GATINEAU, QC, Oct. 9 /CNW Telbec/ - A welcoming committee of union
members and leaders of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of
Canada (CEP) prepared to greet Conservative Minister Lawrence Cannon this
morning as he visited the Masson paper mill in Gatineau, Québec.
Their message was clear: "Stephen Harper's minority government has done
absolutely nothing to help our members or the communities that have been
feeling the impact of the forestry crisis for two years now," said CEP
President Dave Coles. "On the contrary, since the beginning of the election
campaign, all Mr. Harper has been saying is that Canada's economy and
employment situation are doing fine! Come and say that to regional workers and
he will get a good dose of reality."
No significant support
For months, CEP has been asking unsuccessfully for strong, concrete
measures to provide assistance to the workers, as well to as the industry.
"Entire regions are affected by job losses and the exodus of workers, but that
doesn't seem to matter to Lawrence Cannon's government. And the platform that
they revealed on Tuesday isn't any more reassuring in this respect. The only
assistance promised by the government was provided in the last budget in the
form of a program for Québec totalling a little over 200 million dollars,
which is well below what is needed. It doesn't make sense," said Renaud Gagné,
The Ottawa region has not been spared
According to Mr. Gagné, "This is incomprehensible coming from a
Conservative minister whose constituency is particularly affected by the
forestry crisis and especially since he is the minister responsible for
Québec". In the past two years, paper mills, saw mills and forestry operations
in the Ottawa region alone have lost over 1,000 CEP unionized jobs. Against
this background, Mr. Gagné wonders "how Minister Cannon's government can tell
us that there isn't a problem and that they are doing enough?"
The Canadian population supports the implementation of industry
In a survey conducted on behalf of CEP and published last Tuesday, 60% of
the Canadian population agrees or somewhat agrees that the federal and
provincial governments should provide financial assistance to counter
shutdowns and job losses. "In Québec, the support reaches close to 74%. The
message seems pretty clear to me. The Conservative government will not be able
to make a difference by doling out substantially inadequate amounts of money.
And the worst is that we haven't yet experienced all of the implications of
the American financial crisis on our economy," said Mr. Coles.
Action is required
The union leaders are clear that action is needed now, including:
- Better assistance programs for older workers so that they can retire
- Extension of employment insurance benefits coupled with career training
in all affected regions.
- Assistance in order to stabilize our financial system so that forest
companies can benefit from the credit they need.
- Research and development programs and implementation assistance
programs for secondary and tertiary processing companies.
- A pan-Canadian summit on the forestry crisis involving all affected
"The Conservative government's laissez-faire attitude is disappointing.
While they had had the chance to make adjustments by publishing their platform
this week, they chose to adopt the same passive attitude. They have nothing
new to offer to the 300,000 Canadians whose jobs are directly related to the
forest industry," said union leaders Coles and Gagné.
For further information:
For further information: Michelle Walsh, Communications Director, CEP,
(613) 230-5200, ext. 222; Marie-Andrée L'Heureux, National Representative,
CEP, (514) 916-7373