Wednesday, 3 October 2007

The Truth about the SFL Labour Issues Campaign

In the October 3, 2007 issue of the Regina Leader-Post; political columnist Murray Mandryk takes shots at the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour's current Labour Issues Campaign. Mandryk describes the SFL Campaign using such words as "sanctimonious", "self-satisfied", "hypocritical" and numerous other harsh adjectives.

Not once does he accept, nor even acknowledge that working people, and their democratic organizations have a rightful and important role to play in the functioning of a free and democratic society. He dismisses the values and legitimate issues of working people as irrelevant, or secondary to those he seems to view as worthy of consideration.

Contrary to what Mandryk would have one believe - the labour movement is modern, sophisticated, analytical, highly relevant and reflective of it's membership. The SFL campaign is based on issues that have been identified by regular working people as extremely important.

Reproduced below is just one of the responses I have received to Mandryk's October 3rd column.

Mr. Mandryk comes close to the truth. This election, as all elections should be, is about the truth about politics and political philosophy. The Saskatchewan way of life we seek to protect has a historical political culture that is different than almost every other place in North America. Elections give us a choice every four or five years to have a say in our political direction, to have a say about what our hard earned tax dollars are spent on and to influence the nature of our society.

Of critical importance are things like our health, education and social climate, our environment, and the quality of our working conditions. We all know this truth. So, when we do get this one time chance, what matters. Parties make promises, some they keep, some they don’t. We have Medicare, a publicly funded and publicly owned and operated health care system which is admired worldwide.

This concept gives us a say between elections about how we spend our money and what services we need and desire. This is what social democratic politics has given us.

Corporate politics or conservative politics have always opposed this and constantly promote privatizing. This makes profits the primary concern and takes decision making away from citizens and puts them in corporate boardrooms, some located way outside Saskatchewan and even Canada. The profits leave here.

This is also true for our essential utilities and other important services. Social democratic politics created them and promotes them, giving citizens a say between elections about what our services should be and keeping the surplus money for use to expand and improve those services and to support community programs with donations and grants. Corporate or conservative politics promotes reducing or eliminating the role of government and giving private corporations control. Profit becomes the primary purpose and that money leaves Saskatchewan and even Canada.

We can say the same for cleaning up the environment, promoting and developing education and providing public transport. Social democratic politics supports keeping me and you, the citizens, in control of what we need and want and using surpluses to do what we want. Corporate or conservative politics promotes private business having that control and makes profits the main objective. Our history includes the building of the co-operative movement and the labour movement, both of which encourage and protect citizens having a say in very important parts of our lives. This is social democratic politics. Corporate or conservative politics promotes private corporations owned by people outside Saskatchewan and Canada where profit controls those matters.

We have a choice at election time over which of these two political concepts we want to govern our lives. The truth is that one is based upon what citizens choose, the other is based upon the market and profit. The extent to which they are open and honest about that and the extent to which either is successful in governing within their true political philosophy is always up for debate and is affected by many other things.

What is clear is that they come from a totally different view about the role of citizens, (we, the people), in having a say over our lives and the lives of our children. Our tradition is to try to respect and nurture citizen involvement and control over our lives….that is the Saskatchewan way of life we generally have had. The choice to change that to a conservative, more business oriented way of life is one that we have the right to pick. Others have, like Alberta have. There is no shame in being open about your political philosophy and faith in the market. There is also no reason to not be proud of and be honest about the social democratic concept of politics.

The choices are clear. What I am confused and concerned about is why there is something wrong with the labour movement bringing out this truth.

Is it because, once the truth is out, some are worried it may mean they won’t get elected?

We must never be shy about our voices being heard about our choice of political philosophy. What we must be vigilant about and promote at every moment, before and during and after elections, is to hold accountable anyone elected who strays from our choice. The labour movement campaign is about organizing to ensure we are able to hold all accountable to our issues, whomever they are.

Which party is likely to be more open to our issues? That question is what elections are all about. Why is it wrong to make the choices clear?

Just so we are clear here. I will always promote giving power to people who will encourage the citizens to be respected and to have as much say as possible over every aspect of our lives. I would really like it if this honesty about our choices permeates every word printed, spoken and acted upon before, during and after elections. That includes the media! It gives me delight to know that it appears that once the choices are clear, it causes angst amongst those who do not support our issues.

Brother Hubich and our union leaders make me proud to be union when they give us such honest choices.

Larry Kowalchuk


Anonymous said...

It occurred to me that what's bothering Mandryk is the fact that the Labour Issues Campaign has identified what Saskatchewan people want, thereby "forcing" the politicians to feel the need to be seen to be in agreement. He says "What will this election be about? What can we possible debate in a world in which the NDP is refusing to consider following Alberta's lead in increasing energy sector royalty rates and the Saskatchewan Party is refusing to discuss privatizing SaskTel's SecurTek?"

In other words, we're setting the agenda. He thinks that's his job!

Anonymous said...

"Our tradition is to try to respect and nurture citizen involvement and control over our lives...."

How then can the NDP justify these geographically large school boards and health districts that take control away from local people?

Centralized control, which is what the NDP are all about, eliminates control and influence at the local level.