YCL Ontario School


The YCL Ontario, friends and allies will convene in Guelph from Friday Sept 20th – Sunday Sept 22nd. We will be learning from each other and guest presenters in a series of workshops. We hope to strengthen our analysis and our organizational skills to strengthen the struggle against austerity and for socialism in Ontario!

The classes will include:
• Racism, Sexism and Heterosexism
• Capitalism IS Crisis
• The YCL, Mass Movements and Political Parties
• Communist Myth-Busting
• Reform, Revolution and the Minimum Wage
• Anti-Imperialism and the World Festival of Youth and Students

All food will be provided
Billets in Guelph will be provided
There may be a vehicle leaving from your area

Please email ycl.ontario@gmail.com to register and include your club organizer if you are a YCL member. Please include any dietary or billeting requirements and how you plan on getting to the school.

“Learn to struggle/ struggle to learn!”


Our LGBTQ Rights: Celebrate! Defend! Expand!

Joint statement by the Young Communist League of Canada and the Communist Party of Canada

YCL at Toronto Pride 2013It’s Pride! Time to celebrate the advances of the LGBTQ communities in Canada and around the world. The Communist Party of Canada and the Young Communist League applaud these victories. More and more countries around the world are recognizing same-sex marriage and other fundamental LGBTQ rights. In Canada, the struggle for concrete steps to end harassment based on sexual orientation and gender expression/identity has seen a number of key victories. The number of GSA’s in schools, and districts with explicit LGBTQ policies continue to increase. Working with the queer community, Newfoundland and Manitoba have become the most recent provinces to ensure schools are safer and more welcoming places for all students. This year is the tenth anniversary of same-sex marriage in Canada.

We all welcome the continued expansion of queer-positive environments in the mass media, the labour movement and in the traditionally homophobic arena of male professional sports, where the “you can play” campaign is sending a powerful message that gay athletes must be treated with respect.

The vote by the Ontario Legislature to enshrine “gender identity” and “gender expression” in the provincial Human Rights code, the defeat of attempts to deny civic funding to Pride Toronto, the adoption of Vancouver Pride as a civic event and other legal, political and cultural victories are the hard-won results of decades of efforts by the LGBTQ community and our allies.

But those who spread fear and bigotry are not giving up. The anti-equality protests in France and the near-unanimous vote in the Russian Parliament to ban so-called “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” are, in part, a reaction to the democratic progress being made elsewhere. The Communist Party of Canada strongly supports the statement of the International LGBTI Association-Europe co-chair, Gabi Calleja: “We are deeply concerned by the negative impact of this law (in Russia). Homophobic rhetoric which accompanied the adoption of this law at the regional and federal level for the last few years already significantly contributed toward a climate of hatred and physical violence against LGBTI people which recently resulted in a number of murders.”

There are still far too many countries where LGBTQ people face laws that can result in imprisonment or even death. Of course the myth that queer rights can only be won in wealthy capitalist countries is shattered by advances in countries such as Cuba, Brazil, and South Africa, and by the reality that homophobic and racist views are deliberately exported from North America and Europe.

And while we have made great strides here in Canada, we should not be complacent. The forces that spread hate in other countries, have powerful friends in the Conservative caucus of Stephen Harper.

Canada’s corporate-driven “austerity” cuts to social spending, and the attacks on unions, heavily impact women, Aboriginal peoples, and racialized groups, and make it far more difficult to implement significant advances towards equality. The sharpest negative impact is on the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ community, including trans, two-spirited, racialized queers and young people.Pride Fist Image

The trans community is frequently left out of the gains made by the rest of the LGBTQ community. While we celebrate the recent decision by the Nova Scotia Government to fund gender reassignment surgery, there is a long ways yet to go. The cost of delaying full equality for trans people would be tragic. This is not a “marginal” issue; trans people are 10% of the LGBTQ population, and face huge medical costs, higher unemployment, less access to housing, widespread intimidation at work, and lack of legal protections.

Despite attempts to hide their destructive social agenda, the Harper Tories aim not only to reverse queer rights but also the decades of hard-fought gender equality gains by women. Right-wing forces continue to scapegoat the LGBTQ community and racialised groups, to divide working class resistance against finance capital, corporate bailouts and global environmental plunder.

