Islanders should vote for better social climate, says union leader

Jim Day
Published on September 1, 2014

The head of a large union in P.E.I. is urging Islanders to hit the polling stations in the next federal election to vote for a better social climate.

Lori MacKay, president of P.E.I. division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), says the big issue for most is the downward pressure the federal government is placing on the province.

"The transfer payments aren't keeping up to what's needed,'' says MacKay.

"So health care is a real concern for Islanders.''

She adds changes Ottawa made to the employment insurance have had a significant impact on communities across P.E.I.

The number one way to respond to these concerns, she says, is to vote in the next federal election on Oct. 19, 2015.  

MacKay feels Stephen Harper's government is not listening to Atlantic Canadians.

"Nobody would be surprised with my thoughts around the Conservative government of Canada and some of the detrimental things they are doing to social programs,'' she says.

MacKay is not concerned by the fact that Islanders typically do not protest in large numbers. She just hopes they vote in droves.

"I keep focusing on the fact that we need to keep educating people,'' she says.

"People are really, ultimately I think, really fearful about the future in so many different ways. And when people get fearful, some choose to stand up and protest but probably the majority choose to be quiet because they don't know really where to start.''

MacKay spoke with The Guardian Monday while taking part in an annual Labour Day picnic in Charlottetown hosted by the P.E.I. Federation of Labour.

Members were on hand from several unions, including the Union of Public Sector Employees, CUPE, United Food and Commercial Workers, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, and the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

People gathered for free food, music and a few speeches.

"The purpose of the picnic is to bring people's a fun day,'' says MacKay.

She believes the work climate in P.E.I. is relatively good, adding CUPE for one currently enjoys a healthy relationship with the province.

Still, collective bargaining remains a tough process, she adds.

Labour Day facts

-- The origins of Labour Day can be traced back to April 15, 1872, when the Toronto Trades Assembly organized Canada's first significant demonstration for worker's rights.

-- The holiday is celebrated in Canada on the first Monday of September.

-- While Labour Day originally gave workers the chance to campaign for better working conditions or pay, the day is now largely viewed as being part of a long weekend for many Canadians.