The UCP’s double-standard on unions vs. corporations will bring the opposite of balance to Alberta’s political stage
EDMONTON - Why should unions, which already have robust systems for internal democratic decision-making, be required to get explicit permission from each member before using their funds for purposes that the government deems “political,” while corporations, which are vastly more secretive, are allowed to engage in dramatically higher levels of political spending and influence-seeking without having to get explicit permission from their shareholders?
That’s one of the central questions raised by the Alberta government’s new union-busting law, Bill 32.
“The Premier and his talking-points spewing lackeys, claim that this law is designed to restore balance, but it does just the opposite. By establishing one set of onerous rules for workers and unions and another set of permissive rules for corporations and friends of the government, it tips the scales of power grossly in favour of the already powerful at the expense of everyone else, ” says Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, the province’s largest worker advocacy organization.
“The bill has serious, negative implications for working Albertans, because it undermines their bargaining power in the workplace and on the political stage. It will mean lower wages, fewer benefits and crappier working conditions for all Albertans. But it also has serious, negative implications for democracy in our province. It’s clearly an effort to silence critics of the government and make it easier for the UCP to impose its unpopular agenda of cuts and privatization and win future elections over a weakened opposition.”
McGowan points to the recent investigative work done by the online citizen news outlet “the Breakdown” as proof that the government has a profoundly undemocratic double standard when it comes to the way it treats political action undertaken by corporations and other allies of the UCP versus political action undertaken by workers and unions.
Over the weekend, the Breakdown showed that corporations are pouring money into online “data-mining” efforts to build databases that would be extremely useful for the political and election purposes of conservative parties and politicians.
They also showed that the UCP has deep, personal connections to many of these efforts. And they showed that these efforts are being supported and amplified by the UCP’s “energy war room” (aka the Canadian Energy Centre) which is funded by taxpayers.
The examples highlighted by the Breakdown include the “Canadian Energy Citizens” campaign run by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP); the ongoing campaigns of Canada Action (which presents itself as “grassroots,” but which has received large corporate donations and has close personal ties with top UCPers); and the many campaigns run by the hard right-wing Manning Centre (recently renamed the Canada Strong and Free Network), which takes corporate money and has a mandate to “support Canada’s conservative movement.”
“There’s an old quote attributed to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda chief, which says that authoritarians should ‘accuse your enemies of what you are doing yourself.’ It’s clear that’s what’s going on here,” says McGowan.
“The UCP is clearly benefiting from money that’s being funneled into right-wing third-party political action campaigns financed by corporations. But they’re not requiring corporations to get the explicit support of their shareholders before they mount these campaigns. On the other hand, unions, which already get approval from their members through their internal systems of representative democracy, are being accused of nefarious action and are being tied up in red tape. This is an outrageous double standard and proves that the UCP is NOT really concerned about choice or balance: it’s all about advancing their own selfish political interests. It’s time for Albertans to call them out on their anti-democratic, authoritarian tactics.”
Director of Communications, AFL