Workers First: 21st Century Jobs and Growth

All leaders today must deal with four major economic realities: the urgency of shifting from a fossil fuel-based economy to a green innovation economy; the challenges of increasing automation; precarious work; and the need for fair trade agreements with countries around the globe.


New Democrats have long fought for dignity through safe, meaningful and well-paid work. This history challenges us to proactively tackle the enormous economic and labour market shifts ahead.


Unlike the major economic transitions of our past, which were built largely on the backs of workers and families, and on the exploitation of Indigenous peoples and racialized communities - it is our commitment to leave no one behind.


The guiding principle of my Workers First: 21st Century Jobs and Growth plan is to ensure that the costs of this transition will not be downloaded onto working people. Resources will be made available to help workers and their families and communities transform our 20th century economy into a green and sustainable 21st century one.


My Workers First transition is an aggressive agenda to deal with the changing nature of work, and minimize its negative effects while ensuring the greatest benefit for all Canadians.


It creates opportunities for education, skills development and career guidance, and it facilitates the move to new, high quality jobs while protecting pensions.


In short, it's a real, ambitious and achievable plan to set our country on a course toward a more prosperous and sustainable future for all Canadians.


My Workers First plan includes:


  • Investing in a Job Action Plan to fund the large-scale job creating infrastructure projects required to transition to the green and automated economy. These investments will total $90 billion dollars over a period of 10 years:

    • $32 billion into new renewable energy production and technologies, including solar, wind and geothermal.

    • $30 billion to retrofit buildings into Green Buildings and identify energy efficiencies.

    • $18 billion for public transit expenditures, to reduce both personal emissions and overall transportation emissions.

    • $10 billion for Higher Speed Rail Transport, to take more cars off our roads and highways.


  • Updating the Canada Labour Code to replace the 8-hour workday with a 7-hour workday, without wage loss. In the next 10 years, nearly a third of on-the-job tasks in over 60% of all jobs will be automated. We can already see right now how so many Canadians are affected by job precarity. By reducing working hours, the length of the work week will once again reflect the realities of our economic times.


  • Increasing fairness in federal labour regulations to give workers a decent wage to fight poverty and improve quality and working conditions, notably:

    • A $15/hr minimum wage

    • Promoting full-time permanent work

    • Fair scheduling

    • Paid sick leave


  • Creating a new Community Economic Development Program to help affected communities in their efforts to diversify their economies. The program will also:

  • Strategically direct significant investments toward Indigenous, rural, and remote communities where there are fewer alternative employment opportunities.

  • Work with employers, the provinces and territories to identify appropriate timelines for slowdown and closure of industries to mitigate negative impacts on affected communities, and ensure that the majority of affected workers are able to receive skills training, transitional support, or retirement benefits.

  • Provide incentives for volunteerism: even where people have limited employment options, many participate in important and little-recognized volunteer work that has an enormous positive impact on our communities.


  • Creating an Interim Support Program that includes:

    • A Basic Income supplement to lift all low-income Canadians out of poverty.

    • A Fair Departure Program to ensure that employers provide severance, health insurance and pensions for workers who have been laid off due to the transition.

    • Reducing the number of hours required for EI eligibility from 900 to 360.

    • Allowing workers who lose their jobs due to the transition to receive full Canada Pension Plan (CPP) benefits starting at age 60, without penalty.


  • Introducing Activity Accounts for Lifetime Learning for every Canadian: financed by contributions from workers, employers, and the federal government, the account will enable its holder to finance lifetime learning and job retraining. It would be portable so that if the individual moved or switched jobs, the account would migrate with them.


  • Introducing a Green Economy and Green Skills Survey: a community-level study of potential employment impacts of the transition to a green and automated economy, this survey will provide crucial information on economic activity and skills needs, and allow the federal government to make evidence-based decisions about future strategic investments - rather than ideological and partisan ones.


Investing in Our Common Future


In restructuring our economy, we are undertaking an enormously ambitious and essential project for the future of our country. Thus, it may be necessary to incur a deficit.


We have identified a number of sources of funding to pay for the necessary expenditures, including a robust carbon tax, which will be implemented across the country over a period of 10 years. The costs of retraining, job matching and interim support programs will be paid for through an increase in the corporate tax rate (my plan to overhaul Canada’s tax system already calls for the increase of the corporate tax rate from 15% to 19% - one percentage point of which will be invested directly into the Workers First transition). As previously noted, the Basic Income supplement will also be paid for through the restructuring of our tax system.


Finally, as a further source of funds for this crucial transition, we propose to increase the inflation target from its current level of 2% to 4%. This move is expected to raise gross domestic income by an additional $50 billion per year.