Linda McQuaig writes that, until the temporary foreign workers program blew up in its face, the Harper government was able to keep one of its key initiatives -- class warfare -- under the radar:
Apart from this clumsy fiasco, the Harperites have been adroit at keeping their anti-worker bias under the radar. Instead, they’ve directed their attacks against unions, portraying them as undemocratic organizations run by “union bosses” who ignore the interests of ordinary workers.
It’s revealing that this harsh critique of unions largely comes from business think-tanks and conservative politicians — folks who aren’t generally known for championing workers’ rights but who apparently can’t sleep at night at the thought workers aren’t being well represented by the people they elect to run their unions.
Of course, the real reason Harper attacks unions is because they’ve been effective in promoting the interests of working people over the past century. By establishing norms for higher wages and benefits in the workplace, and by pushing governments to implement universal social programs, unions are largely the reason we have a middle class in this country.
The Harper path is a well worn path. Margaret Thatcher trod it in Britain. Ronald Reagan smiled as he did the same in the United States. And Harper's announcement that he intends to control labour negotiations at the CBC, Canada Post and Via Rail is inspired by Thatcher's and Regan's war on unions -- particularly public sector unions:
Business think-tanks, like the Fraser Institute, are helping out by generating papers showing that pay is higher in the public sector.
That’s true; that’s what collective action achieves. But the difference is not dramatic, and is mostly due to higher public sector wages for women and minorities in low-paid jobs. This is offset by generally lower pay for public sector professionals and managers, compared with their private sector counterparts, notes Andrew Jackson, senior policy adviser to the Broadbent Institute.
But harping on the allegedly overpaid public sector allows the Harper team to do what it does best: drive a wedge between people. Harper hopes to stoke resentments in struggling private sector workers, duping them into thinking the big rewards have gone to public sector workers rather than to where they’ve actually gone — into corporate coffers and CEO pay.
The Harrperites make no attempt at balancing competing interests. They choose sides -- and the side they always choose is the side where most of the money is. Their objective is to make sure even more money finds its way into those coffers. It's Canadian class warfare.