Political Resolution of the 40th Central Convention
Since our Convention three years ago, the international situation has seriously deteriorated. The COVID pandemic has resulted in millions of deaths and contributed to the widening of economic disparities. Climate change is already creating deadly impacts on every continent. Instead of global cooperation to tackle these urgent crises, the imperialist countries continue to increase military spending and war preparations. Time is running out for human survival – the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is now at just 100 seconds to midnight.
The International Situation: The War in Ukraine
US imperialism and its NATO allies have escalated the new Cold War against China and Russia. The hot war in Ukraine began with the Russian invasion, but only after 30 years of scheming, maneuvering, and provocation by the US and European Union – the two most powerful imperialist blocs.
The current crisis is wholly manufactured, with a massive build-up of US, Canadian and other NATO troops and weapons in the region, and a demand by Ukraine to immediately join NATO and the EU. While wavering on the issue of timing, the US, NATO and Canada have all indicated their support.
Despite the commitment given by US Secretary of State James Baker to Soviet President Gorbachev in 1990 that NATO would not expand beyond Germany’s borders, NATO has actively recruited fourteen countries, surrounding Russia in the years since. Russia has continually protested to the UN and the Security Council that this eastward expansion constituted a serious threat to its national security, but these concerns were ignored.
While the Russian invasion was in violation of the UN Charter, it was clearly provoked by the US and NATO. Tensions were inflamed by the 2014 Maidan coup d’état which led to the state-sponsored persecution of the Russian speaking minority, the banning of the Communist Party of Ukraine, and the torching of the trade union offices in Odessa and the killing of 48 people as they tried to escape. Many people fled eastward to the Donbas region where a majority of residents are Russian speaking.
This war was avoidable, if the 2014-15 Minsk Agreements, a political solution ratified by the UN, had been fully implemented by the Ukrainian government. Instead, Ukrainian forces shelled Russian-speaking civilians, who appealed to Russia for protection. For eight years, Russia refused to recognize the self-declared independence of the Donbas region. The attacks on this region combined with the plans of the Ukrainian military and the fascist Azov Battalion to launch a full-fledged invasion of the Donbas, were the spark that led to war.
The restoration of capitalism in the former socialist states surrounding Russia created the conditions for the installation of far-right and reactionary governments in Ukraine and elsewhere, actively supported by imperialism in its quest to control the wealth and resources of these countries, with their strategic location surrounding Russia. The subsequent impoverishment of these formerly socialist countries created ripe conditions for the growth of fascist movements, just as mass unemployment and austerity has created the same conditions in the capitalist countries of Europe, and in many other countries as well. Though socialism in Russia was extinguished 30 years ago, imperialism has nevertheless cast the war in Ukraine as a struggle between Russian communism and western democracy personified by the US and NATO countries like Canada. While nothing could be further from the truth, it is an insidious ideological attack aimed to disarm the forces for a political settlement and for peace. It also creates the conditions here at home for a renewed Cold War on the labour and progressive
movements, and on our Party.
There are other factors in this war. An important one is the Russian energy exports to Western Europe via the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that passes under the Baltic Sea to Germany, which was to begin this year. Currently Russian gas goes through Ukraine, which will lose its rich transit fees if the pipeline is not halted.
US imperialism wants these Russian exports to stop, so that US energy interests can sell more expensive liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe. Canadian monopoly capital also has an interest in selling LNG to Europe. German resistance to US energy interests is based on the lower price of energy produced in Russia, but it’s also about the rebirth of the German military through a new joint defence agreement with France. This struggle between the US and Germany over energy has been brewing for some time, with the war in Ukraine bringing matters to a head.
By pointing at Russia’s invasion, imperialism hopes to hide its own aggression and provocations, its responsibility for the deaths and destruction in Ukraine, and for the millions of refugees fleeing the country. The escalating campaign of unprecedented sanctions against Russia are a form of collective punishment of the Russian people but will also have impacts on the global economy. These sanctions will not end the war but expand it.
The campaign for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, pitched by President Zelenskyy in direct appeals to the Parliaments of NATO countries including Canada is a recipe for a direct international confrontation between the US/NATO and Russia, including nuclear weapons and the catastrophe of nuclear war.
What’s notable is the Canadian Parliament’s response to the war in Ukraine, as distinct from its silence regarding the ongoing Saudi war on Yemen which has cost 350,000 lives, or the destruction of Libya or the war on Yugoslavia, in both cases largely led by Canada. For years, Canadian military officials have been training and advising the Ukrainian armed forces, while politically the Canadian government is pushing for escalation.
Today, imperialist aggression threatens Europe, and the whole world with its unprecedented military capacity. The greatest danger to the world’s peoples is US imperialism and its military arm, NATO, which must be stopped before it’s too late.
While the people of Ukraine are the first victims of this latest war, the working people of Russia are also victims of the NATO-US-EU economic war, sanctions, and a global imperialist effort to destroy the Russian economy. Working class youth are dying in Ukraine, not the oligarchs and capitalists who now control Russia and its government, and who are ultimately responsible for the invasion of Ukraine.
As we prepare for our Convention, the Canadian government is actively involved in stoking the fires and escalating the growing danger of a wider war, perhaps including nuclear weapons.
We call for an immediate ceasefire, for repatriation of all foreign troops in Ukraine, for an end to arms exports and troop deployments to Ukraine, and for a comprehensive negotiated political settlement involving all parties. Additionally, we call for the dissolution of NATO, for Canada’s withdrawal from this aggressive imperialist pact, and for an end to Canada’s warmongering in Ukraine, which includes recruiting for the Ukrainian army in Canada – an illegal act under Canadian law and the UN Charter. Canada is waging an undeclared and illegal war on Russia and Ukraine, sending troops, arms, weapons, and money without the authority of Parliament and despite the UN’s covenants and international law.
Imperialism’s Reckless Drive to War
There are other contradictions and intrigues between US imperialism and its allies, including the AUKUS alliance with the UK and Australia which will build a nuclear-powered submarine base in Australia to patrol China’s coast. This is also part of the US encirclement of Russia and China, which it hopes will expand its dominant role in the imperialist world. Similarly, the QUAD agreement which includes the US, UK, India and Japan also involves a growing US military presence and muscle in the region which will make the Asia Pacific an arena of increasing military conflict. These alliances are a symptom of differences among the imperialist states within NATO as the US seeks to reimpose and extend its military might and dominance at the expense of the EU, and France and Germany in particular.
The role and actions of the US and NATO are wholly at odds with the United Nations, the Security Council and the UN Charter, and are increasingly at odds with member states in the Security Council and the General Assembly. US attacks on the UN are growing in number and intensity, suggesting that the US has little interest or use for this important international organization for peace and the prevention of nuclear war. This could seriously weaken the authority of the United Nations and international law.
At the same time, US imperialism is increasingly isolated internationally over its relations with Iran, where the Biden administration increased tensions by demanding further concessions before it would sign a new agreement to reduce Iran’s nuclear program and to remove deadly US sanctions affecting the civilian population. Now however, as a result of rising global energy prices and the war in Ukraine, the US is negotiating an agreement.
US imperialism is increasingly isolated in its support for Israel, the continuing expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.
US imperialism was blocked and defeated in its years long campaign to overthrow the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad although the US continued to illegally occupy Syrian territory in the northwest of the country. The US defeat was accomplished with the help of Russian troops, Syria’s ally against imperialist aggression.
It is increasingly isolated in its endless efforts to overthrow the socialist government of Cuba, and to ‘discipline’ countries around the world using economic weapons and coercion as well as military force.
The US decision to pull out of Afghanistan marks the end of its brutal and illegal invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in 2001, where the US and its allies waged an unremitting war including torture and murder on Afghan civilians for the next 20 years. Canada’s active participation in these illegal acts of war and war crimes is not an anomaly; it’s the complete integration of Canada into the US war machine. The current war frenzy over Ukraine is the new normal.
As the greatest military power in the world, US imperialism resorts to force because it can. But its place as the dominant force in the global economy is being contested by China and its extraordinary rates of GDP growth and global trade and influence, including during the pandemic and the global economic recession. As a result of capitalism’s development and crises, US imperialism has become increasingly threatening to the world’s peoples. US imperialism is the greatest danger to peace.
The United States’ imperialist military adventurism is a reflection of its maturing internal contradictions. These contradictions are tied to monopoly capital’s shift of investment in actual production from the United States’ domestic shores in an effort to maximize profits by exploiting low-wage labour abroad.
The de-industrialization and declining economic and political power of working people in core imperial economies like the United States has produced the declining social reproduction of the working class and sharpened contradictions. This produces conditions wherein capital has to alleviate these contradictions by export through imperialism and militarism.
