Showing Justin Trudeau hands-on personal support work

On June 19, SEIU Healthcare invited Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, and Thomas Mulcair to walk a day in a homecare worker’s shoes. Justin Trudeau was the first to accept the offer and he spent a day with Emily, a Toronto personal support worker who wanted to show him what her job is all about. Watch the result below.

Emily and Justin visited Antonietta, an 81-year-old Italian woman who lives alone. Without Emily, she wouldn’t be able to take good enough physical care of herself to continue safely living on her own.

Framed pictures of her family back home and here in Canada are laid out carefully across the fireplace mantel in her living room. “She has a supportive family,” says Emily. “Everyone does their part. Some clients have no one or no one to help.”

Emily is caring, funny, busy, and extremely hard-working. Like many PSWs, she works two jobs to be able to earn enough each month. She starts her personal support work in the early morning, and then at night, she helps her parents with cleaning contracts.

Her parents are seniors but can’t retire yet from their cleaning business. This is something that 30-year-old Emily is concerned about for herself. Most workers in the homecare field don’t have retirement security.

“The families are so grateful, they tell me ‘Emily, don’t leave!’” she laughs. In the video, she explains further, saying “I really do care for people, but I have to look after myself as well. We need a little bit of help and support and some kind of retirement security with some kind of pension. We’re humans too.”

Emily was happy to give Justin Trudeau an idea of what the life of PSWs is really like. Moved by the experience, he called PSWs “an essential part of our healthcare system but also communities.”

By 2036, nearly 1 in 4 Canadians will be a senior, and the need for homecare is only growing. Two million Canadians currently get care, and 500,000 have unmet needs. These are people like Antonietta; our family members, our friends, ourselves.


“Just don’t let me handle the cash”


He said it, not us. Whether it’s a Tim Hortons’ till or the country’s coffers, a big part of politics is about who is the best person to manage Canada’s money. You have to look at who has it, who doesn’t, and how to pay for projects big and small.

Politicians tend to us the same words to appeal to voters. Families. Working class. Middle class. It can be difficult to distinguish between them.

No one likes taxes, but we certainly have to pay them in order to have the systems and infrastructure that we are proud of—and need—in Canada.

One of the most expensive budget items in the country is our healthcare system. Our current Prime Minister changed the healthcare funding formula to provinces and now healthcare costs and spending are increasing at levels higher than the amount of cash paid out by the federal government to help pay for it all.

This means provinces will continue to face a funding crunch. Sound familiar? We all depend on public healthcare. Hopefully the next Prime Minister will recognize that—and know how to manage the money.

Success! GST removed from tampons

No tax on tampons!Remember the story about the tampon tax and the campaign to remove the GST on feminine hygiene products?

Well, they did it. They won! They succeeded!

It sometimes seems like political victories are so rare that it bears repeating.

A social media campaign targeted the Canadian government on this issue and the government agreed to remove GST from feminine hygiene products.

Activists will be celebrating this victory on July 1, when the tax is officially removed.

This is a feminist issue and it quickly picked up steam. Maybe because it simply affects so many people. Why should women be taxed on items that are necessary for our physical health?

This heart-warming story goes to show that when an issue gets the attention it deserves, change really can happen, even in the current divisive political environment. And that when women get together to fight for a swift change, anything is possible!

Behind the Scenes: PSW Day at Queen’s Park

SEIU Healthcare’s PSWs are quite well-known at Queen’s Park in Toronto. Invited on behalf of the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Dr. Eric Hoskins, I followed five Personal Support Workers as they spent the morning of May 14th exploring one of Ontario’s most historic government buildings.

Seated in the Speaker’s Gallery upon arrival, Ghiti Iravani, Hazel John, Theresa Matteer, Penney Murphy, and Theresa Thomas represented Personal Support Workers in Community Care, Long-Term Care and Homecare across the province. Later, they stood and received a standing ovation from all three parties of the Legislative Assembly.