Homophobia and transphobia are weapons to divide working people; just like racism, sexism, and national chauvinism. Today, those in charge of our economy, the ruling class, use the economic crisis and the so-called “war on terror” to justify their assault on workers and social equality. But “an injury to one is an injury to all.” Our unity will be strengthened by adopting full legal and political protections for sexual orientation and gender expression, and gender identity.

This unity is a vital element of the broad democratic and social resistance against the corporate agenda of austerity and war. Together, we must build a powerful coalition to put people’s needs before corporate greed. Our LGBTQ community must be a key player in a “People’s Coalition” of labour, Aboriginal peoples, youth and students, women, seniors, farmers, immigrant and racialized communities, environmentalists, peace activists and many other allies.

Ultimately, our unified struggle in our communities and workplaces, in the streets and at the ballot box, can defeat the Harper Tories and open the door to a “people not profits” government. The goal of the Communist Party is to win fuller social equality and genuine people’s power in a socialist Canada, where our economy and resources will be socially owned and democratically controlled.

This historic advance will make it possible to eradicate the intersecting forms of exploitation and oppression which we all face today. We urge you to join the Communist Party and the Young Communist League to achieve a liberated society in which, as Karl Marx said, “the freedom of each is the condition for the freedom of all.”

YCL at Toronto Pride 2013

Make poverty wages illegal! Raise the minimum wage!

Statement from the YCL (Ontario) Provincial Executive Committee


The inherent and insurmountable contradictions within capitalism are sharpening and have become more apparent in the current context of profound economic and environmental crisis.  One of the main symptoms of these contradictions is the “growing gap” between the “99% and the 1%”, or more precisely the majority that work, and shrinking minority that own. Consider the following:

  • The global corporate class has $32 trillion hidden in off-shore tax havens.
  • Canadian corporations are currently sitting on over half a trillion dollars on their balance sheets.
  • In 2011, Canadian CEOs made $7.7 million on average, or 285 times more than the median Canadian wage of around $27,000 for a single earner.
  • Top executive compensation at the 50 largest employers of low-wage workers – (firms like WalMart, Target and McDonald’s) – averaged $9.4 million last year. Consider the following:

On the other hand, union jobs disappear, two-tier contracts are forced on us, pensions are clawed back, youth unemployment hits 20% in some areas, prices sore and wages drop or stagnate.  The minimum wage in Ontario has been frozen for three years by the McGuinty-Wynne Liberals and their banker-backed “austerity” agenda. In fact, since 1976, the minimum wage in Ontario has been in deep-freeze.  In today’s dollars, the minimum wage 35 years ago was the same as it is today.  The result is poverty and desperation for hundreds of thousands of Ontarians, especially youth:

  • More than 800,000 Canadians were working at or below minimum wage in 2009.
  • Canada ranks as having the sixth lowest average minimum wage rate in the OECD
  • Presently, an Ontario worker earning minimum wage lives 19 per cent below the poverty line.
  • More than 400,000 households in Ontario rely on food banks. Almost half of them have at least one family member working full time.
  • Since the minimum wage was frozen three years ago, gas prices have risen 24 per cent, egg prices 21 per cent, transit 10 per cent and baked goods 12 per cent.
  • Low wageworkers also have much lower rates of insurance coverage for vision, dental, prescription medication and hospital care services, leaving them and their families in a general poorer state of health.
  • Raising the minimum wage will increase the take home pay for 14% of Ontario workers that make at or around minimum wage (3/4 of a million people).

Poverty wages and the attack on the working-class

The YCL Ontario recognizes that the main goal of the capitalist class is exploitation for profit by obtaining commodity labour as cheaply as possible.  Our poverty is their profits.

The current poverty minimum wage rate is a weapon directed at precarious workers and marginalized communities.  It is a tool that reproduces the inequalities of racialized and gendered labour, disproportionately affecting women, immigrants, youth and workers of colour.  This attack on the most marginalized sections of the working-class has a depreciating effect on the whole working-class.  When any of us are forced into poverty, it allows the capitalists to lower wages across the board.

acorn_0We have seen this in the expansion of the classification of jobs that are now minimum wage; jobs such as bank tellers, security guards, childcare workers, personal home support workers, teaching assistants and flight attendants.

