Taylor Bachrach, NDP MP for Skeena — Bulkley Valley, says workers’ rights and income inequality are at the front of his mind as the federal government enters a pivotal moment.
Bachrach sat down for a phone call with The Terrace Standard to talk labour issues ahead of Labour Day Sept. 7, less than a month before Parliament is set to resume with the minority Liberal government possibly facing a vote of confidence that could trigger an early election. Bachrach and the NDP are in a strong position to influence policy because they have enough seats to carry the Liberals through a vote of confidence, even if the rest of Parliament votes to bring the Trudeau government down.
Bachrach said one of the major issues facing workers in his riding is a problem seen across the country; front-line workers, such as grocery clerks, are underpaid and disrespected.
“The front-line essential workers, whose jobs are often undervalued in our society, are, in fact, essential to keeping our society running,” he said. “Unfortunately, many of them are poorly compensated, and my hope is that our experience in the pandemic will cause us, as a society, to rethink how we value different roles in our community.”
When asked if he had any words for people in his riding who are struggling or afraid because of the pandemic, Bachrach said the crisis provides an opportunity to usher in broad societal and economic change.
“I want them to know that we’ve got their backs and that we’re going to work to make sure that they not only have the help they need in the short term to get through this unprecedented time, but that long-term we’re going to fight for a recovery from the pandemic that includes them, and that their needs as workers aren’t going to be forgotten,” he said.
“One of the biggest challenges facing our country is economic inequality, and the fact that a very small number of Canadians are doing better and better all the time, while the gap between those that are doing very well and those that are struggling to get by continues to widen. That’s a problem that’s widely recognized as being bad for society.”
The NDP would address income inequality in part by closing tax-haven loopholes and taxing wealthy Canadians.
“The ordinary, everyday working resident of the Northwest is paying their taxes and contributing to the greater good, and unfortunately the system has been set up in such a way that there are a handful of people taking huge advantage of it,” he said.
Bachrach is known in his riding as an environmentalist, but he said his goal of fighting climate change is not at odds with fostering the resource-based economy upon which many workers in his riding rely.
“Fighting climate change means that we are going to re-tool many aspects of our society and our communities, and that re-tooling requires raw resources and skilled labour,” he said. “You look at the forest industry and the role that wood products can play moving forward, you look at the mining industry and the role that metals like copper are going to play as we move to electrify parts of the economy that have been fueled by fossil fuels, those are going to remain important, so I don’t buy into the notion that natural resource industries are at odds with climate action.”
“The needs of [resource economy] workers can’t be overlooked, and more than anything in our region, we need to look to build an economy in the future that is stable and resilient, where we can to try to buffer against the boom and bust cycles that have so dramatically affected our communities in the past, and in doing so we help create the stability for workers and their families that everyone wants.”
Bachrach was elected in last fall’s federal election, replacing New Democrat Nathan Cullen who decided not to run again.