behind their friends and lacking purpose in life. Not having a job can exacerbate mental health problems which can lead to depression, alcohol and drug abuse and even suicide.
I am not in favour of universal basic income. Businesses and charities are struggling to find workers. Government programs should be matching Canadians with available jobs, not just providing billions in aid.
I hope this addresses your concerns and please do not hesitate to contact me in the future.
Brad Redekopp, MP