The expansion of low-wage jobs is not just a problem for young workers. Between 2004 and 2012, the number of minimum wage workers aged 35 years and over has increased by 10%, rising from 17% to 27%.

Big business has always resisted rises in living standards and wages, and this can be seen in their opposition to any proposals to increase the minimum wage rates.  Often bogey arguments like “prices will rise” and “we’ll lose small business jobs” are the favorite talking points of the ruling class.  In the first instance, we must acknowledge that the relation to wages and prices are not that simple, as wages to a strata of the working class in Canada (albeit a large one) aren’t the only purchasers of consumer goods.  Furthermore, if we don’t fight, which is what the capitalists want, we have no chance of even keeping up with price hikes, which are increasing faster than wages. 

As for the plea on behalf of small business (usually on the part of big business) we must note that the principle threat to small business is from monopoly capitalism, that over 50% of minimum wage workers work for businesses with over 100 employees, and that no-sized business should have the right to pay poverty wages.


The fight for a living wage

At the YCL-Ontario’s last convention in June 2012, we adopted the demand of $19/hr as the current minimum wage necessary for Ontario.

If the “high” minimum wage of 1976 had been maintained its relative value would be approximately $15 an hour.  Settling for the same wage as the working-class had won 35 years ago would represent a historical concession, in the face of increased productivity and technological advancement that the working-class has not benefitted from.

We must also look at the “minimum wage” in relation to the need for a “living wage”.  The demand for a living wage, which has already been won in some municipalities in British Colombia and the United States, puts forward that wages should be set at the minimum hourly wage necessary for each of two workers in a family of four to meet basic needs and participate in their community.  The living wage calculations do not leave room for savings of any kind.  In 2008, the Canadian Auto Workers and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimated that “two working parents raising two young children would need to earn $16.60 an hour each, with both parents working full-time and year-round, to be able to live adequately within the Greater Toronto Area”.

In order for a Torontonian to live above the Low Income Cut Off (as defined by the City of Toronto) a single adult with three dependents needs to be paid $21/hr, or with two dependents $17.32/hr.

By calling for $19/hr, which is 75% of the average provincial wage, and putting forward the demand for a Guaranteed Annual Income the YCL-Ontario is presenting a way forward that would drastically reduce poverty in Ontario and reflects the immediate needs of the working-class as it faces a vicious assault in the form of austerity.

Support the “Raise the Minimum Wage” campaign

meltthefreezeThroughout the Spring of 2013, there has been renewed interest in building a movement capable of winning a higher minimum wage.  As the YCL-Ontario supports all progressive campaigns to raise the minimum wage, we enthusiastically endorse the “Campaign to Raise the Minimum Wage” which has already held actions in 15 Ontario cities.

The campaign is built around the demand for an immediate 37% increase to Ontario’s minimum wage to $14/hr, and the indexation of the wage to cost of living increases.

“Raise the Minimum Wage” is coordinated by ACORN, Freedom 90 (a foodbank volunteer union), OCAP, Social Planning Toronto, Toronto and York Region Labour Council, the Workers’ Action Centre, and more.  We call on all progressive youth and our allies in the youth and student movement to get involved with the campaign and grow this movement.

The YCL-Ontario fights alongside our sisters and brothers engaged in this important campaign as a part of winning $19/hr.  We can’t go from $14 to $19 or towards a real break with losing to poverty if we don’t educate ourselves about what’s happening with profits, prices and what we get paid.  Winning also means we have to be united across Ontario in one fight, not divided by different rates.

We will win!

Teacher unions and the OFL rally outside the Liberal Party convention on January 26th 2013.

Teacher unions and the OFL rally outside the Liberal Party convention on January 26th 2013.

