Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will soon be going behind closed doors for his sixth annual policy retreat with business and policy leaders. Using the Access to Information Act, the Globe and Mail revealed what was discussed at last year’s closed door meeting.
At last year’s session with corporate leaders the Minister was urged to adopt measures to reduce the pay of Canadian workers, limit union power by adopting U.S.-style right to work legislation, allow for two-tier health care and introduce a higher retirement age.
If we look back at the Harper government’s record since last year’s meeting it’s clear that the federal Conservatives are following through on the recommendations put forward by this exclusive group of wealthy executives:
- In the fall of 2011 and spring of 2012 the Harper government intervened four times into the collective bargaining rights of private and public sector workers at Air Canada, CP rail and Canada Post with back-to-work legislation.
- In December 2012, without consulting the provinces, the Harper government said it would continue health care transfers to the provinces at current levels until 2016-17 then reduce funding. This will force provinces to find more money to deliver health care – a move that could lead to further privatization of Canada’s health care system.
- In May 2012, the Conservative caucus supported Bill-C377, a bill that if passed would negatively impact the operation of labour unions and hinder unions in their ability to service their membership.
- In Bill C-38, the Harper government’s omnibus budget bill, the Conservatives passed legislation raising the eligibility age for Old Age Security from 65 to 67.
- Under the same bill, they passed legislation allowing Canadian companies to bring in temporary foreign workers more quickly and pay them 15 per cent less than the average wage. They also rammed through Employment Insurance legislation that will force some workers to take jobs that could pay up to 30 per cent less than their previous jobs.
Even though the Harper Government has yet to bring in U.S.-style right to work legislation, many of their provincial right wing counterparts are discussing it to the point that it has become part of the mainstream political discourse in this country. It’s clear that the views and opinions of Canada’s CEOs are having a heavy impact on the Harper government’s agenda. The question begs: Who’s running this government? Our elected officials or Canada’s corporate elite?
Workers and unions must prepare themselves to challenge and fight back against these recommendations and those coming out of this year’s policy retreat.