Alistair MacGregor Special to the Citizen
The Labour Day holiday is a special time in Canada; it gives us time off to spend a long weekend with family and friends, maybe have a barbecue, and celebrate the unofficial end of summer and the beginning of the school year.
But we must not lose sight of what this day represents — the hard-won victories of generations of working people and the sacrifices made in the battles for more rights and better working conditions. In fact, workers celebrated Labour Day years before politicians declared it a formal statutory holiday.
Governments are often content to sit back on their laurels if there is no one nipping at their heels for better workplace legislation. It was the continuous pressuring of previous governments through mass mobilizations of people that brought about significant gains that we enjoy today. The fact that we have a Labour Day, and that it is a cherished long weekend, are but one small part of the many victories that working people brought about by pressuring their elected representatives.
Today, we can all thank the labour movement, made up of regular working people, for winning us an eight-hour work day and the concept of weekends.
We owe the right to safety at work, employment insurance, and maternity and parental benefits to the struggles of working people against a government who resisted change.
However, the struggle for a better life for working people does not ever end.
Today, for example, there are still people working in precarious jobs, with low pay that is barely enough to make ends meet.
These jobs also have very little or no access to benefits, pensions, and other social safety nets.
As a member of the progressive opposition, it is for these reasons that I wish to ally with working people to force this new government to adopt measures that will concretely deal with issues facing the middle and working class.
We refuse to live in a society where seniors have to choose between eating a meal and taking a prescription medicine. We refuse to live in a society where there is inadequate and expensive child care forcing people to make the tough choice of going to work or taking care of their children. We refuse to live in a society where we let big profits of corporations dictate what happens to our environment.
To paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton, we can see further because we are standing on the shoulders of giants. We can never forget the sacrifices that were made to give us the benefits so many of us enjoy today, and we must honour that memory by continuing the fight for fairness, not only for ourselves, but for future generations.
I hope everyone enjoys their Labour Day weekend. Let us all work together towards a more equitable world.