Thursday, October 31, 2013

CPC Policy Convention Resolutions ...

[Update]What Got Passed[/Update]

Although back room conversations at this weekend's CPC convention will no doubt be dominated by discussions of how badly Harper has been handling the Senate Scandal, and the latest revelations of the Rob Ford smoking crack video story, there are a number of topics on the floor that Canadians should be paying attention to:

1.  A Series Of US-Inspired "Labour Reforms"
2.  A "Less Progressive" Tax System

( CPC Convention Policy Motions Document )

The Conservatives have had it in for organized labour in this country ever since the Reform party made its way into parliament.  The Harper Reformatories have already gone after the unions that are attached to the Federal Government in Canada.  The most recent budget implementation bill (yet another one of Harper's enormous "omnibus" bills) contains clauses that give the Federal Government exclusive rights to decide who is an "essential" worker that cannot strike.

The resolutions before the party faithful this weekend are all the more troubling.
At least nine resolutions for amendments to the Conservative party’s policy book seek to crack down on the power of organized labour. The labour reform proposals are sponsored by various riding associations in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.
I don't have the actual resolutions at my fingertips, I wish I did.  However, as one might expect among the various resolutions are a few which are in essence promoting US-style "right to work" legislation.

Some Conservatives, notably Ontario’s Tim Hudak and MP Pierre Poilievre, have been vocal in their support for U.S. “right-to-work” style laws since last December, when Michigan became the 24th state to make compulsory union dues illegal. 
Such laws have become increasingly popular since the 2008-2009 recession as a means to lure businesses into economically depressed states but have also attracted criticism. U.S. President Barack Obama has said the title is a misnomer for laws that really mean “the right to work for less money.” 
Let me be absolutely clear about "Right To Work" laws - in my opinion those laws are nothing more than a return to pre-union era labour laws which resulted in horrific exploitation of workers.  They ultimately shift the balance of power so far into the hands of businesses that they can drive wages down to the point that workers cannot make a living.

I believe that there is a careful balance between the powers that employers and those that unions are able to wield.  Those who fall into the trap of believing that businesses will "pack up their marbles and go elsewhere" are overlooking that those same businesses are essentially saying that they are unwilling to work in the best interests of the people who live in a given region.  You want to do business somewhere?  Be prepared to invest there, not just exploit the workers.

There are not one, but nine, such resolutions scattered through the convention resolutions book.  These resolutions range from blatant "we must implement right to work legislation" to more subtle resolutions which attack unions by demanding public transparency in the form of unreasonable reporting requirements to demands that unions be constrained in their use of funds so that they cannot contribute to "causes outside the workplace".

These are not small, trivial changes.  These are deliberate moves to hobble the ability of Canadian workers to organize effectively.  Further, depending on how such legislation was put together, it could prevent labour unions from collaborating with each other, or merging to form larger organizations which can more readily withstand the predations of employers bent on exploitation (Wal-Mart comes to mind as an example of one such company).

The second area of interest is a move to demand a "less progressive" tax system.  (see page 60 of the policy book)  The specific amendment reads:

vi) We encourage the Conservative Party to move to a less progressive tax system by reducing the number of personal income tax brackets. 
For those who don't live in Alberta, this smells like Ralph Klein's "flat tax" initiative.  A bracketed taxation system supports the middle class of Canada by taxing people's income at different levels - meaning that people are taxed at the levels that reflect their earnings.  A flat tax tends to punish those with smaller incomes and essentially gives a tax break to the highest earners for whom the amount demanded in taxes is a minor portion of the income.

In essence, the Conservatives wish to dismantle a key component of our taxation system which serves as an automatic load balancing mechanism.

On the next page of the policy book, we also find another piece of the Harper program to hobble future governments:


The Conservative Party believes the government should enact balanced budget legislation, which includes overrides for declared national emergencies or other defined, and presumably rare, circumstances.
i) Until a balanced budget (predicted for 2015-2016) is achieved, the government respect the objectives for spending cuts set out in the March 2013 budget;
ii) The government freeze budget spending at 300 billion dollars in the year following the achievement of a balanced budget in the 2016-2017 financial exercise (the 300 billion dollar amount will correspond to the approximate level that spending will have reached if the projections of the May budget are realized, in comparison with the 276 billion dollars for the current financial exercise);
iii) That after the 2016-2017 budget, and for the four subsequent years (thus until 2020-21) the federal government freeze spending at 300 billion dollars per year in current dollars. 
Borrowing a page from the "Debt Ceiling" model in the United States, the CPC seeks to impose in law a ceiling on government spending for the next government.  We've seen how well that works out in the US.  Along with a number of other things that the Harper Government has done already and is moving to do in the future.


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