Government Must Act to Ensure Economic Recovery, NDP's Horwath Says

December 5, 2009, 1:50 PM EST

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Two decades of reckless cut backs by right wing federal and provincial governments have created the problems working people are increasingly threatened with today, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath told delegates.

Layoffs, cutbacks, plant closures, lack of pension support, fewer and fewer good full time jobs and at the same time the growth of precarious, part-time and temporary jobs are the result of ongoing right wing government policies to cut back funding and support for workers, she said. Market forces must not define our economy.  

Instead, Horwath said it is time for a change in the direction of government. "We need to accept that government has a key role to play in building the economy," Horwath said. "We need a government that is serious about economic recovery."

She said that massive corporate tax cuts instituted by government in Ontario and federally hasn't protected jobs in auto, the steel industry, pulp and paper mills and many other workplaces. In fact, even though Ontario's effective corporate tax rate is now lower than every U.S. state bordering Ontario, workers across the province are facing greater job insecurity, layoffs, downsizings, and stagnant wages.

Eight in 10 families say they are making less than they did a generation ago and further a majority of Canadians say they are only a paycheque or two away from poverty, Horwath said.

With more than one in three Canadian workers in precarious work arrangements, Horwath said government must take concrete steps to protect all workers. These protections should include an overhaul of Unemployment Insurance, the establishment of base workplace standards for all workers including those in precarious work arrangements, to stronger pension, benefit and severance protections.

She called for massive reform of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and improvements to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund in Ontario to help ensure workers can retire with dignity. 

"A pension is a not a build your pension every single day in the wages that you forego," Horwath said. She said pensions are the property of workers and should not be treated by government and employers as a cash pool for employers.

The overhaul of CPP is critical because three out of five families in Canada have no workplace based pension plan at all, she said.

CAW President Ken Lewenza thanked Horwath for repeatedly speaking out in support of improved pensions, severance and other issues important to CAW members.

He said Horwath is making a difference for working people. "She is a fresh voice in the legislature."

Lewenza said the CAW is committed to giving the NDP the space to raise issues and the positions of the party, but it is up to the membership to decide who they will vote for.

"Our members are smart enough to decide for themselves who's in their corner fighting for working class people," Lewenza said.

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