A Conservative Private Member's Bill to be debated in Parliament today (Thursday) is part of an organized campaign by the Harper government to silence all those who oppose its right-wing agenda, says the leader of Alberta's largest labour organization.
"Democracy is in danger when voices are silenced – and Bill C-317 is an attempt to weaken and silence the labour movement," says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), which represents 145,000 workers.
"The measures proposed in this bill have nothing to do with transparency or making unions accountable. No other organizations – including corporations or even the government itself – are subject to the levels of disclosure proposed in the bill. It would be very difficult for any organization to comply with these deliberately onerous rules – and the Conservatives know it. This is clearly an attempt to tie the labour movement in knots and to weaken unions as a force to be reckoned with."
McGowan say Bill C-317 should be seen as just the latest part of a larger and deliberate campaign by the Harper government to silence all voices that oppose it.
McGowan points out that the Harper government has silence prominent individuals like former Veterans Ombudsman Col. Pat Stogran; former Statistics Canada chief Munir Sheikh ; and former head of Rights and Democracy Rémy Beauregard. Meanwhile, many non-government organizations that see the world differently than the Tories have had their funding cut by the Harper government, including Kairos, the organization of Canadian churches working for justice and peace; the Office of Democratic Governance at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA); and the Status of Women Canada. The Harper government's cutting of funding for political parties is also designed to stifle opposition voices, says McGowan.
"With Bill C-317, the Conservatives are trying to drive another nail in the coffin of democratic debate by going after unions, who have historically been a strong voice in fighting for the rights of all Canadians, whether union members or not. They know that unions are part of the 60 per cent of Canadian who don't support Harper's vision for a meaner, less progressive Canada. And they want to trip us up before we can help rally the troops to defend a vision of a more progressive Canada."
As Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman said earlier this year about the attack on unions in Wisconsin, "... it's important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions."
Says McGowan: "This attack on civil society must not be allowed to succeed. The Harper government fails to understand that Canada is stronger when many voices are heard. Harper appears to fear and be angered by anyone who doesn't agree with him. He wants Canada to be a nation of Yes Men and Women, who hear and obey, but do not question."
MEDIA CONTACT: Gil McGowan, AFL president, 780-218-9888
For more complete lists of organizations and individuals attacked by the Harper government, visit http://rabble.ca/news/2011/04/stephen-harpers-firing-range-list-87-organizations-and-people-attacked-five-years and http://www.cep.ca/pub/funding-cuts-harper-government