Saturday, March 08, 2014

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Jim Stanford writes that union-bashing has proven to be political poison for many of the parties who have tried to distract from increasing inequality with attacks on workers:
(T)he biggest problem for Mr. Hudak’s crusade was a deeper sentiment in Canadian public opinion regarding unions and the role they play in society. No matter their warts, unions ultimately reflect their members: typical Canadians just trying to earn a decent income, support their families, and (hopefully) retire with some security, in an economy which rewards the rich and powerful more than ever before. Unions (like wage-earners in general) have been on the defensive for years. Wage gains have been small, strikes are historically rare, and even much-maligned public sector contracts have been rolled back substantially. In such a lopsided context, it’s simply impossible to convince most voters that unions are really Public Enemy Number One. And many Canadians innately understand that if the only institutional voice speaking for working class priorities is silenced, then the whole social contract will become even more tattered in the years ahead. Unions, to their credit, effectively emphasized their broader social impacts in their responses to Mr. Hudak.

And therein lies the danger for other Conservatives (including federally) who have been sowing similar political ground. Attempts to delegitimize unions (as with the failed federal Bill C-377, which treated unions almost on par with organized crime), tilt the bargaining field further in employers’ favour, and snatch away negotiated benefits (like the health benefits Ottawa is now clawing back from retirees) all appear increasingly mean-spirited. They offend moderate Conservatives (who understand the important institutional role of collective bargaining), anger unions and their members, and reinforce the impression that Conservatives do not speak for average working people.

In short, the effort to blame trade unions as the scapegoat for all economic and fiscal ailments is running out of steam. Mr. Hudak’s platform will continue to emphasize other anti-union initiatives, but they will resonate awkwardly in the wake of his Rand Formula flip-flop. And other Conservatives should beware the political rock – a deep, innate sympathy for institutions which help to share the wealth – that their Ontario counterparts just drove into.
- But Michael-Allan Marion notes that the failure of one distraction tactic hasn't changed the basic corporatist direction of many governments, pointing out the perpetual growth of income inequality.

- Meanwhile, the Prairie Dog looks in detail at the state of women's equality in Canada - and finds that there's still a great deal of room for improvement even as right-wing governments look to roll back past gains.

- Marc Mayrand's detailed presentation on the Cons' Unfair Elections Act can be found here, while Andrew Coyne argues that the bill looks worse and worse with each review. (Which may explain the Cons' determination to shut down discussion to the greatest extent possible while feigning ignorance of its glaring flaws.)

- Finally, Peter O'Neil discusses the factors that led to the NDP's 2011 Quebec breakthrough, featuring two which seem particularly noteworthy in shaping party preferences in the longer term: greater recognition by Quebec voters that the NDP shares their social values, and a new set of voters claiming a "close identification" with the NDP which exceeds the vote share the party had won in the province in the previous generation.

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