The rise of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and its explosive economic growth has largely been connected with economic reforms and international investment. Unlike other rising powers in the past, the PRC does not engage in military adventurism. Its foreign policy and economic power often make them a more advantageous political and trade partner for less powerful countries, which threatens US hegemony. While a military clash between the United States and the PRC is not inevitable, continued domestic economic problems and a growing threat to its economic superiority may push the United States towards even more aggressive military action while it still holds the balance of global economic, political, and military power. The role of progressive forces here at home is to build the anti-war movement and push back against Sinophobia and racism in our communities.
For a Democratic, Anti-imperialist, Anti-monopoly Coalition
For decades the Communist Party has called for the building of a democratic, anti-imperialist, anti-monopoly coalition in Canada that could unite all the forces for peace, for climate justice, for fundamental social and economic change into a powerful political force. While the objective conditions for such a coalition have existed for a long time, the subjective conditions did not exist. Today, working people are endangered by a war that threatens to engulf the world in the same way as the pandemic and the capitalist economic crisis. Exposing imperialism as the source of militarism, war, climate catastrophe, and neo-liberal austerity, unemployment, racism and reaction is the key to building a democratic, anti-imperialist, anti-monopoly coalition in Canada.
Building a Powerful Anti-Imperialist Movement for Peace
The future of the world depends, in large measure, on the building of a powerful global movement against war, and for peace through collective security and disarmament.
During the worst days of the 1950s, and the 1980s, the peace forces were able to mobilize masses of people in every country. Millions of people marched against the US war on Iraq in 2003, despite the destruction of the socialist states in Europe which had powerful movements for peace and disarmament. Similar mobilizations into the streets are required today, building towards more structured and sustained mass movements.
This means building up the forces for peace, and the Canadian Peace Congress, its affiliates across the country, and the Mouvement Québécois pour la Paix, as the anti-imperialist core of the peace movement.
It means building up support for peace and disarmament in the labour and people’s movements. In years past, progressive trade unionists were active organizing and speaking out in their unions and Labour Councils against war and aggression, and for peace and converting military to civilian spending. This kind of activity by labour is needed more than ever today.
Opposing militarism and war also means a sharp ideological and political campaign to expose and undermine the war propaganda, including the vicious doctrines of ‘responsibility to protect’ and ‘the new Cold War’ which are the main justification for today’s imperialist wars and invasions.
History will show that these were crimes against humanity by the imperialist states, including Canada. But history also demands that Communists, socialists, democrats, people of goodwill everywhere must act against war and aggression now, when millions are dying, and humanity as a whole is threatened with nuclear annihilation.
The Communist Party calls on the federal government to:
• Withdraw from NATO and NORAD
• Repatriate all Canadian troops abroad
• Cut military spending by 75% and invest in civilian spending
• End military production, imports and exports
• Adopt an independent foreign policy of peace and disarmament
• End the militarization of the Arctic and space.
• Take over, under public ownership, all domestic arms production facilities and retool for peaceful purposes.
We have lived for more than two years with the global COVID-19 pandemic. Over 6 million people have died, and 483 million cases have been recorded world-wide, including more than 37,000 deaths and 3.4 million recorded cases in Canada. The actual figures are likely much higher. The WHO recently estimated that deaths in 2020-2021 were likely nearly 3 times the official counts, approximately 15 million. Due to restricted access to rapid antigen tests and PCR testing, positivity rates in Canada have been as high as 50% indicating that most cases are not captured by the official count.
Even early in the pandemic, while paying lip service to the idea that we were “all in this together,” it was emphasized that COVID-19 was more likely to be severe or lethal for the elderly and those with “comorbidities,” but mild for the young and healthy. As mask mandates and other public health protections have started to lift, children too young for the currently available vaccines, the immuno-compromised, and those with serious comorbidities have been left with essentially no protections against a virus that can still be life-threatening to them. The long-term health consequences of this virus are still not known, and the known risks including long COVID are largely ignored. Limited access to PCR testing means that those who do suffer long-term effects and disability may not qualify for necessary treatment and support due to a lack of a clear diagnosis. Current public health policy is guided by profit and politics rather than science; the “new normal” appears to be that repeated infection with the virus is inevitable for most, including for children and medically compromised people. It’s a dangerous gamble, a continued strain on the already fragile health system, and an abject failure of public health policy to protect the most vulnerable.
The number of deaths and infections could have been greatly reduced if corporate greed had not trumped science and people’s needs for vaccines, PPE, access to public hospitals and healthcare, contract-tracing, and lockdowns. Instead, pharmaceutical companies literally made a killing with vaccine patents that made access virtually impossible for poor countries, which lack the funds and healthcare systems that could have saved millions of lives. Instead, the wealthy countries grabbed up the vaccines, with Canada grabbing more than any other country per capita, some of which came from the COVAX supply.
It was the private for-profit system of long-term care homes that led to the deaths of 80% of COVID victims in Canada. Shocking revelations of the conditions in these understaffed homes for the aged and their exploited caregivers led to a public outcry for long-term care to be publicly owned and operated under Medicare with country-wide standards, for sick days and better pay and conditions for workers. It was the breadth of the forces advancing this demand and the depth of public anger that forced the Liberals to add this to their platform in the 2021 federal election, though there has been no action up to the present. On the contrary, provincial governments in Alberta and Ontario have increased funding to for-profit LTC chains, with instructions to expand.
The Communist Party has called for an end to patents on vaccines immediately, for wide distribution of free vaccines and formulas for vaccine production in countries around the world.
We have called for nationalization of the pharmaceutical industry, and expansion of universal Medicare to include pharmacare, long-term care, dental, vision and mental health care, for many decades. These were also recommendations of the Romanow Commission on Medicare 30 years ago. We have also called for 14 employer-paid sick days annually, for country-wide standards and adequate staffing to care for residents of long-term care, and significantly increased funding for hospitals and wages for healthcare workers. Privatization must be reversed, and the Canada Health Act universally enforced.
In the socialist countries, the rapid response of governments and public health agencies to act to contain the virus and maximize public health measures saved millions of lives. If similar action had been taken in the capitalist countries, millions more would have been saved, and COVID-19 might have been eradicated. Instead, mass confusion reigned as Big Business pressed governments not to act, and far-right conspiracy theorists attacked medical experts and medical science. This included political and government figures, most notably Donald Trump, costing 1 million Americans their lives.
The refusal of the capitalist countries to ensure global vaccine access is a virtual guarantee that COVID variants will continue to develop in the poor countries and wash over the wealthy capitalist countries, continuing to infect and kill people. This will guarantee a long life for COVID vaccines and pharmaceutical profits.
This will not be forgotten by the millions of people who lost family members to COVID and to the greed of the capitalist countries and Big Pharma.
The scourge of climate change, which emerged from the unbridled capitalist exploitation of nature, is wreaking havoc on the world and its peoples. The climate crisis is accelerating rapidly around the world, especially in the Global South. The scientific community has expressed that climatic and non-climatic events are creating cascading problems related to social reproduction. In the face of such crises, workers in the Global South face challenges in regularly accessing adequate food, shelter, and water. In mid-May, temperatures in New Delhi rose to 49 degrees Celsius, devastating wheat harvests, sparking fears of energy shortages, and causing humans and animals high up in the food chain to perish. The source of many of the climate problems can be located in Western imperialism.
Climate change is also having a severe and disproportionate impact on Indigenous communities around the world. Changing climates are contributing to the loss of liveable land. Rising temperatures and changing wind patterns are leading to losses in vegetation and traditional ways of hunting and farming. Water is increasingly difficult to access due to changing seasonal flows of water. Around the world, colonized and oppressed peoples, who have contributed the least to capitalist-driven climate change, are impacted the most.
Capitalist governments have facilitated the rampant exploitation that brought us to this crossroad. These are not governments that will rein in the exploiters and curb their profits or restore harmony to the relations between humanity and nature.
But since these are the governments that rule over large parts of the world today, they must be forced to take action. In the process, working people are gaining an understanding of the need to change governments, change policies, and even of the need to change the system.
Mass protests are growing after the clearly visible climate disasters that ravaged western Canada in the past year, as well as other parts of the world. Such public pressure can force the federal and provincial governments to do more and to do it quickly.
Indigenous protests against pipelines and LNG operations have been instrumental in exposing the collaboration between the energy industry and governments which want to expand resource extraction and exports and protect corporate profits. Toothless environmental laws, rulings supporting developments like the Site C dam, and continued government efforts to split Indigenous communities with promises of jobs and wealth from resource extractive industries, have caused some confusion and divisions, but they’ve also generated widespread anger and a determined opposition.
