Coalition Top Priority for Union, Says CAW President

December 5, 2008, 1:14 PM EST

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CAW President Ken Lewenza blasted the Stephen Harper Conservatives for suspending Parliament without implementing an economic stimulus package for beleaguered workers and industries such as auto and forestry.

In his first address to CAW Council delegates as national president on December 5, Lewenza also slammed the federal government for its divisive political tactics, particularly for re-galvanizing the issue of separatism in Quebec.

Harper brought about a political crisis by issuing an economic statement that didn't help struggling industries and workers, attacked public sector workers and pay equity, as well as funding for political parties.

This economic statement was a "terrible signal" to the public. It demonstrated that Harper intended to govern like he had a majority forcing through his rigid right-wing ideological agenda even though he has a minority of seats, Lewenza said.

"He didn't take the economic concerns of Canadians seriously and embarrassed his country on November 27," said Lewenza.

The only good news was that it united the Liberals, NDP and Bloc to build a centre/left political coalition, a group of political parties that captured 62 per cent of the popular vote in the last election. That coalition achieved a partial victory by forcing the Harper Conservatives to now indicate they will listen to the other parties in Parliament.

He cautioned that Harper will now use the suspension of Parliament as a period to campaign and undermine the Liberal/NDP coalition. Lewenza urged delegates to keep pushing and providing support for the coalition over the next eight weeks until Parliament reconvenes.

The need for infrastructure projects such as improved roads, sewers, bridges and transit is critical. Also, increased access to Employment Insurance including the elimination of the waiting period must be on the agenda. In addition, the coalition and progressive supporters must ensure the federal government immediately develops a stimulus package for the hard hit manufacturing, auto and forestry sectors, Lewenza said.

Instead of the cutbacks that Harper constantly advocates, Lewenza said now is the time to stimulate and build our economy for the future. He cited the need for national Pharmacare and a national childcare program, for example.

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