Labour Day on the campaign trail: Party leaders push policies, trade barbs on supports for workers
Three main leaders each argued that they would do the most for workers coming out of the pandemic
Federal party leaders marked Labour Day on Monday by promoting their ideas to support workers and trading barbs about who will best have their backs.
Speaking at a steel plant in Welland, Ont., Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he didn't know if there has been a time, in light of the COVID-19 crisis, when workers have done more for their country.
"Whether you're a grocery store employee who's kept our plates full or a steel-worker who's kept our economy going strong, in the last 18 months, you've rolled up your sleeves and done your part," he said.
Trudeau, who again faced protests at the event from what he called an angry "anti-vaxxer mob," highlighted how his government rolled out an emergency wage subsidy amid the pandemic to keep workers on the job and retaliated against U.S. steel tariffs imposed in 2017 by the former administration of Donald Trump.
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole "would have given in to Donald Trump and given up on these Canadians," Trudeau claimed, seizing on how O'Toole had criticized at least some of Canada's retaliatory tariffs against the U.S. as "dumb."
Watch: Liberal leader calls Conservative leader 'wishy-washy'
Trudeau touted the Liberal platform pledge to extend the Canada Recovery Hiring Program to March 31 of next year, saying the move will "make it easier not just to hire people, but to boost wages to address the labour shortage some sectors are facing." Liberals will also invest in apprenticeship programs across Canada, he said.
O'Toole held a campaign event in Ottawa, where he promoted his platform pledge to double the existing Canada Workers Benefit to a maximum of $2,800 for individuals and $5,000 for families.
Conservatives say the measure would be equivalent to a $1-per-hour raise for lower-income working Canadians earning between $12,000 and $28,000 a year.
"Not only will we double the benefit, we will pay it four times a year as a direct deposit, so workers and their families can count on that support throughout the year and not just at tax time," he said. "Making these changes will help 3.5 million families pay the bills and put food on the table."
O'Toole said a Conservative government would put working Canadians at the forefront of the country's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. His party, he said, is the one that will stand up for Canadian workers.
Watch: O'Toole promises to double the Canada Workers Benefit
"I respect someone that goes into their job, whether it's hospitality, whether it's in tourism, whether it's manning a Tim Hortons," he said. "If you're working hard to provide for your family, I'm going to have your back. And I want you to have more money to tackle the rising cost of living that is out of control."
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was in Hamilton Monday, where he was joined by members of the United Steelworkers union. He said an NDP government would bring in 10 days of paid sick leave for federally regulated workers, as well as a $20 minimum wage for federal workers, and a national, $10-per-day child care system.
Before his remarks, the NDP released a media statement highlighting 22 separate times Singh pressed the Liberal government in the House of Commons for more to be done on paid sick leave amid the pandemic.
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Trudeau announced last month that a re-elected Liberal government would provide 10 days of sick leave benefits for federally regulated workers.
"Despite demanding this so many times, Mr. Trudeau said no, only to say in this campaign that he is promising to get it done," Singh said. "That is the height of cynical politics."
Singh said an NDP government would also work with provinces and territories to establish a program to ensure paid sick leave "in every single province and territory for all workers."
The NDP leader also expressed doubts that Liberals will deliver on their promises of $10-per-day child care, despite the federal government having signed deals with eight different provinces and territories before the election call.
Watch: 'Liberals have been promising child care for 30 years,' Singh says
The Liberals committed $30 billion over five years in the spring budget to bring in a national child-care system within five years.
But Singh said Liberals love to campaign on promises that stretch over several years and then not deliver, accusing the party of not being serious about a 2019 promise to bring in a national pharmacare program.
"Liberals have been promising child care for 30 years," he said. "Kids that needed child care have grown up and had kids of their own, and there's still no child care."
Watch: Canadian Labour Congress president says it isn't endorsing one party