Wednesday, 15 June 2011

What else is new? Stephen Harper is right of centre.

Air Canada and Canada Post: The Harper government’s labour relations are very much to the right of the political spectrum. 
by Tom Thorne
On 3 and 4 May I wrote two stories about what we could expect from the Harper government. At that time, I said, that Prime Minister Harper could take the high road towards a more centre politics for Canada because his majority was achieved by barely 38 percent of the voters. 
The other option was no matter what the mandate he received in percentage terms he  could become a shade of Mrs. Thatcher. Well Harper’s approach to the Air Canada and Post Office strikes indicate a more Thatcherite approach. The Harper government’s view of labour relations are very much in line with the right. In parliament today Harper described the Air Canada and Canada Post strikes as: “threatening to jeopardize economic recovery.”
Under the guise of “the economy is fragile” rhetoric Harper’s cabinet has put in motion legislation to order the Air Canada workers back to work, barely 24 hours into their strike and less than two weeks of rotating postal strikes. That seems excessive and the rhetoric is certainly over the top and far too strong. 
Strikes are threats to the fragile recovering economy...says Harper
Then today there was another announcement that the Canada Post strike will also not be tolerated by the Harper government.  After the workers were locked out by their management this morning  it  appears that the Harper government is prepared to become the arbitrator of collective bargaining especially if a service has a federal government relationship. Today, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has put both unions on formal notice that they will be legislated back to work.
What will be interesting is whether private sector strikes will also be subject to the “the economy is fragile” and “threatening to jeopardize economic recovery” arguments of this government. Will they respect the collective bargaining process in the private sector? Or will they continue to use the heavy hand of their majority to tighten their grip on Canadian labour relations in general? There are certainly shivers in the federal public service tonight.
The temptations of power are all too present in the haste of these two decisions. At least  they are meeting parliament to bring on their legislation. However, after the summer recess of Parliament begins, watch for a more Star Chamber approach with cabinet orders in council being used to solve labour and other problems during the vacation period.
Of course Jack Layton and the NDP opposition will always call for a negotiated end to the strikes. He calls the Harper Government’s back to work legislation “draconian”.  I think Jack Layton and the rest of us should get used to much more arbitrary behaviors as the Harper majority puts its right wing agenda stamp on Canadian life and polarizes our political life in this country to a simple right and left choice. 
© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

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