Canada’s current drive to war threatens the environment and Indigenous Peoples with more demands for oil and gas extraction and pipelines, and more military production and exports. It will also accelerate the government’s purchase of fighter jets and warships, and other materiel, at the expense of civilian spending on job creation, social housing, health and education and public services and social programs. The labour movement needs to speak out on these central issues, and demand that the government cut military spending, invest in jobs and a publicly owned renewable energy industry, and adopt a foreign policy of peace and disarmament.
Both the peace movement and the environmental movement will be most effective with the active support and participation of the trade union movement.
One key link between these movements is the military, which is the single largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions by government. A 75% reduction in military spending would substantially reduce Canada’s carbon and GHG emissions. As the country commits to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030, this would be a significant contribution. The funds saved should be invested in job creation, expanded public services and social programs, environmentally sustainable infrastructure, affordable social housing on reserves and in cities and towns across the country. Nationalizing energy and natural resources would facilitate a rapid transition to renewables, to shutting down the fossil fuel industry, and guaranteeing the jobs and wages of workers caught in the transition.
But the majority of people in Canada don’t know about this connection between the military and the production of carbon emissions and GHGs. It is being deliberately hidden by Canadian governments and the military industrial complex, which want no interference with profits.
But for the same reasons – and more – it is exactly what need to be exposed and opposed now.
This includes Canada’s involvement in NATO, which the Trudeau government has already agreed to bolster by increasing military spending by 2% of GDP annually and is now proposing to increase even more. These expenditures will be used to mount wars with youth as cannon fodder, to overthrow elected governments, and to kill untold numbers of civilians and combatants.
The Communist Party calls for:
• Cut military spending by 75% and slash carbon emissions by government
• Cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2050 Close the tar sands and cancel pipelines carrying fossil fuels, including the liquid natural gas line from Dawson Creek to Kitimat in BC
• Nationalize energy and natural resources, under public ownership and democratic control
• Transition to renewables now; and guarantee the jobs and wages of oil and gas workers in transition
• Build electric cars and free public transit; build publicly owned inter-urban rapid transit; retool car plants to build trains and other sustainable transportation.
Canadian Independence and Sovereignty
Canada is an imperialist power, a member of NATO, and closely aligned to US imperialism and its global cohorts. This is the result of more than 100 years of US capital penetration into Canada and increasing penetration of Canadian capital into the US. This interpenetration of capital is both the catalyst for and result of “free trade” deals that were more akin to a continental corporate constitution. Canada has an advanced capitalist economy that is severely distorted by widespread US investment and control. Over 75% of Canada’s trade is with the US, and as a result, Canada continues to be a supplier of raw materials and parts to the US, and a market for finished goods made in the US. Free trade has resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs in manufacturing and secondary industry, as these industries were packed up and exported to low wage areas such as Mexico and the southern US states, and offshore to low-waged countries in Asia.
The USMCA (or CUSMA) trade deal precludes Canada from making trade deals with socialist countries without prior notifications and approvals by the US. That is the measure of US influence on the Canadian economy, and on government. It’s also a measure of the increasingly supranational character of transnational corporations which regard national governments as obstacles to their free movement around the globe.
A reported 67% of all assets in the Canadian economy were owned by multinational corporations in 2016, while 2/3 of all assets in Canada’s economy were owned by 1% of all companies. In the six years since, capital accumulation, its concentration and centralization, has continued to grow by leaps and bounds, along with the export of capital as the owners and managers of monopoly capital search for bigger profits and an increased rate of profit on investment.
Canada’s foreign policy is largely dictated from the US, through NATO, NORAD, and the continental trade agreements. Since the US-led war on Yugoslavia, Canada has been involved in almost every US/NATO war, playing a leading role in the war on Yugoslavia, Libya, Afghanistan, in the occupation of Iraq, Syria, and today in the war in Ukraine. Canada has conspired with the US in the overthrow of the Haitian government and kidnap of President Aristide, the attempts to overthrow the Venezuelan government, and the destabilization of the governments of Iran, China, Russia, and many more. The only difference appears to be on Cuba, and this is much less solid that it was under PM Lester Pearson 60 years ago.
This is why PM Justin Trudeau agreed to US-NATO demands that Canada increase military spending on NATO and NORAD. These aggressive military alliances have only one purpose – to provoke wars and regime change that will increase US imperialism’s global domination and control.
The fight for Canadian sovereignty and independence is, at its core, the fight to weaken US and Canadian imperialism and corporate power in Canada. It’s the fight to create the best conditions to advance the struggle for fundamental social and economic change, and for socialism in Canada. It’s the fight to strengthen democracy and weaken reaction, to secure labor, democratic, and equality rights, and to strengthen the unity and the fighting capacity of the working class and people’s movements.
Just how important this is can be seen in the current struggle against white supremacist and neo-fascist movements that are growing in Canada, with organization, personnel, weapons and financial support from the US. While such organizations have existed here for over a century, the “Freedom Convoy” and other movements have been greatly strengthened by their close connections to an armed and violent fascist movement in the US. The misnamed “Freedom Convoy” was a demonstration of this growing threat.
Further, US imperialism is weakened when Canada asserts an independent position, and that is important for the peoples of the world, not least the peoples of Cuba, the Caribbean and Latin America, and the working class of Canada and the US.
As capitalist crises sharpen internally, the US increasingly seeks to halt its waning
international dominance and imperialist influence by lashing out militarily and tearing up important treaties and agreements, including those that advance disarmament and ensure cooperation and negotiation (the Iran Nuclear Deal, for example). These actions only bring the world closer to calamity. An independent Canadian foreign policy should seek to maintain international agreements that are the basis of cooperation and ensure that conflicts are resolved through peaceful negotiation and international solidarity, including with the USA’s perceived enemies.
It’s also important for the oppressed nations within Canada, striving for recognition of their rights to national self-determination and sovereignty, up to and including secession. In the current North American context, secession would likely lead to a struggle for sovereignty and independence against US imperialism which would aim to dominate the smaller states north of the 49th parallel, economically and politically, and possibly militarily; just as it does now. However, US imperialism is much bigger than Canadian imperialism, and the contest would be more difficult for a small state facing the US behemoth.
While secession is a right, and always an option, the right to national self-determination is not only about staying or leaving an unequal union. It is also about changing the conditions of an oppressive and involuntary union, so that it is an equal, voluntary partnership that includes the right of each nation to leave at any time. The possibilities for creating an equal, voluntary partnership of nations within Canada are there, provided the struggle for national sovereignty and equality is led by their working classes, and linked to the struggle for fundamental social and economic change. That’s because the working class is the only class which has an interest in fundamental change; other classes are content to leave things as they are. The working class of the oppressed nations in Canada have an ally in the working class of the other nations, including the dominant English-speaking nation, in struggling for national equality, democracy and
fundamental change in Canada.
Whether such an alliance is built hinges on the partners and their interest in building it. For our part, such an alliance is crucial to unite the working class of all nations in Canada and to forge a path to socialism in which the working class has the strongest possible hand against both US and Canadian imperialism.
Solidarity with Cuba
US imperialist aggression has intensified on Cuba since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, with an economic and political blockade launched by President Kennedy in 1962. Decades of economic blockade, military operations, chemical and biological warfare, assassination attempts, and terrorism have brutalized the island, but the people of Cuba have endured because the working people have state power. Cuba has given their teachers, doctors, healthcare workers, medicines and vaccines to the world, not for profit, but to meet people’s needs. To the world’s capitalists, this is Cuba’s cardinal and unforgivable sin: socialist internationalism, socialist morality and socialist power.
Last summer’s attempted “social media coup”, backed by US intelligence agencies, collapsed because the Cuban people stuck with their government and their country, despite great hardships imposed by the criminal US blockade, and additional sanctions laid on by Trump and Biden.
For 61 years, our Party has campaigned in support of the bright light of socialism and freedom in the Americas, that is Cuba. Now, with Cuba once more under great external pressure, we must assign more cadres and give more urgent attention to Cuba solidarity. Our international solidarity is concrete, it is material, and it is unstoppable. Cuba si! Yanqui no!
Around the world, Communists, socialists, workers, democrats are fighting against imperialism and neo-colonialism, for national and social liberation, for sovereignty and independence, for peace, and for a peaceful transition to socialism.
