Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Monday, February 26, 2007

James Curran is a Train Wreck Waiting to Happen

First this, then this... now this?!

This strange e-mail is starting to make sense.

For the record, I have no interest, nor have I ever had interest in pursuing a political career. I am not even a member of the NDP.

James Curran, President of the Niagara Falls Liberal Riding Association and candidate for the Liberal nomination, started this rumour a few weeks back when he wrote this on his blog:

Rumour has it this NDP Blogger (he refuses to let comments be allowed on his blog for fear someone might spank him) is running for the NDP somewhere in the Peninsula.

At the time I sent him a note, letting him know that the rumour was untrue -- he obviously ignored it. Instead, he has posted some fake press release on his blog and calls me a liar, and an opportunist.

This gaffe-prone, axe-grinding, wannabe politician is a train wreck waiting to happen.

Is this the best Stephane Dion and the Liberals have to offer in terms of candidates?

Apparently, I'm Running in the Federal Election...

Today, Niagara Falls Review reporter Corey Larocque sent the following e-mail to me and Niagara Falls NDP Riding Association President Sharon Shearing:

Hello, Sharon.
Hello, Larry.

I'm writing this e-mail to both of you to ask about the federal NDP's nomination process in Niagara Falls.

Over the weekend, I received by e-mail a copy of a press release dated Feb. 28, announcing Larry Savage's intention to seek the Niagara Falls NDP riding association's nomination for the next election.

But it didn't come from either of you. Before we run a story, I was hoping you would confirm that this is true. I know Larry has said in his blog recently he did not intend to run. Obviously, Larry is well-known as a political activist in Niagara Falls. His entry into the race would be newsworthy.

Because of the source, it occurred to me it might be a prank - part of another party's "dirty tricks" campaign. If that's the case, that's also newsworthy. Does anyone in the riding association use the e-mail address: nfndp@hotmail.com?

We've given the other parties a lot of ink on their nomination process; obviously we'll match it for the NDP.

I'll phone both of you later today. Just wanted to send an e-mail to get the ball rolling. Perhaps you can give me a phone call on Monday.


Corey Larocque
The Review
905-358-0114, ext. 1157

Am I falttered? Yes.

Am I running for the NDP nomination? No.

Do I know who did this? I haven't a clue.

Quebec Election Central

Election junkies should bookmark these pages:

CBC's Quebec votes 2007

DemocraticSPACE's Quebec election coverage

Chantal Hebert's column in the Toronto Star

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ali G Interviews Ralph Nader

Watching this clip reminded me that a new documentary about Ralph Nader, entitled "An Unreasonable Man" is set to hit a limited number of theatres later this month. I'm sure it won't do as well as "Borat" at the box office, but I plan to check it out anyway.

Clever Exam Answer

George Bush, Tony Blair, and Iraq

Tony Blair announces that Britain is pulling out of Iraq. How long can the US stay?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Racism Test Featuring Ricky Gervais

Check out this scene from Extras, starring Ricky Gervais from The Office. Watch as he administers a racism test.

Liberals and the Minimum Wage

It looks like the federal Liberals support a $10 minimum wage... maybe the Ontario Liberals could learn something from their federal cousins. Given their past opposition to a $10 minimum wage, I wonder what Liberal blogger Jason Cherniak and this aspiring federal Liberal politician think of the Liberal position on the minimum wage... Let the spin cycle begin!

Britney Spears VS Democracy

Greg Morrow hit the nail on the head with this post.

Attention CBC Listeners

CBC watch, a right-wing website dedicated to exposing left-wing bias at the CBC has an interesting page on bias in election coverage. Is there a CTV-watch or Global-watch anywhere out there?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

"Meet The Press" - For Idiots


Things Aspiring Prime Ministers Should Never Say

"When you're tired and travelling a lot, sometimes I get up in the morning and I have to look at a phone book and see which city I'm in."

-Peter Mackay responds to reporters after the East Coast Music Awards in Halifax in which he flubbed his own presentation by welcoming the audience to Toronto.

Electoral Dysfunction - There is a Cure

Looks like the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform is leaning towards Mixed-Member Proportional Representation. Hopefully, Ontario's voting system will be overhauled sooner rather than later.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Meeting Jack Layton (and Olivia Chow)

I spent a great weekend in Toronto. However, the oddest part of my trip was standing in line in at a Harvey's, only to have Jack Layton line up behind me. I told him I thought the party's campaign to end ATM fees was great and he thanked me and encouraged me to find out more about the campaigns being pursued by the NDP. We chatted for a bit while waiting for our orders and Olivia Chow showed up, blackberry in hand, letting Jack know that they might be late for an event. We wrapped it up and he was on his way to a Chinese New Years Event. The whole encounter reminded me why I would never want to be a politician... always on the go, always being approached by strangers, having groups of people scrutinize your every move and every word. Don't get me wrong, meeting Jack Layton in this context was a novelty and some people genuinely love the spotlight. He was very nice and we had an interesting conversation about class politics and academia, but again, being a politician just isn't for me. Some people think I'm interested in a political career, but I can say with certainty that I am not.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Presidential Election Campaign Commercials

The Living Room Candidate offers us a library of presidential election campaign commercials from 1952 to the present. Check out the infamous 1964 "daisy" commercial along with more recent commercials poking fun at Al Gore's assertion that he invented the internet.

Women in Politics

Equal Voice, an interest group dedicated to getting more women elected at all levels of government has developed an online campaign school called Getting to the Gate.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

NDP Holidays - Tommy Douglas Day?

NDP MP Peggy Nash is calling for a national holiday on February 15 - Flag Day. Meanwhile, Manitoba's NDP government is proposing a bill to create a provincial holiday in February. Big business isn't pleased. I think the additional holiday is a good idea, but Flag Day? Why not Tommy Douglas Day? He died on February 24, 1986.

$10 Minimum Wage for Ontario

The community camapign in support of a $10 minimum wage was recently launched in Parkdale. This YouTube video features the highlights.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

End ATM Fees

This NDP campaign to put an end to ATM fees seems to be losing steam. That's unfortunate because it's a good idea. Check out the facts, sign the petition, and maybe in the end you'll save some money.

Possibly the Most Boring Political Commercials Ever

Can you tell it's an election year yet? The Ontario Progressive Conservatives have launched three television ads featuring testimonials praising John Tory. See if you can watch all three without falling asleep.

Socialist Realism

This Polish socialist realist poster from 1955 reads: "For You Fatherland, our young hearts beat".

A colleague of mine noted that it also represents the coming together of industrial and agricultural workers. He said the guy standing in the back with the blank expression on his face was probably from the party - there to ensure that the workers were smiling. ;-)

An Open Invitation to Quebec Sovereignists

Al B, an anglophone blogger living in Quebec, delivers some interesting insights on Quebec culture to a largely anglophone audience. In his latest post, he extends an open invitation to Quebec sovereignists. In is own words:

While this is not a politically oriented website, nor do I intend to make it one, I do believe very strongly in open communication and the promotion of understanding between people of differing viewpoints. So keeping that in mind, I’ve decided to open up the floor for discussion. I would like to take this opportunity to issue a formal invitation to sovereignist readers who, for one reason or another have stumbled upon my site, to submit articles on why there needs to be an independent Quebec.

Quebec Election Imminent

A Quebec election looks imminent. Here's some news to consider.

Stephen Haper won't get involved in Quebec's election campaign by siding with the Liberals or the right-wing ADQ.

Jean Charest seems to be attarcting more star candidates than Boisclair and the PQ.

