On a cloudy Saturday afternoon, the mock trial of Stephen Harper, Dalton McGuinty, Rob Ford and Tim Hudak officially opened in front of the 361 University Avenue Courthouse in Toronto.
The accused were charged with promoting anti-worker agendas and making sweeping cuts to vital public services.
Organized by the Public Service Alliance of Canada - Ontario, the People's Court was part of PSAC's National Day of Action, one of many events that took place across Canada, against federal, provincial, and municipal austerity agendas.
The prosecution argued that the accused gave away billions of dollars to the corporate sector with the expectation that it would use that money to create jobs.
But the much anticipated job growth never materialized.
Over 200 people, wearing t-shirts that said “We Are All Affected”, packed the courtroom on Saturday to listen to witness testimony.
PSAC’s “We Are All Affected” campaign was launched to remind Canadians that government cuts to jobs will affect everyone who relies on public services.
In his testimony, Raul Burbano of Common Frontiers said that if Canada signs new free trade agreements with other countries, the job losses for Canadians will be staggering.
“This will be the loss of good paying union jobs across all sectors,” said Burbano.
Following Burbano, PSAC’s Debbie Willet took the stand. She said that federal public service workers have been targeted by the Conservative government to reduce a deficit that workers didn’t create.
“Departments have had their operating budgets slashed that will result in 35,000 lost jobs over the next few years,” said Willet.
After Harper won a majority government, CUPW’s Cathy Kennedy said, “That’s when Canada Post stopped negotiating and moving backwards cause they knew they had an anti-worker government in power.”
Shortly thereafter, the federal government brought in back-to-work legislation.
Last week, the McGuinty government passed Bill 115. “The most radical piece of legislation we have seen,” said Fred Hahn, president CUPE Ontario.
“More radical than even Stephen Harper at the federal level, it denies fundamental civil liberties to some 200,000 Ontario citizens.”
Andrea McCormack, 1st Vice President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists - Ontario, testified about the devastating impact of the austerity agenda on racialized communities.
“This so called austerity agenda is twice as dangerous to racialized communities,” said McCormack. “Communities that need the most supports will find it difficult to access them.”
OCAP’s John Clarke described the austerity agenda as a means of solving the financial crisis on the backs of working and poor people.
“This is an inhuman and brutal agenda,” said Clarke. “An attempt to use the poor as a battering ram to attack working people generally.”
By driving down income support programs, said Clarke, people are forced into the lowest paying jobs.
Toronto and York Region Labour Council president John Cartwright said corporate tax cuts are the reason that governments have to cut back on public services.
“They have made choices that cost our revenue $14 billion every year,” said Cartwright. “These four are guilty of horrific acts against the best interest of all Canadians.”
The defense argued that her clients were democratically elected on a platform of tax cuts.
“But what they didn’t run on was a tax cut to corporations and then turn around and charge families new user fees which are in fact the same as tax increases,” said Cartwright.
At the end of the day, the jury unanimously found Stephen Harper, Dalton McGuinty, Rob Ford and Tim Hudak guilty on all counts.
The four men (and their defense lawyer) fought back tears Saturday after learning their fate. They were taken into custody and will be sentenced later this month.
The prosecution will be seeking life sentences (preferably inside one of the new super jails being planned by the Conservatives) without eligibility for parole.
In spite of overwhelming evidence, the four denied any wrongdoing and claimed the witnesses had created a bogus story against them.
But the jury found the accused totally lacking in credibility.
After the judge adjourned the court, the defense lawyer quickly disappeared, refusing to speak with any media.
Later in the day, a warrant was issued for her arrest on charges of attempted jury tampering.