Delegates Lobby MPs on M-388 at 20th Canadian Legislative Conference
April 26, 2013 -- IAFF members attending the landmark 20th Canadian Legislative Conference April 21-24 in Ottawa lobbied their members of Parliament to recognize motion M-388 and to urge the federal government to act on the important fire fighter issues it addresses.
M-388, a private member’s motion introduced last year by Liberal MP Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Sask.), states that the federal government should establish a national Public Safety Officer Compensation (PSOC) benefit, give fire fighters priority access to vaccines and antivirals during an influenza pandemic and make fire fighter safety a core objective of the National Building Code, the IAFF’s top three federal legislative priorities in Canada.
The non-binding motion, which was adopted in the House of Commons in November, formed an important backdrop for the conference as it illustrates that a majority of MPs representing a majority of Canadians believe the federal government should act promptly on the IAFF’s key issues.
IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger inspired delegates during the conference’s opening ceremony with a speech that noted the challenges facing IAFF locals and all unions in the current political climate, but also the opportunities that exist when a focused lobby effort is brought to bear.
Goodale, the author of M-388, received a hero’s welcome during the Monday morning session and graciously accepted an IAFF Award of Recognition for introducing the motion and working to get it adopted. Goodale noted that while the motion’s passing was a terrific advance for the IAFF, now begins the hard work of getting the Canadian government to recognize the motion’s adoption and act on the IAFF’s legislative demands.
Conservative MP Patrick Brown (Barrie, ON) was recognized for helping to secure votes for the adoption of M-388 and for working behind the scenes on Parliament Hill to advance both the pandemic vaccine and Haz-Mat training issues. The federal government has indicated it is prepared to act on the pandemic issue, and in March, the federal government signed a one-year extension of the IAFF Haz-Mat & CBRNE Training Initiative, with the possibility of a further extension after that.
Former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty was also given special recognition at the conference by General President Schaitberger and by the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association for the many legislative advances fire fighters made during his almost 10 years in power, including pension reform and presumptive cancer and heart legislation.
Also speaking to delegates during the conference were New Democratic Party MP and Public Safety Critic Randall Garrison (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, BC), Green Party Leader MP Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands, BC), Conservative MP and Minister of State Maxime Bernier (Beauce, QC), Canadian Labour Congress Secretary-Treasurer Hassan Yussuff and Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs President Stephen Gamble, from Township of Langley, B.C.
Garrison and fellow NDP MP Peter Julian (Burnaby, New Westminster, BC) rose in the House of Commons April 22 and pressed the federal government on IAFF legislative issues, while May and Garrison pressed the government on IAFF issues again in Parliament April 23.
Keynote speaker Kevin Newman, host of CTV’s Question Period, delivered a thought-provoking look at the current state of federal politics while giving his own insights into the IAFF’s legislative issues.
More than 300 people attended the IAFF Parliamentary Reception, including more than 60 MPs and senators. The conference’s Wednesday session featured a special Labour Issues Forum where recent attacks against IAFF locals and growing attacks on unions in general at all levels in Canada were highlighted and discussed.
Speakers from the Canadian Labour Congress and the Broadbent Institute helped delegates understand the political context of attacks on workers and the middle class while outlining their strategies to work in the next two years toward the election of a union-friendly federal government.
The Broadbent Institute presentation, made by Director of Outreach and Development Josh Bizjak, exposed how right-wing and anti-union interests have used money to control the message and eventually gain political power over the past 17 years in Canada, and how it’s important for progressive, pro-worker and pro-middle class interests to work hard to overturn that tide, especially in advance of the next federal election in 2015.
Numerous tweets about the 20th Canadian Legislative Conference appear on twitter.com, searchable with the hashtag #iafflc20.
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