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Tea Party inspires retrograde forces in N.B.

July 2, 2011

Well heck, why not join the club? If an article that concludes that anti-union actions such as we are seeing in the U.S. are unlikely in Canada, its title, “Clashing with the unions,” is certainly dramatic. Any “clashing” in Canada will not, Charles Enman somewhat wistfully concludes, reach the pitch of the recent battles in Wisconsin, for example.

On the other hand, as we in the PSE biz know all too well, the proverbial “death of a thousand cuts” can be just as effective, in the long run, as a full-frontal assault. Or, as a farm-bred colleague confided to me during the height of the PSE struggle in 2007, one can castrate an animal just as effectively with an elastic band as with a knife.

The old put-the-frog-in-cool-water-in-a-saucepan-and-turn-up-the-heat scenario. That would seem to be more the Canadian way.

In other words, don’t go head-to-head, but appoint Conciliation Boards to undercut collective bargaining as happened recently to both UNB and UdeM. (Though arguably, Harper has indeed embraced the confrontational tactics of the tea party with his Reaganesque treatment of Canadian postal workers.)

Here in New Brunswick, if the comments on the above-mentioned article are anything to go by, the battle for hearts and minds is either going very well indeed or down the toilet, depending on your perspective. In keeping with our theme of unpleasantness to animals, we New Brunswickers are — are encouraged to be — like crabs in a bucket: if I can’t reach the top, no-one will.

But instead of grousing that some people have better pensions/salaries/working conditions than we do and concluding that they shouldn’t, why not instead regard those better pensions/salaries/working conditions as the bar to which we all could aspire?

Now this is where the powers-that-be start to intone their dire prognostications about “the budget.”

Smoke and mirrors, my friends, smoke and mirrors.

“The budget” is not a force of nature, it is a human invention. And as such, it can be tinkered with, changed, or rejected outright.

The powers-that-be are doing their best to wind us all up about about the shrinking size of the “pie”, in the hopes that we don’t notice the bags of flour, jars of preserves, and pounds of butter off to the side.

Simple question: if things are so bad all over, might we not consider, rather than taking away from those who have the least, looking at the apparently sacrosanct principle that lower corporate taxes create jobs? Because from where I am sitting, a very long period of very low corporate taxes would seem to have resulted in very few jobs indeed.

And as a parting shot: it really gets on my wick when media tries to divide “union members” from “taxpayers” or “average Canadians.” Union members also pay taxes. Lots of taxes. The more successful they are at bargaining wages, the more taxes they pay. And they may not be the majority, but at one-third of all Canadian workers, they — we — are hardly a “special interest group” or an “elite.”

Though if today’s article is anything to go by, there are many who wish we were.


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