We express our support and solidarity with the victims of war and the refugees forced to flee their homes, many forced to live semi-permanently in refugee camps on the edges of hostile countries. While the media focus on Europe, we recognize the unprecedented floods of refugees around the world, seeking safety from other imperialist wars, famines, pandemics, and climate crises, traveling perilous routes that many do not survive. Today we are in the midst of the largest refugee movement since World War II. We call for urgent action by the UN, the Canadian government, and governments around the world to end these wars, redirect these resources to address the calamities of climate change, pandemic, famine, and open their borders now.
We express our unity and solidarity with the peoples of the world: our comrades in the socialist states of Cuba, Vietnam, DPRK, Laos, and China; and those struggling for national and social liberation, for democracy and against reaction, including the Palestinian People, the Sudanese people, the peoples of Western Sahara, of Yemen, the Syrian people, the Iranian people, the peoples of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and the working people of the capitalist countries in Europe, Australia, the Americas, fighting reaction and fascism, for social progress and socialism.
We also express our continued support for the International Meetings of Communist and Workers’ Parties, which take place annually. We are proud to be part of an international movement whose aim is socialism and peace, and we look forward to more joint actions by the parties in the period ahead.
The current global economic crisis arrived in February 2020, at the same time as the COVID pandemic. While scientists and economists knew that another global pandemic and another global recession were on the way, neither group knew exactly when these crises would arrive, nor how devastating their impact would be. Workers and oppressed peoples in the global south were hit the hardest, since many of these countries lacked protective equipment, vaccines, or income supports for their citizens.
The economic crisis resulted in 225 million jobs lost in the first 10 months of 2020; including hours of work lost, the job losses add up 255 million. This is four times the number of jobs lost in the 2008-09 economic crisis.
The crisis was the deepest, the fastest, and the worst since the Great Depression. It also resulted in another ‘lost generation’ of youth excluded from the workforce or forced into low-paid part-time work or gig jobs, and huge numbers of working women pushed back into their homes.
Incomes fell dramatically as jobs and hours of work in Canada disappeared, resulting in 8.9 million people living on Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) between March and October of 2020. When CERB wound up in October 2021, 800,000 people were still unemployed, cut off and left to fend for themselves. While the benefits were a lifeline for many, they were too small to cover the costs of housing and food. As the crisis ate up people’s savings, ran up their credit cards and lines of credit, it also quickly added to the housing crisis as people were evicted from their homes.
At the same time, corporate profits and payouts to CEOs hit new records, assisted by the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) benefits paid to employers, the payments to retail landlords, and the bailouts and loans made to Big Businesses across the country. Under cover of the pandemic, corporations reorganized their operations, with smaller workforces and new technology, and part-time workers. Today, 25% of workers work from home, reducing overhead and increasing profits for their employers.
Rather than supporting the living needs of workers directly, the federal Liberals and NDP chose to provide support through programs like the CEWS, which ensured that dividend payments and share prices were maintained at high levels, and that workers remained in a dependent position to their employers.
The pandemic and the economic crisis have also been a catalyst for the expansion of the “gig economy.” This type of work relationship – based on short-term contracts that are often available through proprietary software platforms – affects virtually all industrial sectors and all job classes, from delivery workers to specialized engineering and design workers. In Canada, nearly 40 percent of businesses currently employ gig workers, and the proportion of workers involved has grown from 8 percent in 2016 to 13 percent in 2021.
While governments and economists crow about the economic recovery, in fact it is mainly a recovery for profits. Many workers have been forced to take part-time and precarious work as their previous jobs have disappeared, along with EI, CERB, savings and credit. In January 2022 unemployment rose to 6.5%, with the loss of 200,000 jobs that month. Also in January, an additional 620,000 people worked less than half of their usual hours, the highest number since March 2020. January also saw the rise of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and the pressure by employers to force sick workers to stay at work or to return to work after 5 days. An estimated 1 in 10 workers called in sick that month, nonetheless.
The official number of unemployed in Canada in January was 1.34 million. A more accurate picture is the participation rate, which stands at just 65% of eligible workers, or a 35% true unemployment rate. This is mass unemployment and under-employment, reflecting an economic crisis that is far from over. Meantime Big Business interests are demanding government action to reduce the deficit created by “lazy workers” and a “free-spending federal government.” Employers want workers to pay for the crisis with cuts to social spending and wage restraints and increased taxes and costs for services. This is supported by the Tories in Parliament, and there are signs that the Liberals may bring in budgets that cut spending and programs. Meanwhile enormous sums are being spent on the Canadian military and the war in Ukraine.
Beginning in early 2022 working people began to face a rapidly rising cost of living. Just prior to our convention, official inflation was nearly 7%, a 31-year high, with the costs of basic necessities rising much more quickly. Food prices were, in general, almost10 % higher than a year earlier with some items as much as 20% higher. Food Banks Canada reported that between March 2020 and March 2022, 7 million people in Canada reported going hungry at least once and that nearly 25 percent of people are eating less than they should because they cannot afford it.
The price of gasoline rose by an average of 25 percent in the first quarter of 2022 and home fuel by 30 percent. Housing costs – both purchases and rentals – increased by an average of 10 percent since 2021, with major centres experiencing much higher spikes. The bourgeois media describes these increases as the result of inflation arising from the pandemic-related global economic crisis and the war in Ukraine. The real source, however, is price gouging and profiteering by monopoly capital.
At the beginning of May, Loblaws (the country’s largest food retailer) announced that its Q1 2022 profit had soared by 40% to $437 million and dividends jumped by 10%. In the same period, giant oil corporation Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNRL) made record profits of $3.1 billion. Also in Q1 of 2022, Canada’s Big 6 banks reported combined four-month profits of over $16 billion. This represents a massive transfer of wealth from working people to the largest corporations in the country. Along with that accumulation of wealth is an increase in the power that monopoly capital holds over workers.
Faced with a similar situation following WW2, the labour movement campaigned hard during the 1940s and 50s for government action against price gouging (including through “shrinkflation”) and for price controls to be implemented on basic necessities like food, fuel and housing. Now again, workers need a labour movement that will lead the call for rent rollbacks and rent controls, price controls on fuel and food, and decisive action against price gouging by corporations.
What is clear from this is that capitalism is unable to overcome its built-in cyclical and structural crises, which will become more frequent and destructive as time goes on. It is also apparent that imperialism is willing to solve its cyclical problems of relative overproduction by means of war and militarism and fascism – a reaction which is felt most acutely by racialized peoples and the global south.
The Political Situation in Canada
The economic crisis and the pandemic have combined to create the conditions for a sharp attack on working people’s jobs, wages and living standards, and a massive accumulation of profits and personal wealth for the ultra-rich. Corporate profits grew by $103 billion in 2021; an astonishing 37% higher than in 2020, and the largest yearly increase since the 1980s. Most paid below the statutory minimum corporate tax, used offshore tax havens, and received CEWS payments from the government. The banks led by hauling in combined profits of $58 billion, a growth of 46% over 2020. This spike in profits contributed to a massive increase in personal wealth for the capitalist class: last year, just 15 of the top earning corporate executives received bonuses totalling nearly $2.9 billion.
In sharp contrast, 25% of Canadian households are insolvent at the end of the month.
The situation for working women, youth and racialized people is particularly acute, with joblessness and precarious work widespread. Women’s participation in the workforce fell to a 30-year low during the crisis, and their incomes and pensions declined accordingly.
A crisis of living conditions has gripped the country, resulting in widespread fears about the future and deep anger at the precarity of life for so many, in conditions of enormous wealth for so few.
MAID (medical assistance in dying) has been expanded to be available in more situations. However, there has been no correlated expansion of health care and social programs to ensure that suffering people can continue to live with dignity and security. Ominously, many people living in poverty, seeking care or housing, or unable to pay out of pocket for medicine or treatments are now presented with assisted death as an option if they are unable to pay for the requirements of life. This makes fighting for universal health care and affordable social housing an even more urgent priority.
The Communist Party calls for:
• Substantially raise disability assistance rates
• Universal access to sufficient mental healthcare and disability supports and services
• Legislation establishing a legally enforceable right to housing suitable for one’s accessibility needs
• Accelerating the full implementation of the Accessible Canada Act to 2025 rather than 2040
• At least 2 weeks of paid sick leave for all workers
• Effective, dynamic protective measures against COVID-19 and other highly
contagious diseases, as have been implemented by socialist countries
While the Liberals and Tories have cooperated to facilitate this massive transfer of wealth to the corporations, the NDP has done little to address the increasingly urgent needs of working people, content to wait for policy announcements from the Liberal Party and then nudging them slightly to the left without substantive change. Likewise, the right-wing social democratic leadership of the trade union movement embraced tripartism with its statement, co-sponsored by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, that “We’re All in This Together.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
This combination of widespread crisis and the failure of social democracy to act is fuelling the drive to the extreme right, as shown by the growth of the People’s Party of Canada. While the PPC did not elect a single member to Parliament, it was able to campaign in most seats across Canada, securing 850,000 votes in the 2021 election. It was also very visible in the February 2022 so-called “Freedom Convoy” which occupied Ottawa for three weeks with virtual impunity, and other large cities and border crossings across the country.