A superficial view of current Ontario politics could be depressing and demobilizing.  It seems that Ontarians are up against very strong and reactionary forces, emboldened by the economic crisis and convinced that workers should pay for the capitalist crisis.  For example, throughout the last year we have seen a Liberal party that is determined to use draconian legislation to undue collective bargaining rights in the public sector.  The Tories under Hudak are now talking about “the right-to-work” which really means setting the clock back 60 years on labour legislation, as well as continuing to use rhetoric demonizing the poor which saw massive cuts to welfare rates and ODSP in the 90s.  The ONDP have just helped pass a budget with the Provincial Liberals which puts in place a five year austerity plan which will do great harm to working people, the unemployed, women, youth, and many more.  Although the NDP’s demand of 15% off car insurance is welcome, they failed to challenge the Liberal-Tory underlying assumption of the need austerity.

The Wynne government has announced the convening of an “advisory panel” to investigate the minimum wage.  This is a common tactic to ensure that action is either inadequate or ignored, while having the government distanced from the “consultation” and recommendations.  For example, thousands of people were consulted by the Social Assistance Review Commission which was convened by the McGuinty government.  It’s very mild recommendation was to increase assistance rates by $100 a month.  The government has since ignored even this watered down request.

It is clear that there is no solution in the current Legislature.  This means that progressive policies, like raising the minimum wage, will be fought for and won in the streets.  We’ve done it before, and we can do it again!  The first Canadian minimum wage laws were won for non-union workers around 1920 by trade unionism and political action.  Until the 1970s there were different rates for men and women.  This wage discrimination was eliminated by the women’s and labour movements.

Mass independent and escalating political action to resist austerity and demand new policies that meet people’s needs is the winning strategy.  Campaigns such as the raise the minimum wage campaign, are a part of a broader fightback, and need to be linked together to start winning victories.

As the student strike in Quebec demonstrated in 2012, victories can be won from even right-wing political parties.  These victories will also lay the groundwork for people’s movements to have their own political voice within parliament.

New coalitions between labour and people’s movements are forming and they require activists’ full attention. The Ontario Common Front is a coalition between the anti-poverty movement and the Ontario Federation of Labour. It includes more than 100 organizations and is a promising development.  The Idle No More movement has provided new opportunities to make alliances between First Nations peoples and settler communities against the Liberals in Toronto and the Tories in Ottawa.  As austerity creates more enemies and allies for us, unity is key to our strength.

The Young Communist League is fighting against the attacks on democracy and civil rights and for a Charter of Youth Rights that defends the rights of students and youth to employment, democracy, culture and leisure, full equality, free education, and other rights.  This campaign is one vehicle that we can use to bring together movements like the campaign to raise the minimum wage with other social movements.

As a revolutionary organization, the YCL-Ontario recognizes the need to struggle for immediate reforms as a part of a much larger historic revolutionary process.  Only through increasing the working-class’ capacity to struggle can we lay the foundation to win socialism.

We think the biggest problem facing the country, and indeed the entire world, is a capitalist system that puts profits before people. We say that it is time to get rid of capitalism and build something better – a system that defends peace, working people, the environment and democracy. We call that socialism! If you agree with this, join us and get involved!


Ernesto Che Guevara event at University of Guelph

Celebration of Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s Birth
Friday June 14th, 5:30pm UC 441 – University of Guelph

Join us as we commemorate the life of Ernesto Che Guevara on his 85th birthday, June 14. There will be a presentation and discussion focusing on main events of Guevara’s life, and some of his writing and speeches.

Sponsored by the Guelph-KW Schafik Handal club of the Communist Party of Canada and the Guelph Young Communist League.

Che Poster

Rebel Youth Podcasts!

RY podcast header





The right side of the GYCL Blog now has a link to Rebel Youth Podcasts that are produced by members of the Guelph Young Communist League. Our June 6th Issue has two parts.

Part 1: “Dubai striking workers being deported”, “Campaign to re-run the World Cup vote”

Part 2: “Ford execs charged in Argentina”, “Mass uprising and repression in Turkey”, “McDonald’s New Zealand boycott

Enjoy listening!

Reverse Harper’s cuts to EI, put Canada back to work!

Grand Theft EIStatement by the Young Communist League of Canada YCL-LJC CEC, May 2013.

