For Working Families, a Win in British Columbia

British Columbia working families have a new, labour-friendly party in power, headed by Premier John Horgan, pictured left with International Representative Laird Cronk, as they display their IBEW challenge coins.

After 16 years of an anti-union Liberal Party in power, many British Columbia working families were ready for change and put their faith – and votes – with the New Democrats. And after a historically close election, labour is celebrating an NDP victory.

“We have a seat at the table again,” said First District Vice President William Daniels. “And we intend to use it on behalf of working people.”

The NDP platform included support of a number of issues important to working people, like promoting apprenticeships, creating nearly 100,000 construction jobs and making workplace safety a priority. The Liberal Party, by contrast, earned a reputation for locking out labour unions from important discussions, not supporting apprenticeship programs and weakening the labour code, said Laird Cronk, international representative.

“The Liberals would build roads and bridges, but they’d do everything they could to do it nonunion,” Cronk said. “With the NDP, these public infrastructure projects will be done with project labor agreements. It’s actually more work for the IBEW.”

Election night in May was just the beginning of a protracted process that would take seven weeks to resolve. The end of the evening saw the Liberals win 43 seats to the New Democratic Party’s 41 and the Green Party score three – and no one win a majority of the province’s 87 ridings.

After weeks of inter-party negotiations, the NDP reached an agreement with the Green Party that pledged the Greens’ three votes to the New Democrats, enough to form a minority government. On July 18, John Horgan, head of the NDP, was sworn in as premier.

The IBEW was among a few unions in the building trades that supported the NDP over the Liberal Party, and the choice seems to have paid off. The NDP agreed to have a meeting with the IBEW, with Horgan expected to attend. It’s the first time the Brotherhood will do so with a sitting premier.

“With the Liberals, we weren’t even allowed in the room most of the time,” Cronk said. “It’s a new day now, and we’re looking forward to meeting with Premier Horgan and working with the NDP on our issues.”

IBEW members throughout the province helped get out the vote for the NDP and the British Columbia Provincial Council, comprised of business managers from five of the province’s locals, contributed financial support. The BC Federation of Labour ran an active campaign on behalf of the New Democrats as well.

Cronk said most of the legislative action won’t happen until next spring. Until then, IBEW members and staff plan to meet with legislators and other leaders, including the energy minister.

“There are a lot of areas where we’re the subject matter experts and we want to share our expertise,” Daniels said. “By doing so, it benefits not only our members, but all working families in the province.”