Canadians aren't used to parliamentary government, in large part because we aren't used to federal politics built around real differences between our major parties over real issues. Instead, we are used to two conservative parties squabbling over mutual (often accurate) accusations of corruption, and over symbolic issues -- most with little meaning to the daily lives of citizens.
Canadians have therefore long tuned out federal politics between elections. But that all changed on May 2nd.
We now have some real choices on offer in federal politics, and real debate over real issues. Like, for example, whether or not people have the right to withhold their labour if they don't like the pay they're being offered by their bosses.
The Conservative government is clear on where it stands. Faced with the situation at Canada Post (negotiations over pay and benefits broke down; the employer made a final offer which was not accepted; employees began to pressure the employer; and the employer then locked the employees out of work), the government has intervened with a bill that would order the employees, by law, to accept a worse deal than Canada Post proposed in its final offer.
Consider how that would play out in your own daily life. You're at work and renegotiating your salary. Your employer offers you, say, $50,000 a year. You don't accept this proposal -- you feel you're worth $52,000. So your employer kicks you out of the office and tells you you'll stay out until you accept $50,000. And then Stephen Harper steps in and threatens you with fines or jail if you don't agree to return to work for, say, $48,000 -- less than your boss offered you.
That's what's happening at Canada Post. Before May 2, there would have been relatively little debate on Mr. Harper's intervention, since the Conservatives found a like-minded partner in the former Liberal opposition.
But there's a new sheriff in town -- a new, more numerous and more determined New Democrat Official Opposition with some important tools available to it to shine on light on issues like this. A majority government is in place, and it can ultimately get what it wants. But a real opposition, fighting on a real issue, can make things go very slowly indeed -- so that Canadians can judge the issues, and see what Mr. Harper's government is doing in the bright light of day.
In short, we finally have an Official Opposition capable of, and willing to, do its job.
In a panel discussion about this matter a couple of days ago, a Conservative friend suggested that the current debate in Parliament shows the New Democrats have some "growing up to do." In fact it is the Conservatives who have some growing up to do. They need to learn that having power is not a license to abuse it. And that the people of Canada elected 308 MPs, including a muscular Official Opposition that will work, within the rules of our democracy and long into the night, to shine a light on misjudgements and misgovernment.
This article was first published in the Globe and Mail.
Thank you for choosing rabble.ca as an independent media source. We're a reader-supported site -- visited by over 315,000 unique visitors during the election campaign! But we need money to grow. Support us as a paying member (click here) or in making a one-off donation (click here).
Thank you for reading this story…
More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.
rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.
So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.
And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.