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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

NDP claims victory in advance of battle

By declaring victory on paid sick leave before the real war has even begun, Singh actually harms the cause of ensuring that Trudeau follows through on the commitment, he does not help it.

In a very positive announcement today, Prime Minister Trudeau pledged to:

...continue discussions with the provinces, without delay, on ensuring that as we enter the recovery phase of the pandemic, every worker in Canada who needs it has access to ten days of paid sick leave a year. And we'll also consider other mechanisms for the longer term to support workers with sick leave.

Trudeau framed this as necessary as:

Nobody should have to choose between taking a day off work due to illness or being able to pay their bills. Just like nobody should have to choose between staying home with COVID-19 symptoms or being able to afford rent or groceries.

This was all done as a direct result of the pressure brought to bear by Jagmeet Singh and the NDP. Given that it is a minority parliament Singh was able to use the added leverage that this gives the party in this context as he tied the commitment to NDP support for "a motion to limit sittings and votes in the House of Commons through the summer" that the government wants to make happen.

So far, all well and good. The NDP managed to get a commitment to something from a Liberal PM. But, that is all they managed to get at this point.

Trudeau's announcement did not say that his government would attempt to force this or try to override provincial jurisdiction if he could not secure the agreement of the provinces. (It is important to keep in mind that other than for a relatively small number of workers, the vast bulk of Canadian workers do not fall under federal jurisdiction when it comes to sick leave.)

Nor did Trudeau's announcement say who would pay for this sick leave (the feds, the provinces or the employer) or what form it would take.

It was a commitment to "continue discussions with the provinces, without delay". Period.

This did not stop the NDP from claiming that "Jagmeet Singh secured two weeks of paid sick leave for every worker in Canada by pushing the federal government to act."

Even by the NDP's standards of hyperbole this is nonsense. There is spin and then there is BS. I understand that the NDP desperately needs a victory -- despite the absurd claims of its partisans that it has already won a few -- but absolutely nothing has yet been "secured".

This matters more than just as a question of rhetoric. By declaring victory before the real war has even begun Singh actually harms the cause of ensuring that Trudeau follows through on the commitment, he does not help it.

It is fairly obvious that to ensure that the paid sick leave actually comes to pass for every worker everywhere in the country a lot more work has to be done and pressure placed on the Trudeau government, the provinces and employers so that whatever program that emerges out of discussions works in the interests of workers. This will likely have to include mobilizing unions, social movements, petitions, etc.

If people are under the impression that victory has already been "secured" and that any talks are sure to lead to a positive outcome they are both being mislead and will see no reason to mobilize.

It is not even clear that all of the party's provincial wings support it. B.C. NDP premier John Horgan has said that he is "looking forward" to working with Trudeau on a program, but notably his government has not brought one in even though it holds office.

All of this reeks of the NDP's long tradition of conflating parliamentary maneuvering with achieving real change. If Singh and the party truly want to make the paid sick leave happen, instead of claiming victory they should be preparing for battle.



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