The latest poll pegs support for the parties as follows:

Liberals 36%
PQ 31%
ADQ 21%
QS 5%
Green 5%

Due to the continued use of an antiquated first-past-the-post system in Quebec, the Liberals need to beat the PQ by 5 points in order to be guaranteed a victory.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New Conservative Attack Ads Air in Quebec

You can watch all three on the Conservative Party's website. These ads are much better produced and more effective than the "Stephane Dion is not a leader" ads currently running in English Canada.

Calgray Grit translates the general idea of the ads here. My favourite is "porte", which ties Dion to Adscam and the previous scandal-ridden government.

Niagara Falls Needs a New Arena... But Does the City Have the Right Site?

The following is a press release issued by UNITE HERE Canada:

The City of Niagara Falls plans to build an arena on the Cytec (former AMERICAN CYANAMID) lands.

Because of the long history of this site and concerns about possible health risks to children, UNITE HERE Canada recently submitted comments to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE).
We were especially concerned that Cytec's Risk Assessment included the possibility of an on-site daycare facility.

In a recent decision regarding the Cytec lands the MOE Director stated, "The comments resulted in the clarification being added to the CPU that the site is not approved for Institutional use such as day care facilities."

When the Ministry of the Environment doesn't approve the site to be used as a daycare, do you want your children playing sports there?

Based on the MOE’s decision there are now restrictions on uses at the site:
No Daycare
No Institutional Use
No Parkland Use etc. (e.g. no outdoor playing fields)

Don’t Our Children Deserve Better?
Ask the City of Niagara Falls to Find the Right Site!

Call: 905-356-7521 ext. 4271
Email: diorfida@niagarafalls.ca

UNITE HERE Canada represents about 700 hospitality workers in the Niagara Region. Many of our workers and their families live in the area around the Cytec site.

Local 2347 – Niagara
905-354-2027 x312

Manitobans Headed to the Polls This Spring?

There is speculation that Manitoba NDP Premier Gary Doer will fast track an election this spring to avoid competing with an October 10, 2007 provincial election next door in Ontario. Ontario's election dates are fixed, Manitoba's are not. Because the NDP has a tradition of lending experienced political organizers to campaigns across the country, the Manitoba and Ontario sections of the party are unlikely to want to fight over scarce resources. Partisan considerations aside, is this a good way of determining election dates? This kind of partisan stunt feeds into voter cynicism about politics and the motives of politicians. Manitoba's government should really explore the possibility of adopting fixed election dates... and while they're at it, maybe they should take the advice of Manitoba's federal NDP MPs and adopt proportional representation and anti-scab legislation too.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Fair Trade Chocolate for Valentine's Day

Unchain Your Heart is asking people to give fair trade and organic chocolate and flowers on Valentine's Day. You can send a message to five "Anti-Valentines" corporate giants asking them to "stop child labor, illegal toxic chemical use, union busting, and to pay their farmers a living wage." Check out the allegations against: Nestle Dole Wal-Mart M&M-Mars Inc. and Hersheys.

h/t to Nag on the Lake

Abortion Rights Victory in Portugal

Portuguese voters say YES to abortion rights in a referendum. Read about it here.

With more than 99 per cent of votes counted, about 60 per cent approved the proposal allowing women to opt for abortions up to the 10th week of pregnancy. Just over 40 per cent opposed it... Portugal, where more than 90 per cent of people say they are Roman Catholic, has long had one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the European Union. Its current legislation places it in a minority in the bloc with Poland, Ireland and Malta.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Labour Union TV Commercial

I'm always encouraged when I see union advertisements on billboards and on the sides of city buses, but I've never seen a TV commercial promoting union membership. This commercial for UNISON, a public service union in Britain, is well produced and effective.

Bobby Kennedy : Friend or Foe of Labour?

Bobby Kennedy is probably best known in labour circles for butting heads with the Teamsters and their President Jimmy Hoffa. However, this video clip shows another side of Kennedy. He's depicted as being a strong supporter of striking migrant workers.

The Constitutional Politics of Labour: From Confederation to the Quiet Revolution - Summary

This series of posts on the constitutional politics of labour has documented the ideological shift of the trade union movement in Quebec from the late 20th century to the end of the Quiet Revolution. For most of this period, the QPFL and QFIU embraced the same type of centralist federalism espoused by their respective parent organizations, the TLC and CCL. Decentralization was perceived as a hindrance to working-class solidarity and national standards. These labour organizations spoke out against any constitutional proposal which would limit the powers of the central government, particularly in the areas of labour law and social welfare. For its part, the Catholic Quebec based CCCL espoused a protectionist form of Quebec nationalism which was closely aligned to the Duplessis regime and its constitutional outlook. When the QPFL and QFIU merged in 1957 to create the FTQ, it coincided with a radical transformation of Quebec society and politics. The Quiet Revolution unleashed a fury of progressive social reforms which primarily benefited the francophone majority. The rapid modernization of Quebec society fostered a new progressive form of nationalism which all segments of the Quebec labour movement embraced without exception. The CCCL shed its Catholic roots and transformed into the secular and more radical CSN. The CSN effectively harnessed the new sense of nationalism in Quebec and grew tremendously throughout the 1960s, sometimes at the expense of the FTQ. Under threat from the CSN, the FTQ began to adopt a more independent outlook vis-à-vis the CLC and on several occasions requested more resources and autonomy from the Congress to better service and represent its francophone membership base. The CLC’s repeated reluctance to devolve powers or responsibilities to the FTQ frustrated the Federation and contributed to the FTQ’s own growing sense of nationalism as a distinct provincial federation of labour within the CLC. Although both the FTQ and the CSN officially rejected separatism as a political option during this period, both were increasingly becoming impatient with the constitutional status quo. The series concluded by documenting the Quebec labour movement’s reaction to the federal government’s decision to invoke the War Measures Act to deal with the October Crisis of 1970. The labour movement’s principled stand against the War Measures Act solidified its new nationalist orientation, a political outlok that remains firm today.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

NDP Rides Perfect Storm to Victory in York South-Weston

An ill-conceived pay raise for provincial politicians, an intense and popular campaign to boost the minimum wage to $10/hour, and an election campaign being fought in one of the poorest ridings in Ontario, created the perfect storm for the NDP to cruise to a narrow victory in today's York South-Weston by-election. Paul Ferreira's stunning upset is sure to boost NDP spirits in Ontario. The party has now stolen three seats away from the McGuinty Liberals in by-elections (Hamilton East, Parkdale-High Park, and York South-Weston). The party's recent success is surely attributable to the development of strong, class-based, wedge issues. Let's hope for more of the same in the future.

Liberal Blogger Doubletalk Exposed

From the Niagara Falls Review: Confusion reigns when a riding boss isn't a riding boss

Click the link above to read the entire lead editorial in today's Review and click here to see who really broke the story. I have reprinted several portions of the Review's editorial below, wherein the local news media take Liberal Riding Association President James Curran to task for lashing out after being exposed for his doubletalk.
Jim Curran isn't a politician. At least not yet. Not officially. But he sure is exhibiting one of the important qualities: Doubletalk. Curran, president of the Niagara Falls Federal Liberal Riding Association, was caught in a trap by the provincial Conservatives on the weekend. His words were used to badmouth his provincial party and he was beside himself. Literally, he would have us believe. "My good friend Kim Craitor, (Liberal) MPP for Niagara Falls, will be losing his job after the results are posted in the upcoming October election ... because Kim's government has rules and regulations that apply to everyone else but their own government," Curran wrote on a blog....

...We're confused, which often happens when politicians speak. Or in this case, a potential Liberal candidate in the next national campaign. They like to talk. They just don't like it when someone pays attention to what they say and takes them to task for it. So they duck and bob and weave and claim they've been quoted out of context...

...That's why we don't buy the concept of a person making an argument then hiding behind an alter ego to avoid the fallout.... for Jim Curran, writing in a blog called the "What Do I Know Grit," to somehow expect political commentary to be attributed to anyone but the local riding association president, well, that's just silly. We don't understand it ... and he can't make us.

