Celebration and Caution

More than two months after voters cast their ballots for change in Victoria, the Liberal era in B.C. expired on July 18, with few tears shed. One of Christy Clark’s bizarre tactics to cling to office was her final throne speech, plagiarizing from the NDP and Green platforms in the May 9 election. Her gambit showed that public opinion in B.C. has swung against letting the big resource corporations run the province, even among Liberal voters. The question is whether the NDP will act on its campaign promises, and how quickly.

The BC Federation of Labour has called on the new government to improve labour rights and raise the minimum wage. It seems likely that the NDP pledge to implement a $15/hour minimum wage by 2019 will be kept, despite sharp resistance from the big fast food monopolies and other corporate interests. Even $15 is far from a living wage in the most expensive province in Canada, and we urge the labour movement to press for higher increases. Changes to the Labour Code are also needed, to make it easier for employees to join unions, which are vital to help narrow the enormous gap between rich and poor. Struggles around bread and butter issues will continue, no matter which party is in office.

Anti-poverty activists and poor people welcomed the NDP’s move to raise social assistance and disability rates by $100 per month. But these increases still tail the skyrocketing costs of rent, food and other necessities. Unless the new government reverses the huge tax breaks given by the Liberals to upper income brackets and the corporations, the one-percent in British Columbia will keep getting richer, while the poor get poorer – but maybe at a slightly slower pace.

Our advice in this remarkable situation? Celebrate the positive gains, but keep the heat on the Horgan government.

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