This week, the Harper government legislated Canadian Pacific workers back to their jobs, claiming it was "protecting the economy." It used the same argument to justify its back to work legislation at Canada Post and Air Canada. But, Tom Walkom writes this morning, General Motors' announcement yesterday that it will shut down one of its Oshawa assembly plants reveals the Harper claim for what it is -- a lie:
When Stephen Harper’s Conservatives talk about protecting the economy, they are speaking of an abstraction.
They override the right to strike of rail and airline workers in order to further this abstraction. They run roughshod over the environment in its name.
But the real economy is not an abstraction. It is people’s jobs and wages. It is our livelihood. It is how we get by.
And this real economy is not doing well.
The fact is that the real economy is slumping all over the world:
Worldwide, the real economy of jobs and wages is in deep trouble. Europe’s ham-fisted handling of the eurozone debt crisis has thrown millions out of work in Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Greece. Britain’s ill-advised government austerity scheme has thrown more out of work there.
Faced with slowing growth and consequent job losses, China is engaged once again in a game of currency devaluation, in a bid to boost its exports.
These events in far-away places have ricochet effects around the world. On Friday, the U.S. announced that its already too-high unemployment rate has started to inch up again.
The prime minister has been leading the austerity charge at home and abroad. GM's announcement is just another example of the wages of austerity. Stephen Harper is not concerned about the wages of ordinary working folks. In fact, he's doing all he can to lower them -- because the concept of wages, like the economy, is an abstraction.