A labour blueprint for BC's recovery
This document offers a positive vision for a recovery that puts people at the centre of an economy that works for all. It's based on our submission to Premier John Horgan's Economic Recovery Task Force, delivered in May 2020. Download the full report in PDF format here.
The economic shutdown resulting from this pandemic is historically unprecedented. Never before have we collectively decided to close entire sectors of our economy, and dramatically curtail others in service of a greater good — our collective health. BC has weathered both this pandemic and the ensuing lockdown in large part because of the sacrifices and courage of working people. They have continued to do the important work of treating the sick, providing vital public services, and ensuring we can continue to have the necessities of life. COVID-19 has revealed that essential portions of BC's economy depend on frontline workers.
But as public respect for the value of their work has grown, so has our recognition of the many gaps this pandemic has exposed. For example, we better understand the paramount importance of workplace safety and standards, the need for robust public services and social supports, and our collective responsibility to address the continued marginalization of vulnerable populations.
We have the chance as our economy emerges from hibernation to address those gaps, and to do much more. The choices we make in the coming weeks and months can help us build an economy — and a province — equipped to address climate change while prospering along the way. Our choices must acknowledge and genuinely embrace reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and communities. Our choices must secure opportunities and equity in every community of this province.
There will always be voices who suggest we move in the opposite direction: that the public sector should retreat from the economy and the community; that working people who were this province's lifeline revert back to less protections, poorer working conditions and lower wages; that vulnerable populations remain vulnerable; that we should abandon years of progress toward reconciliation. They will argue that all of this will make business more competitive and generate jobs.
But even in an unprecedented situation, we can learn from history. And history tells us again and again — from the Great Depression through countless recessions and downturns — that 'austerity' only serves to freeze out working people and the most vulnerable, enriching a handful of already-wealthy people while hollowing our communities and leaving most of us to fend for ourselves. Austerity, in fact, is why we have many of the gaps this pandemic has so glaringly exposed in the first place. We also know that this pandemic will not impact people or communities equally, and thus our response must work to decrease these inequities, rather than exacerbate them. We can't cut and slash our way back to where we were before — let alone to a better, fairer, more sustainable and more prosperous future.
The question of British Columbia's post-pandemic recovery is not a neutral one. It represents an unprecedented opportunity to make choices that reflect the fundamental values of our province. How we approach recovery will reveal what it is we truly value, what we believe is worth protecting and investing in, and how sincere our commitment is to an economy that works for everyone.