Over the past six months, the Harper Conservative government has put in place vicious “austerity” attacks on the people of Canada by severely restricting access to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits for workers. Young workers, already at a disadvantage in collecting EI, will be further excluded and impoverished.

Cuts to Employment Insurance are not simply a cut in federal funding to a social program. They are cuts to a system into which all working people must directly pay into, no matter who they are, and which is intended to guarantee employment. The working class majority, whose sweat and toil by ‘hand and brain’ has produced all the wealth in this country, are being robbed.

The federal government has built up a huge surplus of $57 billion since the mid-1990s, the result of deep cuts in benefits paid to unemployed workers and rules that prevent most unemployed workers from qualifying for benefits at all:

* Maximum weekly benefits have shrunk from $604 in 1996 to less than $440 today, and an average benefit of just $335 per week;

* Less than four in ten unemployed workers, and even fewer women, qualify for EI

Workers cannot let this happen without a fight!

That’s why over 50,000 workers rallied in Montreal just before May 1st to celebrate International Workers Day and demand an end to the Harper Tory wrecking of Employment Insurance!                                                                                                                               EI Protest good

The fight against the Harper reforms to EI is linked with the battle to build a united resistance against the reactionary agenda of austerity and the Harper Tories.

Recent experiences like the Quebec student struggle show that it is realistically possible to build a stronger resistance against the corporate offensive, and to win broad support from community allies. Despite the adverse conditions and subjective weaknesses, new forces are coming into the fightback.

As the Communist Party said in its May 1st statement: “Militant tactics and coalition‑building can move labour from a defensive posture towards a fighting strategy of mobilizing the entire working class and its allies to block the right‑wing agenda and to move onto the counter‑offensive. […] A Canada‑wide common front against the corporate/government attack in turn can win wider support for the goal of a labour‑led People’s Coalition to unite broad sections of the people’s movements, not around a nostalgic return to a “rosy” Keynesian past, but rather around a platform of radical progressive demands, and for a fundamental challenge to the economic and political hegemony of finance capital, both domestic and international.”

What is under the cutting block?

The first wave of cuts, implemented in January, created three “tiers” to EI, based on paid experience in the workforce (not ‘under the table’ work) as well as time collecting EI. The cuts basically force those who have needed EI before, or remain unemployed for longer than a few months, to accept any work they can find — even if it is 70% lower than their previous pay and an almost an hour drive (one-way) from the worker’s home. The system of appeals of EI decisions was replaced with a specialized court which is much less accessible and will take longer. Lastly, the special measures put in place to help workers in areas where economic activity is seasonal have been unilaterally canceled.

The second wave of cuts, implemented in April, drastically reduces eligibility for EI. Before, anyone in a region of Canada with an unemployment rate above 8 per cent was eligible for EI. Now, the benchmark rate has been lifted to 13.1 per cent. Only a few regions therefore quality: parts of Newfoundland-Labrador, eastern Nova Scotia, Gaspésie, Restigouche, northern Manitoba, northern Saskatchewan, Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. And where laid-off workers living in most regions used to be able to use their best 14 weeks of earnings when claiming EI, omitting weeks when hours were inconsistent or the plant was idle, most workers must now use a new formula with a longer time frame, making it harder to filter out lean weeks or temporary layoffs (For example, Windsor now requires 18 weeks, Oshawa 19 weeks, and Toronto 20 weeks).

Nothing in these cuts helps workers find a job.

Funeral ProtestThe Harper government is hoping to weaken social solidarity by pushing     nasty and spiteful claims like “there is no bad job” and talking about “repeat users” as if the unemployed were addicts to EI. The reality is that it is almost impossible to support yourself on EI. Benefits are low, run out quickly, and are very difficult to obtain.

Young people should know that current Minister of Finance, Jim Flaherty, who is using this demagogic rhetoric like ” I drove a taxi, I refereed hockey, you do what you have to do to make a living ” also went to private boys high school before graduating from the Ivy League Princeton University and then Osgoode Law school. His first career in politics was as a cabinet minister in the notorious Mike Harris Ontario Conservative government, when he proposed to solve the homelessness crisis — by making it illegal.