Tory provincial governments and the federal Tory caucus in Ottawa openly fraternized with and supported the convoy organizers – an amalgam of anti-vaxxers, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, anti-communists and others on the far-right.
The Conservative Party is divided between those representing Big Business interests on one hand, and on the other, social conservative forces on the far-right that compete with the People’s Party (which began as a Tory splinter group following Bernier’s failed leadership campaign in 2018) for leadership of a consolidated, well-funded, and electable far-right party in Canada.
This development parallels developments in the US Republican Party, and in far-right and conservative parties in Europe. It’s a reflection of global capitalism in deep economic and political crisis. The ruling class is aware of, and frightened by its shrinking social base, as working people become increasingly angry and alienated from capitalist governments. This is the fertile ground that the far-right and the People’s Party is ploughing.
The most reactionary sections of the ruling class are preparing for a possible shift from bourgeois democracy to authoritarian or fascist rule. In Canada, this would mean a new political alignment, which could include a merger of existing political parties along with far-right and fascist organizations, or the creation of a new party. The transformation of the Progressive Conservative Party into the Conservative Party is an example of how such a transition could occur.
Altogether, these forces represent the reactionary agenda and character of state monopoly capitalism, and as such are the main political enemy of the working class and working people today.
Significant sections of capital are behind these parties and movements, as evidenced by the $16 million raised in less than two weeks by the ‘Freedom Convoy’ leaders. These funds came from people with deep pockets, a large part of it raised outside Canada, including from police and military. It began as a pro-pipeline movement, backed by the oil industry and some of the many workers who lost their jobs when the price of oil fell. But despite its claims, this is not a working class movement. If it was, it would demand nationalization of the oil and gas industry, a just transition to renewables, and job and wage guarantees for workers in transition.
The ‘Freedom Convoy’ is a well-funded force representing and acting in the interests of the most reactionary, chauvinistic, violent sections of capital, supported by bankrupted petit bourgeois business owners, and by some of the excluded and long-term unemployed.
While they pose as a political movement of the exploited and oppressed working class, they are in fact, a weapon of the most dangerous sections of the ruling class. Their populist appeal is intent on diverting the justified anger of the exploited and oppressed working class away from capitalism, and onto organized labour, the Communist Party and the alternative of socialism.
What spurs this far-right movement is the deep economic crisis, mass unemployment and underemployment, rising prices, and falling living standards. In western Canada this is closely tied to the rise and fall of oil prices, which the far-right exploits to turn workers against governments and public institutions, just as the Yellow Vest movement attempted to do previously. It has connections to similar movements in the US, Europe and around the globe.
Broad mobilization of the labour and democratic movements to oppose these far-right movements, the Tories and the misnamed People’s Party are important, including organizing the unemployed and unorganized in a fight for jobs, rising wages and living standards.
At the same time, these conditions are spurring a growing critique of capitalism combined with a demand for fundamental social and economic change. This includes a growing interest in socialism, which includes scientific socialism and the Communist Party, as well as in left wing social democratic and reformist movements such as Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain. But social democracy has embraced capitalism, and imperialist war and reaction, around the world and in Canada. Having rejected socialism, there is no middle ground, no third way. This problem also faces left-wing social democrats, who are appalled at the positions taken by the social democratic parties, but which, like Syriza, end up taking the same positions when they are in government. Their inherent anti-communism and rejection of socialism drives them into the camp of imperialism. There is no third way, or as Lenin put it, there is no rung on the ladder of human development between capitalism and socialism.
While we welcome this growing interest, it is scientific socialism and Marxism-Leninism that will defeat capitalism and secure working-class political power in Canada, not social democracy. The NDP has abandoned socialism, leaving many of its socialist-minded members deeply distressed. While we work with many progressive social democrats in the labour and mass movements, we invite and encourage socialist-minded people to join the Communist Party, which has been Canada’s Party of Socialism for more than 100 years, rooted in the working class, and in scientific socialism and the class struggle.
The growth of our membership over the last two years is concerning for the ruling class in Canada, because of the potential that the Party has for further growth and influence going forward, in a time of great international political and economic upheaval, war, and political volatility at home.
This is also why the forces of war and reaction are steeped in anti-communism, which is aimed to disarm and disorient the working class, the progressive and peace forces, and facilitate the continuing plunder of workers’ wages and living standards, the world’s wealth, natural resources, and the global environment.
For all these reasons, our ideological work is extremely important, hand in glove with our political and organizing work among workers, the unemployed and precariously employed, youth, women, immigrants and racialized peoples. This is what Lenin called welding socialist ideology onto the working-class movement. It’s how we build class and political consciousness in the working-class movement, and it’s the decisive factor in the transition to socialism.
The Liberals have exhibited their willingness to use extreme measures to undermine democracy and attack wages and living standards. Throughout the pandemic the government has master-minded a massive transfer of funds from the public treasury to corporate coffers. They did this with a variety of “Canada Benefit” funds including CEWS, Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) direct subsidies to corporate landlords, and bailouts. The $5.9 billion to Air Canada was widely publicized, unlike the unknown billions demanded by the oil and gas transnationals. At the same time, they minimized payments to unemployed workers. The $500 /week CERB payments were reduced to $300 in mid-2021, then eliminated in October 2021, leaving 880,000 people with no jobs or income, forced to take the low-wage and minimum wage jobs that Business was clamoring for.
The Liberals have invoked the Emergencies Act, which suspended civil and democratic rights across Canada for the 10 days in February 2022 it was in effect. In fact, the Liberals waited for provincial governments to enact emergency powers, to minimize the political impact of the federal government’s invocation of what was previously known as the War Measures Act. While the government did not use – and did not need – the extraordinary powers it had at hand, it has shown a willingness to suspend civil rights and to use those powers to deal with mass civil disobedience. This could include future pipeline protests led by Indigenous People and environmental movements, impacting “critical infrastructure” specified in the Act, or anti-war protests, or strikes, or almost any mass gathering deemed threatening to corporate or government interests.
The Liberals have also moved in lock-step with US imperialism’s foreign and trade policies, detaining Chinese national Meng Wanzhou for extradition to the US at the request of Donald Trump; stewarding a motion through Parliament to condemn a fictitious Uyghur genocide in China; deploying additional troops, arms, and military equipment to NATO deployments in Latvia and Ukraine; employing a massive sanctions regime against Russia; expanding US investment in Canada and US political control over Canada’s trade relations; leading the Lima Group campaign to destabilize and bring down the democratically elected Maduro government in Venezuela; participating in the destabilization of Haiti, and in the continuing occupation of Iraq; participation in operations in Syria and Yemen, supporting Israeli genocide of the Palestinian people, to name just some of the Liberal government’s foreign policy atrocities. The Liberals are pursuing the same course in foreign affairs as the Harper Conservatives, shifting even further to the right.
The NDP’s lock-step support for almost every significant Liberal foreign policy and many domestic policies, is the reason why its electoral fortunes and public support remain in the minor leagues. The NDP has rejected socialism as a goal, denies the existence of classes and class struggle, and has opted instead to replace the Liberals as the “humanized (and classless) face” of capitalism in Canada – an impossible feat. In fact, it’s the face of Tony Blair’s New Labour in Britain that the NDP seeks to reproduce here. It’s the image of a labour friendly government delivering policies of war and austerity written by the ruling class. But unlike the UK, Canada’s Liberal Party already fills that role.
The Green Party has lost one of its three MPs, and its momentum across the country, with the crisis enveloping the Party throughout 2020-21. Its business orientation has lost it public support. Further, a recent Abacus poll found that 57% of Green Party backers “have a lot in common” with the convoy protesters in Ottawa and “how they see things.” This shocked many who had identified the Greens as a progressive force in politics. In fact, their policies are very mixed, and the main focus on the transition to renewables is on the development of new businesses, not on public ownership and democratic control. It’s too soon to tell if or how the Green Party will
recover. However, the environmental movement continues to be a strong and vibrant force in the political life of the country.
The Bloc Québecois has recovered from big losses suffered in the 2011 and 2015 elections and remains a strong voice for Quebec’s nationalist and Big Business interests in Parliament. The BQ has supported some progressive policies, most notably supporting Cuba, and Quebec’s right to national self-determination, up to and including secession.
