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Harper Shows Contempt for Workers by Passing Anti-Union law

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COLE BURSTON via Getty Images
COLE BURSTON via Getty Images

It's hard not to reflect on the profound contempt Stephen Harper's Conservative government has consistently demonstrated towards all those who for purely ideological reasons it has designated as its enemies.

There's contempt for those who think Canada should be a force for peace on the world scene, and for those who think environmental protection should be a priority. Contempt for those who think controlling firearms might prevent bloodshed, and contempt for those who think fiscal measures that benefit the well-to-do to the detriment of everyone else are an abandonment of our long-held commitment to social justice. And there's the government's contempt for its own scientists. By muzzling them to keep the public in the dark about facts and science, the government seeks to focus political and economic discourse on ideology and religion. And now by railroading Bill C-377 into law, the Conservative government has laid another brick in this wall of contempt. Contempt for workers and their means of acting in solidarity: unions.

Contempt has marked the history of the bill since it was first introduced in 2012. Though it is claimed to make unions more transparent, Bill C-377 is actually a carbon copy of an anti-union salvo fired off by George W. Bush's Republicans in 2003. American workers continue to pay the price.

In its essence, the bill is an act of contempt for unions, brought in at the behest of employer associations and well-funded right-wing think tanks. Bill C-377 imposes heavy reporting obligations on unions under the pretext that workers are entitled to a tax credit for their union dues. Yet no one proposes such obligations for employer associations and right-wing think tanks -- which enjoy the tax advantages of charitable organization status!

By getting an obscure backbencher to propose the bill in order to duck the normal constitutional and charter validation process, the Conservatives showed their contempt for Canada's parliamentary institutions. The SPGQ in fact shed light before the Senate Committee on the key role of Mr. Harper's office in the affair. By scandalously underestimating the exorbitant cost of the monitoring system forced on the Canada Revenue Agency, as the parliamentary budget officer has revealed, the Conservatives showed their contempt for taxpayers, even as they continued to proclaim their bottom-line commitment to taxpayer interests.

By sweeping aside the near-unanimous opinions of constitutionalists, the Canadian Bar Association, and the Quebec Bar, all of whom have judged the bill unconstitutional and illegal, Mr. Harper's office clearly showed its contempt for the Canadian legal community. By ignoring the seven provinces representing over 80 per cent of Canada's population--including Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta--who oppose Bill C-377, it showed its contempt for the governments of those provinces and the people who elected them.

By proroguing parliament in summer 2013 and so making the amendments proposed by a conservative senator (Hugh Segal, former chief of staff under Brian Mulroney) disappear in order to reintroduce the bill in its original form and ram it through by packing the Senate with partisan Conservative nominees, Mr. Harper demonstrated his profound contempt for that upper chamber he claimed such respect for not long ago.

And as the final desecration of democracy, they changed the rules of the Senate, which involved quashing a decision made by the speaker of the Senate -- a Conservative! And by putting a gag order on debate and allowing Bill C-377 to pass at the last moment, just before Canada Day and the start of summer vacation when attention is focused elsewhere, Stephen Harper's Conservatives consummated their act of contempt for workers and those who defend their rights.

We must not stand idly by in the face of this sneaky, underhanded, malicious, illegal, and -- to call a spade a spade -- contemptible attack on our democratic values.

Richard Perron
SPGQ President

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