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More of the Same?
Editor’s Note: The Journal gratefully acknowledges the analyses provided by the Canadian Office of the Building and Construction Trades Department’s (BCTD) recent briefing titled, “Canada’s 40th General Election: Results, Implications and Predictions,” which was a reference for this article.
Canada’s federal election on October 14th resulted in another minority government led by the Conservative Party’s Stephen Harper, with the Conservatives gaining 16 new seats, the Liberals losing 19, and the NDP gaining eight. Although the Conservatives gained seats, the reality remains that its minority status will slow the legislative progress during the 40th Parliament as it did during the previous session and lead to ‘more of the same.’ As a result, IU Regional Director for Canada Fred Vautour noted that the IU Executive Board, BAC and fellow Canadian Building Trades leaders agree it is more important than ever to take advantage of every opportunity to advance the interests of BAC and building trades members.
The election was Canada’s fifth general election in 11 years and the third since June of 2004. It was hardly a surprise then that “election fatigue” figured prominently as the cause of Canada’s lowest voter turnout in history with 59.1% of registered voters casting a ballot. Of those, roughly 37.6% voted for the Conservatives, 26% for the Liberals and 18% voted for the NDP. The Bloc received 10% of the vote and Greens, 6.8%.
With the infusion of new seats, Conservatives are expected to govern more like a majority. This means continued confidence motions on most legislation, with the House of Commons obliged to adopt some measures in order to avoid another election.
A second minority status side effect will be the further stagnation of federal-provincial relationships, as the federal government focuses on political survival. However, the continued transfer of power and funding responsibilities to provincial governments, especially in the area of training and labour market issues, could have a positive impact on the construction industry. According to the BCTD Canadian Office’s election analysis, this will give BAC and other building trades, “a chance to leverage opportunities with industry partners and provincial governments.”
The election’s “biggest losers” are Canada’s most populous cities – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa – which did not elect any conservative MPs and are relegated to the opposition parties. The political ‘marginalization’ of the nation’s largest urban centres could pose a challenge to the required cooperation on infrastructure investments and the construction industry. In contrast, as a result of the Conservative Party’s winning percentages, Calgary and Edmonton are now two of just a few politically influential cities. Regional voting patterns reflected similar trends, with Conservatives receiving higher percentages in Western Canada compared to Eastern Canada.
The BCTD Canadian Office predicts that during the coming legislative session, the Conservatives will continue to evaluate the usefulness of Building Trades-supported national skills development programs and legislation like the Federal Fair Wage Policy, Canada Labour Code and others. On the brighter side, it is hoped the Party will make good on its campaign promise to assist apprentices in completing their programs.
Labour mobility will be another major issue of concern to union tradesworkers. The Conservatives’ support for the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) and its pledge to increase and enable construction workers’ mobility nationwide increases the need for the Building Trades to unite in supporting the existing Interprovincial Red Seal Program, while working with government on the impact of AIT for the organized construction industry. The BCTD acknowledges that progress on maintaining standards and transferring skills and knowledge will be a challenge at a time when Canada’s work outlook has been so positive.