Today Sunday October 27, 2013.
On October 16, 2013 the Canadian Parliament resumed after having been prorogued at Harper’s request last month in what was an obvious attempt to avoid dealing with the corruption scandals plaguing his government and the subsequent cover-up operations by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Harper has always promoted himself and his government as being “holier than thou” and different from the rest of the political class.
However, in the face of the latest scandals affecting the Senate, Harper’s own credibility and that of his government is crumbling in the eyes of the electorate and no amount of dissimulations behind so-called “Canadian values” and “getting tough on crime” schemes can rescue his regime from the condemnation of the working class and the vast majority of the Canadian people.
We have all come to see the Harper government as a dictatorship of the monopolies over all aspects of life and one which is inconsistent with the democratic aspirations of the people. Within this situation, the workers want to set a new direction for the society and fight for a genuine nation-building project which will ensure the claims of the workers on the tremendous added-value they produce for the society in the course of their work and at the same time guarantee the rights that we all have by dint of being human.
It can unequivocally be said that with the Speech from the Throne, the Conservative government showed utter contempt for the Canadian people and absolute indifference to the economic insecurity that they face. The upcoming session of Parliament will see the trend of the rich getting richer and of the poor getting poorer being further exacerbated as the government will continue to serve the interests of the monopolies at the detriment of the general interest of the society.
THE CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT THROUGH ITS SPEECH FROM THE THRONE HAVE SET AN AGENDA FOR THE UPCOMING SESSION OF PARLIAMENT WHICH WILL FURTHER DEEPEN ITS CONTRADICTIONS WITH THE WORKING CLASS AND THE CANADIAN PEOPLE.
On October 16, 2013 Governor General David Johnson delivered the Speech from the Throne entitled “Seizing Canada’s Moment—Prosperity and Opportunity in an Uncertain World” in the Senate chamber on Parliament Hill. This was the second such speech since the Conservatives took power on May 2, 2011.
While the workers have been forced to suffer the brunt of austerity measures, cutbacks in social services, persisting stagnation of the economy since the 2008-2009 economic recession, high levels of unemployment especially in the manufacturing sector and falling wages, the Conservative government had nothing but platitudes to offer them in its Speech from the Throne, something which is bound to further deepen its contradictions with the workers during the next parliamentary session.
The Speech of the Throne is a 25 page document divided in three parts; 1) Creating Jobs and Opportunities for Canadians, 2)Supporting and Protecting Canadian Families and 3)Putting Canada First. The most noticeable aspect of the speech is that it is completely divorced from the reality facing the people and provides an insignificant outlook using catchphrases that only serve to obscure that reality even more.
At the onset, the government announced that it will be introducing a bill in the legislature enacting into law the notion that governments must bring only balanced budget to the House of Commons for approval. This will inevitably force governments to return to the politics of “paying the debt” at all cost. The financial class will be the one gaining from this as it will provide them with a lot more opportunities to make even greater claims on the added-value being produced by the working class.
This announcement also means budget freeze forcing the government to slash jobs even further in the public service and cut indispensable services to the Canadian people and this, on top of the $20 billion of cuts it has already announced. The 300,000 federal public service workers will be faced with the burden of these cuts as they will be subjected to “performance accountability” to provide “better service to Canadians at a reduced cost”.
Negotiations between the Conservative government and the Public Service Alliance of Canada currently underway will continue to be one-sided as the government will definitely do everything possible to impose its aims onto the union demanding even greater concessions than anticipated from the workers in order to balance its books.
The speech says: “The government will continue reducing the size and cost of Government to ensure that taxpayers get value for money.
- Our Government will freeze the overall federal operating budget, which will continue to restrain hiring.
- Our Government will make further targeted reductions to internal government spending.
- Our Government will reform the way the federal system manages spending.
- Our Government will review federal assets; when it is in the best interest of Canadians, they will be sold.
- Our Government recognizes the value of a lean, competent and committed public service. Public Service pay and benefit levels will be reasonable, responsible, and in the public interest.
- Our Government has already reformed federal government pension plans, to ensure that parliamentarians and public servants pay their fair share. It will reform disability and sick-day entitlements and work with employees to get them back to work as soon as possible.
- Our Government will amend the Public Service Labor Relations Act to ensure that the Public Service is affordable, modern and high-performing.
- Our Government will increase performance accountability in the Public Service to provide better service to Canadians, at a reduced cost, and to better recognize dedicated and effective employees.”
Of immediate concern to postal workers is the government’s announcement which I have highlighted in bold, proposing a review of federal assets with the aim of selling them, if it is deemed in the “best interest of Canadians”. The government will be the one to decide what is in the “best interest of Canadians”. This is a sure indication that Canada Post will be a next big target of the Conservative government along with other important assets. Selling Canada Post would allow competing monopolies to gut out the Canadian post office and appropriate the most lucrative parts of the business for themselves while destroying a Canadian institution that goes as far back as the beginning of Canada as a nation.
While the government is paving the way to further impose its neo-liberal agenda of austerity and restraints on the overall majority of Canadians through the Speech from the Throne, it is also putting more of the country’s economy at the service of the monopolies, further militarizing the economy and fashioning Canada to become a rogue state.
For example, on October 8, just a few days prior to the opening of the new parliamentary session, the CBC revealed that the government would be spending more than the $880 million it announced in October 2010 for a top secret military spy agency to be headquartered here in Ottawa. This building will be the most expensive government building ever constructed in the history of Canada and the cost is now being estimated to be well over $1.2 billion. This cost will not come under the government’s spending restraints showing clearly the vision of the Harperites as being in contradictions with that of the working class and the Canadian people.
