Let the new anti-Harper movement begin!

Thirty-two percent more millionaires will be popping up all over Canada over the next ten years. And yes, poverty levels will continue to rise.

How do you suppose this phenomenon will occur?

You guessed it!

The recently aggrandized Harper government hasn’t wasted any time in kicking the feet out from under the public sector. The federal budget, released on June 6, actually calls for the eradication of one third of the public service. Over the next three years alone, (apparently) starting in 2012, the Harper Government will re-appropriate a whopping 11 billion dollar chunk from the public sector budget. Most of these long awaited riches will of course be used to fill the holes left behind by Harpers beloved corporate tax cuts.

Although according to Alternative Federal Budget Coordinator David Macdonald, these cuts are some of “the most aggressive assault[s] on public service delivery in Canadian history,” it hardly came as a surprise to anyone. Yet Stevie has managed to provoke unprecedented mass protest and sweeping discontent in Canada in recent weeks. Why now?

After the Conservatives won a majority this past election, it seemed as if a sense of tired discouragement had infected the Canadian left. And even though the NDP soared to Official Opposition status, the party lost much of its real opposition power. After a few scattered reactionary anti-Harper protests faded away, the weight of powerlessness set in. The left took a hard hit that seemed to knock a few of us out.

Then June 3rd came around and two things happened. CUPW decided to take strike action against Canada Post and then there was Brigette DePape. And we were suddenly reminded that all hope is not lost.

The CUPW strike brought public funding and labour rights back to the dinner table. The strike intensified the labour movement and reminded people of the strength of collective action.

When the Throne Speech was famously…interrupted, Brigette DePape resuscitated the demoralized anti-Harper movement. Hours after the stop sign was raised, Stop Harper t-shirts, mugs and bumper stickers were available for purchase from a dozen websites.

DePape and CUPW showed that democracy does not end at the polling station. Their actions got people talking about the legitimacy and effectiveness of protests, civil disobedience and strike action. People all over the country were reminded that they can still speak up. And they did!

Soon enough CUPW and the Stop Harper campaign naturally teamed up to advance their common message. One June 10th, a Stop Harper rally in Ottawa, where both DePape and CUPW president Denis Lemelin spoke, attracted over 300 people. The rally was endorsed by over 40 community organizations from across Canada.

In her speech, DePape said:

“It’s clear that people in this country are hungry for change and we’re here because we know that hope for change is only possible when we take action. We’re here because we know the power of the street is greater than any power of any parliament…The Postal Workers are fighting for decent work and want to protect public services and health and safety. Their strike is an important part of a broader fight against the Harper agenda. They need all of our support!”

But it didn’t stop there, 10 days later all 4 unions representing Air Canada workers hit the picket lines for similar reasons as Canada Post workers.

To and insult to injury, just moments after Air Canada workers announced the strike, Harper was already arranging back-to-work legislation. Even though service was continuing as usual, the Harper government claimed that the strike would be too damaging to the Canadian economy. That very same day, Harper condoned the Canada Post lockout of its union member employees and is now using it as an excuse to force CUPW members back to work as well.

Back-to-work legislation is a last resort measure and in this case it is being blatantly abused. According to the Canadian Auto Workers Union president Ken Lewenza, “This action by the government is a clear interference with the right to free collective bargaining…The speed at which this legislation has been tabled points to a very real collusion by the Conservative federal government and Air Canada, to strip workers of their rights.”

If we don’t put our collective foot down now, it might soon be too late. A loss for the unions is a loss for every working class Canadian. The Canadian working class is already in crisis and we cannot afford to sit idly by. The time is now. Join the movement. Mass peaceful protest and civil disobedience is the most effective way to fight against the abuse of civil liberties. A Harper majority does not mean the end of justice in Canada!

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  • I detest the Harper government, and I laud Brigitte DePape for her protest. I cannot, however, get 100% behind the CUPW strike.

    I chatted a few days ago with some of the picketers outside of my local PO, so as to get some first hand details about what was going on. Some parts of the labor dispute are excellent reasons to strike.

    Workplace safety concerns – a serious issue that should be accorded the utmost attention.

    New hires not getting the same wage/pension package that older employees have – that’s just too damn bad. Times have change and the system needs to be overhauled. There is less mail going out and more addresses it’s going to. Soon, there will be more retirees drawing benefits from Canada Post than employees working for it. This is a situation which, anyone can see, is totally untenable. The situation is also no one’s fault. Both sides need to behave like grownups, acknowledge the situation, and find a solution that allows CP to continue operating.

    Current employees should not have to lose the rights they were promised when they signed on – but for new hires a new deal doesn’t seem unreasonable.

    Who is getting hurt by this strike?

    Small business owners who cannot reliably or cheaply send and receive inventory.

    The elderly who depend on the mail for financial matters, social support and communication.

    Charities whose main fundraising activities are through the mail. Without these donations, many cannot provide services to those who really need them.

    Rural Canadians (particularly, again, the elderly) who have no other options available for parcel shipping, as most major private couriers do not operate outside of large metropolitan areas and rely on Canada Post to see the items delivered.

    I respect the right of workers to strike, I really do, and I don’t agree with back-to-work legislation as a rule – but this time, when a vital service is being interrupted to some of our country’s most vulnerable citizens – I think it’s justified.

  • Hi Megan,

    Thanks for the comment. I often find that the information presented in mainstream media leads a casual observer to think that union demands are unreasonable and unrealistic so I understand where you’re coming from.

    That said, I think there are a couple important points you’re missing when it comes to understanding the current situation with Canada Post.

    1) When you talk about the harm caused by interruption of postal service, don’t forget that the union was only doing rolling 24 hour strikes. The longest any piece of mail was held up was 24 hours, as the strike shifted from one city to another. This was a conscious choice to balance the public’s need for mail service with the employees’ right to strike.

    Canada Post unilaterally locked out all it’s employees in response to the strike, something they clearly did to cause a crisis and give Harper cover to legislate the employees back to work. It is Canada Post, not the union, who are keeping packages from little old ladies.

    2) CP has been profitable for something like 17 straight years. Their profit last year was in the billions. There may be less mail but the corporation is not hurting financially for it.

    The new pension plan for new hires would mean they could work 30 years and be left homeless and destitute when they retire. This is both unacceptable and unnecessary. All workers deserve a pension, it’s one of the most basic labour issues. We should be working to make sure that all workers are assured a fair and just retirement, not allowing massively profitable corporations to leave their loyal employees penniless in their old age.

    I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be eating cat food when you retire, and neither would I.

    So let’s support this flagship struggle to ensure that workers in all fields can still count on a stable pension when they retire. Because if CUPW and others on the front lines of this fight lose, we’ll all be on the road to losing our pensions.

  • Canada Post profits were something like 287 millions in 2010 alone. The Crown Corporation is also entirely self-funded and does not cost a cent to Canadian taxpayers.

    2-tier wage system is also discriminatory. Equal pay for equal work.

  • Thanks so much to everybody for your comments!

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