For Communists, the most insidious element remains that the Bloc seeks to interfere in the Quebec labour movement and to isolate it from the labour movement in English-speaking Canada in order to bring it closer to the Quebec bourgeoisie. The BQ advocates narrow nationalism, not to advance the interests of the working class, but to advance the interests and the profits of the Quebec bourgeoisie.
The 2021 election produced another Liberal government, despite widespread public anger at its handling of the pandemic and at its decision to call an election in the middle of the pandemic. But it is a minority government, which provides opportunities for the labour and democratic movements to secure important gains and concessions, provided these movements organize to exert the necessary pressure. The lesson of the previous minority Parliament is that labour must take independent political action to advance its demands, and not leave it to the NDP to pursue or ignore. This is particularly important this year as the government reviews the Employment Insurance program.
Key issues include:
• expand EI to cover all the unemployed for the full duration of unemployment at 90% of previous earnings, and to make it non-contributory;
• stop the expansion of gig work and part-time and precarious work;
• reverse privatization of public services, including healthcare, education, transportation, transit
• enact a guaranteed annual livable income;
• increase pensions substantially;
• build affordable social and public housing stock;
• roll back prices and enact price controls on food, fuel and housing;
• enact a universal system of quality, public and free childcare that excludes for-profit providers;
• increase Medicare funding and expand services to include pharmacare, long-term care, dental and vision care, mental health care, and home care;
• enact Canada-wide employer-paid sick days legislation;
• abolish student debt and tuition;
• create well-paid, environmentally sustainable jobs in value-added manufacturing and
• implement the Calls to Action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls;
• implement UNDRIP to end the centuries long theft of Indigenous land.
The fight to win concessions from this minority government will help create the best conditions to push these demands to centre stage in the next federal election, likely in 2025. The recently announced Liberal-NDP pact will provide this minority government with stability for the next three years in exchange for implementation of some NDP policies including a denticare program that will cover youth under 12 and seniors for a total of 6.5 million people. Covering less than 20% of the population and only for cavities, it is not a universal social program. Further, the pharmacare promised by the Liberals in the election is simply a promise to introduce some kind of legislation before 2025. The Pact does nothing for students, and nothing substantive on the urgent issues of housing, EI reform, pensions, guaranteed annual livable income, climate change, healthcare, or Indigenous reconciliation. While many working people were hoping for some real relief, the fact is the pact excludes many important demands that cannot wait until 2025 to be implemented.
A militant struggle led by labour today can add pressure on the government and the NDP to deliver the positives in the pact, while also continuing to press for the policies not secured by this pact, and urgently needed, nonetheless. A militant struggle now will also create the best conditions to block the right and move politics to the left in the 2025 elections.
As the economic crisis lengthens, the demand for relief will grow. Organizing needs to be picked up by the labour and democratic movements, in anticipation of the competition for hearts and minds of working people that is already underway by far-right populist and fascist political movements and parties.
For our part, the Communist Party will continue to fight for a broad-based People’s Coalition with labour at the centre, based on a program for a people’s recovery.
And we will also promote our proposal or a democratic, anti-monopoly, anti-imperialist alliance that will curb corporate power and secure fundamental economic and social change, opening the door to socialism in Canada.
The war in Ukraine has set back the urgent action required to stop and reverse climate change, and to address the urgent needs of working people. It has also dampened the pressure for a united struggle against the employers, reactionary governments, and far-right political movements.
Canada’s war frenzy has taken all the oxygen out of the room, so to speak. The only discussion is about the war, and its subtext: that once again, we are all in this together, irrespective of class interests, or fact, or truth. As always, the drive to war is about the race between imperialist powers to re-divide the world in order to control markets and resources at the expense of rivals. The sharpening contradictions of capitalism have been exacerbated by the economic crisis. The war drive is also about diverting attention from the continuing global recession and the enormous public debt accumulated by governments in the last two years. Not least, it is about whipping the working class into line, using the age-old tools of nationalism, chauvinism, and jingoism.
The degree to which capitalism relies on militarism and war was illustrated by the response of Parliament to the March 15 speech by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy. All parties and politicians in the house – from the conservatives to the social democrats – gave Zelenskyy a sustained ovation following his appeal for Canada to participate in direct military intervention against Russia.
This new Cold War atmosphere underscores the importance of demands to deeply cut military spending, to stop the purchase of fighter jets and warships, to repatriate Canadian troops and weapons. These demands are labeled “anti-war” and “unpatriotic,” despite the reality that peace and negotiations would save lives of civilians and soldiers, stop the destruction of cities, farms, food and productive capacity, and prevent mass movements of refugees. Funds diverted from war preparations to civilian spending would create jobs, raise living standards, stop climate change, strengthen social programs and expand public services.
The idea that workers and bosses and governments are all “in this together” prevailed in the upper echelons of the trade union movement through the first two years of the pandemic. Corporations made enormous profits, while workers faced widespread job losses and wage cuts, retooled work environments that include kitchens and bedrooms, part-time and precarious work, and the gig economy. While the CLC practiced tripartism, workers struggled to get by any way they could. Almost fifty health care workers died.
Many got sick from COVID in workplaces like meat packing plants and Amazon warehouses. Workplaces which could and should have been closed during the worst of the pandemic kept operating to ensure corporate profits. Workers in retail, hospitality, food services and grocery stores, construction and public services, and migrant workers, also faced high levels of illness and unemployment. Many workers died or are still living with debilitating symptoms of long-COVID.
Governments lauded workers in hospitals and long-term care facilities, but they also capped wages in many provinces, while inflation eroded real wages and take-home pay. In Quebec, the government overrode healthcare agreements to force healthcare workers to do unsafe work they weren’t trained for. Appeals by healthcare workers and unions for more supplies, staff and funding for hospitals and healthcare went unaddressed even after 14,000 COVID deaths and 78,000 infections in long-term care homes were finally exposed in 2021. Both residents and workers were the victims of private-for-profit LTC, sparking widespread outrage and demands that government make it public.
While the federal government demurred, Ontario, Alberta and other provinces provided new funding to help accommodate even larger numbers of seniors in LTC warehouses. LTC is still largely owned and operated by for-profit chains like Revera and Chartwell. This will result in future crises affecting residents, workers and the public, if LTC is not put under public ownership with country-wide standards, as part of Medicare.
In 2020, using the pandemic as cover, the Alberta government proposed to contract out the jobs of 11,000 healthcare workers, members of AUPE, to private for-profit service providers. Thousands of AUPE members went out on strike in protest. The Kenny government disciplined 800 of them, then privatized laundry and food services in 2021. The same year Premier Kenney also launched an attack on Alberta universities, resulting in some of the highest tuition for students in Canada. Concordia University in Edmonton struck for 11 days in January 2022, the first strike ever in an Alberta post-secondary institution. In mid-February 2022, the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association went on strike after 600 days without a contract. In both cases, the issues were wages and workload.
Public sector unions in Manitoba and Ontario fought wage restraint legislation that limited increases to 1% per year, well below the cost of living. A Constitutional challenge by public sector unions in Manitoba was successful but was lost on appeal by the Tory provincial government.
In New Brunswick, years of poor contracts for healthcare and other public sector workers came to a head in 2021. As the pandemic receded and contracts came up for renewal, 22,000 CUPE members decided to make a fight for a substantial wage increase, and against a further attack on their pensions. Supported by the public and by the nurses’ union, which had turned down two tentative agreements and was working on a third, CUPE workers in ten local unions hit the bricks. Out for only a few days before being ordered back by a Tory government, they nevertheless won the strike. The biggest victory was the solidarity of the strikers and their supporters, buoyed in the knowledge that united they could stand and win against right wing governments and employers.
Unions in Newfoundland and Labrador are organizing against implementation of “The Big Reset”. The sweeping restructuring plan of the Premier’s Economic Recovery Team includes massive spending cuts and privatizations, and immediately threatens 9000 jobs – 4 percent of the jobs in the province, with 75 percent of these in healthcare.
University workers at Acadia in NS were also out for a month in February 2022 before settling for binding arbitration. The issues were substantially the same as in post-secondary institutions across the country.
In BC, the BCGEU is in negotiations on behalf of 32,000 workers in healthcare, post-secondary education, social services and public services, represented in 6 collective agreements. The NDP government is not expected to attack public services, health and education the way that its Tory counterparts have, but its wage offer is below the rate of inflation, which the union has turned down flat. Teachers’ wages in BC are also among the lowest in western Canada.
In Ontario, 16,000 teachers and staff at 24 provincial colleges, members of OPSEU, narrowly averted a strike in March, after months of working to rule. This would have been only the second strike in college history after a bitter 2017 strike.
