Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Premier’s comments not helpful

This is the word Premier Blaine Higgs used in a press conference to describe how he felt about New Brunswickers who hadn’t applied for jobs in agriculture and fish processing plants.
The statement is part of a pattern in which the Premier has made several negative comments regarding the working people of our province. He has repeatedly insinuated that New Brunswickers would rather take the CERB payment from the federal government rather than return to work.
He’s presented no facts to back up his claims and completely ignored any bit of context that might go into a person’s decision whether to return to work during this global pandemic. Some factors include the need for childcare – when Higgs originally made the statement daycares were only operating for essential workers – or how minimum wage in the province is among the lowest in the country.
His comments also ignored all of the people who had been working steadily throughout the pandemic in a variety of sectors including healthcare, grocery stores, gas stations, convenience stores, food service, and many others. They have risked their health to keep our economy going, to keep us safe and protected.
Our Premier isn’t alone is this criticism. Many Conservative politicians, columnists and organizations have used the same statements regarding the CERB and workers. The latest is claiming widespread fraud is occurring with the CERB.
In both examples, some Conservatives are using a small percentage of people to vilify the working class. They want the CERB reduced or halted. They want a program that helps Canadians during a global crisis stopped because it benefits the working class.
You don’t hear the same complaints about federal help for businesses or corporations, just when it comes to workers.
We would encourage our Premier to take a more positive approach when it comes to workers. We would suggest his comments and actions are potentially doing more harm than good.
For instance, our province is getting some national recognition for its strong efforts in ‘flattening the curve’ and beginning the reopening process. Making negative comments about our workers that are not backed up with facts doesn’t make our province look good to potential businesses and investors. Go the opposite and highlight the great work done by our essential workers. Highlight how New Brunswickers did a great job supporting one another during the crisis. Praise nursing home workers for their efforts in keeping our seniors safe. Applaud the middle and high school students who have taken summer jobs at fish processing plants.
We have many success stories that can be highlighted, we need our political leaders to be positive about our province during this situation.
Insinuating New Brunswickers lack work ethic couldn’t be farther from the truth. This pandemic has shown that New Brunswickers have tremendous resolve and cohesiveness.
We would ask our Premier to try a new tactic when it comes to workers. Before the pandemic, we saw a combative approach highlighted by his stance with nursing home workers. During this pandemic he has dabbled in stereotypes of working class people that are archaic and harmful.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that we need new approaches to many of our traditional ways of doing things. Let’s hope our Premier turns over a new leaf when it comes to workers as they are the key to our economic recovery.