Budget for the Rich, Not Workers

People’s Voice Editorial

The first Tory majority budget was delivered two days after this PV went to the printshop. But the outlines were hinted at for weeks by Conservative cabinet ministers. Like the rest of the capitalist world, Canada remains in a protracted economic crisis, and the working class will be forced to pay the price through austerity and war.

Of course, the Tories argue that their “responsible leadership” has left Canada in a relatively well-off position. Measured by the rebound in corporate profits and share prices since the 2008 meltdown, that may be true for the wealthy. But for the 1.5 million Canadians officially counted as jobless, or working people struggling to survive on low wages, or Aboriginal peoples who remain in dire poverty, there is no “recovery” or security.

Instead of tackling the serious problems of unemployment and poverty, the Tories are joining the global capitalist attack on pension eligibility. Instead of investing in desperately needed low-income housing and affordable child care, they pour billions of taxpayer dollars into prisons, cops, and military hardware. Rather than increase taxes on corporate profits, they download costs to the provinces as a way to artificially “reduce” the federal deficit.

Whenever the Harperites say that “everyone” must help to tackle the deficit, remember that Canada’s economic problems were created by big business and the wealthy – those who reap the benefits of lower taxes on profits and the highest income brackets. By “everyone”, they mean the workers who create the wealth of our society, but have no voice in determining the future of Canada. In our system, budgets are just another form of class war by the rich against the poor. More than ever, we need to build a powerful coalition of the working class and its allies to change course, to win policies for the needy, not the greedy!

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No Move Left for NDP

People’s Voice Editorial

     With Thomas Mulcair as the new leader of the NDP, it appears that Canada’s mass social democratic party will likely continue its long-term drift to the political centre. In fact, none of the seven candidates who made it to the ballot were clearly associated with strong left positions, even on issues where working people favour a move towards genuine progressive reforms.

For example, a growing majority of voters support increased taxes on the wealthy and the corporations, to help shift the tax burden from the needy to the greedy and to help pay for vital social programs. Yet no NDP leadership candidate made more than a timid gesture in this direction. Nor did any of them mention the need for public ownership of critical economic sectors such as the energy industry – even though nearly half of Canadians back such a demand, according to surveys over recent years.

Mulcair brings a particularly poor record on issues of peace and war to his new post. Canada already has a viciously anti-Palestinian Prime Minister, and now we also have an Official Opposition leader who has been vehemently pro-Israel in his public statements. Nor did Mr. Mulcair raise any objection to the Harper government’s aggressive militarist foreign policy. The NDP has shifted from its identification with the anti-war movement of a decade ago, into the camp of those who support imperialist interventions in the name of “humanitarian intervention.”

None of this is any big surprise – the NDP has been on a trajectory away from left policies for many years. But those who counsel “keeping our powder dry” by blocking attempts to mobilize public opposition against the Harper Tories – so that we can elect an NDP government in 2015 – are making a huge mistake. More than ever, the main focus of opposition to the Tory/corporate agenda must be extraparliamentary, in our workplaces and communities.

Feds Urged to Use Back-to-Work Legislation Only in ‘Very Extreme’ Cases

by Steve Rennie

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt delivers a statement in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt delivers a statement in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

OTTAWA – An appeal from federal bureaucrats to use back-to-work legislation only as a last resort in labour disputes at Air Canada appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

The Department of Human Resources and Skills Development advised the governing Conservatives in a secret report to use the powerful legal measure only sparingly after the airline’s customer-service and sales staff walked out last June.

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the July 21 report under the Access to Information Act.

In it, senior officials urged the Tories to save the back-to-work law for emergencies. The bureaucrats were not convinced the walkout by customer-service agents constituted anything more than a nuisance to air travellers.

“This is an option to be used only in very extreme circumstances where there is a serious impact on the national economy — in this instance it would appear to be more of an inconvenience to travellers who would have to rely on other modes of transportation,” the document says.

That piece of advice came after Labour Minister Lisa Raitt had already tabled back-to-work legislation to end labour unrest between Air Canada and its customer-service agents. The two sides reached a deal before the measure could be enacted.

A few months later, Raitt again threatened further back-to-work legislation when it looked like Air Canada’s flight attendants might walk off the job. The labour minister also sought to head off a strike by referring the dispute to the Canada Industrial Relations Board, allegedly over health and safety concerns during a work stoppage. The lead arbitrator subsequently imposed the last deal rejected by flight attendants.

Fast-forward to the airline’s latest bout of labour unrest. The House of Commons just voted to send a pair of disputes at Air Canada to binding arbitration even before a threatened strike and lockout. The legislation covers about 3,000 pilots and 8,600 mechanics, baggage handlers and other ground crew.

On Tuesday, Air Canada pilots filed a legal challenge in an Ontario court, arguing that federal legislation contravened their charter rights.

Raitt’s spokeswoman did not directly answer questions about the department’s recommendations for using back-to-work legislation.

“Our government acted in the public’s best interest and the best interests of the national economy,” Ashley Kelahear wrote in an email. She did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about the report.

The Human Resources and Skills Development report gave several options to settle labour disputes, including back-to-work legislation. The other options were mediation, summoning both sides to Ottawa to meet Raitt, binding arbitration, ordering a vote on an employer offer and referring the dispute to the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

The Tories have not been shy about passing bills to prevent work stoppages. The House of Commons passed a bill in June ordering 48,000 Canada Post employees back to work.

*source: The Canadian Press