2007 witnessed a melt down in the US housing market brought on by stock market speculators and banking piranhas. The US war in Iraq is entering its 6th year with no let up in sight. In fact the US military budget for fiscal year 2008 is increasing to over $650 billion! Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans have been killed or maimed. Workers’ children are sent into a brutal war in Afghanistan. A new global arms race is being fomented by the US through the deployment of missile shields in Czechoslovakia and Poland. The minority government of Stephen Harper is quietly re-opening BMD talks with the US and preparing to increase national military spending by billions more annually. Workers will have to pick up the cost.
The crisis in eastern Canadian manufacturing with the loss of 350,000 jobs since 2002 and the hyper exploitation of labour in Alberta with 50-60 hour work weeks are two sides of the same coin. While billions of dollars are wasted by the Harper neo-cons on a US-NATO war of aggression in Afghanistan working Canadians are facing economic crisis, reduced wages, job loss, deterioration in working conditions and poverty, chronic housing shortages and losses, a worsening health care and education system and workers pensions are being risked by the new river boat gamblers of the 21st century.
Organized Labour Under Attack
Organized labour is under attack like never before. Organized labour’s ability to fight back is increasingly being eroded. Its ability to protect and advance working conditions, wages and jobs is threatened by an organized campaign of claw backs and anti-labour legislation and indifference to the needs of working Canadians by the Harper neo-cons.

In Alberta that attack is through regressive labour legislation, frenzied exploitation of the Tar Sands and the neutering of the industrial section of organized labour – the building trades. In Ontario workers are facing plant closures and a federal government more interested in buying new tanks, helicopters and frigates then developing public transportation, housing and industrial development in the interests of the Canadian people.
While billions of dollars are spent on war and military expansion, Canadian industry is distorted and crippled by an alliance of finance-energy-military capital seeking ever greater profits. This alliance is expressed in the foreign policy of the minority Harper Government. Canadian foreign policy is wrapped in the chest thumping of “emerging energy superpower” status. The de-industrialization of Eastern Canada is linked to global imperialist rivalries and the continentalist fortress policies of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) doctrine which ties Canada to a single market strategy of resource transfers and value added buy-backs.
This continentalist approach is driven by fuelling a continued aggressive US arms build up, wars of aggression and military occupations with cheap Canadian energy. The integration of Canadian energy with US military industrial capacity is leading to intensified hardship for Canadian workers. It is leading to an embattled organized labour movement having to make some stark choices between maintaining hard fought labour gains, won over 6 decades of struggle since WWII, and trade-offs for maintaining minimum economic positions. Such is the dilemma facing the CAW in auto and in Alberta the UFCW fighting to maintain organized labour’s gains - two fighting unions under attack by the most reactionary sections of Canadian capital.
Organized Labour: The Largest Working Class Expression of Peace
Organized labour is the largest working class force for peace. There is nothing in war or a war economy that is in the interests of workers. It has no stake in war and everything to gain from fighting for the peaceful development of the country and its vast resources. It represents the majority sentiment for peace among all Canadian people.
This sentiment was expressed by Jim Sinclair, President, British Columbia Federation of Labour and Rick Bender, President, Washington State Labour Council in a joint statement on September 24, 2007 which was published in Volume 1 Issue 2 of the Alberta Peace News, where they said:

“As the death toll climbs, so does the economic cost. Public money and resources (working people’s taxes) support this war. The amounts are staggering. We watch as living standards continue to decline on both sides of the border. Poverty grows, and along with it so does the homeless crisis in all of our cities. Every week the United States spends $8 billion more on war. To date, the war has consumed more than $450 billion; in Canada the number has climbed to more than $5 billion. Swedish experts report that in 2006 the world expenditures on arms reached over $1.2 trillion dollars, enough to feed, clothe, house and provide basic education and medical care for the planet’s poor.”
However organized labour’s ability to make advances is undermined by the enormous quantities of wasteful expenditures on wars of aggression. Organized labour is faced with deteriorating conditions of labour density, defined as the percentage of organized workers within the employed work force as a whole. As goods and services benefiting peaceful development are abandoned for the high profits of US military spending the Canadian economy becomes ever more distorted. This distortion manifests itself in a weakened position for organized labour and a shedding of union jobs.
Organized Labour Challenge
As plans for an integrated energy system get underway for the extraction and transportation of Beaufort and Mackenzie Delta Gas to the mining and upgrading operations of Fort McMurray and the $250 billion in proposed spending on bitumen recovery and transportation to the central US military industrial refineries of Chicago, Oklahoma and Texas, Eastern Canadian workers are forced to import and pay for expensive energy at world prices.
These projects are competing for labour – cheap labour. It explains why the minority government of Stephen Harper has abandoned workers in the manufacturing and auto sector of Ontario and Quebec – they are needed in Alberta to meet the demands of a US imperialist policy of belligerence and war.
Alberta organized labour was set back September 2007 and the industrial building trades weakened following a fight to position the building trades for a strike mandate. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB), Construction Owners Association of Alberta (COAA) and the union internationals all had a hand in this set back. The minority Government of Stephen Harper and his Alberta minion Ed Stelmach, now have greater freedom in the continued intensified exploitation of workers in Canada.
The exposure of the “Western flank” of the Canadian labour movement to the foreign policies of Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), CAPP and the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) are the result of a frontal attack on organized labour in Eastern Canada - an effort to nullify any fight back by Canadian workers. A compliant industrial labour movement only leads to greater profits for the war profiteers of the Harper neo-con power base of military death merchants in Ottawa and big-oil thugs of Calgary.
Breaking with Harper’s proxy Washington foreign policy, which allows and encourages Canadian energy to flow south, freely into the military industrial economy of the US, is of first rate importance for Canadian organized labour. An organized struggle to shift the wide open exploitation of Canadian energy to a planned and publicly owned development and a made in Canada oil and gas price for Canadian industry is essential to reclaim the power and influence of organized labour in Canadian politics, that is presently being lost to massive military budgets and speculative energy plays. It is also missed by the hyper-left who seem more content to inject themselves in internal union politics of auto and substitute real fight back strategies and economic programs for accusations of “class collaboration”.
Unifying the organized and unorganized workers of Canada around an independent program of peaceful development of the economy challenges the hyper exploitative and anti-labour policies of Harper and his corporate bosses. Unifying wider sections of Canadian workers around a labour led program of peace will put labour in a more favourable position to influence the direction and content of Canadian foreign policy and strengthen the organized labour movement in general.
Canadian organized labour is fighting back. Advancing a new economic vision of Canada as a nation of peace will capture the imagination of all Canadians, challenge the anti-labour policies of Harper and lead to a more unified and strengthened union movement in Canada. Labour can lead the nation! Harper must be defeated!