Ontario By-Election Buzz

Check out the recent buzz about today's Ontario provincial by-elections in Burlington, Markham, and York South-Weston. More buzz here. I'm not convinced that an NDP breakthrough is in the cards, but I would be happy to be proven wrong.

Four More Years

If you aren't a fan of George Bush and the Republicans you'll be a fan of this video.

The Constitutional Politics of Labour: From Confederation to the Quiet Revolution - Part Seven

The Birth of the Parti Québécois

The creation of the Parti Québécois in 1968 from the fragments of smaller sovereignist parties had a significant impact on CLC-FTQ relations. One of those fragments, the Rassemblement pour l’indépendance nationale (RIN), founded in 1960, counted among its members a number of trade union activists. Under the leadership of Pierre Bourgault, the sovereignist RIN transformed itself into a political party and took a decisive turn to the left. However, this new political direction fractured the new party and precipitated the creation of a dissident right-wing group, which later merged with a sovereignist dissident group from the Ralliement des créditistes, to form the Ralliement National (RN). Combined, the RIN and the RN captured 8.8% of the popular vote in the 1966 Quebec provincial election, but no seats. The next year, disenchanted with the Quebec Liberal party’s stand on the National Question, former Quebec cabinet minister René Lévesque quit his party and established the Mouvement Souveraineté-Association (MSA). According to Garth Stevenson, “The basic purpose of the sovereignty-association concept was to reassure those who were sympathetic to independence in principle but apprehensive about its economic consequences.”[1] The RN’s poor electoral performance convinced it to merge with Lévesque’s MSA, paving the way for the creation of the Parti Québécois (PQ) in 1968. After the establishment of the PQ, Bourgault’s RIN disbanded and encouraged its members to join the new sovereignist party under Lévesque’s leadership. Lévesque gave enormous credibility to nationalist forces in Quebec. His experience as a cabinet minister, his nuanced approached to dealing with the National Question, and his pragmatic brand of social democracy all helped to attract an unprecedented level of support for the sovereignist project. The PQ successfully rallied the province’s nationalist forces around three common objectives: asserting Quebec’s national identity, upholding the dignity of the Québécois people, and eliminating the economic disparities suffered by generations of francophones in Quebec.

Not coincidentally, the terms of reference for the Gendron Commission, on the position of the French language and language rights in Quebec, were drafted in the same year that the PQ was launched. The Commission concluded:

"We have defined a socio-linguistic structure which proves beyond question that the domain of the French language is particularly characterized by inferior duties, small enterprises, low incomes and low levels of education. The domain of the English language is the exact opposite, that of superior duties involving initiative and command, and large enterprises, and high levels of education and income."[2]

These issues were forefront in the minds of Quebec’s labour movement. Lévesque first met with Quebec’s trade union leadership on February 6, 1968. He carefully laid out his vision for sovereignty-association and promoted the Parti Québécois as its vehicle. Although the province’s trade unions were initially lukewarm to the PQ’s stand on the National Question, they were receptive to Lévesque’s favourable policy bias towards organized labour.

The FTQ’s suspicion of the sovereignist option was well documented. Anti-separatist forces within the FTQ were led by Laberge who worried that the economic consequences of independence were too great for workers to stomach. Louis Laberge would routinely remind rank-and-file members of the FTQ about the dangers of sovereignty. In 1965, Laberge told delegates to the FTQ convention “Les intellectuals bourgeois nous combattent au nom du nationalisme comme le clergé nous a combattus dans le passé au nom de la religion.”[3] In December 1967, Laberge told reporters “If man cannot live by bread alone, neither can he feed solely on constitutional debate.”[4] He continued, “Constitutional debate is the only intellectual foodstuff being served up to Quebecers at the present time; it is meager nourishment indeed...”[5] One of the intellectuals referred to by Laberge was Pierre Vallières, a founding member of the infamous Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ).

Established in the early 1960s, the FLQ, espoused a revolutionary nationalist discourse and adopted terrorism as a political tool to advance its agenda. Vallières, author of the notorious Nègres blancs d’Amérique, acted as an intellectual leader of the organization, which emerged as the popular image of the separatist movement in the minds of English Canadians. Both a product and a reflection of the heightened radicalization of the 1960s, the FLQ’s ideology drew its inspiration from anti-imperialist struggles, student uprisings and the more militant factions of the civil rights movement in the United States. Throughout the 1960s, the FLQ carried out dozens of violent acts against symbols of anglo-capitalism and imperialism, including the Montreal Stock Exchange, McGill University, and a number of English-owned businesses. However, the organization’s most well-known terrorist act occurred in October 1970 when FLQ members kidnapped James Cross, the British Trade Commissioner, and Quebec’s Minister of Labour, Pierre Laporte. In response to the abductions, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act, thereby suspending civil liberties and giving the authorities the unlimited right to arrest and take into custody suspected FLQ members and sympathizers. The day after Trudeau declared martial law, the FLQ announced that Pierre Laporte had been executed.[6] Both the PQ and the Quebec labour movement strongly condemned the kidnapping and assassination, but had equally harsh words for Premier Bourassa, and Prime Minister Trudeau’s decision to invoke the War Measures Act. The day after Laporte was murdered, Quebec’s trade union centrals released a joint statement which condemned the use of martial law[7] and argued that “la suppression des libertés civiles menace davantage la démocratie que le terrorisme.”[8] The October Crisis profoundly impacted the politics of Quebec labour and helped push the unions closer to the sovereignist movement. The fact that trade union activists represented between twenty and thirty per cent of all suspects detained under the War Measures Act only aggravated the situation.[9] Jean François Cardin has identified the implementation of the War Measures Act in Quebec as a defining moment in the relations between the PQ and the trade union movement. He argues that their common condemnation of Bourassa and Trudeau solidified their partnership and resulted in an influx of trade union activist into the party.[10]

While Laberge remained skeptical about sovereignty, other prominent trade union leaders associated with the FTQ were busy building support for the nationalist cause within their own unions. CUPE’s Quebec director, Fernand Daoust, who had run against Laberge for the Presidency of the Federation in 1964 was among the most ardent supporters of the PQ and was very open about his support for the sovereignist option. Over the years, he built a pillar of sovereignist support within the FTQ which acted as a counterbalance to Laberge’s support for the federal system. Little by little, Daoust and the nationalist wing of the FTQ were able to pull the Federation closer to the sovereignist camp.

[1] Stevenson (2004), 112.
[2] Gendron Commission conclusion as cited in William Coleman, “The Class Bases of Language Policy in Quebec, 1949-1975,” in Studies in Political Economy, (Spring 1980) no 3, 99.
[3] Fournier (1992), 154.
[4] Laberge quoted in the Montreal Star, (December 22, 1967).
[5] Ibid.
[6] In December 1970, the FLQ members responsible for the abduction of James Cross were able to negotiate safe passage to Cuba in exchange for the British Trade Commissioner.
[7] It should be noted that the FTQ’s condemnation of the War Measures Act was far from unanimous. Although the unions most closely associated with the nationalist wing of the FTQ (CUPE, Steelworkers, UAW) supported the FTQ’s position, the most anti-nationalist unions in the FTQ (Paperworkers, ILGWU, and the Machinists Union) publicly broke ranks with the Federation over the issue.
[8] Louis Fournier, Histoire de la FTQ 1965-1992 La plus grande centrale syndicale au Québec, (Montréal: Editions Québec/Amérique, 1994), 63.
[9] Rouillard (2004), 199.
[10] Jean François Cardin, La Crise d’Octobre et le movement syndical québécois, (mémoir de maîtrise en histoire, UQAM, 1985).

