When historians sit down to write about how radical the Harper government was, they will surely focus on how it treated labour. Tom Walkom writes that legislating an end to a railway strike is nothing new in Canada:
Canadian governments, whether Liberal or Conservative, have never let railway strikes drag on. Back-to-work legislation has been imposed on striking rail workers at least seven times since 1950.
What is dramatically new about this particular majority government, however, is the break-neck speed with which it acts. It legislates an end to strikes immediately after — and in some cases before — they begin.
It has introduced the concept of pre-emptive warfare to labour negotiations.
Conservatives across North America have declared war on public service unions -- Governor Scott Walker's attack on Wisconsin public sector workers being the most egregious. But what sets the Harper government apart is its willingness to intervene in the private sector -- at Air Canada and CP Rail -- and its refusal to do anything as Electromotive -- which received large Harper tax breaks -- packed up and moved to Indiana.
Walkom writes that there has been a distinct change from Harper's minority government years to now:
Compare that to the way in which the Harper minority government handled a similar strike by Canadian National Railway workers in 2007.
In that case, workers were either on strike or locked out for a total of 23 days over three months before the Conservative government — with Liberal support — brought in back-to-work legislation
That same year, CP rail maintenance workers went on strike for three weeks. Yet here, the Conservative government did nothing.
“The government doesn’t introduce a law each time there is a strike,” then labour minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn explained.
Harper clearly intends to put workers in their place and to ensure that wealth trickles up to the top. It's a recipe for economic disaster.