Report n° 2
Author: Canadian activists who participate in the IWC campaigns – Date: 12 October 2020
“Unanimous vote in Parliament: 107 billion dollars
for the banks and bosses”
What are the effects of the pandemic?
The death-toll of the Covid-19 has reached 9,636. By mid-June, health workers infected by the virus represented 25% of the cases that had been declared since the beginning of the pandemic. Hospital workers complain of the lack of personal protective equipment, especially face-masks and other such protective equipment. In Canada, a federal State, the health sector depends on provincial governments, whose only action is to impose such measures as wearing masks and respecting social distancing. No provincial government has instituted a systematic screening programme, has devised ways to accommodate contaminated people, to massively recruit doctors and medical staff etc.
The pandemic has served as an excuse for the capitalists to step up the lay-off and restructuring plans. What about Canada?
On 24 and 25 March, the Canadian federal Parliament voted the Can$107-billion plan (69 billion Euros) to combat the effects of the Covid-19 epidemic on the economy, a plan proposed by Justin Trudeau’s liberal government. Out of those 107 billion Canadian dollars, one billion has been earmarked for the 37 million Canadian citizens … which amounts to some Can$27 (17 Euros) for each inhabitant. The remainder is directed to help big companies and banks. The plan was unanimously voted by the Federal Parliament, including by the representatives of the New Democratic Party, the only Canadian parliamentary party historically built by the working-class movement*.
But those billions of dollars that the bosses have pocketed claiming they were “protecting jobs” have not prevented lay-offs: already, over 3 million jobs have been destroyed.
What was the workers’ reaction to those attacks? And what was the reaction of the Canadian working-class movement leaders?
Despite the support given to the government’s plans by the leaderships of the trade unions and of the New Democratic Party, workers and their families have sought to mobilise to defend themselves. For instance, just before the September school resumption, 157,000 signed a petition within the lapse of a few hours in Ontario State to demand that the number of students be significantly reduced in each classroom, whereas the provincial government wished to “pack 30 students into ill-ventilated classrooms where social distancing is really difficult and even impossible”. In August, the longshore workers of Montreal harbour (Quebec province) were also seen regrouping in their union, affiliated to the Canadian Union of the public sector; by over 90% margin, they decided an unlimited strike for demands, especially on the length of the workday, to be incorporated into the new collective bargaining agreement. After a thirteen-day strike, employers and the trade unions came to an agreement and work was resumed on Sunday 23 August. Finally, in the face of the huge number of contaminations in long-term private care homes in Ontario, the Canadian union of the public sector, Unifor, as well as SEIU Healthcare (Service Employees International Union of Healthcare Service Workers) have demanded that the provincial government request the taking over of the management of those private companies.
* The New Democratic Party of Canada was founded in 1961, especially at the initiative of the trade union movement.