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Politics and Popular Music in Quebec: Plus Rien

"Plus Rien" by Les Cowboys Fringant is a song about the economic, social, and political consequences of global warming, and environmental degradation more generally. A fan put together this slide show to go along with the song.

Bowie's "Big Announcement" a Bust

Liberal blogger James Bowie's "big announcement" turned out to be a major bust. The political blogosphere prematurely thought Bowie was announcing Garth Turner's imminent defection to the Liberals. However, his real "big announcement" was that Liberal blogger James Curran is seeking the Liberal nomination in Niagara Falls, hardly a major announcement... and hardly new.

Curran has received a very rough ride in the local media lately for predicting on his blog that Niagara Liberal MPP Kim Craitor will lose his seat in the next provincial election. Uncorrected Proofs broke the story here and the Ontario Tories ran with it. Curran is pretty good at predicting election outcomes in Niagara Falls... Before the 2006 federal election, he correctly predicted Liberal candidate Gary Burroughs would lose to Tory Rob Nicholson. That's right, the President of the Niagara Falls Liberal riding association predicted on his blog that his own candidate would lose on the eve of the election. In Curran's own words:

Hey. I know what it's like to have ass@@@les from outside the riding interfere with your riding. The best candidate in my riding two years running has not had the opportunity to win back this riding. Both times there was a very large amount of interference from ex MPs, current MPs, the PMO, the national and provincial co-chairs. You name them, they had an opinion. Here's the thing....this will be twice in a row that they were wrong. We will not win this riding.(Sad but true)

With this kind of gaffe-prone record, I wouldn't be surprised if the party forced Curran to shut down his blog during the election... If he is nominated to run for the Liberals, I'd be prepared to reverse my earlier prediction and suggest that Rob Nicholson will be handily re-elected in Niagara Falls Riding.

Opposition Calls for Fixed Election Dates in Quebec

Every opposition party in Quebec is supporting the implementation of fixed election dates to replace the "archaic" discretionary system currently used in Quebec and most other Canadian provinces. It appears as though the opposition is growing tired of Jean Charest's wait and see antics around calling the Quebec provincial election, which is expected soon. Ontario, British Columbia, and Newfoundland are the only provinces with fixed election dates.

Rick Mercer and Buzz Hargrove

Rick mercer tours a Ford plant with CAW President Buzz Hargrove. Mercer pokes fun at Hargrove and peppers the CAW leader with questions about the NDP's decision to kick him out of the party. Watch the video here.

The Constitutional Politics of Labour: From Confederation to the Quiet Revolution - Part Six

The Birth of the Confédération des syndicats nationeaux

In the post-war period, under the new leadership of President Gérard Picard and General Secretary Jean Marchand, the Canadian and Catholic Confederation of Labour (CCCL) adopted a more mainstream approach to labour relations. The Confederation created a strike fund and aggressively began organizing new members (particularly in construction and the metal trades).[1] In the early 1950s, still reeling from the bitter Asbestos strike, the CCCL broke ranks officially with Duplessis’ Union Nationale government and targeted four of the party’s incumbents for defeat in the 1956 provincial election. In the riding of St. Maurice, one of the CCCL’s lawyers, René Hamel (who went on to become Minister of Labour in the Lesage government) won election as a Liberal. In 1957, CCCL activist Michel Chartrand was elected leader of the CCF in Quebec. Chartrand and Picard went on to participate in the formation of the NDP’s Quebec wing in the early 1960s.[2]

In 1960, the CCCL formally changed its name to the CSN, thereby abandoning its Catholic roots and instead embracing a new form of progressive, secular, Quebec nationalism. Gérard Pelletier, the CSN’s Director of Public Relations, explained “if we want to indicate outwardly the changes that have taken place inside our movement, we must change its label.”[3] During the 1960s, the CSN managed to more than double its membership from 95,000 to 205,000.[4] Most of the CSN’s new recruits came from the rapidly expanding public sector, but several thousand more came from a massive raiding campaign of FTQ affiliates in the private sector. Much of the CSN’s new organizing success owed itself to an exclusively nationalist discourse. The CSN would routinely remind workers that the international unions affiliated to the Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ) and Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) were headquartered in the United States, and argued these unions neither understood nor cared about the unique needs or demands of francophone workers in Quebec.

CLC-FTQ relations in the sixties

The upstart progressive nationalism which existed in the CSN, also manifested itself, although to a lesser extent, in the FTQ. The Federation’s repeated, and often ignored, calls for greater autonomy from the CLC and together with more resources were reflective of a new sense of identity for Quebecers. The FTQ may have agreed with Jodoin’s position that separatism was not the answer to the conflict between French and English in Canada, but it did not share the CLC President’s conviction that French Canadians and English Canadians are “stronger together than… as separate groups.” By calling for greater autonomy for the FTQ, the Federation was implicitly arguing that French Canadian workers in Quebec would be better served by a structure which divided CLC services linguistically. The decentralist demands of the FTQ were spelled out in a briefing note entitled “Notes sur la situation actuelle au Québec des unions internationales et nationales”. The briefing note, authored by the FTQ’s executive committee, won widespread support within the FTQ and its affiliates in 1963. It provided an analysis of the political transformations taking place in Quebec and warned that unless the FTQ became a genuinely Québécois trade union central, it would surely be eclipsed by the nationalist CSN. The FTQ had reached the conclusion that any attempt to convince the CLC to provide better services to FTQ members was a dead end strategy. “Notes sur la Situation,” advocated instead for the FTQ to administer its own programs, in French, separately from the Congress.[5] In short, the FTQ had accepted the view that reforming the CLC was pointless. The release of the document marked a turning point in the relationship between the CLC and the FTQ. No longer would the Federation attempt to reform the CLC by trying to make the Congress more representative of Quebec, more bilingual, and more in tune with the specific needs of the Federation. Instead, the FTQ would concentrate on building the FTQ by simply assuming the role of the CLC in Quebec.

Assuming the role of the CLC in Quebec meant that the FTQ would also be taking responsibility for making its own unique views known on wider social and political issues, like the Fulton-Favreau formula which emerged as an important constitutional issue in the early 1960s. Fulton-Favreau was a proposal for an amending formula to the Constitution. Developed by Justice Ministers Davie Fulton and Guy Favreau in the early 1960s, the formula called for unanimous provincial consent for constitutional amendments affecting all provinces. Constitutional amendments affecting specific provinces would only require the consent of the provinces involved; and any amendment which did not concern provincial powers, would require support of two thirds of the provinces representing at least 50% of the population.
Previous attempts at reaching an amending formula had failed largely because they threatened Quebec’s interests by proposing qualified majorities for the purposes of constitutional reform. The principle of unanimous consent embodied in the Fulton-Favreau formula attempted to rectify this obstacle. However, the Quiet Revolution had raised the stakes considerably and Quebec was no longer willing to accept an amending formula which treated the emerging nation as one of ten equal provinces. In its “Déclaration à l’occasion du débat sur la formule Fulton-Favreau” in April 1965, the FTQ noted “nous aimerions bien que le Québec aille au bout de sa compétence en matière de planification économique et de sécurité sociale...”[6] After having initially supported the formula, Premier Jean Lesage, under pressure from Quebec nationalists, backed off. His government’s decision to withdraw its support for Fulton-Favreau effectively killed the formula. Quebec nationalists were thrilled by the result and support for sovereignty, although marginal, was increasing.