This “lavish palace” will house 2,000 employees of the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), a federal agency known for its spying activities on foreign governments and corporations by hacking into their computers, reading their email and intercepting phone calls. The National Defence has apparently dubbed the project “Camelot” on account of its grandiosity.
The developers will also be further enriched as the government has contracted them to maintain the building and provide other services for another $3 billion over the next 30 years. Everything to do with the project has been declared a matter of national security and it is impossible to verify the specifics of how all that money is being spent.
In Canada, military spending has already reached more than $20 billion a year and according to the Speech from the Throne, more military spending will be made in order to build new ships for the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard. In its speech, the government also announced that it would complete its plan to replace Canada’s fleet of fighter jets, something which has been estimated will cost close to $30 billion.
The government brags in the speech that “Canada no longer will have to hitch a ride with our allies. The Royal Canadian Air Force is flying new heavy-lift C-17 and C-130J transport aircraft, and operating Chinook helicopters. New tanks, artillery and other equipment have proven their worth in combat. Canadian workers at Canadian shipyards will build new ships for the Canadian Navy”…and so on.
Militarizing the economy is what the Conservatives call creating jobs and opportunities for Canadians while over 377,000 jobs have disappeared in the manufacturing sector alone since Harper seized political power. “Our government will work in partnership with industry to ensure that all major military purchases create high-quality jobs for Canadian workers” the speech says.
By sleight of hand, the government completely dismisses the crisis in the manufacturing sector and proposes nothing to deal with this question. In fact, all indications are from reading the speech that it will continue on with destroying manufacturing jobs with a proposal to provide $1.4 billion in tax relief to manufacturing companies investing in modern machinery and equipment which will serve to increase productivity by having fewer workers do more work with less, something that the government regards as “fostering Canadian productivity and global competitiveness”. Monopolies in that sector will benefit from tax relief while the workers will be placed in a position of having to make further concessions to them in order to preserve their jobs and the competitiveness of their employer in “the global market place”.
The government’s prospect of “creating jobs and opportunities for Canadians” is nothing more than a modern day slavery arrangement which will exacerbate the trend of the rich getting richer and of the poor getting poorer while leaving the entire manufacturing sector of the economy facing an even more acute crisis. There is a saying that what is not produced cannot be consumed. Militarization of the economy creates nothing which can be consumed by the vast majority of Canadians while manufacturing is a key sector of economic activity for the constant flourishing and well-being of the people.
To try and diffuse the attention of the Canadian people away from the scandals in the Senate and the cover-ups by the PMO and in order to try and position itself for the next federal election, the government tries to lull everyone to sleep by giving so-called “consumers” some minor concessions such as protecting them from higher costs to receive paper bills instead of electronic ones and from paying more banking services. It will also let cable TV clients pick the channel of their choice to pay for and reduce cell phone roaming. One other noted platitude is the measure announced to “ensure Canadians will soon be able to take alcohol across provincial boundaries for personal use”.
This type of platitude abounds in the Speech from the Throne which describes a political and economic situation as far away as possible from the reality facing the working class and people of this country. It talks as though it lives in another world other than the one the workers experience and cognise. In that sense, the Speech of the Throne will have no significance in the life of the working class and people other than to deepen the contradictions between the Conservative government and the polity.
Taxes will continue to be lowered for the monopolies and other businesses as “incentives to creating jobs” while unemployment has not been reduced one iota by this practice since the Conservatives have been giving these tax breaks for that purpose. An actual review of the unemployment rate by Statistics Canada shows that unemployment has hovered in the 7% for the past several years. In fact, the unemployment rate is way higher now than it was at the time of the 2008-2009 economic collapse and continues to deepen as many workers are forced onto other income programs such as social assistance when income from employment benefits runs out.
Canada does not publish data on the number of people whose jobless benefits expire without finding work. Statistics Canada also reports that the number of jobs being created is mainly from part-time work while full-time work is actually decreasing. These statistics shows that at least 1.3 million workers are still unemployed today and that yearly, several million workers experience some period of unemployment.
If we take the post office for example, mass insecurity affecting workers exist there as the corporation takes advantage of the large pool of available workers to impose lower wages and precarious work arrangements. Younger workers face two-tier wage system with lower wages and fewer benefits. The Speech from the Throne does not even consider addressing these questions never mind dealing with the vast cuts it made to the Employment Insurance Program last year. The Speech from the Throne repeats the 2013 Conservative budget defining unemployment as somehow being about “jobs without workers”.
The Speech of the Throne also announced that the trade talks between Canada and the 27-member European Union for a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) that had been underway for the past four years have concluded with an agreement in principle. These talks were also held in secret as far away as possible from the eyes and ears of the Canadian people and to this day, no text of the agreement has been provided for review by the body politic. The only thing which is available on the subject is a finely crafted text called “Summary of CETA Benefits” put out by Harper himself highlighting what he considers to be benefits for the Canadian people.
Following the reading of the Speech of the Throne in the Senate chamber, Harper did not stay in the House to defend it and went to Brussels to meet with European Commission president Jose Manual Barroso to sign the CETA agreement in principle, thus avoiding any questions from the opposition.
While the Harper Conservatives have been trying to “settle” the Senate scandals and position the government for the next general election, many observers say that Harper may very well be on his way out as the discontent of the working class and the people with them continues to grow.
The Conservative National Policy Convention will be held in Calgary from October 31, 2013 to November 2, 2013. A picket and rally is being organised by Calgarians Against Harper Dictatorship on the opening day of the convention to oppose the Harper anti-social action plan. Other activities will also be held throughout the convention’s proceedings.