Protecting ourselves at school

Personal protective equipment and EAs

Protecting ourselves at school

He lunges and she instinctively ducks out of the path of his fist. He kicks her leg. She doesn’t say anything. He spits at her and screams profanities. She reaches up to wipe the spit away and he scratches her arm. Her ears are ringing.

It’s 9:00 a.m. and class has just begun. He’s the student she’s been assigned to work with this year in her role as an Educational Assistant (EA). She is wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and is following the student’s safety plan.

The end of her day will be filled with paperwork: a Use of Non-Violent Protocols form, an Antecedent Behavior Consequence Log, a Safety Plan Log form, a Violent Incident Report form (VIR) and a Student Incident form. Following a workplace injury protocol that includes a phone call to the HR person at the board, she will also inform her administration of the incident. Just another day in the life of an EA.

It took me 15 minutes to complete all the forms that would be required for just this one scenario. But I was just trying to gain a sense of what’s required of the EA after such an incident; I didn’t factor in the time it would take to speak with admin, call the board office or forward all the forms to their proper destinations. Did I mention most forms are time sensitive and must be completed in 24 hours?

Hitting, spitting, kicking, hair pulling, biting, scratching, profanities, death threats and exposure to feces and urine are just some of the incidents of workplace violence EAs experience on a daily basis.

On the front line
“Workplace violence is the number one issue for our staff,” says Tracey Marshall, ESSP/ECE Bargaining Unit President within OSSTF/FEESO District 18, Upper Grand. “We want to keep them safe, and as a union we are constantly developing policies and strategies to respond to our members’ needs. The vast majority of my day is focused on helping staff navigate violent incidents that stem directly from their work with students. Education workers need a clear message about what constitutes a violent incident, how they can report it and the supports available from their union and their employer.”

To gain a better understanding of how workplace violence affects the work and the lives of EAs, I spoke with six EAs from District 18 in December of 2015. We conducted the interviews in the new downtown library in Fergus, overlooking the Grand River. It was a beautiful setting that stood in stark contrast to the disturbing experiences of workplace violence described by the EAs. Almost all IMG_7177-olof the interviewees had worked over 10 years in the education field, and most had experienced some type of injury and lost time from work, directly as a result of their work with students who were violent.

Several of the EAs said they had been asked by administrators to downplay their injuries, and were often met with responses such as, “You’re not really that hurt, are you?” Others reported that they were encouraged to not fill out a Violent Incident Report form, the rationale being that there was no intent on the part of the student to harm the worker.

A number of EAs recalled that when they were first hired, their role was to help the whole class with accommodations and modifications. Now, however, an EA usually isn’t assigned unless a student displays violent behaviour. Consequently, the number of jobs is shrinking, but the workload within each job is greater and has become more dangerous.

Experiences with workplace violence affect more than just the EAs’ working lives. Their family life, their health and their general well-being are all impacted by violent incidents in the workplace. A family member said to EA Leanne Jolley, “I know why you love your work…but is your health worth it?”

Erinn Yetman received a severe concussion when she was attacked by a student to whom she was not assigned. Although she was already injured by the initial attack, she put herself at additional risk in order to ensure the safety of her own student. Her experience illustrates a common theme: EAs routinely risk their own safety to protect other staff, other students and, above all, to ensure the safety of their own students. And far too often, as in Yetman’s case, their commitment to the safety of those around them can have significant impacts on their lives outside of work. Yetman describes her experience with workplace violence as, “the worst experience of violence in any part of my life. No one talks about what happens after. The 11 months in bed, wearing earplugs, sunglasses, no noise or any light. It wasn’t just I who lived this, it was my whole family. The focus of my job, at the end of the day, is to not get hurt, after helping my students find their place in society.”

Sharon Blake, an EA who was, in her words, “elbowed into a concussion,” is very clear about the wide-ranging impact of that one incident. “It’s not just a 9–5 injury,” she says. “It’s my whole life.” Yet, in the same breath she echoes a sentiment that was common among the EAs I spoke to: “I love what I do, when there are enough of us to do our job properly.”

It became clear to me, in fact, that all of these women love what they do. They care deeply about their students and their students’ learning. They simply want to be safe while they’re doing their jobs.

Some staff have chosen to leave the secondary panel for jobs in the elementary panel, hoping they could escape more severe workplace violence incidents. Most feel that it hasn’t made a difference in terms of their safety at work. EAs have still been injured while working in the elementary panel, some so severely that several months off work were required for recovery.

The EAs I spoke to all use various forms of personal protective equipment, and I was interested to know how some of the equipment worked and what kind of injuries they were designed to protect.IMG_7210-ol

In general, PPE is worn when the threat of injury can’t be reduced by other means. Several staff noted that the equipment didn’t always work, as some of it is merely sports equipment that’s been repurposed for worker safety. Some of the PPE was made by the EAs themselves. Students adapt quickly and learn to pinch or bite them in areas where harder protective surfaces didn’t provide cover.

The EAs I spoke to pointed out that it’s not always easy to work when using personal protective equipment. PPE often impedes mobility, and it can be very hot during the summer. Some EAs also feel that students avoid them when they are fully dressed in PPE, intimidated by their resemblance to riot police. If employees don’t wear the PPE provided, however, they risk not being covered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

PPE for support workers in education has included, but is certainly not limited to, gloves, arm guards, and shin guards—all to protect from pinching, scratches, punches, kicks and biting. Chest protectors of different materials are used to protect workers from kicks, bites, punches, and scratches to the trunk of the body. Smocks protect from bodily fluids, and helmets are sometimes used to protect from punches, head butting and hair pulls. There are also facial masks to protect workers from being spat upon, punched in the face, scratched or bitten. The use of PPE is covered in the Ontario Health and Safety Act under the Health Care and Residential Facilities and Industries section, but not specifically for education workers.

More than half of the EAs I interviewed described situations in which they had not been informed that the student they were working with had a prior history of violent attacks, and it was only after an injury had occurred that safety protocols were put into place. Many staff feel that unless there is a threat of a work stoppage due to unsafe working conditions, their concerns about violent incidents in the workplace simply aren’t being heard. PPE is often issued reluctantly and only after many requests. It is often not properly fitted to specific staff, and it must be shared between staff members even when the working conditions are hot and the equipment is soaked in sweat, or when it has been contaminated by a student’s bodily fluids.

The EAs IMG_7243-olare trained in a variety of proactive prevention techniques. These include: BMS (Behaviour Management Systems), NVCI (Non-Violent Crisis Intervention), CPI (Crisis Prevention Institute) and UMAB (Understanding and Managing Aggressive Behaviour). EAs are expected to use these techniques in the midst of extremely stressful situations. But as EA Leanne Jolley puts it, “When you’ve been hit, you can’t think.”

