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Protesting wage and price controls in Saskatchewan

The Story

Saskatchewan's labour movement has never been one to back down from a fight, and wage and price controls are well worth a protest. Two years ago the Trudeau government passed legislation restricting wage boosts in Canada in a bid to control inflation. The effects of the law were so unpopular that one million workers mobilized for a one-day strike on Oct. 14, 1976. A year later, Saskatchewan workers are still protesting, reports CBC Regina's 24 Hours. In October 1977, Statistics Canada reports the annual inflation rate is 8.8 per cent -- a 17-month high. 

Medium: Television
Program: 24 Hours
Broadcast Date: Oct. 17, 1977
Duration: 5:07
Solidarity Forever lyrics: Ralph Chaplin.

Did You know?

• High inflation was a problem in many industrialized countries, including Canada, in the early and mid-1970s. Prices for consumer goods, as well as wages and cost of living, were rising faster than the economy.


• Between 1970 and 1975 the average annual inflation rate in Canada was seven per cent, meaning consumer prices rose by seven per cent each year. By comparison, in April 2004 inflation stood at 1.7 per cent over the previous year.

• Wage and price controls were seen as a way to control escalating inflation. Despite having spoken out against such a measure in the 1974 election campaign, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's Liberals reversed their policy and ushered in controls with Bill C-73. It passed on Oct. 14, 1975.


• Many Canadian workers objected to wage control because it limited their earning potential while there were virtually no limits on corporations' profits.

• The bill that workers were protesting, C-73, also took away the unions' right to collective bargaining. It limited wage increases to eight per cent the first year, six per cent the second year and four per cent the third year. Any union agreement negotiated after the passage of C-73 with higher wage increases could be rolled back to meet the government's numbers.

• The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour was particularly vocal in opposing the law, organizing a 4,000-strong protest in February 1976.


• On Oct. 14, 1976 — one year after the bill's passage — workers declared a Day of Protest. One million of them, and their supporters across Canada, went on a one-day strike to protest wage and price controls.

• In September 1977 the government of Saskatchewan announced it was opting out of the federal wage-control program for provincial employees. Workers in that province demonstrated again — as seen in this clip — to continue to show the federal government their opposition to wage controls.


• Wage and price controls, as well as other measures of the Anti-Inflation Board, were gradually phased out in 1978.




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