Reflecting on unions on Labour Day is routine for left of centre politicos. When you have laboured with brothers and sisters of the movement, you want to give them credit for their solidarity, for their conviction, for their dedication and you want to lambaste them for their pig-headed obstinacy.
But what nobody is willing to understand is that when Harper and company have finished destroying labour unions in Canada, we will have also destroyed Canada’s middle class. The divide between the very rich and the rest of us will a wide and deep void. We will be the clones in Stephen Harper’s Brave New World. We lowly workers will have to learn to love Big Brother.
We are at a crossroads. Tomorrow is decision day in Quebec and where is Thomas Mulcair, leader of Canada’s New Democrats and saviour of unions? Is he leaving the field to Pauline Marois of the Parti Québécois? Where is Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario New Democrats and saviour of Ontario unions? Why is she letting Premier Dalton McGuinty blame teachers’ unions for the provincial deficit?
Despite the federal NDP turning to a professional politician such as Thomas Mulcair for leadership, this union based party is not doing the job. It is not making the case for what unions really mean in Canada. It was the struggle in the 1930s to bring management to the bargaining table that brought our nation out of the Great Depression. It was the momentum of manufacturing to support the Second World War that entrenched the labour movement as a Canadian institution. Our country survived that war, richer, more confident and with a more level playing field for our citizens.
The weakness for the unions was in the creation of the New Democratic Party as common ground for the old Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and Canada’s labour movement. Instead of putting their trust in the party, the unions wanted to run it.
It has left the NDP as a party of the past. It still lives in the strife of the Dirty Thirties. It has failed to move to a social democratic stance that can be attractive to all caring Canadians. It has failed to articulate the case for a modern union movement that is based on a partnership with the contributions of management.
The true social democrats in Canada are the left wing of the Liberal Party. These are the people who have to grasp their party’s upcoming leadership campaign and ensure that the new leader opens the door to New Democrats who want to defeat Stephen Harper and see the union movement move into the 21st Century.
Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry
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