It is this kind of vicious corporate ideology that has drafted the EI cuts, which mark a fundamental shift in Employment Insurance further away from a programme to protect workers and further towards a system of “workfare” and forced labour.

It has recently been confirmed that the so-called “fraud prevention” investigators in the Ministry have EI quotas or “saving targets” of $40,000 per month per investigator, which means they must penalize many EI recipients and disqualify many to achieve the goal. The government’s response to the media exposing this news was an investigation into the whistleblowers! Targets for the recovery of benefits are $120 million for Quebec, $110 million for Ontario, $115 million for the Western provinces and Territories and $58 million for the Atlantic provinces.

Investigators are now also making “home visits” with an interrogation-style 23 question survey to verify the eligibility of EI recipients. Apparently this year, 1200 selected unemployed workers will receive a visit (197 in Quebec, in the Maritimes 220, 384 in Ontario and 374 in the west).

Moreover, activist organizations for the unemployed in Quebec are now finding workers dropped from EI after missing only two phone calls from Service Canada.

The claim that workers “should just go where the jobs are” is not only an admission of capitalism’s complete failure in large regions of Canada, like the East Coast, to provide young workers a life with a future. It is also a policy that reduces young workers to “human resources” who can be shuffled around the country at the will of the bosses, and denied the right to make a home where they want.

In addition to restricting access to EI for all domestic workers, Harper and Human Resources and Skills Development Minister Diane Finley have eliminated “special parental benefits” for migrant workers. Previously, this was the only subsection of EI that these workers had access to, despite paying full EI premiums and contributing an estimated $3.4 million annually to the fund. This is a racist and cynical move designed to divide and weaken all workers by pushing a vulnerable portion of the working-class further down.

Other groups particularly hard hit will be women, youth, and workers in industries where employment regularly fluctuates — like those found in rural, remote, northern and Aboriginal communities. But to be clear: this is an attack on all working people and the working class.

The cuts must not be seen in isolation from the Tories other priorities — like tax cuts for the rich, massive increases in military spending and war, environmental destruction, and their other “pay‑less wages” policies. For example, in a type of legalized racism, employers were allowed to pay temporary highly-skilled foreign workers 15% less than the prevailing local wage. Fortunately this was cancelled due to public outrage. The same can and needs to be done for other attacks.

The EI cuts further throw the brunt of the economic crisis onto the backs of working families — making the people pay for a crisis they did not create.

EI Protest2Currently, about 1.4 million Canadians are officially unemployed — about 25% higher than before the crisis. This number is going up, not down. Statistics Canada has said that there were at least 300,000 more Canadians looking for work in Oct. 2012 than Oct. 2008. Of the jobs that have been created, on average almost half are temporary. In many areas the ratio is much worse. In British Columbia 60% of new job creation is temporary, 75% in Quebec and 84% in Ontario. For women everywhere between the ages 25 and 44, temporary work accounts for 95% of the new jobs.

In this context, it is important to note that the 2012 rate of eligibility for regular benefits from Employment insurance — even before the cuts — is the lowest ever recorded because too few people meet the required qualifying hours in the workforce.

The class-bias of these policies towards the boss and against the worker is crystal clear. The Harper EI cuts are like manna from heaven for the capitalists. By swelling the ranks of the unemployed and underemployed, and increasing the danger of being unemployed, big business weakens the position of workers at the bargaining table. The cuts will help create a climate allowing big business to further tear-up collective agreements, bust unions, and force concessions like lower wages, two-tier contracts, and “Defined Contribution Plan” pensions. As workers exploitation increases, so do corporate profits.

Unemployment is not simply a cyclical feature of capitalism that comes and goes with each crisis. Unemployment has become a permanent structural feature of capitalism with the introduction of revolutionary new science and technologies into production. Capitalism’s liberal apologists have quietly dropped the claim, not uncommon in Canada a generation ago, that we can achieve full employment. Social democracy has generally reversed its position on this demand, with the New Democratic Party of Canada even proposing in the last election that the “private sector” take care of job creation and also campaigning for a change of strategic orientation within the labour movement.