Addressing delegates to the 1964 CLC convention, President Claude Jodoin expressed his views on Canada’s Constitutional Question: “It is time for us who believe in a strong and in a united Canada to speak out. It is typical of some destructive minorities that they talk with loud voices. We must not let ourselves be fooled by this. It is time to put these narrow-minded pursuers of selfish objectives in their place.”[7] Jodoin’s comments were directed at the new separatist movement emerging in Quebec. Before being elected to the presidency of the CLC, Jodoin was President of the Montreal Trades and Labour Council, Director of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), and President of the TLC.[8] Jodoin’s background as director of the ILGWU likely contributed to his views on Quebec as they relate to trade union structures. Although a Quebecer himself, the ILGWU, for whom he worked, was fiercely opposed to Quebec nationalism and separatism. Unlike the USWA and CUPE, who both attempted to meet the aspirations of their respective Quebec memberships on the levels of “communication, coordination, and representation”, the ILGWU represented the exact opposite view by “favoring a very strongly unified union movement encompassing all of Canada.”[9] In his 1977 study of “Linguistic Tensions in Canadian and Belgian Labor Unions” Albert Verdoodt argued that:

"In the ILGWU, bilingualism is reserved for the level of communication. For coordination with the international headquarters (New York), all correspondence is in English. Within Quebec, meetings are generally bilingual, where necessary. Even here, however, coordination is in English due to the fact that management is most often English-speaking...Perhaps one reason for the somewhat passive attitude of the ILGWU... on matters relating to Quebec and the Quebec francophone can be attributed to their considerable membership from other linguistic groups (e.g. Italian, Greek, and Yiddish)..."[10]

Whether it was the view of the ILGWU that influenced Jodoin, or vice versa, there is no question that Jodoin’s particular views on constitutional questions were also reflected in his views on CLC-FTQ relations.

Under Jodoin’s leadership, the CLC was hostile to any suggestion that powers or responsibilities be devolved to the FTQ, and the Congress successfully resisted calls for greater autonomy for several years. However, the rise of the CSN in the early to mid 1960s forced a significant change in the way the CLC interacted with the FTQ. In the early 1960s, the FTQ was in crisis in terms of membership retention. Its major rival, the CSN, was expanding at an impressive rate; organizing vigorously in the public sector and aggressively raiding FTQ locals in the private sector. Between 1963 and 1964, the CSN picked up thousands of FTQ members. The CSN, led by Jean Marchand at this point, shared close ties to the Lesage government and effectively tapped into the rising tide of Quebec nationalism which emerged in the 1960s. The irony, of course, is that Marchand along with Pierre Trudeau and the CSN’s Gérard Pelletier all ran and won seats as Liberals in the 1965 federal election – their mission was to defeat the rising tide of Quebec nationalism in Canadian politics.

The CLC and the FTQ reacted to the CSN’s raiding strategy by mounting a resource-heavy counter-offensive which was finally able to contain the rival trade union central by 1966. In many ways, the CSN’s aggressive raiding strategy in the private sector legitimized the FTQ’s call for greater autonomy by exposing the Federation as weak and vulnerable. While much has been made of the FTQ’s growing nationalist character in the 1960s, it was actually the increased strength of the CSN that finally forced the CLC to capitulate and permanently concede additional powers to its Quebec section. In 1963, the FTQ had convinced the Congress to temporarily shift jurisdiction over the areas of union education and organizing to the FTQ.[11] However, this decision did not reflect the CLC’s attitude toward CLC-FTQ relations during Jodoin’s tenure as President. The Congress only agreed to this temporary transfer of power in the context of the FTQ’s war with the CSN.

For the latter half of the 1960s the FTQ pressed the Congress for more autonomy as a way of defending itself from the nationalist CSN, but the CLC resisted each time. At its 1965 convention, FTQ delegates passed a resolution asking the CLC to officially recognize that Canada is composed of two founding nations, and pressure the federal government to recognize this principle.[12] At the 1966 CLC convention, future FTQ president Fernand Daoust argued that “the bi-national aspect [of Canada] must be transposed into relations between the QFL and the CLC so that we may see to it that the QFL is not a federation just like the others, that it has particular status within the labour structure of our country.”[13] The CLC once again rejected the FTQ’s calls for reform. However, the Congress did agree to form a special committee to investigate its constitution and structures. The FTQ called on the committee to ensure that all CLC publications and services be offered bilingually; that the CLC be forced to consult the FTQ before nominating delegates to international labour organizations; that the FTQ be granted control over labour councils and CLC regional offices in Quebec; and that the Federation be given the appropriate financial resources to undertake these latter initiative.[14]

Because the CLC would not voluntarily devolve powers, the FTQ decided to bypass the Congress and begin acting like its own proper trade union central. In April 1966, the FTQ joined with the CSN and the Union catholique des cultivateurs (UCC) to present a joint submission to the Quebec Legislative Assembly joint committee on the Constitution. The Quebec labour movement argued that the constitutional problem could be resolved by adapting the federal system to the current reality of Quebec. The group of Quebec labour organizations proposed a form of “flexible federalism” which would grant exclusive provincial jurisdiction over education and culture, shared federal-provincial jurisdiction over radio and television, and federal consultation with the provinces over immigration, monetary and fiscal policies, together with equal representation of francophones in federal institutions.[15] Between 1960 and 1967, the FTQ stepped up its own independent activity as a pressure group by presenting, or co-presenting with the CSN, no less than twenty submissions to government standing committees or commissions looking at pressing political issues.[16] In March 1968, the FTQ overstepped its jurisdictional authority by signing an agreement with the CSN committing both organizations to stop raiding one another. When the Congress pointed out to the leaders of the FTQ that the Federation had violated the CLC Constitution, the FTQ decided to make political hay out of the dispute by asking delegates to the 1968 CLC convention to retroactively approve the negotiations and the agreement with the CSN. In order to avoid a potentially embarrassing convention fight, the leadership of the CLC brokered a deal with Laberge, and instead delegates were presented with a resolution which would include the CLC in non-raiding talks with the CSN. The resolution was adopted unanimously.[17] At the same convention, the FTQ proposed the decentralization of CLC services to the FTQ. However, when the FTQ leadership went off to plan a strategy for achieving their demands, CLC President Claude Jodoin gained the support of the convention to rule the FTQ’s resolutions out of order. Jodoin explained that the FTQ’s calls for greater power and autonomy were objectionable because they had only been approved by the Federation’s executive without having been approved by its affiliates. FTQ vice-president Jean Gérin-Lajoie complained that the Federations’ affiliates were simply “a milking cow for the CLC” because although they paid into the CLC, they could not access most of the CLC’s unilingual services.[18] A controversy over the lack of simultaneous translation devices gave the FTQ’s Fernand Daoust a further opportunity to chastize the CLC leadership by suggesting that “appeals to national unity are all very fine but let us see our principles applied in the labour movement itself.”[19]

After the FTQ’s attempt to achieve special status was rebuffed, the Federation adopted a new strategy to press for decentralization. Rather than ask for special status for the FTQ, the Federation would instead attempt to win widespread support for the idea of decentralizing CLC services to all provincial federations of labour. The FTQ’s strategic maneuver failed miserably. After complaining that CLC President Donald MacDonald had railroaded the decentralization resolution by improperly managing the debate, FTQ President Louis Laberge led a large contingent of Quebec delegates out of the convention hall in protest.[20] The next day, Quebec delegates were back in force to support Gérard Rancourt, the FTQ’s approved candidate for the position of CLC executive vice-president. Rancourt, who had forcefully defended the FTQ’s calls for decentralization, was forced to fend off a challenge from Roméo Mathieu, a Quebecer who enjoyed the official support of the CLC council.[21] After the FTQ’s calls for decentralization were rejected by the convention, it was widely assumed that Rancourt would go down to defeat. However, Rancourt’s upset victory gave the Federation renewed energy and drive. In a 1968 submission to the Parliamentary Committee on Labour and Employment[22], the FTQ cautioned Members of Parliament that they may “have been deceived by an impression that the Quebec Federation of Labour is only a branch of the CLC, and more its Quebec spokesman than spokesman for Quebec workers… we are well and truly the autonomous spokesman for Quebec workers as we submit this brief to you.”[23]

