Eighteen months ago, Ontario's Progressive Conservatives planted a very provocative flag in the ground of Canada's labour relations landscape, with a proposal to implement U.S.-style restrictions on unions (including a prohibition on dues check-off, known euphemistically in America as "right to work"). But suddenly and surprisingly, just as debate over the idea was really heating up, Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak abandoned the plan. Speaking to business leaders in Toronto, he pledged to preserve current rules (codified in the famous Rand Formula) if he wins the next election. Conservative strategists hoped their labour policy would be an effective wedge issue in the next campaign. It allowed the Conservatives to capitalize on public enmity about union fat-cats, pensions, and strikes.
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It's the shots of British Prime Minister David Cameron slogging through the floods there in wellies that convinced me: fatalism is back. He may have looked as if he was trying to do something, but it had nothing to do with addressing the causes of flooding. He was all accommodation: like Noah building an ark after hearing from the Lord that the skies were going to burst.