Most of these programs use one person and two person holds to respond to a student whose behaviour has escalated to the point where an intervention by staff is needed. None of these holds, however, take into account a student who might be taller than one’s shoulder, or the potential lack of mobility that certain PPE would impose upon a worker. For those kinds of situations, staff would have to request training specific to their equipment and their student, in order to ensure an acceptable degree of workplace safety. Some staff complain about not receiving the required training in a timely manner, leaving them at higher risk for injury. This is especially true when a high-risk student registers partway during the year. Even with appropriate equipment and training, some violent incidents will require that back-up support staff be called from other areas of the school to assist, and this can result in dangerously inadequate response times to violent incidents.


Note: In British Columbia and Alberta, incidents of workplace violence are reported separately from workplace injury. In Ontario, they are not.

Comprehensive statistics on workplace injuries and hazards as a result of violent actions by students are difficult to find in Ontario.

What happens to all of the VIR forms filled out by support staff and teachers? Answers from the EAs I spoke with were varied. At least one reported that their administrator uses the d
ata to improve student safety by examining and reviewing it with staff. Most others report that the forms they complete seem to slip into some great abyss, never to be discussed with those who spend the time filling them out.

IMG_7247-olBiting, scratching, hair pulling, verbal threats and assaults, etc. are all grossly under-reported and rarely make it to a WSIB claim process. Other reasons for a lack of correct data collection would be “Worker Non-Claiming, Employer Under-Reporting, and Employer Induced Claim Suppression,” according to a brief issued by Institute for Work and Health. It seems clear that the available numbers don’t tell a whole truth.

“By The Numbers,” a statistical WSIB report, notes that working with food products or animals is potentially hazardous, but doesn’t address injuries thatIMG_7231-ol occur as a result of working with a violent student.

Officials in British Columbia (BC) seem to think that it is possible to identify working with violent students as a workplace hazard. The BC Worker’s Compensation Board put out a “Worksafe Bulletin” in 2013, listing 115 workers having lost time for having experienced violent incidents by students. That’s certainly not a comprehensive analysis, but it does lead one to wonder why Ontario is so far behind.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) doesn’t use the same National Occupation Classification (NOC) system that the WSIB does. This affects data outcomes. It begs the question, how do we protect workers we don’t even categorize in the same way?

If the publication produced by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety entitled, School Workers: Health and Safety is an indication of the federal government’s commitment to improving safety for education workers, that commitment is woefully inadequate. The publication doesn’t include all job classes or address all hazards, and fails to align itself with current policy on positive discipline or special needs policies.

A scan of the most current WSIB projects on workplace hazard issues revealed that none are addressing hazards in the education field. Topics for projects include, “Safe Work Limits While Wearing Firefighting Protective Equipment.” What about education support staff concerns?IMG_7203-ol

We know that educational support workers who work with our most challenging student population, students with special needs, are at risk of experiencing workplace violence on a daily basis. It’s entirely unacceptable—especially in light of all the paperwork that follows a violent incident—that there almost no useful data or analysis to help us address the issue.

What’s next?
After speaking with the EAs from District 18, it was clear to me that none of these women would remain in their jobs—and continue to face, on a daily basis, the ever-present risk of a violent incident—if they were not enormously dedicated and thoroughly committed to the success of the students with whom they work. It’s a level of risk that most of us would never consent to in any aspect of our lives. It’s long overdue for the Government of Ontario and the school boards of the province to acknowledge and take seriously the hazards faced by educational support staff in Ontario’s schools.

What are we going to do to support our union brothers and sisters? Continue the conversation and share with us at @EducationForum on Twitter or at

May 1st – International Workers’ Day


Every year workers around the world celebrate International Workers’ Day on May 1st. We recognize this day in solidarity with millions of workers around the world. We commemorate the struggle for an eight-hour workday and the historic struggles of workers who have gone before us.

In 1884, a law was passed in the US declaring that as of May 1, 1886, an eight-hour workday would be the full and legal workday for all US workers. The owners and employers refused to recognize this law and on May 1st workers across the country took to the streets in a general strike. Hundreds of thousands participated.

In what would later be called the Haymarket riots, police opened fire on striking workers in Chicago killing several workers and wounding untold numbers.  Workers across the nation mobilized against the government and its police brutality. From that day forward, workers around the world began to recognize May 1st as a day for workers to voice their just demands.

May 1st is a day to celebrate workers around the world who continue to struggle for genuine labour rights and economic justice. Workers are demanding the right to accessible, affordable healthcare, child care, education, to employment benefits and a pension, to safe working conditions and a living wage.

CUPE unites with our sister unions and partners in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Cuba, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. We support the right of workers around the world to collective bargaining and to resist exploitation. We support workers’ right to social and economic security. As the working class, we further assert our right in Canada to access a strong public sector, decent working conditions and democracy in our communities.

On May 1st, we recognize and continue to act in solidarity with workers around the world. The struggle for women’s rights, migrant rights, minority rights, the environment, a fair economy, and social and economic justice knows no borders.

Long Live International Solidarity!

(Copied from website)

How Education Unions Won a Charter Challenge for Collective Bargaining Rights

After a lengthy battle, education workers across the province have had their collective bargaining rights upheld in court.

Photo by Tanya Witzel from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Photo by Tanya Witzel from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

An Ontario Superior Court of Justice judge ruled last week that Bill 115, also known as the Putting Students First Act, violated the Charter rights of education workers across the province. The law has since been struck down.

Bill 115 imposed conditions on education workers and instituted timelines for reaching collective agreements, according to Ontario School Board Coordinating Committee chair Terri Preston. If a deadline was reached without an agreement, one could be imposed on the workers. The conditions workers were no longer able to bargain for included sick leave and other monetary benefits.

It was on the basis of these impositions that the court ruled in favour of the unions, and found that the provincial government had violated their Charter-granted freedom of association, which for unions includes the ability to bargain collectively.

“I think it does put governments on notice in terms of trying to interfere with unions’ collective bargaining rights in the future,” said Preston.

Since the court ruling last week struck down Bill 115, the unions involved in the Charter challenge will have to work with the provincial government to reach an acceptable remedy. If they fail to do so, the judge who ruled on the case may be involved.

The Ministry of Education did not respond to requests for comment but instead forwarded a statement, reading, in part: “Our top priority is the success and well-being of all of our students. At this time, we are reviewing the decision by Ontario Superior Court of Justice. We value the important work that teachers and education workers across the province do every day to support our students. It is important to note that we repealed the Putting Students First Act in its entirety.”

The statement went on to discuss the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, another piece of controversial legislation that affects how education workers bargain collectively. A report from the Toronto Star in August 2014, shortly after the SBCBA was passed into law, describes its effect as “enshrin[ing] the two-tiered system of bargaining in which big-ticket items are hammered out provincially between the teachers’ unions, school board associations, and the provincial government.”

Preston’s union went into talks with the provincial government voluntarily, which was the process at the time. She says the provincial government was involved in the 2012 round of bargaining in a way it hadn’t been in 2008, when the school boards (who are the actual employers of education workers) directed bargaining. While the provincial government was engaged in several different rounds of bargaining in 2012, the only group it chose to interfere with was education workers, Preston claims.

The ministry is reviewing the SBCBA as well, according to its statement.

CUPE heralds major court victory in Bill 115 charter challenge

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 

victory (1)


April 20, 2016 20:08 ET

CUPE heralds major court victory in Bill 115 charter challenge

TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – April 20, 2016) – CUPE’s 55, 000 education workers are lauding a significant Ontario Superior Court victory, after several unions challenged the constitutionality of Bill 115. The court challenge was filed in 2013 after Bill 115 stripped workers in the education sector of their rights to bargain collectively. The challenge was postponed in 2014 at the request of the province, and resumed in December, 2015.

“CUPE’s position has always been that Bill 115 violated our basic Charter rights,” said Terri Preston, chair of the union’s education sector coordinating committee. “We saw it as a threat to all Canadian workers, and we couldn’t let it pass unchallenged. The court validated our position that this Bill was a gross overreach that trampled basic freedom-of-association rights.”

“After this lawsuit was initially filed, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruled in the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour case that workers have a constitutional right to strike,” said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario. “CUPE was a lead union on that SCC case, and victory there gave us great confidence in our case here. We are thrilled the Superior Court has agreed that the government’s approach to collective bargaining was ‘fundamentally flawed’.”

Significantly, in his ruling Justice Lederer wrote that the impact of this flawed piece of legislation was “not just on the economic circumstances of education workers but on their associational rights and the dignity, autonomy and equality that comes with the exercise of that fundamental freedom.”

“This couldn’t send a clearer message to governments that they ought not interfere in free collective bargaining,” said Preston. “It’s a terrific ruling for education workers in Ontario and in building on the existing case law, for all Canadian workers.”

Justice Lederer made no ruling on remedy, obliging the parties to meet to try and reach agreement. If agreement is not reached on remedy, the matter will be referred back to him. “We will meet with the other unions with whom we engaged in this court challenge to discuss what we want to see by way of remedy,” said Hahn. “We will continue to work together to preserve basic collective bargaining rights. We call on the Liberal government to accept this ruling and put any thought of a costly appeal out of their minds. Now they must spend time, energy and resources on remedy, and on strengthening the public education system in Ontario.”

The parties to the challenge, alongside CUPE, were the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), and the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union (OPSEU). UNIFOR also had intervenor status.

CUPE represents 55, 000 education workers in Ontario, including custodians, administrative and clerical staff, educational assistants, instructors, tradespeople, early childhood educators, and many more, across all four school board systems (English and French, Catholic and public).


  • Andrea Addario
    CUPE Communications
    (416) 738-4329

    Craig Saunders
    CUPE Communications
    (416) 576-7316

‘Shame on you all!’; Families of children with autism brought their anger and heartbreak to Queen’s Park

Toronto Star 
Wed Apr 13 2016 
Byline: Andrea Gordon Toronto Star 

More than 200 parents arrived at Queen’s Park on Tuesday bringing anger and heartbreak as they protested against changes to autism services for children. 

In the legislature, families heckled and opposition leaders blasted Premier Kathleen Wynne for taking away the therapy many children have waited half their lives to get. A cabinet minister broke down in tears. And a distraught mother who stood up and yelled “liar” from the public gallery was ejected.

A new rule that kids 5 and over are no longer eligible for intensive treatment funded by the province “leaves a whole generation behind,” Kristen Ellison of Cobourg told a news conference watched by overflow crowds who came from all over Ontario. 

Her son Carter has waited three years for intensive behavioural treatment (IBI) and turns 5 in two weeks. Heather Bourdon of Ottawa wiped away tears and said the government is sending the message that children like her son Jacob, who also soon turns 5, is “a hopeless cause.” 

The new Ontario autism program was announced last month as part of plan to invest $333 million in autism services over the next five years. 

Wynne and Tracy MacCharles, minister of children and youth services, have defended the changes, arguing they will cut wait lists for IBI from an average of 29 months to six months by 2021 and ensure children get IBI at age 2 to 4, when it’s most beneficial, as recommended by their expert advisory panel. 

The decision means 2,200 children will be removed from wait lists over two years. Another 1,378 in treatment will be transitioned out – more than half now receiving IBI. 

Children taken off wait lists get $8,000 and next year can apply for less-intensive applied behaviour analysis therapy. The ministry has said school supports will be enhanced, but no details were given. 

On Tuesday, NDP children’s services critic Monique Taylor accused Wynne of creating “a lost generation of kids” and repeated a demand that those on wait lists be grandfathered. 

That idea was echoed by Irwin Elman, provincial advocate for children and youth, who also urged the ministry to postpone its plans. 

(c) 2016 Torstar Corporation


Take responsibility for your workers Ms. Sandals


by Paula Turner

According to news reports, education workers are milking the system. Again. Well, that’s what Liz Sandals, Minister of Education, would have you believe.

Before I go on, I need to muse for a moment about how it is that the Minister of Education hates education workers? Of course I want someone to advocate for students. Of course I want someone who is fiscally responsible in the position.

Where is the advocacy for the entire system? If you want what’s best for students, why would you denigrate the people who educate those students, who are front line and also want what’s best for students? Just something to ponder.

So, it’s been reported that teachers and education workers are taking more sick days. I have not seen the stats so I cannot say whether or not that is true. What I will say is this: the education system in Ontario is an accident (and sick day) waiting to happen.

When I began in the system 13 years ago, I was one on one with a student with severe physical and mental disabilities. The teacher in the class and I were able to manage his needs, even though I was half time and she had no support in the classroom for half the day. I had time to work with him, including providing physical therapy exercises and speech therapy exercises (both taught to me by specialist early in the school  year) and usually enough time to create activities that the teacher could give to him to work on in the afternoon when he had no additional support.

Fast forward 10-12 years and I was working with up to 6 students, spread throughout the school. It was a little like being a firefighter in a town with an arsonist on the loose – running from here to there and doing what I could in the 20-30 minutes at a time with each student. This meant that the teachers were left with additional students (on top of the classroom size that had already increased due to budget cuts) who had physical and/or intellectual disabilities. Any teacher can tell you that without students with identified differentiated learning needs in their classroom there are already 5 (or more) levels of ability within a classroom. When you add in a few unsupported students, for any amount of time in a day, you are now asking a teaching to differentiate their teaching even further. You have not added time to their day, you have not added resources to their complement of supports – you have taken that away while upping their class sizes.

Physical therapy? Speech therapy? I cannot remember the last time I had time to do any types of exercises with a student except perhaps for a few minutes while I had them on a change table – and if I did, due to budget cuts, there were fewer and fewer specialists to teach me exercises, explain the specifics of the disabilities – and often times I finally met the specialists in April or May – not September when it would have been helpful. Students need to trust you in order to do something that is hard or physically uncomfortable. You cannot gain that trust in 30 minutes chunks every other day or so.

The government brought in full day kindergarten which brought many wonderful students and educators into the schools. It also brought to light the number of students of a very young age who had learning issues. The over-burdened system of identification for disabilities and learning differences did not test children in kindergarten as a regular practice. There simply was not enough money or manpower to do this. And yet, children with needs – some with very high needs – were coming to school all day now. The additional educators in the classroom were not brought in to deal with special needs; they were there due to the higher numbers allowed within the kindergarten rooms. When a student has significant needs, whether physical, intellectual or behavioural, it does not help to have more educators in the room – there needs to be dedicated support for the students with differentiated needs in the classroom.

Throughout the system, educators are being squeezed from all sides. Educators have not lowered their own standards of what they expect of themselves. Educators want to deliver the best education to their students. The Ministry has increased curriculum demands on educators while pulling services. The influx of students with higher needs – including mental health care issues like anxiety, depression – is increasing.

Every educator I know has come to work sick because they did not want their students to have anything less than a successful and productive day. If you put in an absence and no one picks it up, you worry about your students. All day.

You never know MAYBE EDUCATORS REALLY ARE SICKER due to the underfunded system in which they work. If educators are taking more sick days, perhaps the Minister of Education should look at the reasons why. That’s what a responsible person who heads up a responsibly managed enterprise does when there is an increase in sick days. Keep an open mind, Ms. Sandals. Do not go searching for evidence to support your hypothesis.

Paula Turner | April 3, 2016 at 10:08 am | Tags: education | Categories: education | URL:

Pressure mounts on Ottawa to join wide ban on asbestos

Tavia Grant – The Globe and Mail

Published Sunday, Mar. 27, 2016 9:44PM EDT

Dozens of groups are pressing Ottawa to join more than 50 countries in banning asbestos, a move the Liberal Party supported while in opposition.

A letter sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this month notes that Canada still allows the use of asbestos and lacks a comprehensive strategy to phase out the substance or to promote safe substitutes.

Separately, the Canadian Cancer Society has also sent a letter to the government, a copy of which was given to The Globe and Mail, calling for a nationwide ban on all asbestos products, a rare step for the country’s largest national health charity.

“It’s time to send a clear message and establish clear policy to end asbestos, end any confusion about its dangers, any confusion about the toll it’s taken, and any debate there is about a mythical ‘safe’ exposure level, and most importantly, [end] the exposure of Canadian workers and families to this potentially deadly substance,” said Gabriel Miller, director of public issues at the Canadian Cancer Society.

In an e-mailed statement, Health Canada said it will carefully consider whether further controls of asbestos are necessary, in addition to the measures the government has in place to protect Canadians from exposure.

Adding to a sense of urgency is the federal government’s plans to boost spending on infrastructure. Those plans raise concerns that asbestos in pipes, cement or other building materials could wind up in new construction.

“Given the huge investment that the federal government is going to make around infrastructure, this is the time to say ‘we’re not going to repeat past mistakes,’ ” said Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, the county’s largest labour organization, which is also calling for a comprehensive ban on asbestos.

Backed by nurses’ associations, building trades councils, unions and some city councils, the letter to the Prime Minister makes 11 recommendations, among them: passing legislation that bans the use of asbestos; prohibiting the use of asbestos-containing materials in federal infrastructure projects; and ensuring safer disposal and creating a national registry of asbestos exposure locations and diseases. It also wants to see a broad public-health response to asbestos diseases.

The World Health Organization says all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and other types of cancers along with asbestosis. It says the most efficient way to eliminate these diseases is to stop the use of asbestos.

But Statistics Canada trade data show asbestos-related imports rose to a six-year high last year – $8.3-million in 2015 from $6-million a year earlier. About half of that was in brake pads and linings, while this country also imported raw asbestos, sheets and pipes, clothing and fabricated products. Exports have markedly declined, but Canada still exported $1.2-million to other countries in clothing, building materials and fabricated products.

Asbestos is the top on-the-job killer in Canada. New cases of mesothelioma – a cancer caused almost exclusively by asbestos exposure – have more than doubled in the past two decades. Each year, more than 2,000 people are diagnosed with asbestos cancers and other diseases, according to Cancer Care Ontario. About 150,000 Canadian workers are exposed to asbestos in their workplaces, Carex Canada estimates, among them construction workers and contractors, mechanics, shipbuilders and engineers.

Canada was once one of the world’s top producers of asbestos, and shut its last mine in 2011. The federal government in the past had defended the industry and maintained a position of “safe and controlled use,” a stand that was harshly criticized by doctors, scientists, advocates and those who have been affected by asbestos-related diseases. Countries including Australia, Germany and Britain have banned the mineral.

In an interview a year ago, Liberal MP Geoff Regan – now Speaker of the House – told The Globe and Mail he speaks for the party in favouring a ban of all asbestos use in Canada.

That’s what Renée Guay is hoping to see soon. She watched her father pass away in “unbearable” pain in 2011 from mesothelioma at age 59. He was exposed at a manufacturing plant in St. Catharines, Ont., where he worked as an engineer. Her uncle, who worked in the same facility, was diagnosed with asbestosis last year.

“It’s discouraging … and it just goes back to that Canada doesn’t have a plan, and how is this okay? We’ve known this is an issue for years, and no one’s doing anything. It doesn’t make any sense.”

The number of new mesothelioma cases rose to a record 580 in 2013, according to Statscan. Mesothelioma has a long latency period, of 10 to 50 years, and researchers expect new cases will continue to climb.

“There is no sign that we have reached the peak,” said Paul Demers, director at the Occupational Cancer Research Centre, who estimates that about 80 per cent of these cancers stemmed from workplace exposure to asbestos, and almost all of the rest “due to exposure at home from the clothes of a family member who worked with asbestos” or through other forms of environmental exposure.

His team’s analysis, based on studies of exposed workers, pegs the number of lung cancers attributable to occupational asbestos exposure at about 2,000 in 2013.

“This government stated clearly when they got elected, they’re going to be relying on science-based decisions, and there’s no question that the WHO and even now Health Canada have come to realize that asbestos is a carcinogen,” said Mr. Yussuff, himself exposed to asbestos dust when he worked at a General Motors truck plant, and wonders about the impact that has had on his health. Given the body of evidence. “I hope the government will do the right thing, because knowing that fact, why would you allow this substance to be imported, and why would you allow Canadians to be exposed to it?”

Asbestos was the most common source in workplace death claims in 2014, cited in 388 cases, most-recent data from the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada show. In that year, mesothelioma was the No. 1 cause of death in accepted fatality claims.

“When you look at the No. 1 [occupational] disease that people are going to die from, asbestos is right up there,” said Dr. Andréane Chénier, national health and safety specialist with the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Hundreds of people are dying from asbestos-related diseases every year, “and you know this is going to be a very slow, very painful death. It’s heart wrenching to watch, and there’s no cure. But it’s preventable – we know this stuff is bad.”

“There is no safe use. People keep saying oh no, there are safe ways to use it – no there aren’t. There aren’t because it’s not fibres you can see, it’s the fibres you can’t see.”

In Ottawa, Michaela Keyserlingk says she’s tired of waiting. “I’m deeply disappointed” no action has been taken, said Ms. Keyserlingk, whose husband of 47 years died in 2009 of mesothelioma, after exposure as a cadet in the Canadian navy. “We lived this perfect life. And then suddenly, my husband who ran marathons and played tennis couldn’t get enough air … he survived [with mesothelioma] for the next 2 1/2 years. This cancer and lack of oxygen, he had real anxiety attacks … he was skin and bones. I terribly miss not being able to talk to him.”

“I had thought when the Liberals were elected I could now relax and think everything would be in good hands. And I’m not convinced any longer that this is the case.”

Asbestod deaths



Queenstown manager quits, leaves ‘ailing city’

Duane Moleni will leave the Sault on April 6. His announcement last night on social media leaves community leaders with a lot to think about.


“This city has not proven that it is serious about change. It is in the same spot it was when I arrived here in 2006,” says Duane Moleni, departing manager of the Queenstown BIA. File photo by David Helwig/SooToday.


After nursing the Downtown Association through its difficult rebirth as the Queenstown Business Improvement Area, Duane Moleni has resigned and is moving next month to Red Deer, Alberta.

Moleni served notice on Tuesday that he’s accepted a position leading Red Deer’s Local Immigration Partnership.

“I leave on good terms with the board,” Moleni tells SooToday.

“I’m disappointed with my inability to convince the board of the direction that I thought the board needed to go.”

“I haven’t been able to affect the change that I was hoping to.”

It’s been one year since Moleni was hired as manager of what was then known as the Downtown Association.

The following month, the association was thrown into turmoil, as a dissident group of downtown property owners petitioned City Council to disband the association and abolish the annual levy they pay to support it.

Moleni spearheaded a successful counteroffensive, but the turmoil resulted in a major restructuring of the association, with a new identity (Queenstown BIA) and a new board of directors.

So Moleni spent the past year on a transition board that he says has still not articulated a comprehensive vision or plan.

Moleni hails from Paeroa, a 3,900-soul eyeblink of a place in New Zealand best known for things it used to have: a historic horse racing track, a gold refinery and a bottling plant for Lemon & Paeroa brand soda pop.

Since blowing that pop stand, Moleni trained as a physical education, health, drama, and dance teacher, then meandered from South Korea, to the Banff Centre for Performing Arts, to the Sault Community Career Centre and then to the Arts Council of Sault Ste. Marie and District, before joining the Downtown Association last April.

Posting yesterday on his personal Facebook page, Moleni left plenty of advice for our community leaders.

“This city has not proven that it is serious about change,” he said.

 “It is in the same spot it was when I arrived here in 2006. Until it is ready to ask the tough questions, and more importantly, ready to hear the harsh realities, and do the tough work that is required to change, this city will continue to lose out to other cities, other communities, because those communities not only provide opportunities, they deliver on what is promised.”

Moleni cited a number of what he says are signs pointing to an ailing city:

  • Declining enrolment in postsecondary institutions.
  • Difficulties at Essar Steel Algoma and Tenaris Algoma Tubes.
  • The United Way’s struggle to reach this year’s fundraising objective.
  • Lack of support for the arts and culture.

“The answer from our leaders is to continue to go back to the same well of ideas from the same group of people – EDC, Innovation Centre, municipal department,” Moleni said.

“Isn’t this the pure definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Why aren’t we tapping and supporting and developing those who are creating change, driving change, that operate so different and achieve such great successes – people like Robin Sutherland, Rihkee Strap, Katie Elliott, Shane Seith Erickson, Nicole Dyble, Sam Decter, Vinay Yarlagadda, Candace Day Neveau, Dave Mornix, Hariram Mukundan, Miranda Bouchard, Jessica Bolduc, Teddy Syrette – and the list goes on.”

Moleni said he’s been part of the problem at some times, part of the solution at other times.

He expressed particular sorrow at leaving Northern Ontario’s cricket scene.

“Sault Ste. Marie is a resilient city, and my hope is that is does come out the other side stronger and better, and more learned than before. I wish you well Sault Ste. Marie.”

The Actions of Our City Council Has Just Made a Bad Situation Worse


On Monday, March 21st, 2016, our city Councillors voted 9 to 4 in favour of getting out of the childcare business. With the current economic conditions in this city this could be the final nail in our coffin. We may want to start marketing our city as an ideal retirement community.

As we sat at the Council meeting listening to the completely unrealistic and naïve arguments that the children requiring daycare could be placed at existing daycares, and that the 32 Early Childhood Educators would find employment elsewhere, it was difficult to stay quiet and respect the process.

Yes, childcare is expensive, but it is an investment in our current economy, our future economy, and the well-being of our youngest citizens as they grow up to become contributing members of our community. The lack of affordable childcare means that many children from low socio-economic and/or single parent households are destined to relying on social assistance, sub-standard childcare, and living in poverty.

Unemployment, precarious employment, mental illness, addictions, substance abuse, and domestic violence are rampant in our city. All you have to do is spend a day in the primary classes of our city schools to see the impact that this is having on our children. I strongly believe that if we move the focus from childcare to early childhood education – which our city daycares provide – we would have a huge impact on the current living conditions of our most vulnerable citizens and ultimately the well-being of our entire community.

Quality, affordable, and accessible child care is crucial to vulnerable children and families. “Childcare nurtures and stimulates young children. It supports families in their parenting role. It can provide isolated families with a sense of community. When parents are under a lot of stress, childcare offers a much-needed break. Childcare providers can support parents by listening, offering parenting suggestions, making referrals to community resources, and connecting families to other families.”

“Childcare providers are often the first to identify early signs of difficulty in a child. If children need extra support because of developmental delays or disorders, health problems or emotional or behavioural issues, childcare staff can make referrals. They often connect families to speech and language pathologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and mental health services. Childcare staff experienced in including children with special needs know how to work in partnership with parents and therapists to create individual plans for children and then to carry them out.”

“Childcare offers children the security of stable, ongoing care and consistent routines in lives that may, at times, be chaotic. It provides children with caring and supportive adults they can trust. Children make friends with other children. They learn how to share, solve problems and get along. They learn how to accept differences in themselves and in others. The social lessons of respect, empathy and tolerance that happen at childcare can last a lifetime”.

“Like families, childcare programs also need support. When childcare programs have strong, well-trained staff, and when they are properly funded and connected in their communities, they fit naturally into a range of services that can work together to support the families who need them. But the reality is that childcare does not have enough public funding and support. It is a fragmented and fragile system. There is not enough high quality, affordable childcare for all the families who need it.”

Childcare should be a public service which is funded by our tax dollars through the provincial government; just as our schools are. But it’s not. As a result, the actions of our city council – getting out of the childcare business – has just made a bad situation worse.

Vicky Evans,

President, CUPE Local 4148

(Portions of this letter were taken from “First Responders” issue of Visions Journal, 2006, 3 (2), pp. 7, 8, by Ruth Bancroft,  Head Teacher at Langara Child Development Centre and on the board of the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC).

Federal Budget 2016: CUPE summary and response


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau government’s first budget is much like its infrastructure plan. It repairs some of the damage from Harper’s decade in power, but it doesn’t yet set a clear direction forward for the economy, particularly in terms of generating good jobs for working people.

Harper steadily shrank the federal government to the smallest it has been as a share of the economy since the mid-1940s. Trudeau’s first budget changes that direction and in fact changes the 35 year-long trend—since the early 1980s—of shrinking federal government.

The areas that receive the most support in this budget are:

  • Families with children, through the new Canada Child Benefit, which will provide increased benefits for families with incomes under $150,000.
  • Unemployed workers with the reversal of Harper’s cuts to EI plus an extension of benefits to workers in regions that have experienced a sharp increase in unemployment.
  • Infrastructure, particularly public transit, affordable housing, green retrofits, water, wastewater systems and at post-secondary institutions, but smaller amounts than promised in the election.
  • Indigenous peoples and First Nations, with substantial funding for education, community and water infrastructure.
  • Climate change, clean technology and the environment, including fisheries and oceans.
  • Youth, with increases to Canada Student Grants and a renewed Youth Employment Strategy, although less than was promised in the Liberal platform.
  • Post-secondary education with increased student grants, more flexible student loan repayment and increased funding for research.
  • Seniors, with increases to the Guaranteed Income Supplement and restoring the retirement age to 65 for Old Age Security and GIS. The minister says he’s committed to reach a deal with provinces on enhancing the CPP by the end of this year.
  • Veterans, with increased financial support and reopening Veteran’s services offices.

The budget also includes measures to crack down on tax evasion and tax avoidance: the government is committing an additional $800 million to this over the next five years and expecting to generate an extra $10 billion in revenue over five years as a result.

These are all positive measures that go a substantial way to undoing the damage and neglect from the Harper years. But we will need much more to rebuild a stronger diversified and sustainable economy, generate more good quality jobs, improved public services and a better standard of living for all Canadians. A lot of the important measures needed to achieve this have been left for following years.

Major priorities for CUPE are public investment to rebuild our economy with diversified sustainable growth and good jobs; decent pensions for all through an improved Canada Pension Plan; affordable public early childhood education and care; a new health care accord that delivers improved public health care; and greater tax fairness.

The budget is a good first step in rebuilding, but it is future budgets that will demonstrate if the Trudeau government is committed to real progressive positive change over the long term.


The deficit and debt

The federal deficit for this coming year is estimated at $29 billion for each of the next two years, $23 billion in 2018/19, $18 billion in 2019/20 and $14 billion in 2010/21. All these amounts include an effective contingency cushion of $6 billion. Much attention is being paid to the deficit because it’s well above the $10 billion they promised in the election campaign, and whether their fiscal plan is sustainable, but given the deterioration in the economy, running a higher deficit is the right thing to do.

The Liberal’s proposed deficit is a lot lower than Harper’s $50 billion deficit in 2009/10, representing just 1.5% of GDP and is less than what a lot of economists, including big bank economists, called for Ottawa to do. With borrowing rates at rock-bottom levels (and even negative at some points), now is the time for the federal government to borrow to invest in the economy. The interest cost of servicing the federal debt as a share of the economy is the lowest its been for over 50 years and just a quarter of what it was 25 years ago.

The important thing about the deficit and public finances isn’t how big they are, but what you do with them. Public spending on child care, infrastructure, health care and education result in strong economic and job growth, while corporate and high income tax cuts provide little boost to the economy. This means we can get significant economic and job growth by increasing increasing public spending in these areas while hiking taxes on corporations and high incomes by a similar amount, without any direct change in the deficit.

As the Alternative Federal Budget shows, we could have increased employment by 500,000, lifted more than one million Canadians out of poverty, reduced inequality and hiked economic growth if the federal government boosted investment in public services and introduced a fairer tax system.

Trudeau did little to meet his commitment to review tax expenditures and close regressive tax loopholes. We’ll be pushing them to do much more in future budgets. Progressive tax reform is key to increasing equality and ensuring that the improved public services they promised are fiscally sustainable.

Good jobs

With over 1.4 million Canadians unemployed and the jobless rate up to 7.3 percent, we need concerted action to create good jobs.

This budget included a number of measures that will create jobs, but they aren’t enough. Finance estimates that the additional measures in this budget will generate 43,000 jobs this year and 100,000 additional jobs in 2017/18, mainly as a result of increased infrastructure spending and higher transfers to people through the Canada Child Benefit and GIS. This won’t reduce the unemployment rate much. Unemployment increased by almost 100,000 over the past year.

CUPE and the Green Economy Network offered the federal government advice on how to create one million green jobs over ten years by increasing investments in public transit, renewable energy and energy efficiency retrofits.  Investments in health care, education and public infrastructure are also good at generating employment as well as improving public services—and if they’re public sector jobs, they tend to be good quality jobs as well. Investments in childcare and early learning don’t just provide an important public service that reduces inequality; they also generate by far the greatest number of jobs of any sector in the economy.

Missing from this budget is any mention of the Liberal’s election commitment to bring back the fair wage policy for federal government procurement. Nor is there any move to restore and increase minimum wages applying to federally regulated workers.

None of the measures in today’s budget will counteract the unemployment that will be created if the Liberal government presses ahead with corporate investment protection deals such as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Estimates are that the TPP will lead to an estimated 58,000 jobs lost in Canada and increase income inequality.

Children and families

A centrepieces of this budget is the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), which replaces the Harper government’s Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) and combines the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) and National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS) programs into one benefit.

The new CCB will be income-tested, phasing out for incomes above $65,000, but will also be tax free. Middle income families with two or more children and family incomes between $40,000 and $90,000 can expect to receive an additional $2,000 or more per year. According to their calculations, all families with household incomes below $150,000 will receive more under this new program than they would under the programs it replaced and will help lift an estimated 300,000 children out of poverty. The federal government has asked provinces and territories to ensure that social assistance isn’t reduced to offset the CCB, as some had done with previous federal child benefits.

The federal government has committed to work with provinces, territories and Indigenous peoples to develop a “National Early Learning and Childcare Framework” as a first step towards delivering affordable high quality flexible and fully inclusive childcare. The budget includes $500 million towards that, but only starting in 2017/18.  This includes $100 million for Indigenous child care and early learning on reserve.

CUPE and hundreds of thousands of families without safe affordable child care call for more action to establish a national high-quality public/ non-profit affordable childcare system. CUPE and other childcare advocates called for the federal government to provide funding in this budget to help Indigenous communities and provinces develop these systems and for these childcare programs to be public.

Public infrastructure

As promised, the budget provides an immediate funding increase for infrastructure. Phase one starts right away and focuses on repairs to existing infrastructure. Phase two, starting after two years, will be more focused on new construction, flowing funding in the remaining eight years of their ten year plan. Phase one, with an additional $11.9 billion allotted over five years, includes:

  • $3.4 billion over three years to upgrade and improve public transit systems across Canada. Amounts have been allotted on a provincial and territorial basis.
  • $5 billion over five years for investments in water wastewater and green infrastructure projects, including a $2 billion Clean Water and Wastewater Fund.
  • $3.4 billion over five years for social infrastructure, particularly affordable housing, but also including early learning and childcare, cultural and recreational infrastructure and health facilities on reserves.

These amounts are less than the Liberals promised in their election platform: a total of $6.5 billion instead over the first two years instead of the $10 billion promised.

The federal government will fund up to 50 percent of eligible costs for public transit infrastructure Fund and for the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund.

CUPE is glad to see the Liberal budget doesn’t specifically promote public private partnerships (P3s). Trudeau has committed to remove the P3 screen and officials from the Minister of Infrastructure’s office said they plan to remove the requirement that public transit projects be P3s. This budget also announces that they are transferring responsibility for PPP Canada Inc. to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.

However, much of the announced infrastructure funding (and any additional financing through the Canada Infrastructure Bank) will involve P3s or higher cost private finance. A number of the larger projects mentioned in the budget are P3s—although this is no longer a federal government requirement. The budget does talk about “innovative financing” and engaging pension funds and other innovative sources of funding, including “asset recycling” to increase the long-term affordability and sustainability of infrastructure for Phase two of their infrastructure plan. This is often code for privatization.

CUPE continues to urge the federal government to completely eliminate PPP Canada Inc. and redirect the $1.25 billion P3 Canada Fund to public infrastructure projects. Public infrastructure should be publicly financed and operated. Consistent with the new federal government’s commitment to openness and transparency, it should implement comprehensive P3 accountability and transparency legislation.

A significant amount of the additional infrastructure funding is for affordable housing, primarily for energy and water retrofits and renovations to existing social housing, doubling the current federal funding in the Affordable Housing Initiative, and increasing affordable housing for seniors. Also included is $90 million over two years for the construction and renovation of shelters and transition houses for victims of family violence.

This budget didn’t include some the other commitments the Liberals had made for affordable housing, including making the Home Buyers Plan more flexible and removing the GST  from capital investments in affordable rental housing. These may come in future budgets.

Pensions and retirement security

As announced, the budget restored the age of retirement to receive Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement to 65 years from 67. This is an important positive move that will benefit all those born in 1959 and after and is fiscally affordable, as the Parliamentary Budget Office has shown. This was a priority for CUPE and labour unions and we’re glad the new Liberal government delivered on this commitment

The Guaranteed Income Supplement top-up benefit increases by up to 10% for single seniors, which will provide up to $947 million for the lowest income seniors, starting in July 2016. This is better than the Liberals had promised is expected to benefit 900,000 single seniors. It also provides increased support for senior couples receiving GIS who must live apart for reasons beyond their control.

More important in reducing seniors’ poverty is increasing the level of benefits provided through the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). In this budget the Minister makes a commitment to work with provinces and territories to reach a collective decision to enhance the CPP before the end of this calendar year. We urge the federal government to demonstrate leadership in achieving a universal expansion of the CPP instead of deferring to piecemeal and provincial measures, such as the voluntary plan proposed by Ontario.

Employment Insurance

This budget delivers on most of the Liberal’s promises to improve Employment Insurance:

  • Ending the higher eligibility rate for EI that was required for new workers and those re-entering the workforce
  • Reversing Harper’s 2012 EI reforms that force unemployed workers to move away from their communities and take lower-paying jobs
  • Reducing the waiting period for benefits to one week from two

The surprise new measure is this budget’s commitment to extend EI benefits by five weeks up to a maximum of 50 weeks for all eligible EI claimants in the 12 economic regions that have experienced the sharpest and most severe increases in unemployment. The regions include Newfoundland/Labrador, Sudbury, Northern Ontario, Northern Manitoba, Northern Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Northern and Southern Alberta, Calgary, Northern BC, Whitehorse and Nunavut. This provision is for one year, starting in July 2016, and will be applied retroactively to all claims as of January 4, 2014. Long-tenured workers onEI in these regions will be eligible for an extra 20 weeks up to a maximum of 70 weeks.

This budget also extends the working while on claim pilot project until August 2018 and extends the maximum duration of EI worksharing agreements from 38 weeks to 76 weeks and also devotes more funding to improve access to EI.

The government is deferring their proposals to make Employment Insurance parental leave more flexible for family and work circumstances and to introduce a more flexible and accessible Employment Insurance Compassionate Care Benefit.

Training, skills and labour force development

The budget includes additional funding for skills and training but not as much as the Liberals had committed in their election platform. Included in this budget are:

  • $125 million in additional funding in 2016/17 to the Labour Market Development Agreements with provinces, less than the $500 million promised in their platform.
  • $50 million in additional funding for Canada Job Fund agreements, less than the $200 million pledged in their platform.
  • $85 million over five years for union-based apprenticeship training, with funding to flow in 2017/18, which is also less than what had been promised.
  • $15 million over two years for aboriginal skills and training, also less than what had been promised in their platform.

CUPE urged the federal government to restore and maintain core funding for literacy and essential skills programs and organizations across Canada, including the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES). Literacy and essential skills should be integrated in pre-apprenticeship and skills training and be core parts of a well-funded pan-Canadian training strategy and of the Poverty Reduction Strategy.

The only mention of funding for literacy in the budget is for literacy and numeracy training on reserves, with $100 million committed over five years.

First Nations and Indigenous peoples

The 2016 Federal Budget provides significant and extensive funding increases for First Nations and Indigenous peoples. This includes:

  • $2.6 billion over five years to improve primary and secondary education for First Nations Children
  • $1.1 billion for housing and social infrastructure in First Nations Communities
  • $729 million for water and water infrastructure on reserves and for waste management in First Nation communities
  • $635 million over five years for First Nations Child welfare
  • $40 million for the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

There is little funding for Inuit and Metis communities and people in this budget.

There’s no question the budget provides significant steps forward after the many years of Conservative neglect. But significantly more needs to be done to bring conditions in Indigenous communities and opportunities for Indigenous people up to the standards other Canadians enjoy. This is an issue of human rights, but it is also something that will benefit all Canadians.  In just purely monetary terms Canada’s economic output would be $36.5 billion higher and government balances $17.7 billion better in ten years if these education, labour market and social well-being gaps were eliminated, the Centre for the Study of Living Standards has estimated.

Environment and climate change

Federal Budget 2016 includes significant investments in clean technology, provides additional funding for freshwater research, protection of oceans and for national parks, and to restore credibility to the federal environmental assessment process. There are a number of retrofit and efficiency projects and programs in Phase one of the new federal infrastructure plan and in the programs for First Nations and Indigenous communities. The budget includes:

  • Many of the Liberal election commitments on clean technology innovation and development, amounting to $400 million over two years
  • Starting in 2017/18, $2 billion over two years for a low carbon economy fund to support provincial and territorial actions that will materially reduce GHGs
  • $197 million over two years to expand research on measures to reduce air pollution
  • Expansion of the national parks system and free access to Canada national parks in 2017 and free access for children thereafter

These are all positive steps, but there will need to be more significant action to meet the Paris commitments to slow climate change and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. In particular, all infrastructure investments should be consistent with plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and demonstrate how they’ll achieve this.

CUPE calls on the federal government to adopt the Green Energy Network’s proposal to make significant investments in public transit, public renewable energy and energy efficiency retrofits. This would reduce Canada’s annual GHG emissions by an estimated 25-35% while also creating one million green jobs over five years, which would certainly help many of those who have lost their jobs as a result of the decline in oil prices.

The new Liberal government made a commitment to put a price on carbon, in collaboration with provinces and territories, but there’s no mention of carbon pricing in this budget. CUPE supports putting a price on carbon, but it must be done in a progressive way that penalizes corporate polluters rather than low-income and working Canadians. Revenues raised from carbon pricing should be used to invest in complementary green investments, job retraining, create green jobs, and to mitigate negative impacts of climate change and carbon pricing measures on vulnerable Canadians.  There’s more to be done on the Liberals’ election commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

Health Care

There’s very little in this budget for health care, just a continued commitment to negotiate a multi-year health accord and to continue discussions with provinces on the affordability of prescription drugs and improving access to home care and mental health services.

In terms of actual spending the budget only includes small amounts for programs such as the Canada Health Infoway, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, expanding Nutrition North Canada and enhancing food safety. It all amounts to less than $300 million over three years.

None of the major health care initiatives announced earlier by the government received funding allocation in this budget. The $3 billion for home care outlined in the Liberal Party election platform, for example, was not announced in this year’s budget. Funding for a new health accord with the provincial and territorial governments is also absent as the Minister of Health continues to hold discussions with the provinces.

CUPE and public health advocates will continue to push for much more significant commitments to improving public health care in future budgets.

Post-Secondary Education

Post-secondary students received additional support in this budget as the Liberals promised in the election, including:

  • An increase in the Canada Student Grant by 50 percent to $3,000 per year for low income students, $1,200 for students from middle income families and to $1,800 for part-time students
  • Increase in the loan repayment threshold so no student has to repay Canada Student Loan until they earn at least $25,000 per year
  • A flat rate student contribution to assess eligibility for Canada Student Loans

There is also additional funding for Canada research granting councils.

There is additional funding ($2 billion over three years) for strategic infrastructure investments at post-secondary institutions, too much of which will support commercialization and privatization.  This funding is targeted at modernizing research and commercialization facilities on campuses, industry relevant training facilities at colleges, and projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve environmental sustainability


The budget includes specific commitments for youth, but some fall short of what the Liberals promised in their election. They include:

  • $165 million for a Youth Employment Strategy in 2016/17, less than the $300 million promised
  • $25 million per year in Youth Service program, as promised
  • $73 million over four years to increase youth co-op placements, less than the $40 million promised per year

Other areas

There’s only a small amount devoted specifically for women, an extra $23 million over five years to increase capacity at Status of Women Canada including to support local organizations working on women’s issues and gender equality. There are significant increases in funding for federal culture and heritage institutions, including additional funding as promised for the CBC/Radio Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts, and national museums. The budget includes $256 million over two years forinternational development assistance. This is positive, but is less than a 3% increase. It includes $240 million over two years to help settle Syrian refugees and a significant increase in financial support for veterans. Funding is restored for the Court Challenges Program, an important program cut by Harper that helps individuals and groups fight for equality rights.

Fair Taxes

The major initiative in this budget on fair taxes is a commitment to crack down on tax evasion and tax avoidance. The government is providing an additional $800 million to the Canada Revenue Agency over the next five years and expects to generate an extra $10 billion in revenue over five years as a result.

Surprises include:

  • Eliminating the Children’s Fitness and Arts Tax Credits. They’ll be reduced by half for 2016 and then eliminated for the 2017 tax year.
  • Deferring further reductions to the Small Business Income Tax Rate, which will remain at 10.5% instead of being reduced to 9% as the Liberals had promised.

Tax measures that are included in this budget that had been promised by the Liberals include:

  • Providing a new tax credit for teachers and early childhood educators of 15% for amounts they pay of up to $1000 for their purchase of educational supplies.
  • An increase of the northern residents’ tax credit to $22 from $15 per day.
  • Eliminating the education tax credit and the textbook tax credit

The budget includes some measures to crack down on abuse of the small business tax rate, but the Liberals have backed off on making any changes to the stock option deduction, which is one of the most egregious tax loopholes available and widely used by CEOs to reduce their taxes. There’s also little in the way of reducing subsidies for fossil fuels.

We’ll need much more progressive tax reform, including closing regressive loopholes, in order to fund the more significant commitments that the Liberals have promised and Canadians expect in future budgets. These will also need to set a clear progressive direction forward for the economy, particularly in terms of improving public services and generating good jobs for working people.