Jack Layton’s children led the 140th Labour Day parade through the downtown core Monday as thousands of union members paid tribute to the late NDP leader‘s efforts to fight for fair wages and pensions for workers.
The event also highlighted workers’ achievements and challenges and aimed to make saving public sector jobs a ballot issue in the upcoming provincial election on Oct. 6.
The festivities kicked off with a rally at Nathan Phillips Square at 9 a.m. Participants marched west on Queen Street towards Dufferin and then marched to the Exhibition grounds.
Jack Layton’s children, Mike Layton, a local city councillor, and Sarah Layton, marched alongside Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and the federal party’s interim leader Nycole Turmel holding a banner that read “Labour Day march for Jack.”
The late Opposition leader died of cancer on Aug. 22.
“I know he always enjoyed a good parade and a good showing of solidarity with the workers of our city,” Mike Layton said on the parade route.
Horwath said people participating in Monday’s parade were carrying the torch for Layton.
“Jack worked very hard for everyday working people, not only to get justice in terms of workplace issues, but to really make a difference for everyday families,” she said.
“I think that today is a way of us saying: ‘You know, let’s stay united and let’s make sure that we actually fight for and work towards the kind of vision that Jack set out.'”
Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, spoke out against the federal government and Mayor Rob Ford’s policies when it comes to unionized workers.
“It is time that voters shaped this election around our own priorities. We can choose more of the same policies that plunged the economy into an historic recession or we can choose investments in good jobs and public services that can grow our economy and ensure that everyone has a decent standard of living,” he said in a statement.
Ryan criticized Ford’s efforts to dramatically trim the number of city workers by offering buyout packages as part of the Voluntary Separation Program. Few workers have taken the bait and the mayor has suggested the lack of voluntary resignations may force him to resort to layoffs.
The federal government also came under fire from union leaders for tabling back-to-work legislation to end Air Canada and Canada Post strikes earlier this summer.
With files from The Canadian Press