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The 25th Convention of the Canadian Labour Congress was held in Toronto in the last week of May, 2008. Some 1800 delegates from across Canada convened in Labourís parliament to chart a course for the next three years.  Over five days, the convention adopted position papers covering key issues:

  • Organizing : Growth and Strength

  • Climate Change and Green Jobs: Labourís Challenges and Opportunities

  • Public Health Care

  • The Growing Gap : Inequality, Poverty and the Fight for Womenís Economic Equality

  • Labourís Agenda for Good Jobs

Throughout the convention, a series of presentations provided solid background to a number of key economic and social justice issues.  There will be a Structural Review carried out by a special task force which may suggest changes to how the CLC functions, including the role of provincial federations of labour and labour councils. A focus on raiding was added due to pressure from a number of Ontario leaders.

In the lead-up to the convention, this Labour Council initiated the “Action Agenda Ė Building Labour Power in the 21st Century”. It was endorsed by a number of other labour councils, and distributed to all delegates. A packed Action Agenda Forum took place on the Sunday to highlight groundbreaking struggles across the country as inspiring examples of building labour power.

The eleven resolutions of the Action Agenda were incorporated in either the position papers or resolutions endorsed by the Convention. The delegates supported a major effort around organizing, including looking at a new role for the CLC in organizing efforts.  They also endorsed the need for a coordinated campaign to win card-check in every province, and to tackle issues of precarious employment including migrant and temp agency work. Womenís equality was highlighted, and political action confirmed support for the NDP along with issues campaigning and a focus on municipal work.

The response to the looming economic crisis included calling for renegotiating NAFTA, and regaining control of Canadaís energy supplies by nationalizing the oil industry. However, in the wake of massive layoffs in the manufacturing sector, the proposals seemed to lack the militancy that many felt are necessary to take on corporate power.

In fact, the crucial question coming out of this convention is “how to make it real”.  Will the major affiliates agree to invest their resources, staff and leadership time to get behind mass campaigns and seriously build collective labour power?  Will the re-elected CLC officers capture the sense of urgency expressed by the delegates and inspire the affiliates to put aside differences and work on transforming our movement?

The dialogue initiated through the Action Agenda clearly needs to continue. Across Canada, unions in very different circumstances have shown the ability to carry out extraordinary campaigns, often defying the odds to gain victories for working people.  By continuing to assert that boldness matters and risks need to be taken to build real power, we can contribute to the process of shaping the future of labour in this country.