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Issue #1586      March 20, 2013

Canadian Labour Congress targets Harper government

Hundreds of delegates are expected to attend the Canadian Labour Congress’s largest-ever political action conference, which will plan how to defeat the Harper government, on March 22-24 in Toronto.

The most highly managed conference will produce a life of its own when a government is ripping a country apart and selling it part by part. The Communist Party has called for a broad, political action conference for many years, and it is important that the most be made of it.

The conference’s success will be measured by how it organises the fight, especially before the election, not just during the short stampede to the polls called the campaign period.

On the positive side, there is a focus on key issues like labour rights (the attack on the Rand formula and the closed shop), the Aboriginal question in the labour movement, creating industrial jobs, equality of women, child care, privatisation, and green energy.

Some focus is on rebuilding once-vibrant coalitions, like those that thrived in the 1980s fighting against free trade and for nuclear disarmament. The new coalitions need to include those entering political life today, activists fighting for Aboriginal rights and the environment, students against tuition hikes, the Occupy movement.

Many CLC affiliates already have their separate campaigns targeting the Harper Tories. The problem for the CLC and this conference is to send a message: Bring these efforts together! Unite, locally and across Canada.

Local and regional coalitions will be a basis for strong Canada-wide coalitions; these played an important part defeating the Mulroney-Campbell Tories in 1993, and they are needed now.

There are difficulties. The agenda is heavy on workshops like working with media. No time is available for different movement caucuses to meet. The agenda has little or nothing for anti-war, environmental or anti-free trade movements, all historically connected to the labour movement. The lack of travel equalisation, income-related fees, or billets makes it expensive for many activists outside Toronto.

The main thing, though, is that the conference is taking place. When hundreds of people start to talk, they can produce the sparks that will push the Tories to defeat. All popular movements in Canada need the active involvement of the labour movement as never before.

It will be hard to match the send-off to the Mulroney-Campbell government in 1993, when the CLC helped rally 100,000 people on Parliament Hill, through the anti-free trade Pro-Canada Network. Such rallies can and should take place again, this fall and before the election.

The Harper government is carrying out a vicious attack on the labour movement and workers as a whole. The time has come for more thought about stronger measures in the fightback, including work stoppages which are now common in many European and Asian countries.

The attack begs for political strikes in reply, even at a time when the economic struggle expressed by strikes or lockouts remains at historically low levels in Canada.

In 1988, the CLC targeted 50 Tory MPs for defeat in one of the Canada’s most important elections dealing with Canada-US Free Trade. The next election is equally important. If the CLC will carry out a similar campaign next election, groups need to sign-up at the conference and get to work. Time is short.

There is no shortage of political action to take against the narrow, utterly selfish Harper Tory agenda which is leading us to disaster. Developing and mobilising for a broad, emancipatory alternative, the CLC can help defeat Toryism and its big business agenda. If it’s done well, the defeat will last forever.

*Darrell Rankin represented the Canadian Peace Alliance at the Pro-Canada Network, the Action Canada Network and the Solidarity Network.

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