By Communist Party, Fredericton Club
With the sudden calling of an election by Progressive Conservative premier Blaine Higgs, New Brunswick faces the possibility of a Conservative majority government – this is a bid for unchecked power.
A majority would give the Conservatives a free hand to carry out their preferred economic agenda – an agenda of austerity which would place the costs of the pandemic and recession squarely on the backs of working people while maintaining corporate profits at a high level. In the present situation of economic difficulty for most working-class people, where we see rising unemployment, falling wages, bankruptcies, collapsing living standards, and increasing homelessness, an austerity agenda would be a disaster. It would push incomes lower, while leaving government support for those thrown out of jobs or homes even weaker than it is now.
New Brunswickers need the opposite of austerity: they need policies that support and empower workers, and that limit the enormous and disproportionate wealth and power of large corporations and capital.
While we aren’t on the ballot in this election, New Brunswick Communists are campaigning for a program that puts people before profit.
Decades of neoliberalism have dismantled our industry in New Brunswick. We have housing shortages, food insecurity, crumbling infrastructure, and not enough schools and hospitals. We can create jobs by addressing these needs.
We must build 25,000 units of affordable social housing; rebuild the shipbuilding industry; and nationalize mining, fishing and telecommunications industries.
We need to rapidly expand fibre optic network across the province; and achieve food security by investing in agriculture, building community gardens and turning municipal ornamental gardens into food gardening spaces.
We can create jobs while expanding social programs and public services, by building new public hospitals, clinics and schools, using green technology; creating a universal public childcare system that’s free to users; and building public infrastructure, making municipal bus services free and creating a publicly-owned intercity transit service.
Public ownership, democratic control and workers’ rights
Capitalist monopolies dominate the province’s industry and news media, leaving little power to the public and workers. We need to put major corporations, like the Irving and McCain businesses, under public ownership and democratic control.
We must enact a Labour Bill of Rights guaranteeing the right to strike, picket, organize and free collective bargaining. With this, we need strong plant closure legislation, anti-scab legislation and improved employment standards for all workers.
Raise wages, pensions and EI
Now more than ever government assistance is needed to protect workers and their families from financial ruin. While other parties promote “economic recovery”, they give away billions in tax dollars to big businesses; it is clear that “economic recovery” only means recovery for the profit-hungry corporations at the expense of the workers.
New Brunswick Communists call for increasing EI benefits to 90 percent of former income for all unemployed workers, for the full duration of unemployment. We are also campaigning for a universal guaranteed annual livable income indexed to inflation, increased public pensions and a $20 minimum wage, and a reduced work week with no loss in take-home pay.
The senseless and tragic murders of Rodney Levi and Chantel Moore by the RCMP rocked the province. Premier Higgs offered nothing beyond a glib statement of regret, and he refused to commit to a formal Indigenous-led inquiry when he met with First Nations leaders.
We need to defund, demilitarize and disarm most police units, and create an independent civilian oversight body of police in New Brunswick, with real legal power to act upon its findings.
We demand an end to racial profiling and the protection of Acadian and Indigenous rights.
Women’s and 2S/LGBTiQ+ rights
Communists recognize that access to quality public childcare should be a universal right. We are deeply concerned about the imminent closure of the Fredericton abortion and trans health clinic, Clinic 554. We are campaigning for guaranteed and universally accessible abortion and reproductive health services; a universal system of free, quality public childcare across New Brunswick; guaranteed pay and employment equity; and funding for Clinic 554 and more safe public healthcare spaces for the 2S/LGBTiQ+ community.
The current tax system is unfair. Decades of neoliberal austerity have moved the burden of taxation off the corporations and onto the backs of workers. It’s time to put the burden of taxation back on big businesses – we need to enact progressive taxation based on ability to pay.
This means doubling the provincial corporate tax rate to 28 percent, taking action on corporate tax avoidance and repatriating tax revenue lost over the last thirty years due to tax-dodging and hiding money in tax havens.
It also means eliminating taxes on incomes under $40,000 and removing education from the property tax.
After decades of austerity and neglect, New Brunswick’s healthcare system is inadequate. Long wait lists for surgeries, general practitioners and mental health services are causing avoidable deaths. New Brunswick Communists are campaigning for new public hospitals and clinics, a repeal of regulation 84-20 that bans abortions outside of hospitals and funding for Clinic 554.
We need to expand Medicare to include long-term care, pharmacare, dental, vision and mental health care. We also call for increased wages and improved working conditions for healthcare workers, including long-term care workers.
Currently 55 percent of our power comes from fossil fuels and over 15 percent comes from nuclear energy. Communists advocate a rapid and massive conversion of our power capacity to renewable energy and decommissioning existing fossil fuel power plants. This guaranteeing workers in the fossil fuel and nuclear industry – like the Belledune coal-fired power plant, the Point Lepreau nuclear station and the Saint John refinery – with jobs in green energy and industry.
We need to enact emergency legislation to slash carbon emissions and end carbon ‘credits,’ and impose heavy fines and jail terms on corporate polluters. We call for nationalization of energy and natural resources – including Irving’s Saint John oil refinery and pulp mill, and Irving’s large timber freeholds licenses – and for forests to be democratically managed as a publicly owned and community resource.
Our education system is crumbling. As classroom sizes increase and as rural schools close down, teachers are working harder. For many people, post-secondary education is inaccessible. Furthermore, COVID-19 remains a real and valid concern for everyone. The province must invest massively in the public education system, build new schools and renovate existing ones, and provide the needs-based funding required to re-open public schools safely.
Communists call for an end to streaming and for expanded curricula to include labour, Black, Acadian and Indigenous history. We need to restore local democracy and autonomy, through locally elected and accountable public school boards.
Post-secondary education should be free and student debts cancelled.
Rights of nations in Canada
The human, land and resource rights of Indigenous peoples must be recognized and upheld; it is unacceptable for governments to continue being accessories to a brutal and unjust colonial past. Acadian rights must be protected as well, and anti-French bigotry must end.
To move forward, we must uphold treaty rights, as outlined in the Peace and Friendship treaties, and achieve a just settlement of Indigenous land claims by recognizing their inherent rights relating to their unceded land and its resources. Furthermore, we need to enact in provincial legislation the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right to free, prior and informed consent to development.
Recognizing the right to self-determination of Indigenous and Acadian peoples means genuine support for their full participation in the economic, social and political life of the province, including the right to education and services in Indigenous languages and French where numbers warrant. Bilingualism in New Brunswick needs to be defended and expanded.
Communists are campaigning for improved social, educational and employment opportunities for Indigenous and racialized peoples, heavy penalties on discriminatory hiring and housing practices, and a full, independent and impartial investigation into the deaths of Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi.
The struggle doesn’t end at the ballot box
The issues in this election will still be here on September 15. A people’s coalition of labour and its allies can be built to stop the Tories and the right-wing. The need for people’s unity and a counter-offensive after the election will be more urgent than ever.
Such a movement can win radical reforms like the ones above. Those policies will not solve all of the working people’s problems, but they will provide immediate improvements and show a path forward to our ultimate goal of socialism.
Socialism means the political power of the working people – not the corporations – to make the key decisions. It means workers in control of the industries they work in and of their own labour power. It means an economy democratically controlled by all, not by transnational corporations and a handful of the super-rich scrambling for bigger and bigger super-profits. It means the highest respect paid to principles of equality – for women and all gender oppressed, for racialized peoples, for all nations. It means an end to the plunder of Indigenous lands. It means an end to imperialist wars.
Another world is possible – and urgent.
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