John Calvert

Interviewed by Ken Novakowski

John Calvert was born in Oshawa, Ontario and grew up in London, Ontario. In his late teens, he obtained a commercial pilot’s license, which meant that he could help pay for his post-secondary education by working as a bush pilot during the summers in Northern Ontario. John attended the University of Western Ontario for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and then moved to London, England where he obtained his doctorate at the London School of Economics. His thesis was on industrial democracy, which was very topical in the U.K. at the time, under a Labour government. During his time in the U.K., he was a Labour Party activist. After he completed his thesis, he started working for the Merchant Navy and Airline Officers union, an affiliate of the U.K.’s Trades Union Congress (TUC). John returned to Canada in the late seventies and worked for CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) as their first research representative in B.C. After working for two years in Vancouver, John accepted a job in CUPE’s research department in Ottawa. At the time, neoconservatives and neoliberals were pushing a free trade agenda. Free trade was seen as a threat to Canada’s social democracy and social programs, so CUPE assigned John to work with the coalition, the Pro-Canada Network, which had formed in opposition to free trade. In 1993, he accepted a secondment to work in the Ministry of Employment and Investment on trade policy. From there, he moved to the Crown Corporation Secretariat, where he worked on the Island Highway Project. In 1998, during the time that Glen Clark was premier, John began working on the labour accord process. As a result of this process, 35 accords were negotiated, the most significant of which in John’s view, was the accord that resulted in joint trusteeship of the major public sector pension plans. Shortly before the election of the Gordon Campbell government, John returned to CUPE, working as a servicing representative in B.C. for a couple of years, until he took early retirement. After that, John was hired as an associate professor in the then new health sciences faculty at Simon Fraser University (SFU), where he worked for 14 years. Since that time, John has been working with representatives and organizations involved in apprenticeship and training in the building trades to include climate change issues in curriculums. John is also an adjunct professor in Labour Studies at SFU.


Bush pilot; Fabian socialists; industrial democracy; British Labour Party; Trade Union Congress (TUC); Merchant Navy and Airline Officers; interest arbitration; Working Committee on Social Solidarity; free trade; Macdonald Commission (a.k.a. Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada); neoconservatism; neoliberalism; Pro-Canada Network; NAC (National Action Committee on the Status of Women); ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists); Island Highway Project; Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC (FPSE); labour accords; PSEC (Public Sector Employers’ Council); public policy; Labour Studies Program, SFU; Island Highway Project; Highway Constructors Ltd.; Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change; climate change; SkillPlan; Social Demonstration and Research Corporation; Canada’s Building Trades Unions (CBTU); Union Training and Innovation program (UTIP); trades training curriculums; Richard Greaves; Ted Knight; Bill Walsh; Gil Levine; Grace Hartman; Jean Claude Parrot; Kealey Cummings; Larry Katz; Randy Sykes; Madeleine Parent; Tony Penikett; ; Jeff Rose; Rick Salutin; Terry Mosher; Ed Finn; Glen Clark; Blair Redlin; Bob Rae; Ken Georgetti; Russ Pratt; Mark Leier; Jim Sinclair; Margaret Morgan; Wayne Peppard; Lee Loftus;

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