In Quebec, 15,000 childcare workers, members of various unions, launched 2 strikes over a 10-day strike demanding better pay, mandatory overtime, and more resources for staff and special needs kids. The strikes succeeded due to the unity and militancy of these public sector workers and widespread public support which forced the Legault government to backtrack. In spring 2021, 73,000 teachers held brief work stoppages over stalled negotiations between employers and the CSQ. Last spring, healthcare workers, along with public sector workers, took to the streets, in work
stoppages pressing the Quebec government to negotiate contracts. Regrettably, no Common Front of unions came to fruition during this set of bargaining. With new bargaining in 2023, new efforts at building a Common Front of the public sector unions are being explored, and strongly advocated by the Party and the left in Quebec.
In Quebec’s private sector, big strikes took place in the meat packing plants in the summer of 2021. Big gains were won by the workers at Olymel and other plants.
Across Canada public sector strikes predominated during the last 3 years, with 53 strikes involving 254,249 workers and 476,150 person days not worked in 2021 alone. But there were also important strikes in the private sector.
The 2019-20 lock-out of 730 Unifor workers at Co-op Refinery in Regina lasted for six months, while the employer used scabs and police to try to break the union. Despite mass arrests and huge fines, the workers were successful in saving their defined benefit pensions and their union.
In 2020, 1400 angry Unifor workers struck Dominion Grocers in Newfoundland and Labrador for 12 weeks, after Dominion’s enormous profits and executive bonuses were made public, while the $2 / hour top-up for front line grocery store workers was eliminated. Dominion is owned by Loblaws.
In 2021, 950 Unifor workers at Rio Tinto in Kitimat, BC voted 100% to strike over efforts to undermine the pension plan, the previous collective agreement and the union. The BC government provided the company with an essential services order, allowing it to produce 25% of its usual aluminum output through the 2-month strike.
In March 2022, Canadian Pacific threatened to lock out 3,000 railroad workers, members of the Teamsters union, over wages, pensions, and benefits. On March 20 the union struck, and rail traffic in Canada came to a halt. The strike was just hours old when demands for back to work legislation filled news channels. The union opted for arbitration two days into the strike.
These strikes and lockouts reflect some important trends in Canada’s labour movement. After a long period of decline, union density is rising in Canada, reaching 32% in 2020, or almost 5 million workers. However, the increase is heavily weighted towards the public sector, which is now 77.2% unionized, while unionization in the private sector has further declined to 15.3%.
As the Co-op Refinery lockout showed, strike-breaking and union busting in the private sector is accelerating, along with the use of scabs, police, and legislation. In the public sector, wage restraint legislation and the designation of workers as “essential” by governments is now common.
Across Canada, Quebec is the only jurisdiction with anti-scab laws. However, two Hilton Hotels in Montreal and Quebec City brought in scabs to break the strike of hotel workers last fall, before being ordered by a labour tribunal to get rid of the strike-breakers. The SAQ, a public employer in Quebec also brought in scabs in preparation for a strike in November 2021. That same month, a toxic dump site in Sarnia, Ontario brought in scabs to defeat the strike of Unifor workers, using helicopters that raised toxic waste into the air for miles around. Expanding anti-scab legislation to cover all jurisdictions across the country, and to cover all workers including those working from home is a priority.
Health and safety are also a priority affecting healthcare workers and front-line workers endangered by COVID, but also injured workers and workers suffering from industrial diseases like those who worked at General Electric in Peterborough who are dying from a variety of cancers.
In all parts of Canada, the state is increasingly intervening on behalf of both public and corporate employers against unions and workers.
Canada ranked 3rd among OECD countries (behind France and Belgium) for strikes per thousand workers, during the years 2011-2016. This shows that in most of the advanced capitalist countries, the strike movement was relatively low during this period, and before it as well.
But the strike movement is picking up in Canada, and the reasons are obvious. Workers have been hammered over the last 30 years, and in a concentrated way in the last two years of the pandemic. Jobs, wages and living standards dropped sharply, while prices of food, fuel and housing rose precipitously, and corporate profits and the personal wealth of the richest people in Canada grew rapidly.
Working people, the unemployed, youth, women, Indigenous and racialized people, immigrants, seniors, farmers, fishers, intellectuals, gig workers, are all deeply angry. They want fundamental changes to improve their lives and those of their families, and to redistribute the enormous wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, into the hands of the many who are struggling as a result of the economic crisis, the pandemic and the power of the corporations and the rich.
Organizing is also picking up, with workers at Foodora leading the way. Supported by CUPW, workers voted 88.8% yes to unionize in 2020. Foodora responded to the successful organizing drive by pulling up stakes in Canada and retreating to the US. But Gig Workers’ United was born and the fight to recognize gig workers as employees and not independent contractors was on. Other gig workers are also being unionized, including Lyft, Uber and Uber Eats. All couriers in Canada displaced by Foodora’s “bankruptcy” won a $3.5 million settlement, providing further encouragement for future organizing.
Most of this activism comes from the base of the trade union movement, and from the unorganized, supported by progressive unions like CUPW. It reflects the determination of workers to protect their jobs, wages, pensions, benefits and working conditions, with the protection of strong and militant trade unions.
In sharp contrast is the approach of UFCW leadership, which negotiated a closed-door partnership agreement with delivery giant Uber, providing the union with minimal representation rights for 100,000 gig economy workers. Through the partnership, Uber provides UFCW with limited jurisdiction which the union hopes to use to secure thousands of dues-paying members. This top-down deal between the union and the company is reminiscent of the 2007 “Framework for Fairness” deal between the CAW leadership and auto parts giant Magna, which surrendered the right to strike and introduce two-tier wages. These deals have nothing in common with a union drive which is in the hands of the workers not their employers, and not any union or organization not of their choosing. Workers are not commodities whose representations rights can be bought and sold or traded. These deals undermine the labour movement, its unity and militancy, and should be illegal in Canada, and opposed by the entire labour movement.
This action by UFCW leaders illustrates the sharp difference between class collaboration and class struggle trade unionism. Class collaboration is reflected in bipartism and tripartism, where labour leaders seek cooperation and collaboration between labour, Big Business and governments. Labour leaders act as a pacifier of the working class, aiming to limit its activity to narrow collective bargaining, and to contract out its political interests to social democratic parties like the NDP, or even the Liberal Party.
Class struggle trade unionism, on the other hand, aims to mobilize workers and unions in independent labour political action, in support of policies and platforms that advance the interests of the working class at the bargaining table, in the community, and at the national and international level. Class struggle unions are membership run, with elected leaders receiving wages no higher than the highest paid worker in the bargaining unit. Unity, democracy and membership engagement are important features of class struggle unionism.
Communists in the labour movement fight for unity around class struggle policies and independent labour political action. They fight for a sovereign, independent and united trade union movement that is democratic and membership driven, and whose leadership is militant, activist, united, and accountable to the members. Communists fight for a single, united house of labour based on class struggle trade unionism in English speaking Canada, and an end to splits, divisions and raiding which can only aid the employers. We fight for close fraternal ties between the CLC and the national union centres in Quebec in common struggle for workers’ rights and interests. Communists fight for strong international labour unity and solidarity against transnational corporations and supra-national trade and financial bodies such as the WTO, the World Bank and agreements such as the USMCA (CUSMA).
This is the recipe for a united and fighting labour movement.
Today many workers are fighting their employers as well as right-wing social democratic and liberal labour leaders, who are more concerned with labour peace and dues income, than with labour unity and a mobilized, organized, and activist trade union movement. Workers and their unions are under sharp attack by powerful corporations and reactionary governments, as recent strike struggles have clearly demonstrated. These attacks will increase as corporations and governments dig in to break the trade union movement with right to work laws, back to work legislation, “essential services” designations, and other shackles on the right to strike and the right to organize and picket.
This highlights the urgency of building strong left caucuses within the trade union movement, in workplaces and on the shop floor, as well as in unions and Labour Councils. Left caucuses can advance class struggle policies and calls for mass action, winning the centre for these proposals, while isolating the right. They can also show leadership in the workplace against employers who ignore collective agreements or undermine workers’ rights. Building left caucuses is an important way to organize left-thinking workers together into a force that can provide leadership and organization in a workplace, a union, or any setting where workers are fighting employers. Left caucuses have a solid track record in the Canadian trade union movement, winning important gains for workers, and electing left-wing union leaders to office. Jean-Claude Parrot who broke the slate to become Executive Vice President of the CLC is the most high-ranking of these victories by the left.
