Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cowardly Stealth - UPDATED

It has been said that at their core, bullies are cowards. Usually they set their sights on weaker targets, and when the time is propitious, unleash their fury. Stealth is often the preferred tactic, given their reluctance to have their deeds exposed for what they are. It is hardly earth-shattering to observe that Stephen Harper is a classic bully, his cowardice and his bullying capacity existing in almost equal measure.

While those Canadians with even the slightest interest in politics have been understandably transfixed by the increasingly dark revelations about the government's efforts to subvert the Senate by exercising its oppressive influence, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty introduced another omnibus bill the other day, Bill C-4.

Following the pattern established in previous Harper omnibus bills, Bill C-4 covers a lot of territory that has nothing to do with budgetary matters. And like previous bills, it is massive at 321 pages, the better to confuse and obscure some of its more anti-democratic elements.

What are those elements? In today's Star, Thomas Walkom identifies one of its most sinister, designed to amaze and delight his core, another attack on unions:

The bill would give the government the unilateral power to determine which civil servants are essential workers and thus disqualified from striking.

However, the most insidious aspect follows:

But the real bite in the government’s proposed changes to Canada’s Public Service Labour Relations Act has to do with arbitration. Most federal public service labour disputes are settled by neutral arbitrators without the need for strike or lockout action. The new law would permit arbitration only when the government agreed.

Even in areas deemed essential, the government could veto arbitration unless it had designated at least 80 per cent of the workers as ineligible to strike.

This bill also ensures that the arbitration process is rigged:

... in those instances where arbitration was permitted, arbitrators would be required to give a “preponderance” of weight to the government’s claims as to what it could afford.

The abrogation of basic bargaining rights, no doubt appealing to those who hate and envy unions, is striking inasmuch as it upends the customs and practices that have worked reasonably well in labour relations for many many decades.

As pointed out in today's Star editorial, just this small part of the bill deserves its own separate bill:

Canada’s lawmakers ought to have the chance to carefully study and debate the merits of handing the government such power, and the Tories should have to make a compelling case for its necessity.

Instead, of course, this and a host of other non-budgetary items ranging from Supreme Court appointments to workplace safety to immigration policy have been hidden, as is the practice of the cowardly, from open view.

Cowards always like to conduct their nefarious activities by way of stealth lest the light of day expose them for what they are. So far, Stephen Harper and his cabal are adhering to that classic pattern without deviation.

UPDATE: The sneering contempt of Tony Clement in a CBC Ottawa radio interview tells you all you need to know about Conservative arrogance regarding their attack on public sector unions.


  1. At his core, Lorne, Stephen Harper is a frightened man. It makes you wonder what he would do if there was a huge groundswell of public anger.

    1. Perhaps, like history's notorious Austrian/German, he would take to his bunker, Owen.