ETFO traditionally has focused its political activities at the provincial level; the provincial government has the most direct impact on education policies and our members’ working conditions. Increasingly, however, ETFO has become concerned about the impact of federal policies on both our members’ welfare and the very fabric of Canadian society.
The next federal election is scheduled for October 2015. ETFO believes there is much at stake and is determined to do what it can to affect the outcome. The success of this goal will depend on the extent to which ETFO members get engaged in the issues and the campaign.
The Conservative Remaking of Canada
Since being elected in 2006, the Conservatives, led by Stephen Harper, have significantly changed the economic and social landscape of Canada and our role and reputation internationally. Conservative economic policies have favoured the wealthiest Canadians and reduced the government’s capacity to stimulate job creation and support the public services that contribute to an egalitarian and cohesive society. The Harper government has not only reduced the federal role, but also shifted priorities to focus primarily on the military, public safety and immigration.
Under Harper, Canada has abandoned its role as an important diplomatic middle power and as a peacekeeper in international conflicts, opting for more militaristic roles. Through budget cuts and policy changes, Canada’s contribution to the economic and social development of developing nations has reduced significantly. Canada is seen as an outlier by its failure to address climate change. The Harper government has consistently attacked democratic rights, including those of unions, women’s groups and human rights organizations.
There is good reason to fear that, if re-elected in 2015, the Conservatives will transform Canada irrevocably.
Harper Record on Democratic Rights
During its tenure, the Harper government has abused its authority to prorogue Parliament and introduced a “Fair Elections Act” that is anything but fair, making it harder for marginalized Canadians to vote. It has attacked unions and public advocacy organizations, suppressed research and information that informs public policy, and introduced laws – including the recent “anti-terror” law, Bill C-51 – that abrogate Charter rights.
The Conservatives are unabashed in their opposition to union rights. In 2009, the government imposed caps on salary increases for federal employees. In 2011, it legislated locked-out postal workers back to work and imposed conditions that resulted in a wage settlement that was lower than the employer’s last offer. In 2012, it imposed a back-to-work settlement on Air Canada employees, removing their right to strike. In December 2012, the House of Commons passed Bill C-377, a private member’s bill that would require unions to disclose their expenditures on advocacy and lobbying. The bill, which is still before the Senate, would not