In this context, it is our job as communists to rebuild our base in the trade union movement, especially in the workplaces, and among industrial workers who are at the point of production and are best positioned to hit capitalist profits where it hurts. In order to do so, we must prioritize engaging in an active dialogue with these workers to win them for a class and political outlook that will strengthen and sharpen the struggle against the employers in and out of the workplace. We work to build an independent, sovereign and united trade union movement that is independent from the bosses, has autonomy and independence from US ‘international’ unions, and is united on a class basis. We fight for left-centre unity that can isolate the right, and for mass independent labour political action that can bring workers into the streets in support of their economic and political rights and demands. We fight for strong, militant unions that are also democratic and membership driven.
The gig economy is the result of de-industrialization, sub-contracting, privatization of public services and high levels of permanent unemployment. Our goal is full employment policies, the expansion of public services and reversal of privatization, which would eliminate the gig economy.
Organizing gig workers and other unorganized workers, and the unemployed, is an important part of the fight to reach that goal. But the labour movement is not the only party with an interest in this. The past three years have seen a sharp rise in the political right in Canada, and its efforts to organize the unemployed and other marginalized groups into far-right movements whose purpose is to attack organized labour, women, minorities, immigrants, and progressive organizations and movements aligned with labour.
Organizing the Unemployed Unions in the 1930s and 1980s led to a strengthening of the labour movement, empowering the unemployed and precariously employed, with the support and solidarity of organized labour. We need to raise this as an important issue for the labour movement in the period ahead.
Women need the support of organized labour, and the trade union movement needs the active participation of women fighting for their rights to employment, to pay and employment equity, to universal quality public childcare, reproductive rights, affordable social housing and social programs, and more. In the absence of a pan-Canadian women’s coalition such as existed in NAC, the trade union movement plays a key role in supporting equality-seeking women’s organizations, and 2S/LGBTiQ movements.
Demands of the women’s movement are virtually identical to the demands of labour for women’s equality and advance today.
The student movement, which has such enormous potential, has been quiet in the years since the magnificent 2012 student strike in Quebec which mobilized the entire population of Quebec in solidarity, and brought down the Quebec government. The 10-year anniversary of the strike in March was marked by student demonstrations in Montreal and Quebec City, and in some smaller campuses, bringing out about 10,000 students with the demand for free, quality post-secondary education.
In the decade since 2012, the three main student federations which led the strike of almost 300 000 students in 2012, have either dissolved or lost influence among students. This is a result of the influence of anarchist forces on the one hand, opposed to united action and coordinated leadership in the student movement; and on the other hand, collaboration with the Marois government over linking tuition to the rate of inflation. As a result, the Union des étudiant-es du Québec, which is the largest student federation today, is dominated politically by centre-right forces which declined to endorse the March 2022 demonstrations that marked the 10th anniversary of the 2012 student strike. At the same time, significant number of campus unions are not affiliated to any federations, leaving students who are ready to fight without the tools and
organization they need.
The extent of the crisis in post-secondary education is apparent in the insolvency proceedings against Laurentian University in Sudbury. After years of underfunding led to a financial crisis, the Ontario government responded with “shock therapy” – massive cuts to programs and mass layoffs of teaching and support staff, with the consequent loss of hundreds of students. What happened at Laurentian is the bellwether for other universities that do not have funding from private and corporate interests.
The student movement has been battered by Liberal and Tory attacks over the last decade, and the Canadian Federation of Students has lost ground to the right-wing Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. The CFS leadership has abandoned student protests over the last six years, in favour of cap in hand annual lobbies of politicians. What’s needed is mass mobilizations of students, and the building of fighting student federations in English-speaking Canada and Quebec. University and college trade unions are fighting cuts and the privatization of post-secondary education, and student federations must do likewise to gain student support.
Across the country, youth are far from complacent. The massive climate strike protests of 2019 were mainly organized and attended by high school and university students. Similarly, the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, mainly organized by young Black activists and involving 10,000 Black youth and young supporters of the BLM movement, and the continuing demonstrations organized by Palestinian youth against Israeli apartheid.
Indigenous peoples and nations are in the forefront of the struggle for their national rights to sovereignty and self-determination, for ownership and control of their land, as expressed in the Land Back movement, for protection of the environment from development by resource monopolies and developers; for implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Calls to Action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Missing and Murdered Women and Girls Inquiry; and for an end to the racist and systemic underfunding of education, healthcare, social programs and public services. In these struggles, Indigenous peoples face organized opposition from governments and corporations, including seizures of Indigenous children from families, repeated police and military raids on their lands, and criminalization of Indigenous journalists.
Indigenous, Black and racialized peoples are in struggle for equality, and against racist policing and murders, for pay and employment equity, good jobs, and equitable access to education, healthcare, housing, recreation and services.
The demand to recognize Quebec’s right to national self-determination, up to and including secession, continues to grow even as the federal government and Parliament tighten the ties that bind Quebec in this unequal union. Likewise, the language rights of Francophone minorities in English-speaking Canada, and of the Acadians in New Brunswick have come under racist attacks, side by side with cuts to provincial government funding and services.
As the environmental crisis deepens, pressure for action on climate change could yield some concessions from the Liberal minority government. Divisions in the trade union movement over fossil fuels and pipelines have largely silenced labour’s voice and participation at this critical juncture. Public ownership and democratic control of energy and natural resources, and a transition to renewable energy that would include government guarantees of the jobs and wages of workers displaced in the transition, would enable labour to speak forcefully on this central issue.
Faced with escalating racism and xenophobia, new immigrants are struggling for a better life, with access to good jobs, healthcare, education, housing, and citizenship. Confined to areas with a lack of services and social programs, they are forced into low-paid jobs in unhealthy workplaces that sickened many and killed some with the spread of COVID. Many also experience police harassment and violence in the search for undocumented workers, and a near-chattel relationship with employers under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. But new immigrant communities are also organizing in mutual benevolent societies that aid newcomers, and in exerting political
pressure on parties that seek their votes at election times.
Everywhere, working people are struggling to make ends meet, to make a life and a future for themselves and their families, to live in peace. The Communist Party stands in solidarity with all of these struggles and our members are actively involved in many of them. The conditions for a sharp economic and political struggle are growing quickly.
Movements are also springing up around particular issues, such as long-term care and pharmacare; disability rights; affordable social housing, EI reform, and rising prices, amongst others that significantly impact the lives of working people.
Prices have risen quickly on essential foodstuffs and fuel this spring, and then shot up again as a result of the war in Ukraine. The annual rate of inflation rose to 5.7% in February, the highest level since August 1991, and the second straight month over 5%. The price of gasoline has jumped to over $2 per litre. The skyrocketing price of housing has made home ownership beyond the reach of most working people and young workers, whose real wages are stagnant or falling while interest rates and inflation continue to rise. The House Price Index rose 26.6% across Canada in 2021, the fastest gain on record. The average price of a home rose 20% to $800,000 across Canada in 2022, and to $1.25 million in Toronto. Rock bottom interest rates have pushed people into bidding wars as they compete for housing stock that is unaffordable. At some point the bubble will burst, and many people will lose their homes and savings.
Rents are also rising at an alarming rate, leading to growing numbers of evictions, and homelessness. This is an economic and social crisis that is waiting to explode.
We call on the federal and provincial governments to introduce price controls and rollbacks on food, fuel, housing and rents, as an urgent priority. We call on the federal government to immediately build 1 million units of affordable social housing, to adopt full-employment policies and create full-time, well-paid and permanent jobs in value-added manufacturing and secondary industry, in expanded Medicare and social programs, public services and post-secondary education, and in the transition to a publicly owned and renewable energy industry. We call on governments to raise the minimum wage to $23; to substantially increase pensions and cut the age to 60; to adopt a Guaranteed Annual Livable Income, and to expand EI to cover all the unemployed for the full duration of unemployment at 90% of previous earnings. We demand People’s Recovery policies that will prioritize people’s needs over corporate profits.
People are in motion across the country, fighting for their rights and for better conditions of life today, and a better future tomorrow.
Communists will work to strengthen and unite these struggles, and to actively engage the labour movement at the centre of this people’s movement. We will work to bring people into the streets in mass protests, with clear demands for what working people need, and not just what they oppose. We aim to build a powerful people’s coalition, with the trade union movement at the centre, for a Peoples’ Recovery and fundamental social and economic change.
At the same time, the ideological struggle is growing sharper. As the drive to war and reaction gains ground, the new Cold War is taking hold, a massive disinformation campaign aimed to free the hands of the military and the forces of reaction. The fight for peace, global disarmament and mutual security goes hand in hand with the fight for democracy and sovereignty, for a People’s Recovery from the economic crisis and pandemic, and for fundamental social and economic change.