Sudbury·THE ISSUES PEOPLE

Precarious workers in northern Ontario hang hopes on federal election

Very few of the political parties are making promises specifically directed at precarious workers in this election, but almost all are pledging to generally make life more affordable.
Very few of the political parties are making promises directed at precarious workers in this election, but almost all are pledging to generally make life more affordable. (CBC )

The Issues People is a series of interviews with voters in northeastern Ontario who live election issues every day and how that influences how they will mark their ballots on Oct. 21.

A lot of the talk during an election campaign is about the future, but not for Allyson Schmidt. 

"Honestly, I try not to think about it too much because it does become overwhelming pretty quickly," says the 41-year-old single mother from Sault Ste. Marie. 

"I just try and focus on what I'm able to do in the immediate."

Schmidt works full-time as a social worker, but she's never had a job that is permanent and not dependent on the whims of government funding. She's never had paid vacations or a company pension plan.

Allyson Schmidt, 41, of Sault Ste. Marie says she is a precarious worker who is forced to vote strategically in this election. (Allyson Schmidt )

She considers herself a "precarious worker."

"What's scary is I'm not alone in this and there are way too many Canadians that work very hard and we're stuck in these situations," says Schmidt. 

Kayla May says her political science degree and teacher training hasn't allowed her to land a full-time job either.

The 29-year-old works contract to contract in Sudbury and so does her tradesman partner.

She says sometimes to make ends meet she just doesn't eat. 

"If times get tough and it's between feeding my family and feeding myself, absolutely I'll go without eating for a day or so," says May, who is mother to a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old, and also has a 4-year-old stepdaughter. 

"They are chunky and happy and completely ignorant of the situation and I've worked very hard to do that."

She considers herself non-partisan, but is definitely paying attention to what politicians are saying in this election. 

"I would really love to hear candidates acknowledge that when it comes to our society we need to be looking at our workers," says May. 

Kayla May, 29, says she and her partner are both precarious workers in Sudbury and have trouble landing consistent employment. (Erik White/CBC)

Schmidt says in Sault Ste. Marie she is planning on voting strategically.

She says the NDP promises of universal pharmacare and dental care would definitely help her out financially, but she is leaning Liberal in order to keep the Conservatives from returning to power.

Still, Schmidt does like some of the Liberal promises to help the middle class, including a tax break the party says could be worth as much as $300 per year. 

"For a lot of Canadians who are making low incomes and struggling to make ends meet, $300 does make a difference," she says. 

We kicked off our election coverage with a new regular feature we're calling "The Issues People". Today, the issue is precarious workers. We heard from two women living in the north. Kayla May of Sudbury and Allyson Schmidt of Sault Ste. Marie consider themselves precarious workers. They shared their experience and spoke about what they are hoping to hear from federal politicians this fall. 10:20

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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