Inequality being swept under the rug in the rush to “return to normal”

We don’t need a hurried recovery – what we need is a comprehensive overhaul

We’re at a baffling stage of the pandemic.  

Frontline workers are still risking their lives, while millions of Canadians are continuing to navigate unemployment or precarious work. But in their rush to “return to normal,” elected officials are trying to sweep these harsh inequities under the rug. 

Whether they admit it or not, COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the nature of work. Women, disabled people, racialized people, temporary foreign workers, and workers with less education have all lost work at staggering rates, while many large corporations have consolidated their power and increased profits on the backs of low-wage workers.

We can’t meaningfully address these widening gaps without a bold vision for decent work. As Canada recovers from the pandemic, our governments have the opportunity to finally support decent work for all. They can’t let it pass.

They can start by looking at income. This spring, the federal government finally committed to implementing a $15 per hour minimum wage for the 109,000 federally employed workers who qualify. Sure, it’s a start, but the hourly wage required to live in a city like Toronto is $22.08. All levels of government need to show leadership in requiring employers — including themselves — to fairly compensate workers.

Next, our representatives can choose to support community power instead of lining the pockets of corporate executives. Rather than giving public contracts to the lowest possible bidder, they could support the creation of Community Benefits Agreements. These legally-binding agreements are driven by the desires of local communities, and can include equitable hiring practices for marginalized workers, along with funding for training, neighbourhood improvements, or support for social enterprises.

Finally, our governments could recognize that to achieve a sustainable economic recovery, we must put the health of our workers — and their communities — first. What if we emerged from the pandemic with a suite of social programs that enabled us to thrive? 

Canada currently has a semi-functioning “sick care” system, when we could have a healthcare system. By guaranteeing access to nutritious food, affordable housing, dental care, free tuition, and mental health care, we could build a health care system, and an economy that’s truly centred on sustainability, equity, and our collective prosperity. 

If we want to invest in the long-term health of our economy, we’ll need to expand our notion of decent work and overcome our fear of challenging corporate power. 

We don’t need a hurried recovery. What we need is a comprehensive overhaul that puts people and planet first, now and into the future.

Paul Taylor is executive director of FoodShare Toronto and NDP candidate in Parkdale-High Park for the next federal election.


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