Thursday, March 01, 2007

On fair-weather friends

The Financial Post reports that the Libs are likely to reverse their previous position and vote down the federal anti-scab bill which would otherwise have passed this month:
Until now, the Liberals had backed a Bloc Quebecois-sponsored bill that would deem replacement workers as illegal.

But the Liberals changed course after the Speaker of the House ruled this week that amendments to the bill that would protect the delivery of so-called essential services were deemed inadmissible.

Mario Silva, the Liberal labour critic and author of the essential services amendments, told the Financial Post yesterday that as a result of the Speaker's judgment, Stephane Dion, the Liberal Leader, has pulled his backing of the legislation.

"It means we cannot support the bill as it is," Mr. Silva said of the Speaker's ruling.

"It is still a free vote, and members will be allowed to vote as they choose. But the leadership of the party will not be supporting it."
It's worth noting just how flimsy the Libs' justification is. After all, it was precisely the same bill that made it through second reading with the Libs' support - meaning that there's no reason why the Libs' position should have changed based on concerns about the effects of the legislation. And there shouldn't be much reason to think that the same essential-service provisions which made it out of committee couldn't have been fairly quickly moved through Parliament if all parties agreed that they were necessary to mitigate potential harms from C-257.

Instead, the Libs have apparently chosen to pull the rug out from under C-257 entirely. And with the current Parliament looking to be on precarious ground, that sudden reversal will all too likely put an end to any hope of anti-scab legislation passing before the next election.

Not that it should be much of a surprise for Dion to move back toward his own apparent historical position, or for the Libs to backtrack on their spontaneous concern for Canadian workers. But there should be less doubt than ever why it is that inequality has grown with the Libs at the helm - and less reason than ever for the labour movement to give the Libs the benefit of any doubt at the polls.

Update: Why does it seem all too likely that this was precisely the thinking behind the Libs' change of position? "Sure, it's an idea worth supporting. But that doesn't mean we should actually support it if anybody might criticize us..."

Update II: Erin has more on the lack of any reason for the reversal.

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