[1] CSN (1987), 162.
[2] CSN (1987), 183.
[3] Pelletier, as cited in Labour Gazette vol 60 (1960), 1265.
[4] CSN (1987), 199.
[5] Émile Boudreau et Léo Roback, L'Histoire de la FTQ, des tout débuts jusqu'en 1965, (Montréal: FTQ, 1988), 346-347.
[6] FTQ, Déclaration à l’occasion du débat sur la formule, (15 avril, 1965).
[7] CLC, Proceedings, Constitutional Convention 1964, 2.
[8] CSN (1987), 160.
[9] Albert Verdoodt, Linguistic Tensions in Canadian and Belgian Labour Unions, (Québec: Centre International de recherche sur le bilinguisme, 1977), 13.
[10] Verdoodt (1977), 14.
[11] Boudreau et Roback (1988), 348.
[12] FTQ, Politique de la FTQ 1960-1967, 96.
[13] CLC, Proceedings, Constitutional Convention, 1966, 88.
[14] Boudreau et Roback (1988), 350-351.
[15] Jacques Rouillard, Histoire de la CSN, 1921-1981, (Montréal: Boréal express, 1981), 233.
[16] Gérin-Lajoie (1982), 173.
[17] CLC, Proceedings, Constitutional Convention, 1966, 34-35.
[18] Toronto Daily Star, (April 23, 1966).
[19] Toronto Daily Star, (April 29, 1966).
[20] Toronto Daily Star, (May 9, 1968).
[21] Toronto Daily Star, (May 10, 1968).
[22] The Committee was looking at a proposal by Manpower Minister Jean Marchand to break up national bargaining units to better reflect the country’s linguistic duality. Marchand’s proposal enjoyed the support of the CSN, but was being contested by the CLC. Both Marchand and the CSN framed the debate in terms of minority rights for francophone workers. This enraged that FTQ which felt the need to intervene in the debate as the largest trade union central in Quebec. The Fedeartion argued that the CSN, with the help of its former President, Jean Marchand, was simply trying to bolster the union central’s membership under false pretenses.
[23] FTQ ,Brief on Bill C-186 to the Parliamentary Committee on Labour and Employment, (1968), 3.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

In His Own Words

Garth Turner explains why he joined the Liberal caucus. Check out the video on his blog.

Garth Turner Crosses to the Liberals: Will Liberal Bloggers Change Their Tune?

Garth Turner, the independent MP from Halton who was booted from the Conservative caucus shortly after the 2006 federal election, is joining the Liberal Party.

Ironically, Turner defeated a Tory-turned-Liberal for his seat in the House of Commons in 2006 when he bested former Tory MPP Gary Carr.

Some blogging Liberals are having trouble welcoming Turner to the fold.

After the 2006 election, Jason Cherniak wrote, "I could talk about how horrible it is that Garth 'Nortel' Turner was elected."

The Calgary Grit mused "I personally never cared much for the man" after he was booted from the Tory caucus.

Lots of Liberals, including Cherniak, called on Liberal MP Wajid Khan to resign after he crossed the floor to the Conservatives recently. Do you think they'll come out in full force asking for Garth's resignation? Don't keep your hopes up.

George Bush is Full of Hot Air

My good friend Amanda recently gave me a "pull my finger president" as a gift. You can check out what George Bush says when you pull his finger by clicking here.

Sour Grapes

Looks like a certain Liberal hopeful in Niagara Falls is lashing out at the the Ontario Conservatives, the local media, and yours truly. We didn't put words in his mouth... he actually wrote this on his blog... he's a Liberal riding association President running for the Liberal nomination in Niagara Falls and he actually wrote this on his blog about his "good buddy" Kim Craitor.

Don't shoot the messenger!

Manitoba NDP Scraps OMOV

This is very interesting. Although one-member-one vote does have the potential to help parties raise more money and involve a wider spectrum of party activists, I've never been a huge supporter of OMOV, largely because I think it's no more democratic than a delegated convention and wide open to fraud. OMOV conventions also tend to be boring and attract less media attention than delegated conventions. Lots of things bug me about the Manitoba NDP - its embrace of neo-liberalism, its refusal to reform the province's electoral system, and its decision not to ban scab labour. These public policy issues are far more important than the party's decision to scrap OMOV.

h/t to thoughtinterrupted

Monday, February 5, 2007

Bad News for Peggy Nash

Gerard Kennedy is running in the next federal election in his former provincial riding of Parkdale-High Park, currently represented by NDP MP Peggy Nash. Nash is my favourite new NDP MP, but the unpopularity of the local Liberal incumbent was a big part of her victory in 2006. Kennedy was an incredibly popular MPP for the riding. Nash is in for the fight of her life.

Looks Like the Provincial Tories Have Been Reading My Blog

It took a press release from the provincial Tories to get the Niagara Falls Review to finally get around to writing a story about this. I wonder if this post of mine from back in January had anything to do with it? It would sure explain the large number of hits I've been receiving from Queen's Park lately ;-)

A press release issued by Hudak on Friday quotes from a Internet blog posting by Jim Curran, president of the Niagara Falls Federal Liberal Riding Association. An entry by Curran dated Jan. 21 reads: "My good friend Kim Craitor, (Liberal) MPP for Niagara Falls, will be losing his job after the results are posted in the upcoming October election . . . because Kim's government has rules and regulations that apply to everyone else but their own government."

Politics and Popular Culture: Sexy Politics Dance Party

The Constitutional Politics of Labour: From Confederation to the Quiet Revolution - Part Five

Bilingualism, Biculturalism and the Politics of Labour

The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) was one of the many organizations that submitted a brief to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. Surprisingly, however, the Congress did not consult the Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ) before presenting its brief – which made bold pronouncements on the status of English and French in Canada. The CLC addressed the issue of Quebec in economic terms – condemning uneven regional development in Canada. According to the CLC’s brief, “the breeding ground for nationalism in its more extreme forms is exploitation, social and economic inequality, ignorance and insularity.”[1] As a remedy, the Congress argued in favour of a regional redistribution of wealth and a policy focus on narrowing the economic wage gap between francophone workers and anglophone workers in Canada . The CLC also made known its preference for a policy of official bilingualism in Canada, and trumpeted the fact that the Congress had adopted such a policy within its own organization in 1962. However, what was most interesting about the CLC’s brief to the Laurendeau Commission was what it did not contain. The two nations paradigm, which had won the endorsement of the FTQ and the NDP, did not find its way into the CLC brief. In fact, by characterizing French Canada as a “series of French-speaking islands large and small throughout Canada”[2], the Congress seemed to be rejecting the popularly held notion that Quebec represented a French-Canadian nation within the Canadian state. The CLC was also silent on the issue of constitutional reform, special status for Quebec, and the province’s right to self-determination. These glaring omissions obviously reflected the political bias of the CLC’s research director, Eugene Forsey. As a recognized expert on constitutional politics, Forsey used his position within the Canadian labour movement to advance his particular vision of Canada. Forsey’s clear distaste for Quebec nationalism did not sit well with the FTQ.

When the Federation protested that it had neither been asked for input, nor even received a copy of the CLC’s submission to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, the Congress responded by reminding the FTQ that it was the CLC that had exclusive jurisdiction over making presentations to the federal government. The CLC could not understand why the FTQ was so upset. After all, according to the Congress, the presentation was made on behalf of the Canadian labour movement – a movement which, according to the CLC, included rank-and-file members of the FTQ.[3] The CLC’s unapologetic stand unquestionably raised the ire of the FTQ and reinforced the Quebec labour movement’s sense of nationalism.

