On behalf of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour (NBFL), I would like to extend my best wishes to our 46,500 members and to all New Brunswickers.
NBFL members make a significant contribution to the well-being of our province. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your work in your community and within the labour movement to make New Brunswick a better place to live and work.
This fall has been a busy one for the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. We organized an election campaign called: We Deserve Better. It highlighted labour’s priorities by focusing on: 1) improving health, safety and compensation laws, programs and services for injured workers; 2) maintaining ownership and control over our public infrastructure by countering the growth of costly public-private partnerships; 3) reinstating a progressive tax system where everyone pays their fair share of income tax to ensure the existence of the public services that we all need. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the success of this campaign. Since the election, the NBFL has met with several elected officials to further discuss our priorities.
The NBFL also participated in the campaign to save the long-gun registry. I am pleased to report that on September 22, Members of Parliament voted to save the registry. The win was by a narrow margin: 153 to 151, meaning that we still need to remain vigilant. Since gun owners have been required to register their long guns, spousal deaths have decreased by 50%.
2010 also saw the NBFL host its mid-term conference and a women’s conference. We also held our 10th annual Blair Doucet Youth Summer Camp, named in memory of Brother Bair Doucet, NBFL President from 1999-2005, who founded the youth camp.
Many initiatives started in 2010 will need our focused attention once again in 2011. We will continue to work with other civil society groups to pressure our governments to reinstate a progressive tax system and to reverse the recent tax cuts to the wealthy and large corporations.
Lately we have been hearing a lot of propaganda about how there is a fiscal crisis in New Brunswick. The recent People’s Forum on the Economy highlighted, among other things, that this fiscal crisis is a myth. New Brunswick bodes well when we compare our debt-to-GDP ratio to other provinces. We are in middle of the pack. Canadian debt-to-GDP ratio is 34%, half the amount of other G7 countries, which averages 69%.
For the past ten years, the provincial and federal governments have been cutting corporate taxes. There is very little evidence that these corporate tax reductions have had the desired impacts in terms of stimulating the economy, especially in terms of productivity-inducing investments. In fact, investment levels in machinery and equipment as a percentage of GDP have been declining in recent years and are now at a lower level than they were in the year 2000.
The provincial government recently established a Pension Task Force which will consult New Brunswickers and make recommendations to the government. This is an opportunity for us to share labour’s plan for improving retirement security for all. Our plan focuses on increasing over time the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) benefits. This would help thousands of New Brunswickers, mostly seniors and women, out of poverty. Many New Brunswickers don’t have a workplace pension plan and don’t earn enough to buy RRSP’s. CPP and GIS benefits make up a large part of their income when they retire.
2011 will also see the NBFL organize several events. Our 50th Convention will take place at the Delta Beauséjour in Moncton from May 29 to June 1. Participants will honour our past and work on building the future of the labour movement. We will also be hosting a Health, Safety and Compensation Conference on March 16, 17 and 18 at the Fredericton Inn. The NBFL Women’s Committee is proud to be hosting its first annual Women in Leadership Gala at the Fredericton Inn. This special event will be held on April 30th and will see one of our sisters recognized with an award for her leadership role in the labour movement to advance the economic and social welfare of workers in New Brunswick.
As in past years, we will need your help. Premier Alward has promised a more transparent government with more citizen engagement initiatives. I encourage you to get involved when consultations and town-hall meetings take place in your community.
In closing, to all of our members and residents of New Brunswick, I hope that 2011 brings you health, happiness and peace.