The best solution to unemployment is a job — safe, well-paying, quality and with a union.

The working class in Canada, and young workers in particular, have a long history of militant struggle for employment and to be protected from the perils of unemployment.

It is important for young workers to remember these past battles as we look forward in our struggles today. The Harper Conservatives would like to wind-back the clock 100 years when there was no programme of EI. What did exist was Church-delivered relief for the poor. Inconsistently administered only on the municipal level and therefore massively under-funded, Church relief was totally inadequate and further stigmatized poverty because it was charity.

Today the Harper Tories repeat these lies by talking about workers ungrateful for EI who will not accept honest work. EI is not charity, it is a social right which the working class demands because the toil of working people by hand and brain creates the wealth of this country. This call for social insurance by the labour movement in Canada and internationally at the beginning of the last century received a major push forward with the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917. One of the very first decrees of the Bolshevik revolution was social insurance.

Under increased pressure from the Soviet example, capitalist countries began implementing and extending social insurance programmes. The YCL and Communist Party of Canada called for social insurance from the very first days. However, Canada’s flawed Constitution (which was at that time the British North America Act and controlled by the British parliament) grants provinces jurisdiction over a vast range of powers while fails to recognize any national right to self determination for Quebec and other nations. The BNA act thus blocked the development of social insurance programmes.

picture-31With the special capitalist crisis of the Great Depression in the 1930s unemployment spiked. The YCL and CPC proposed a comprehensive way out of the Depression and started a campaign for a pan-Canadian Non-Contributory Unemployment Insurance Bill. Instead, the Bennett Conservative government of the time forced tens of thousands of unemployed youth into isolated slave-labour camps. By this time, the labour movement as well as progressives, socialists and communists were pounding on the doors of government and business for Employment Insurance.



In May 1935 the BC labour camps exploded in protest, with thousands of young workers marching out and, riding on the tops of trains, they began an organized protest movement for ‘work and wages’ called the On-To-Ottawa Trek. The Trek was led by members of the YCL, like Arthur ‘Slim’ Evans.

Brutally attacked and suppressed by the RCMP when they reached Saskatchewan, the Trekers protest nevertheless helped force legislation to be passed on EI in 1935 (with other measures like minimum wages) in a ‘death-bed repentance’. A few months later, the Bennett Conservatives were swept out of office in a federal election by the King Liberals. But one of the King Liberal’s first acts was to refer the 1935 EI law to the supreme court, and then British appeals court. They struck down the law because it over-stepped federal authority into provincial powers.

Bennet PaperThe ruling triggered a Constitutional crisis. It took more struggle and pressure by people’s forces, to make the newly elected King Liberal government enact a Royal Commission of inquiry in 1938, which notably adopted a number of the Communist Party’s recommendations. The Liberals shelved the report. Instead, with the support of right-wing provincial governments of Quebec, Ontario and BC, King introduced substitute makeshift measures enabling the federal government to raise revenues to cover expenditures that were approved of by finance-capitalist interests, without committing it to substantive social reforms.

In 1940, King demanded an act of the British Parliament to amend the BNA act (which became Constitution Act, 1940). This was the foundation of Employment Insurance.

Subsequent campaigning by the labour movement expanded EI coverage from just 42% of the unemployed in 1940 to 95% of the unemployed in 1975, including seasonal workers and some coverage for sickness and maternity. Workers who quit their job were unfairly penalized, but could also receive benefits. The rate was 66% of insurable earnings, ie. your previous wage, and 75% for workers with dependants. The fund was sustained by three-way contribution from employers, the federal government, and workers.

In the late 1970s, however, these terms were changed in a negative way for working people. The Trudeau Liberal government eliminated the higher rate for the unemployed with dependents and reduced the benefit rate. A large EI fund had now built up, and the government began to use it for other purposes than employment insurance like training. The first major raid on EI would occur after the signing of Free Trade, to re-train workers in the post-NAFTA economy.

