Prime Minister Trudeau delivers remarks at CBTU Policy Conference
(Laughter and applause)
First of all, I want to thank MaryAnn for her kind introduction and thanks for all the incredible work she does as your Minister of Employment, Workforce and Labour. I know everyone in the room appreciates the hard work you do, too, MaryAnn. Thank you.
Also I have to thank the event organizers, both for putting on a great conference and for inviting me back. This is the fourth year in a row that I’ve been able to join you and I’m looking forward to going five for five next year.
But today obviously we have to start on a serious note, with a few words about Fort McMurray. I know that the ongoing devastation taking place there is on the minds of many Canadians right now; that’s true for my family and I know it’s true for yours, too. Especially for all your members who work in, live in, and love Fort McMurray. I’m thinking of Kevin Thomas – are you here, Kevin? – of the Operating Engineers, who is... you know...
... worried about his home and his future. But we’re all here for you, Kevin, and for everyone from your community.
I want you to know that our government is working closely with Premier Notley and the local authorities to continually assess the situation. We know that help is needed right now, and will be needed for months and years to come, and we’re looking for ways to help. I know that you are, too, and I want to thank you in advance for all the hard work you and all your members will be doing, hopefully very soon, to help make Fort Mac a great and growing community once again.
We need you there, Kevin needs you there, Fort McMurray needs you there. We need you to rebuild the roads and the houses, from carpentry to concrete, from plumbing to power lines, we need your help. And I’m tremendously reassured to know that when it comes time to rebuild Fort McMurray we will have you on our side. In the meantime, your hard work and ours goes on.
Our government has been in place for just over six months now, and it has been a very busy six months. I want to highlight a few of the successes we’ve had in that short time – what they mean for your members, and for the heart of Canada’s economy: the middle class. Among the most significant is the historic investment we’re making in infrastructure. Over the next 10 years, our government will invest more than $120 billion in public transit, green infrastructure and social infrastructure.
There are many reasons why investing $120 billion in public transit, green infrastructure, and social infrastructure makes sense for Canada and for Canadians. Investing in infrastructure creates good, well-paying jobs that help the middle class grow and prosper today. Investing in infrastructure also makes it easier to move people and products, something we need for sustained economic growth. And investing in infrastructure, in things like affordable housing and community centres, also builds strong communities, the kind of places we’re all proud to call home. And, of course, you and your members have a critical role to play in all of this. We need your skills, your expertise, your work ethic, and your help to get the job done.
One thing that we know doesn’t help is legislation that makes it more difficult for unions to organize and support their members. That’s why some of the very first meetings I had as a Prime Minister were with groups who represent Canadian workers. At that meeting with Bob and Robert, here with me today, they impressed upon me as they were filling their year-end filings, just the urgency and the importance of addressing C-377 and C-525 right away. And that’s what we did right away in Bill C-4. And it was because of you.
In fact, I met with your leadership – with Robert Kucheran, Robert Blakely and others – just weeks after taking office, to listen to your concerns.And we did listen. One of our first actions as government – after we introduced our promised middle-class tax cut – was to get rid of the previous government’s anti-union legislation. Our proposal, Bill C-4, will repeal two previous bills – C-377 and C-525 – that unfairly targeted unions. My friends, the government that I lead respects unions, it doesn’t attack them.
We believe that all Canadians benefit when there is a fair and balanced approach to labour relations, and I’m very proud that we’re advancing legislation and an approach that will restore that balance.
In our recent budget, we also increased federal investments in training and employment programs to help Canadians get the skills they need to build a better future for themselves and for their families. Part of this plan includes investments to strengthen union-based apprenticeship training. We know that apprentices work and learn in a variety of settings, including through union-based training centres. That’s why we’re investing more than $85 million over five years to better support union-based apprenticeship training. Among other things, these investments are intended to help purchase or upgrade equipment and better leverage innovative training approaches so that apprentices will have greater access to modern training and hands-on learning opportunities. This is good news for apprentices, for their prospective employers, and for every Canadian who will benefit from the good work that a better-trained, better-skilled workforce can provide.
Now, I want to leave some time for your questions and there’s a couple of mikes here. So I’m going to wrap up very shortly. But I want to acknowledge just a few things before I finish. First, I want to congratulate your membership on their support of two important, inclusive and successful programs: Build Together and Helmets to Hardhats. Together these programs encourage and support the greater participation of women and veterans in skilled construction trades. Thank you for all that you do.
As you know, I believe that we’re a country strong, not in spite of our differences, but because of them. And it’s wonderful to see an industry like yours doing its part to help build a more inclusive workforce. Thank you very much.
Now, I hope in the last few minutes I’ve been able to give you a sense of what our government has been able to accomplish so far. But, as I said, it’s only been six months. There’s a lot more hard work ahead of us than there is behind us, but I’m still proud of what we’ve been able to do. We’re making historic investments in infrastructure; we’re putting an end to legislation that unfairly targets unions; we’re supporting greater training in the skilled trades, including union-based apprenticeship training; and next week – and here’s a little sneak preview – we’ll be announcing how we intend to implement more of our budget commitments, this time around better supporting electric and alternative fuelled vehicles, infrastructure projects that your membership will help build.
We’re making these moves now because they’re the right thing to do for our economy and the right thing to do for Canadians. On behalf of the government and all Canadians, thank you for all for the hard work that you do. Your value truly is on display, every single day. Thank you again for having me here today.
Thank you for your hard work every day building a better future, building stronger communities, building a better Canada.
Thank you very much, I’ll look forward to your questions.