Caution: Rough Road Ahead
/ Author: Wayne Prins
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Caution: Rough Road Ahead

How will the last 18 months affect the impending election? Only time will tell

By Wayne Prins, Executive Director

There is an element of unpredictability in every election, but some are much more unpredictable than others. The current federal election would fall into this category.

It makes me wonder about Prime Minister Trudeau's decision to call an election right now. I can only assume that a few months ago he was thinking the same thing as a lot of Canadians: that after 18 months of COVID and economic woes, we were finally emerging into official recovery on both fronts. Things were looking up!

Well, it hasn’t worked out all that well, and there’s an increasing chance that the Prime Minister is going to pay a very hefty price for misreading the fall outlook. I also fear that many Canadians are in for another stretch of rough road before we’re in the clear.

On the COVID front, we’re simply not at the end of this thing yet. I don’t need to spend time adding more commentary about the threat of variants and the rising tension between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. What matters is that a lot of people are still getting sick, and as a result, we are seeing a flurry of new policies related to mandatory vaccinations and vaccine passports. It appears we will continue to live with certain public health restrictions and guidelines for a long time yet.

These are realities that we need to brace ourselves for, whether we like it or not. And yes, there will be impacts on the workplace. CLAC represents hundreds of bargaining units, spread across every sector of the economy, and therefore will have to respond to many different scenarios related to these challenges. We too are bracing for the impact and remain as committed as ever to doing our very best at every turn.

On the economic front, there is reason for both optimism and concern. The pandemic will continue to impact the economy for some time, but there are resilient forces that are thrusting it forward, despite the lingering effects of COVID. Pent-up consumers who have retained cash over the last two years that they are eager to spend, deferred activity in industry, and government investment in infrastructure are all factors that will boost the economy.

Unfortunately, high inflation, volatile economic fundamentals, and massive government debt will make collective bargaining very challenging. In some sectors, we anticipate major labour shortages, which always adds another impactful element at the bargaining table.

This brings my thoughts back to the ongoing election. The strong emotions that we have observed on the campaign trail are a reflection, in large part, of the pressures that I described above. We are living through a time that is testing our patience and fortitude, more so than any other period in most of our lives.

Regrettably, in some instances we have observed the worst manifestations of collective weariness: violent protests, vulgar language, and the complete erosion of common decency. These types of behaviours may be entirely understandable given the circumstances, but in a democratic setting such as an election (or a union setting, for that matter) history has demonstrated time and again that they do not advance anyone toward a better outcome or solution.

With all this in mind, let’s brace ourselves for a few bumps in the road ahead and keep our focus on getting through them together as best we can.

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