Kyle Johnston, Red Deer and District Labour Council president, says this year’s Labour Day picnic had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. File photo

Kyle Johnston, Red Deer and District Labour Council president, says this year’s Labour Day picnic had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. File photo

Labour Day an opportunity to rally for stronger Canada, says Red Deer and District Labour Council president

‘As the dust settles, we will need to start to rebuild’

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect people many across the country, Labour Day is an opportunity to rally for a stronger Canada, says the Red Deer and District Labour Council’s president.

Many people have lost loves ones, have been put out of work, and those who were deemed essential have to continue working at “great risk to themselves and to their families,” Kyle Johnston said.

“As the dust settles, we will need to start to rebuild. We need a robust economy, built around a fair, generous and inclusive society, where no one is left behind,” said Johnston.

“The Canadian Labour Congress and Canada’s unions are calling on all levels of government to replace lost jobs with better ones by hiring people to build green infrastructure, to educate our youth, to care for others – and to give workers paid sick leave and a living wage.”

Workers are calling for a strengthening of public health care to include mental health, pharmacare and home care, and an end to privatization in the long-term care sector, said Johnston.

“Workers want reforms to employment insurance, disability benefits, education and training, as well as pensions to make all of these more secure and reliable,” he said.

“We all must reject American-style cuts, austerity and the ‘me-first’ politics we are seeing in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a very important lesson: Canada’s economic health and social goals are inseparable. It’s time to disaster proof our nation.”

Meanwhile, the Red Deer and District Labour Council had to cancel its annual Labour Day barbecue due to COVID-19 restrictions. The event has been running for five or six years and would typically draw a few hundred guests.

Johnston said he’s “disappointed” the event won’t be happening.

“There are restrictions that were put in place (by the government). But in the broader picture, we have a lot of planning that goes into this, and when you’re not able to plan without knowing if you’re even going to be allowed to do it, you just can’t do that,” he said.

“With the (event), you’re going out for donations and whatnot, and I think that it’s a very tough time to ask businesses for donations when they’re struggling themselves. That made it challenging as well.”

The labour council has had to change and adapt due to the virus, he added.

“We’ve been doing Zoom meetings, and conference calls and operate mainly through emails. You lose that personal connection.

“The focus is on how we can best represent our members and central Alberta as a whole when it comes to social justice, labour needs, as well as the community organizations we typically support.”

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