For many of us, Labour Day is a time of transition and reflection. For my three kids, it's time to wind down their summer job in Owen Sound and head back to school.
During my years as editor of the Owen Sound Sun Times, Labour Day kicked off a noticeable pickup in local news – whether it was the wrap-up of lacrosse and fastball or the fresh Owen Sound Attack season, or harvest news, school busing news, seasonal employment changes, or just the general economic rhythm of Bruce and Grey counties, beginning to prepare for the fall and winter ahead.
For Canadian workers, Labour Day is a time to recognize the exceptional progress that workers have made by their own hard work over the years. Though there is always more work to do, we can all celebrate improvements in wages and work-life balance, better safety on work sites, and more secure and stable retirements for working people.
This Labour Day also marks a new transition for me, as I work to earn the privilege of serving as your next Member of Parliament for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, in the October general election.
The Liberal government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau understand that workers and unions are the backbone of the middle class and critical to a strong Canadian economy. They have shown this, time and time again.
Since forming government in 2015, this government has repealed anti-union legislation and partnered with unions to help them train more apprentices with better equipment to keep up with the changing nature of work. The government is investing in projects to help more women, people with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, and newcomers start rewarding and stable careers in the trades.
And in the new NAFTA agreement, which I worked on alongside many others, we have a North American trade agreement that is far better for workers than its predecessor. That's one reason why Unifor, Canada's largest private-sector labour union, strongly supports the agreement.
Our government values the contributions of unions. Unfortunately, not all political parties agree.
When we look at the track record of Conservatives – including the Harper Conservatives and those now at Queen’s Park under Doug Ford -- it is clear: Conservative governments see unions as a problem and a barrier to economic growth.
While Conservative governments consistently undermine the rights of workers, the Liberal government has worked since day one to foster better, safer, and more equitable workplaces - and to save people's jobs.
Waiting times for EI benefits have dropped from two weeks to one week, and families now have the option to extend EI parental benefits to 18 months. These are concrete improvements that make a difference in people's lives. They did not happen by accident. They would not have happened under a Conservative government.
We know there is still much more work to do. There is no resting on laurels. We must keep pressing for workers' rights - for better access to skills training and education, for safer workplaces, and for greater union participation.
The economy of the near future, driven by developments in Artificial Intelligence and manufacturing automation, could be profoundly disruptive to our workplaces. We must prepare for this shift now, not later.
This Labour Day, my pledge to you is simple: If elected, I will make it my work to help workers in Bruce-Grey Owen Sound thrive. Their hard-won rights have benefited us, our families and our entire country.
We need to keep pressing ahead, to ensure that progress continues.
Michael Den Tandt, federal Liberal candidate for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound