RE: Time to ban public sector labour unions, Brant News letter to the editor, Sept. 20, 2012
I find it necessary to respond to the Letter to the Editor in the Viewpoint section of Brant News on Thursday Sept. 20th, 2012.
I would like to start by asserting that I share the concern of Mr. Neilson’s organization. I would like to see fair pensions for all Canadians.
However, I fail to see how banning public sector unions will in any way achieve that goal.
The economic security of our province is neither controlled nor threatened by public sector unions. In Ontario, we continue to spend the least per capita on our public service in all of Canada.
How is it that all provinces have public sector unions and yet not all provinces are facing the economic problems that Ontario is facing?
In Ontario, our government has steadily lowered the corporate tax rate over the last nine years as a means to achieve investment in Ontario and to create jobs for Ontarians.
This tactic is failing at least partially because the lowered corporate tax rates are not tied to investment in Ontario, nor are they tied to job creation for Ontarians.
It is an interesting fact that Ontario’s debt is equal to the loss of corporate taxes over the last decade. Public sector unions did not create the fiscal problems being faced in Ontario. The issue is much more complex than the cost of public sector compensation packages. The solution needs to be more widespread as well.
Unions do wield a certain amount of political influence. But to accredit only public sector unions with the election of, and then subsequent removal of politicians at both the municipal and provincial levels is an overestimation of their influence at the ballot box.
I would suggest that during election periods unions have the communication channels to ensure that the public becomes aware of a wider range of solutions to the problems being faced by people in our province.
The issues and the solutions are not necessarily what the ruling political party would like to frame them to be. I am certain that rather than harm coming to our province because of our unions, at times, damage has been prevented.
I know that the securities provided to all workers in the Employment Standards Act are a result of the collective action of unionized workers. To name just a few, these securities include provisions to ensure there is a limit to the number of work hours in a week, to ensure breaks are provided, there is payment for overtime, safety precautions are in place and equipment is in safe working order.
Mr. Neilson suggested that, “Provincial governments have the ability to ban public sector unions with the support of Section 33.1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Most people do not have the charter memorized so I will point out that Section 33 is commonly known as the notwithstanding clause (or “la clause dérogatoire” in French), or as the override power. It allows Parliament or provincial legislatures to override certain portions of the charter.
It is a controversial provision. For our provincial government to use this section would be an extreme action. It has never been used in Ontario and has only been used on a few occasions in Canada’s history.
Banning public sector unions is not necessary and it would not achieve the goal of economic security for Ontarians.
Donna Howey, president
Grand Erie Elementary Teachers’ Federation