Politics

Todd: A rare blue-collar politician worries about the wayward NDP

Analysis: Too many on the left are now ‘more interested in pronouns than paycheques,’ says up-and-coming Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West

Get the latest from Douglas Todd straight to your inbox

Article content

Popular Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West, whose life was shaped by the labour movement, is worried by what’s happening to the party that once stood staunchly for blue-collar workers.

Not long ago West was a political staffer and campaign worker for Mike Farnworth, the longtime NDP MLA for Port Coquitlam and now minister of public safety. And Farnworth recently suggested in the legislature that West should be his successor.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Article content

Before becoming Port Coquitlam mayor in a 2018 landslide, West worked for the United Steelworkers. His dad died when he was 10. His mother held down two jobs to provide for him and his brother, which led him to realize “our family was able to have a decent living because of a collective agreement.”

West grew up, he said, with the value of treating all people fairly.

“Not to be clichéd about it, but I was raised with the value of ‘an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay,’” he said.

“At one point those were values more identified with the NDP. But in recent years it feels like a lot of that has been jettisoned. And they’ve gone down the path of identity politics. And that’s not something I find very appealing. By design it’s about dividing people into groups.”

His grandfather, a big figure in his life, was an electrician.

“He was involved in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. My grandpa always said, ‘A rising tide should lift all boats.’ And that’s what I’ve always identified with. I’d like to see more community building, more solidarity, more broad-based prosperity.”

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

The mayor of Port Coquitlam still maintains a focus on the well-being of working-class people.

He recently posted on X that he was dismayed hundreds of South Korean workers are being brought in to build a new battery plant in Windsor, Ontario — a plant that taxpayers are subsidizing to the tune of up to $15 billion.

Stellantis-LG Energy Solution, he said, “is receiving massive subsidies from Canadian taxpayers, yet it’s expanding its use of temporary foreign workers instead of employing Canadians. On the face of it I think that’s wrong. You better be damn sure you’re employing the people who are providing that benefit to you. And I don’t for a moment buy the b—–t that Canadian workers don’t know how to do those sorts of things.”

While some NDP politicians have also expressed concern about the Windsor plant, the issue of foreign workers replacing Canadian ones has been more strongly taken up by Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre, who has called for an inquiry. West no longer gets surprised when he sees Poilievre bumper stickers on a construction worker’s truck.

Advertisement 4

Article content

It’s one example of the shifting lines among the political left, centre and right. Like many of the traditional left today, the mayor says, “In this political environment I have a hard time figuring out where I fit.”

Many different political leaders have asked him to run for their party, but West, who also chairs TransLink’s mayors’ council and Metro Vancouver’s finance committee, has declined.

While there are now a number of policies on which he differs with the B.C. NDP, including on decriminalization of hard drugs, his focus on fairness for all workers, regardless of gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation, has led him to take on Canada’s migration policy.

He’s more than worried the Liberal government has welcomed an “explosion” of guest workers, a policy he believes is lowering wages and working conditions. And the biggest beneficiaries, he argues, are multinational corporations.

“Our federal government has created a system where it’s more profitable for companies to be able to bring in workers from halfway around the world, and pay them low wages, than it is to employ Canadians. It kind of boggles my mind.”

Advertisement 5

Article content

The numbers, he rightly says, “are off the charts.”

The temporary foreign workers program itself accounts for roughly 770,000 people. Another category is for international mobility program workers, whose numbers range from 675,000 to a million. Then there are 1.3 million international students, most of whom have been allowed to work 40 hours a week.

The numbers of such guest workers has more than quadrupled while the Liberal party has been in power. And, increasingly, West echoes labour economists who point out most recent foreign workers are not in high-skill categories.

Many are employed by fast-food chains and supermarkets, which especially hurts those on the bottom labour rungs of Canada’s economic system, which West says seems to lack any coherent industrial strategy.

Yet, even with all this disruption and lower standards of living for a large number of people, migration policy, and its effects on working people barely gets mentioned by federal or provincial NDP politicians, let alone “progressive” Liberals.

The left used to be interested in how high numbers of foreign workers can suppress wages, said West. Former Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has raised the issue in the U.S.

Advertisement 6

Article content

“But nowadays, among most of the left, any mention of the word, ‘immigration’ is met with, “Oh, that’s xenophobic.’ It’s completely false.”

Bringing in high numbers of guest workers, West said, greatly affects housing and rent prices.

“Basically the whole economy is rising and falling on real estate” through population growth, he said. And it’s overcrowding the publicly funded health-care system and kindergarten to Grade 12 classrooms, especially in cities.

growth
There has been a tremendous rise in Canada of the number of non-permanent residents, almost all of whom work. (Source: Ben Rabidoux)

West is not blaming guest workers themselves. “They’re trying to create a better life for themselves and their families. It’s not their fault.”

Indeed, West has personally talked to many foreign workers who have explained how they’re being exploited in Canada.

“The problem is with the government that devises these programs — and the multinational companies that use them with glee. The corporations are the biggest cheerleaders for the supercharged immigration numbers that we’re seeing.”

And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau knows it, West suggests. Because in 2015, in opposition, Trudeau warned the Conservatives they were hurting the middle classes by bringing in too many foreign workers, saying: “It drives down wages and displaces Canadian workers.”

Advertisement 7

Article content

But that was then, before Trudeau was elected and fully devoted himself to identity politics. Now, said West, too many so-called progressives are “more interested in pronouns than paycheques.”

[email protected]

Recommended from Editorial


Bookmark our website and support our journalism: Don’t miss the news you need to know — add VancouverSun.com and TheProvince.com to your bookmarks and sign up for our newsletters here.

You can also support our journalism by becoming a digital subscriber: For just $14 a month, you can get unlimited access to The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun | The Province.

Article content



Source

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button

MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK MUCUK