“It was nice that we were recognized by Eric Hoskins,” said Long-Term Care PSW Hazel John from Tendercare Nursing Home. “It made us feel special as proud SEIU PSWs.”

The SEIU Healthcare PSWs were also greeted by a familiar face while seated in the Speaker’s Gallery. Associate Minister of Finance (Ontario Pension Plan) Mitzie Hunter left her seat to pop by for a warm greeting, welcoming all that were in attendance at Queen’s Park.

“I saw some old friends sitting over here so I had to come by and say hello,” said Hunter, who participated in SEIU Healthcare’s celebration of Black History Month last February.

Mitize Hunter and Eric Hoskins both stopped to chat and take a few photos with our Personal Support Workers once there was a break in Question Period.

“We’ve got to make sure that PSWs are treated with respect and dignity and that your salary levels reflect as well the important work that you do,” said Hoskins.

Our Personal Support Workers were then given a tour of the historic structure, stopping to view the various displays, one of which showcased the historic nursing uniforms from the 1930s, showing how far we’ve come from traditional nursing attire and image.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to take part in today’s experience,” said Theresa Matteer, PSW at Fairview Nursing Home. “There’s no question that they [the MPPs] understand the value that PSWs bring to Ontario’s healthcare system across all fields, and if they don’t know we’ll enlighten them.”

Alberta: not as conservative as you think

Alberta Election Map Blog

By: Greg Dwulit
May 8, 2015

Many times the Progressive Conservative party in Alberta resembled a zombie; every time you think it’s dead, it rises from the grave and continues walk about aimlessly while it rots from the inside.

Many analysts thought the PCs were finished in the 2008 election but Conservative leader Ed Stelmech won a whopping majority. The same thing happened three years ago in the election of 2012 when Alison Redford won a majority government. Every time you think the Alberta Tories are finished, they make a stunning comeback.

But not this time.

Rachel Notley’s NDP won a 53-seat majority on Tuesday’s vote. How could the most left-wing party in the country win in Canada’s conservative heartland?

Conservative parties have dominated Alberta’s politics since the 1930s. William Aberhart’s conservative Social Credit Party won the 1935 provincial election, beginning a 36-year dynasty in Alberta’s politics. Social Credit was eventually defeated in 1971 by the upstart Progressive Conservatives, who have controlled the province for 44 years.

But many people have forgotten Alberta’s rich progressive history.

From 1905 to 1921 the Liberals dominated Alberta’s government. In 1921 the United Farmers of Alberta rode a wave of Prairie Populism and governed the province until 1935. They improved medical care, enacted stronger labour laws, and implemented a fairer tax system. They also built agricultural colleges, incorporated a farmer-run cooperative, and a government hail insurance plan. They even gave women the right to vote.

But make no mistake about it. The Alberta NDP isn’t the same party you will find in Saskatchewan, BC or Ontario. There is a good chance the Alberta NDP will govern in a much more conservative manner than other New Democratic governments have across Canada. Premier Notley will do her best to assure the oil industry Alberta is not the ‘new Venezuela’. In fact, she has already spoken to business leaders assuring them the province is open for business.

Those are just a few things they have to do to ensure they don’t become a one-term wonder like Bob Rae’s ill-fated provincial government in Ontario in the early 1990s. Like Notley, his party unexpectedly won a majority government against the ruling Liberals, who had also called an early election. The recession in the early 1990s hit Ontario’s economy hard and Rae shouldered most of the blame. If oil prices don’t recover in the next few years, Albertans may unfairly blame Notley for their woes.

The last thing the Alberta NDP wants to be is an interim government before they swing back to another right-leaning party like Wildrose for another generation.


Are city bureaucrats really that bad?

A few days ago I was watching a Toronto mayor’s debate. Candidates Olivia Chow, John Tory and Doug Ford were discussing important issues affecting Canada’s largest city. What I found interesting was the number of attacks on city government and municipal bureaucrats from Doug Ford and John Tory. They criticized the cost of revitalizing Union Station (one of the most important train stations in the country), the city’s role in garbage collection, roadwork, the size and scope of government, and much more.

