Wednesday, August 29, 2012

McGuinty And The Teachers

Governments these days aren't into labour relations. And so, Dalton McGuinty has torn a page out of Stephen Harper's playbook, ordering Ontario teachers back to work before they took strike action. As Tom Walkom writes this morning, this is about politics. There are two by-elections taking place in Ontario, and McGunity hopes his stand against teachers will restore his majority.

But, more importantly, McGuinty's Liberals have bought into the myth that austerity causes growth:

They are focusing on the province’s deficit, now $15 billion, rather than the economic circumstances that created this shortfall.

Those circumstances have to do with a faltering economy that through job loss and weakened consumer demand is starving government of revenues.

A far-sighted government would focus on restarting the economy and raising those revenues. A near-sighted government, like this one, focuses on reducing spending alone — with no thought as to how such cuts might further hobble the overall economy.

It's the same thinking which has brought Britain into recession a second time and the same thinking which Stephen Harper says will be Canada's salvation.

When I was in the classroom, I lived through six strikes -- four in Quebec and two in Ontario. I hated every one of them. They unleashed ugly feelings. They caused financial distress. We became the targets of public anger. But what I hated most was knowing that I was a political football.

That said, the strikes gave me a living wage. They gave me a pension. Most importantly, they gave me a future. Today's political godfathers want to abolish all three of these things. My children wonder if they have a shot at any of them.

Walkom is right: "This fight isn't just about teachers."


Anonymous said...

Yup, they want to end pensions except for themselves:

If they had first cut those solid gold MP pensions (Harper, being himself, misled us by calling the MP pensions "gold plated"), these cuts/reductions to the public pensions would have been easier to justify.

But then again, some of our neighbours are voting for these guys despite their complaints about the hypocrisies of politicians. So go figure.

Owen Gray said...

It's hard to buy the argument, Anon, that they are acting in the public interest.

Beijing York said...

The attack on public sector unionized workers has really ramped up. Even the NDP government of Manitoba introduced back to work legislation when Brandon University professors went on strike last year. The media and political pundits have successfully painted unionized workers as pariahs for the past two decades. The private sector unions were the first to be decimated, and public sector unions are under nation-wide attack.

kirbycairo said...

The fight is never just about the strikers - it is always the fight for everyone's rights and need for society to provide everyone with a real opportunity for prosperity and security.

The up-shot to this story is that the Liberals are going to lose in the Supreme Court, and by they way the Minister talks they know they will lose. (The SCofC vs HEU makes the verdict clear) The Liberals are looking for a short term gain but the supreme court has already ruled that the imposition of such contracts is against the law. Ironically, in the end this fight will cost the province a lot more than it would if the province had just let negotiations take their course.

Owen Gray said...

This is Wisconsin North, Bejiing. And it's the politics of envy.

What's worse, no one remembers that unless you force wealth down the pyramid, that wealth concentrates at the top and the entire system collapses from the bottom.

Owen Gray said...

You're absolutely right, Kirby. This is all about short term political gain -- not long term financial stability.

Way Way Up said...

Getting out of teaching after 10 years was the best decision I've made in a long time and this nonsense just confirms it. Unions and government can feel free to wank each other to score points for their respective ideologies. Me, I just want to do my job.

Owen Gray said...

There are a lot of teachers who would agree with you, Way. And, these days, there are teachers who will be forced out after less than 10 years because there aren't enough students to keep them employed.

Still, when Walkom's writes that this fight is about more than teachers, he's right. Two years ago -- when Jim Flaherty met with this country's CEO's -- they encouraged him to lower Canadian wages.

They sit on $500 billion because there is no demand for their goods and services, while Canadian workers have less and less money to buy those things.

They are not economic geniuses.