The attack on the unemployed continued in the 1990s. EI was increasingly “privatized” as big business and the state denied any social responsibility for EI. In 1990 the Mulroney Conservative government withdrew the government’s contribution for the fund and restricted accessibility to over 100,000 workers. In 1993, attacking the freedom of working people to choose their job, benefits were now denied if you quit your work or were fired due to misconduct.

In 1994, the new Chretien Liberal government lowered benefits to 55% of past wages. The Liberal government then raided the EI fund to pay-off the federal debt (which was not incurred from social program expenses) in a massive billion-dollar theft of funds, originally taken from working people. By the year 2000, only around 40% of workers were actually eligible for EI despite paying into it, and the number has obviously dropped since then.

Women workers are disproportionally affected. Current policy, for example, does not allow new parents to use the same work weeks to qualify for both maternity leave and EI. Workers who are laid off while on parental leave therefore are generally excluded.

Over the past decade, workers have seen increasingly restrictive eligibility criteria, shortening of benefit duration, restrictions imposed in calculating benefits, lower levels of benefits, and increased exclusions of categories of workers.

The way forward is through mass struggle and unity of working people, with the youth and social movements.

Major mobilizations around Employment Insurance have taken place in Atlantic Canada and especially Quebec.

EI Protest3

This history teaches working people and the youth a series of hard lessons about reform struggle. It teaches us that only through a persistent, united and visible battle in the streets, workplaces, campuses and communities can we make advances in social policy.

It teaches us that the ‘negotiation’ for Employment Insurance has been a struggle over power where what counted was the balance of conscious and militant class forces, and in which the capitalist class made surrenders only for its benefit — for example, refusing the demand of a non-contributory employment insurance bill.

It teaches us a lesson about the necessity for socialism in that no social progress under capitalism is sacred or protected — no matter what the politicians from the parties of big business say — and the capitalist will try to take back any concessions as soon as they can, in this case as quickly as a few years after EI reached its most progressive level of coverage.

EI PEI ProtestThe Young Communist League calls for emergency mass mobilization by labour and the youth movement to block these cuts and transform EI to a fully accessible programme which comprehensively protects all workers from unemployment.

We have never wavered in this fight and have consistently been a voice calling to defend the rights of young workers, including a new Charter of Youth Rights which would make a job a right:

1. Spend the entire employment insurance fund on workers and unemployed – providing for EI benefits equivalent to 90% of final salary for the duration of unemployment, no matter where workers live in Canada or their experience in the work force;

2. Make full employment a top priority, and raise the wages of all workers by $100 per week, the real value of wages 25 years ago;
3. Increase the minimum wage to $ 16/hour;

4. Ban “two-tier wages” for new hires;

5. Legislate for a working week of 32 hours without loss of pay and without loss of net service for the public;

6. Ban evictions of renters by landlords because of lay-offs;

7. Ban mandatory overtime, and legislate at least four weeks of paid annual leave;

8. Guarantee the right of marginal benefits for workers in part-time, home and contract work;

9. Make massive investments in the reconstruction of social programs, public infrastructure and social housing – including free post-secondary education;

10. Adopt a policy of fair wage, pay equity and full employment for workers;

11. Take action against poverty, especially among aboriginal peoples, immigrants, women, youth, the elderly and people with disabilities;

12. Abolish “workfare” and introduce a livable guaranteed annual income;

13. Protect and develop the universal public pension system, including a substantial increase in CPP;

14. Enact voluntary early retirement at the age of 60 years;

15. Restore and develop funding to provinces allocated to health, education, housing and social welfare, and improve all standards of Canada, while ensuring that Quebec maintains control and administration of its own programs;

16. Maintain equalization payments to the provinces, and expand transfers dedicated to health, education, childcare and social assistance.

NATO and the Drive to War


When: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Where: University Centre Room 441

Dave McKee is stopping in Guelph on Feb 26th as a part of the Canadian Peace Congress “Drive for Peace” Campaign.

Dave McKee is President of the Canadian Peace Congress and a member of the Executive Committee of the World Peace Council. He is meeting with people across Canada to discuss the impact that NATO membership has on our foreign and domestic policies.

Dave presents the case for Canada to withdraw from NATO and pursue an independent foreign policy based on peace, international cooperation and solidarity.

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