When you listen to these guys talk, you would think city officials are a bunch of free spending incompetent fools who couldn’t properly manage a project if their life depended on it. But are municipal bureaucrats really that bad? When you take a look at the evidence, you will see that municipal bureaucrats over the past 200 years led important initiatives that improved the quality of life in our cities.

Let’s go back in time to Paris, France in 1850. This metropolis of nearly one million people didn’t have a sewage system. When you take a look at old pictures of Marseilles, you will see large amounts of refuse and excrement in the streets. Back then a private company would collect people’s excrement door-to-door for a fee and dump it into the swamp outside the city walls.

But it didn’t have to be this way, and city officials knew that. Municipal bureaucrats, the people Ford and Tory love to attack, advocated strongly for a modern day sanitation and sewage system that would clean up the city’s streets. They led the charge for clean public water, our sewage system and garbage collection. The city finally began building a sanitation system in the late 19th century but it faced tremendous opposition from the business community, property owners and other wealthy elites. They didn’t want to spend any money constructing water and sanitary piping in their buildings. And this battle lasted for years. They even fought garbage collection! Even though poor sanitation led to cholera outbreaks that killed thousands, the wealthy didn’t want to pay higher taxes for government services that would stop health pandemics.

Now I am not saying Doug Ford and John Tory want to take us back to the times of cholera. But the policies they are advocating may not be the best for our public health. Doug Ford wants to contract out garbage collection throughout the entire city. He wants to reduce public services as much as he can. What’s next? Will conservatives want the city to stop collecting garbage all together? If it did, there would be a lot more room to cut property taxes. But that would mean people would be forced to pay for their own garbage disposal. Some wouldn’t be able to afford this fee and would simply toss their garbage onto the city streets. And not everyone would benefit from a property tax cut. Landlords would likely not pass these savings on to tenants, and tenants would be less likely to afford private garbage disposal than homeowners.

Would you rather pay an extra $1,000 in property tax or would you rather walk the streets filled with garbage, excrement and disease. I hope you chose taxes. You get what you pay for!

On that note, here is a great quote from a comedian named Lewis Black talking about on the benefits of tap water over bottled water. It’s only two minutes and it’s very funny!


Keeping an eye on the feds and their anti-union laws

Conservatives across the United States have succeeded to varying degrees in passing laws that severely constrain trade unions in an attempt to weaken their influence, by taking away collective bargaining rights in some places and removing mandatory dues in others.

While Canadian Conservatives haven’t been able to do the same – yet – that hasn’t stopped them from trying. Well before he lost the June 2014 election, Tim Hudak took an extreme anti-union stance. It didn’t seem to convince the public and he lessened that angle in favour of other platform points. Then his loss was blamed partially on the labour movement for banding together in defense of our unions.

Now that the provincial election is over, unions in Ontario are focusing on the municipal elections (October 27), hoping to increase voter turnout and elect labour-friendly politicians who will respect working people. But there is another big election looming less than a year away: the Canadian federal election.

The 2015 federal election will determine where our country is headed as a whole. Stephen Harper and his Conservatives will try to get a majority again, which means they can accomplish almost anything they want in Parliament. And on their list is the weakening of the collective power of working people by legislating changes that will hurt unions.

One piece of legislation is back in the Senate. Last time it was brought before the Senate the bill was originally destroyed by a group of Senators including 16 Conservatives. Called Bill C-377, its intent is to force unions to disclose the details of their expenses to the Ministry of Labour. The Senator who led that contingent of Conservatives who tried to defend unions has since retired.

Press Progress has detailed 8 reasons the Conservatives’ anti-union bill shouldn’t be brought back from the dead. It is going to be an uphill battle for union members to band together to resist this type of law and the ones that are sure to follow. This is before an even bigger battle in 2015: defeating the Conservatives and electing MPs that will implement a pro-worker agenda.