An Insulator advocacy update from ‘Up North’
SUMMA Strategies — Fri, Oct 4, 2019 @ 13:10 PM
This proved to be a busy summer, as we worked to ensure our priorities, especially those of Canada’s Insulators, who are featured in our federal election on Oct. 21. At the same time, our provincial representatives are busy ensuring Insulator priorities are front and centre, as provincial capitals wrestle with budget cuts and energy policies, which could impact the bottom line of the insulation trade.
At the federal level, the past four years have marked considerable progress on Insulator priorities including major investments in energy efficiency programs – both for public and private sector buildings; investments in union-led training programs, including directly to a number of Insulator Local Unions across the country; and a national ban on asbestos.
The asbestos national ban was a particularly significant victory for Canada’s building trades, and of course the Insulators, who work on the front lines helping to protect society from the harms of this deadly substance and often put themselves, their families and loved ones in harm’s way.
The Insulators led the charge for the asbestos ban. They are also holding the government accountable to ensure they follow through on their promise – and part of following through is addressing the legacy left behind in our buildings and our workers. Canada’s Insulators are focused on supporting a national strategy for dealing with the legacy of asbestos, starting with a National Patient Registry for Mesothelioma – the very rare type of cancer whose victims can almost always trace their disease back to asbestos exposure.
Working closely with Canada’s Building Trades Union (CBTU), the Insulators are advocating for the patient registry as part of completing the work begun under the asbestos ban. In July, International Vice President Paul Faulkner and Local 95 Government and Community Relations Director Adam Melnick, joined forces with CBTU Executive Director Arlene Dunn and Dr. Alec Farquhar, from Asbestos Free Canada, in a pivotal meeting with the office of the Minister of Labour to discuss this proposal. This meeting was the culmination of considerable lobbying over many months, including the submission of a detailed briefing notes prepared in collaboration with the Canadian Mesothelioma Foundation.
The constructive and substantive discussion during the meeting provided fresh momentum for this advocacy campaign, including a commitment from the Minister’s office to help facilitate necessary discussion with officials from the Department of Labour and Health Canada. Given the looming election, the critical piece will be to ensure this issue becomes a focus of the incoming government and the new, relevant Ministers. Following elections, each minister is provided with what is called a mandate letter from the Prime Minister, which provides policy direction and a list of desired outcomes.
During the last federal mandate, it was the personal involvement and commitment from the Prime Minister, which helped the Insulators achieve such an important milestone. This is why Canada’s Heat and Frost Insulators wrote to each of the party leaders early in the summer.
It was imperative to make the strong case why the national patient registry should be a feature of each party’s platform. While such a focused initiative was unlikely to gain a specific mention in a broad policy platform, the goal was to put it on the radar for each party as a potential announcement for a campaign stop with an audience of tradespeople. This approach also helps shape the incoming government’s approach to the health and safety file for workers.
Through this collaboration, Canada’s Building Trades Union made the mesothelioma patient registry one of its core priorities for the federal election and the incoming government. Adding the voices of the hundreds of thousands of workers who make up Canada’s construction industry to the voice of Canada’s Insulators has strengthened our advocacy. We look forward to reporting back to you as the new government takes over this important file.
In Canada’s largest province of Ontario, Insulators continue to build constructive working relationships with the Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford. Just this summer, Ontario Labour Minister Monte McNaughton met with Local 95 Business Manager David Gardner, and more meetings are scheduled to take place throughout the fall.
As Ontario seeks to reduce public expenditures, Insulators have been front and centre demonstrating how no energy efficiency tactic or toll is as impactful as insulation. The Government of Ontario is listening, and we are looking forward to demonstrating this value through energy efficiency audits of government buildings.