During the 1960s, the Quebec labour movement could be characterized as both nationalist and federalist. Nationalist because it advocated self-determination and more autonomy for Quebec, and federalist because it rejected independence as a political alternative. The FTQ's Montreal regional council declared in 1961 “Le régime fédéral... doit être maintenu. Il a été un des instruments qui ont permis a la nation canadienne-française de se développer, d'affermir son charactère et de maintenir et répandre sa culture et sa langue.”[4] In 1962, delegates to the CSN convention “prononce contre le séparatisme, à moins qu’on le lui prouve que cette mesure soit nécessaire pour la salut économique, social et culturel de la nation.”[5] For its part, the CEQ, was the first significant trade union organization in Quebec to adopt a firmly nationalist position on constitutional questions. In 1965, the CEQ was advocating special status, although not sovereignty, for Quebec. The CEQ was unique in that its members were united by a common national community.[6] In addition, unlike their counterparts in the CSN and FTQ, CEQ members were somewhat shielded from the powerful economic arguments against separatism by virtue of their concentration in the public education sector. These factors allowed the CEQ to advance more developed positions on the National Question.[7]

At the FTQ’s 1963 convention, the Federation’s Vice-President Louis Laberge declared, “le séparatisme serait une catastrophe pour tous ceux qui sont obligés de gagner leur vie.” The delegates agreed and passed a resolution asserting that “la secession risque de provoquer une baisse du niveau de vie.”[8] In the same year, Laberge wrote the preface to an anti-separatist brochure entitled “Le Travailleur Face au Séparatisme.” In it, he wrote, “La presque totalité des syndiqués de langue française sont opposés au séparatisme.” Laberge continued his assault on Quebec separatism by suggesting that, “Le sort du Québec deviendrait identique à celui de certaines républiques des Antilles. Ce serait une aventure désastreuses dont les travailleurs feraient les frais.”[9] Laberge took over the leadership of the FTQ in 1964 and continued in that post until 1991, while also serving as a Vice-President of the CLC during that same period. Laberge first became active in the labour movement as a rank-and-file member of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) in the 1940s. In the fifties, Laberge expanded the scope of his activities by participating in the Trades and Labour Council of Montréal (TLCM), where he served as President from 1955 to 1964. Laberge left that post to become organizing director for the United Auto Workers (UAW) in Quebec, a position which he kept despite being appointed to the Presidency of the FTQ after the death of Roger Provost in 1964.

Over the course of his trade union career, Louis Laberge came to symbolize the Quebec labour movement’s gradual conversion to nationalist politics and ultimately, sovereignty. Initially a New Democrat, Laberge eventually came to embrace the péquiste politics of the PQ and the Bloc Québécois (BQ). The intersection of class and nation in Quebec during the 1960s and 1970s transformed Laberge’s attitude towards Canada’s federal system. In 1980, he cautiously endorsed a OUI vote in Quebec’s referendum on sovereignty-association. By the 1990s, Laberge, and indeed the entire Quebec labour movement, was solidly in the sovereignist camp.

However, in the early 1960s, Laberge, like many trade unionists, was concerned about the economic implications of sovereignty. Concerned about the economic well-being of its union affiliates and their members, the FTQ leadership skillfully kept a lid on separatism throughout the decade. The second and third largest labour centrals, the CSN and the CEQ, also had reservations about separatism. Separatism, during this period, was viewed solely in economic terms, and the vast majority of workers were not willing to take the economic gamble. However, a significant current of Quebec nationalism was building strength within the Quebec labour movement.

[1] Canadian Labour Congress, Submission to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, (December 13, 1967), 7.
[2] Canadian Labour Congress (1967), 8.
[3] François Cyr et Rémi Roy, Eléments d’histoire de la FTQ: La FTQ et la question nationale, (Laval: Editions coopératives Albert St. Martin, 1981), 113-114
[4] Conseil des travailleuses et travailleures du Montréal Metropolitain, Cent ans de solidarité: Histoire du CTM 1886-1986, (Montréal, 1987) 106.
[5] 1962 CSN convention resolution reprinted in Louis Le Borgne, La CSN et la question nationale depuis 1960, (Québec: Les éditions Albert-Martin, 1976), 45.
[6] Unlike the FTQ or the CSN, the CEQ’s members were exclusively Québécois and worked in the education sector.
[7] Guntzel (1997), 428-429.
[8] Fournier (1992), 132.
[9] Fournier (1992), 130.

Sunday, February 4, 2007


The Daily Dissidence rails against anglo-chauvinism in a recent post.

The Z-files asked me to link to his blog. Maybe he'll return the favour?

Adam X has been sending traffic my way lately.

Ian Urquhart is predicting a minority government in Ontario... a bit early to predicting the outcome of an October 2007 election, isn't it?

Join the E-Campaign to Support Striking Credit Union Workers

Thanks to LabourStart, you can support members of COPE 343, the striking women at FirstOntario credit union, as they enter their fourth month on the picket line. Click on the link and send a message to management and the Ontario government to let them know that you support the negotiation of a fair collective agreement that does not include concessions.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Constitutional Politics of Labour: From Confederation to the Quiet Revolution - Part Four

The Canadian Labour Congress and the New Democratic Party

The merger of the TLC and CCL into the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) paved the way for the creation of a new political vision for organized labour in Canada. In 1961, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and the Canadian Labour Congress came together to create the New Democratic Party (NDP), which was modeled after the British Labour Party. It was hoped that the presence of a social democratic labour party would realign Canadian politics on a left-right basis, as had occurred in Britain.[1] However, class politics have never been particularly effective in Canada’s electoral arena. Divisions among anglophones and francophones, orders of government, and regions have been far more prominent.[2] This is partially explained by Canadian federalism’s proclivity to reinforce the traditional cleavages of language, region, and culture at the federal level. Despite its lasting presence in Ottawa, the Federal NDP has never been a serious contender in federal elections and has never managed to win much more than 20% of the popular vote. Its dream of forming the Official Opposition, let alone Government, has never been realized and as of late, the NDP has had to concern itself primarily with maintaining official party status in the House of Commons.[3]

Despite the appearance of a strong link between the CLC and the NDP, union members have certainly not flocked to the party in large numbers. Political scientists Keith Archer and Alan Whitehorn have demonstrated that low rates of direct union affiliation have plagued the NDP since its inception. Specifically, Archer and Whitehorn have noted that “never have more than 15% of union members belonged to NDP-affiliated unions. In fact, the proportions of union members in Canada affiliated with the NDP have consistently declined since the early 1960s.” [4] Unions most closely aligned with the NDP throughout its history include the United Steelworkers of America, the United Food and Commercial Workers and the Canadian Auto Workers Union. The regional imbalance of union affiliation is also noteworthy. In 1987, approximately 75% of union affiliates were based in Ontario, while only 2% were based in Quebec.[5] Archer has argued that the party’s low rate of direct union affiliation can be explained by a simple cost-benefit analysis. Because the NDP is seen as a perennial third party, the benefits associated with direct affiliation never seem to outweigh the costs associated with affiliation. In terms of the electoral success of the NDP-CLC alliance, there is little evidence to suggest that it has yielded significant results. The institutional and structural failure of the NDP and the CLC to mobilize working people into a dependable voting bloc has long frustrated the leadership of both the party and the Congress. Nevertheless, the modest ties which exist between the CLC and the NDP seem strong compared to the relationship between the NDP and the FTQ.

