On Monday, October 19th – Justin Trudeau won the first Liberal majority in 15 years.
His team ran a well-executed campaign which led to the Liberals winning 184 seats. This also marks the first time in Canadian history that a son/daughter of a former Prime Minister will occupy 24 Sussex Drive. Mr. Trudeau will officially become Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister on November 4th.
Now that the election is over, it is time for the Black community to consider what we should demand from the new Liberal majority government. Obviously the community will hope to see Celina Caesar-Chavannes, named to a Cabinet post. Her resume combined with winning in the riding of the late Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty should lead to her being rewarded with a Cabinet post. That being said, there are three areas we should focus on in relation to our new government.
1) Accessible Public Transit
The Liberal platform promised to increase funding for public transit by 4 times. While public transit is vital for all Canadians, it is probably even more important for the Black community. In a report titled, Towards a Vision for the Black Community , the data showed that 36.6% of the Black population depended on public transit vs. 11.5% of the general population. This obviously highlights the need for increased investment in public transit. However, public transit projects must be improved in areas where the Black community lives and works. For instance, the York University Subway Extension will benefit York university students however the bus routes within Jane & Finch and the surrounding areas are still impacted by poor service.
The cities of Brampton and Ajax have fast growing Black communities that will require building more transit that connects the 905 region to Toronto proper. Announcing billions in new transit is a good start. Ensuring that the routes proposed improve the daily commute where Black people live is the important next step. This is one of the criticisms of John Tory’s Smart Track Plan for Toronto. The Toronto Pearson Airport to Union Express (UP) has run into a problem of accessibly due to cost. Public transit that is not accessible due to price or location is of no use to us.
2) Equal and Fair Access to Government procurement
The Government of Canada purchases $15 to 20 billion worth of goods and services every year. The Liberal platform will add to this, as it proposes significant investments in Canada’s infrastructure. For social infrastructure, the Liberals will invest $20 billion over 10 years. This will focus on affordable housing and child care spaces. In addition, $6 billion will be spent on Green Energy Infrastructure over the next 4 years. Overall, the Liberal infrastructure platform is being hailed as historic.
With these high levels of infrastructure spending, the Black community must ensure that Black businesses are able to bid and win contracts with the Federal Government. Black businesses that are skilled in delivering goods and services that provide direct or indirect support for infrastructure must be given the opportunity to win contracts. This will require a diligent and intensive lobbying effort. In today’s economic climate, it is often very difficult for small businesses (much less Black businesses) to do business with the Federal Government. The firms who tend to win Federal Government Business are large firms with effective lobbies. To fix this issue, the Trudeau Government should set aside a portion of its investments for small businesses as well as businesses owned by visible minorities. This is already being done in the United States via the Minority Business Development Agency (MDBA).
During the campaign, Mr. Trudeau was clear about the fact that Canadians need good paying jobs. The Minority Business Development Agency has done that in the United States. “During the first three years of the Obama Administration, MBDA facilitated a total of over 16,300 new jobs — an increase of 20% over the prior 3-year period.”
Naysayers who stand against the concept for set asides for minority run businesses should also note that “Between 2009 and 2011, MBDA achieved a return on taxpayer Investment (ROI) between 102x and 130x.” This agency was created by Republican President Richard Nixon.
3) Practical Skills Development Training
To ensure that the Black Community has the skills to deliver value in areas such as infrastructure, technology, social, health etc. – the community must demand fair access to training. Not just post-secondary education, but also practical on the job training and apprenticeships. Thus, the Black community should demand that any new infrastructure project funded by the Government of Canada include on the job training for Black youth and those re-entering the workforce.
For instance, the York Subway project that extends into Vaughan should be providing practical training opportunities for Black youth who reside in the surrounding areas. All funding should have this condition attached. From the building of new affordable housing in Peel Region, to upgrading information technology infrastructure to increasing funding for social agencies – all Federal Government funding commitments must include training opportunities for Black people. Too often others reap the financial and training benefits of projects within the Black community, and not those who are actually living there. This is outrageous and must stop.
The first step towards change is the vote for it. The next steps are much more difficult. It involves various members of the Black community creating effective lobby groups. It is time to focus on how we can directly benefit from increased Government Investments. Prime Minister Designate Trudeau’s reference to former Prime Minister, Wilfred Laurier “Sunny Ways” indicates that he is open to new ideals from all Canadians. It is time for Black Canadians to be a vital part of that conservation.
Too often we say we want change yet we have not changed our tactics. Real Change starts within. Let it begin right now!