The Electro-Motive lockout ended today with the parent company, Caterpillar, announcing that they are going to close the plant. 450 workers are now unemployed, and that number will increase as the effect of the plant’s closure is felt in the companies that supplied Electro-Motive. The most immediate concern for all levels of government should be: how can we most efficiently and effectively assist these workers in accessing the services they’ve paid for , and help them return to the labour market? No matter what the political ideology that drives your particular party, your job as an elected representative is to provide the service that the citizens have paid for. In my opinion, there are concrete and reasonable steps that can be taken: The federal government should ensure that there are additional resources allocated to Service Canada, so that the EI claims of the locked out workers can be processed quickly. The provincial government should facilitate access to the Second career program, so that the workers can find retraining as quickly as possible. And the municipal government should extend a limited term property tax amnesty for the affected workers, to give them the financial breathing room to regroup and re-enter the workforce.
But instead of offering assistance, we have several groups jockeying to assign blame instead. The Prime Minister has officially pointed the finger at the Provincial Liberal government for being ” unable to mediate a solution to the dispute between the company and its employees”. As a private dispute between a company and its employees, there was no legal ground for direct governmental intervention, and Mr. Harper knows that. He then tells these people who are wondering how they’ll pay the bills that “Our Government will continue to work on a plan that will generate new jobs and opportunities for those affected by this closure, including implementing strong measures to protect Canada’s manufacturing sector”. I would ask Mr. Harper to explain, if his government has such a clear vision of whats needed to protect the manufacturing sector, why hasn’t he put those measures in place already? His non-offer of help amounts to nothing more than “walk it off and find another job.”
And the NDP have responded by blaming both the Provincial Liberal and the Federal Conservative government for offering tax cuts without job guarantees. This is a very good example of the NDP’s habit of identifying a problem and hurtling past a reasonable solution towards an unsustainable, economically damaging and interventionist solution. Guaranteeing jobs sounds like a good thing at first, but once you start examining the complexity and difficulty in establishing a method of monitoring and enforcing such a requirement, and the once you consider the chilling effect it would have on international investment in Canada, you start to see why the NDP are still not ready to lead the country. Putting arbitrary restrictions like job guarantees into a business agreement impedes business growth, and the only jobs that would be saved would be at the law firms hired to find a way around the restrictions.
There was a real opportunity for all levels of elected officials in London to put aside their party talking points and work together to offer aid and comfort to a traumatized community. It’s a shame that Conservative MPs Ed Holder and Susan Truppe, NDP MP Irene Mathyssen and NDP MPP Teresa Armstrong couldn’t manage to put their partisan campaigning to the side to help the people they represent.