The New Democrats, the Quebec Federation of Labour, and Quebec Politics

While the CLC helped to create the NDP in 1961, the FTQ passed a resolution endorsing the new party, with only one delegate in opposition. In fact, the FTQ’s constitution mandated the Federation to support the NDP in every federal election; until delegates voted to remove that provision in 1971.[6] Much to the chagrin of the CLC’s Eugene Forsey, the FTQ played a pivotal role at the NDP’s founding convention by forcefully pushing for the “Two Nations” conception of Canada.[7] Weeks before the NDP convention, the FTQ released its “Déclaration sur la Confédération et les droits provinciaux”. In it, the FTQ affirmed its support for the “Two Nations” conception of Canada and asserted that Quebec represented the political expression of French Canada. The FTQ declaration also called for self-determination and encouraged the Quebec government to more fully assert its jurisdictional authority with a view to improving Canada’s federal system.[8] FTQ delegates along with other Quebec delegates to the NDP’s founding convention promoted their “Two Nations” position effectively by convincing the party leadership to replace the word “national” with the word “federal” in all official party documents. The CSN’s Michel Chartrand, speaking on behalf of the Quebec delegation, argued that Quebec represented a nation within Canada, and therefore, use of the word “national” in party documents would not only be confusing, but assimilationist. The position of the Quebec delegation won out and the NDP’s party program was amended to read: “The New Democratic Party declares its belief in federalism, the only system that can assure the joint development of the two nations which originally joined together to create Canadian society, as well as the development of other ethnic groups in Canada.”[9] The NDP’s founding convention also adopted the following statement:

"Our pride in Canada as a nation is enhanced by our consciousness of the two national cultures which form the basis of Canadian life. We are indeed aware that those who have had their roots in the French-speaking community frequently and legitimately use the word 'nation' to describe French Canada itself. The New Democratic Party believes that true Canadian unity depends upon equal recognition and respect for both the main cultures of our country."[10]

These statements, in addition to appeasing Quebec nationalist delegates, reflected the strong influence of intellectuals like Charles Taylor and Michael Oliver, but these influences did not last. The party's western base was never really sympathetic to the notion of dualism presented at the party's founding convention. For his part, Eugene Forsey resigned from the party shortly after the founding convention in protest over its “Two Nations” policy. In his memoirs he lamented, “This is probably the only occasion in history when some thousands of people met to form a new national political party and began by resolving that there was no nation to form it in.”[11] The FTQ and its allies had scored an important victory but the Federation’s show of support for the NDP was peculiar given the party’s overwhelmingly anglophone character.

During this period, the FTQ seemed to relate to both the NDP and the CLC in the same manner; push for reform from within. The FTQ passed resolutions at its 1963 and 1965 conventions reaffirming its support for the party and encouraging its affiliated locals and individual trade union activists to join the party.[12] The Steelworkers Union, in particular, was fervently pro-NDP. Six Steelworkers ran for the party in Quebec in the 1962 federal election and five carried the NDP banner in Quebec ridings in the 1963 federal election.[13] The FTQ worked closely with the Steelworkers and other affiliates to establish a Quebec section of the party which contested federal elections between 1962 and 1988. However, the Quebec labour movement’s support for the federal NDP waned significantly in the late 1960s when trade union activists instead turned their attention to provincial politics. The Quiet Revolution had fostered a new sense of progressive nationalism among trade union activists in particular, and Quebec City, rather than Ottawa, had become the focal point of social change.[14]

At a 1961 Quebec City symposium, organized by a law student named Brian
Mulroney, NDP MP Doug Fisher responded to René Lévesque’s assertion that “you [English Canada] need us more than we need you” by stating that, “for us, the greatest impact of French-Canadian culture has been made by Maurice Richard and Lili St. Cyr.”[15] Maurice Richard was a hockey legend and St. Cyr a stripper (she was also an American). Fisher’s tasteless statement about French-Canadian culture, although admittedly only symptomatic of much deeper problems, certainly had a lasting impact on the party's fortunes in Quebec. The newly minted provincial section of the NDP in Quebec circulated a press release calling on federal NDP leader Tommy Douglas to discipline Fisher, the MP from Port Arthur, and reaffirm the party’s commitment to the “Two Nations” concept.[16]

Despite Fisher’s harmful gaffe, the federal NDP has generally tried to meet the political demands of Quebec. The party opposed the implementation of the War Measures Act during the October Crisis of 1970, endorsed the Meech Lake Accord, and recognized Quebec's right to self-determination.[17] However, it has become abundantly clear that a centralist, Anglophone party like the NDP, despite its occasional overtures to Quebec, could not possibly act as an effective political vehicle for the province’s labour movement. Culturally, neither the CCF nor the NDP could effectively relate to Quebec’s francophone majority. The party’s ethnic composition was, and continues to be, overwhelmingly white and anglo-saxon. This reality not only alienated francophones, but also pockets of progressives in smaller ethnic groups. During WWII, some immigrant communities in Quebec rejected the social democracy of the CCF in favour of the more culturally diverse politics of communism. In a 1943 by-election, the Labour Progressive Party’s Fred Rose convincingly defeated the CCF’s David Lewis and a host of other candidates in an ethnically diverse Montreal riding. Even after the communists fell off the electoral map in the 1950s, the CCF, and later the NDP, was never able to forge a reliable electoral niche in Quebec. As a result, the party has come to be associated exclusively with English Canada.

The NDP’s suspicion of Quebec nationalism has also prevented the party from working closely with the province’s labour movement in any meaningful way. In Quebec, where a growing nationalist movement was emerging, the FTQ yearned for more autonomy and an independent voice in Canada and within the Canadian labour movement. The FTQ and the CLC, despite the language barrier, seemed united along class lines. However, the powerful cleavage of language politics and the intertwining forces of class and nation in Quebec did weaken the bonds of class solidarity which kept the two labour bodies together. The growing gap between the politics of the FTQ and the politics of the CLC was first exposed when the CLC made a brief to the Laurendeau Commission in 1965.
[1] Dennis Smith “Prairie Revolt, Federalism and the Party System,” in Party Politics in Canada, 2nd ed., in Hugh G. Thorburn, ed., (Toronto: Prentice Hall, 1967), 190.
[2] Alan C. Cairns “The Governments and Societies of Canadian Federalism,” in Perspectives on Canadian Federalism, R.D. Olling and M.W. Westmacott, eds., (Toronto: Prentice-Hall, 1988), 114.
[3] Ian McLeod, Under Siege: The Federal NDP in the Nineties, (Toronto: James Lorimer & Company, 1994), v.
[4] Keith Archer and Alan Whitehorn, Political Activists: The NDP in Convention, (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1997), 49-51.
[5] Archer and Whitehorn (1997), 51
[6] Jacques Rouillard, Le syndicalisme québécois: Deux siècle d’histoire, (Montréal: Boréal, 2004), 175.
[7] Louis Fournier, Louis Laberge: La Syndicalisme C’est ma Vie, (Montréal: Dossiers Document, 1992), 130.
[8] FTQ, Déclaration sur la Confédération et les droits provinciaux, 14 juin 1961.
[9] Kenneth McRoberts, Misconceiving Canada: The Struggle for National Unity, (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1997), 51.
[10] New Democratic Party, Federal Programme of the New Democratic Party, (Ottawa: July 31-August 4, 1961), 20-21.
[11] Eugene Forsey, A Life on the Fringe, (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1990), 206.
[12] FTQ, Politique de la FTQ 1960-1967, 58.
[13] Jean Gérin-Lajoie, Les Métallos 1936-1981, (Montréal: Boréal Express, 1982), 174.
[14] Rouillard (2004), 175.
[15] Doug Fisher and René Lévesque quoted in Canadian Political Babble, David Oliver, ed., (Toronto: John Wiley & Sons, 1993), 181.
[16] NPD Québec “Le NPD du Québec demande: Des mesures disciplinaires contre M. Douglas Fisher,” Montréal, 1 décembre, 1961.
[17] Archer and Whitehorn (1997), 69.