Same old recipe for economic recovery

Same old recipe for economic recovery

Quebecers have made countless sacrifices to limit the pandemic’s impact. They have accepted significant restrictions on their freedom, placing their faith in government and following its directives. After all the soul-searching and questioning that this exceptional situation has evoked, and all the observations and conclusions calling for sweeping changes in the way we do things, the government’s uninspired proposal to get us out of the crisis is deeply dismaying.

I made no attempt to hide my dissatisfaction on June 9 when I appeared before the National Assembly’s Committee on Public Finance to present the APTS opinion on Bill 61. This bill was supposed to boost Québec’s economic recovery and soften the impact of the public health emergency declared in March.

What exactly is the Legault government offering us? It wants to invest in infrastructure and construction (traditionally male sectors), relax administrative and environmental controls (giving free rein to abusive developers), and extend the public health emergency measures (restricting the rights of public-sector employees in health and social services).

This economic recipe whose main ingredient is cement looks a lot like the one concocted by the Charest government to return to a balanced budget after the 2008 crisis. Austerity measures were part of that recipe, and we have not forgotten their devastating impact on public services. Who bore the brunt of these measures? Women, who make up the vast majority of the workers providing public services, and who also rely extensively on those services given their role as mothers and caregivers within their families.

I was determined to drive home the impact of this bill on APTS members, 86% of whom are women. Extending the public health emergency could undermine union rights, leaving our members at the mercy of their managers in health and social service institutions. If these conditions continue, we won’t be able to withstand a second wave of the pandemic.

The pandemic has made us realize that we can live differently. We can slow down our frenetic pace and stop hurtling towards a world that leaves no room for human beings or nature.

We thought our government would note the lessons and insights gleaned over the past months, and develop proposals reflecting our aspirations for the environment, human rights, and our well-being. The government’s new slogan of “quiet evolution” is far less convincing than its previous calls for a lockdown.

Fortunately, the opposition was there to act as a watchdog, blocking the overly hasty adoption of the bill just before the end of the parliamentary session. The government now has until mid-September to come up with a more considered proposal for economic renewal.

On another front, I want to express our union’s staunch opposition to the violence and discrimination that continue to undermine the lives of Indigenous and racialized people on a daily basis. The shocking murder of George Floyd at the hands of U.S. police, coming as it did after a long succession of brutal events, triggered a call to actively fight systemic racism and all forms of exclusion and discrimination. This struggle, too, is vital.

By Andrée Poirier, President of the APTS | June 17, 2020

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