The election of a Stephen Harper majority government marks the start of four tough years for Canada.
Harper did a lot of damage during his five years of minority government. He cut corporate taxes and the GST, robbing public services of billions of dollars. He slashed funding to groups advocating for a fairer, more equal society. He broke election finance laws. He turned the G-20 meetings into a violent show of force. He showed nothing but contempt for the democratic traditions that made Canada great.
He brought politics in this country to a new low. Michael Ignatieff did not deserve the vile personal attacks the Tories aimed at him. The historic collapse of the Liberals showed what a schoolyard bully like Harper can do.
And now we have a Harper majority.
Harper has made no bones about his dislike for public services and the taxes that support them – he actually said "All taxes are bad" on his first day as PM. A former head of the far-right National Citizens’ Coalition, Harper doesn’t think much of unions either. The only thing he believes in is his own vision. That vision says that the purpose of government is to help make the rich richer – at the expense of the majority.
Harper never says this, of course. He pretends that what is good for bosses is good for workers –that lower taxes, free trade, privatization, weaker unions, and starved public services will make us all better off.
It’s not true. Unfortunately, 40 per cent of Canadians seem to believe him. And in our outdated electoral system, those 40 per cent were able to give Harper carte blanche to do whatever he wants. Until 2015.
The historic success of Jack Layton and the NDP was the one bright spot on May 2. In the election, our union spoke to members in selected ridings about helping New Democrat incumbents. In those seven ridings, six NDP MPs were victorious. Those six will be a much-needed voice of experience in a 102-member caucus where many new MPs are just getting started in politics.
It is impossible to know how or when Harper’s election will directly affect provincial and municipal workers in Ontario. But the federal government is an important source of funding for many programs OPSEU members deliver. We will be watching closely.
In the meantime, another critical election is just five months away. In those five months, we’ll keep working to build a progressive alternative to the tax cuts, layoffs, wage freezes, and privatization that are supported by provincial Liberals and Tories alike.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President
Ontario Public Service Employees Union