Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/612/8857
Protests as Canada's Tories suspend parliament
CANADA HAS been without a working parliament since 25 January, after the Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, prorogued (suspended) parliament until 3 March. Harper hoped that while his government tried to deal with its problems, the country would be distracted with the Winter Olympics.
Clare Hudson, Socialist Alternative, British Columbia, Canada
The prorogation of parliament is an attack on democratic rights and an example of an autocratic law kept in place for the prime minister's disposal. During this prorogation, Harper also appointed five new senators to fill vacant seats, which now gives the Conservatives majority support in the Senate.
This is the second prorogation in recent years. A year before, parliament was prorogued to stop the Liberals, NDP (New Democratic Party) and Bloc Quebecois voting through a motion of 'no confidence' in the Conservative government when the opposition parties had agreed a combined takeover. This came to nothing and revealed the opposition parties' weakness.
Both the NDP and Liberals call for new rules where the prime minister would have to warn parliament of such measures. Yet none of the parties provide any solutions to the deep economic and social problems facing working-class Canadians. The underlying anger was reflected in nationwide protests on 23 January, initiated after a new facebook campaign quickly escalated to over 200,000 members.
Toronto's protests attracted over 7,000 protesters and Ottawa's 3,500. There were smaller protests across the country. CWI members in Quebec plan a protest against the prorogation and the Afghan war. Actions such as these are vital to express the widespread anger on these issues.
The government claims that "we" are coming out of the recession; for many working class people, this could not be further from the truth. Many face huge problems, such as unemployment and job instability.
In October 2009, 809,000 Canadians were claiming Employment Insurance (EI), up from 500,000 a year before. As well as people losing better-paid, skilled and unionised work, around 500,000 more people will shortly join the EI lines, leaving many without even a minimal income. Even more families will live in poverty. Those who can find work face taking lower paid, part-time jobs.
There is also growing criticism over the alleged torture of Afghan detainees by Canadian soldiers. Canada is usually presented by the establishment as playing more of a 'peacekeeping' and 'rebuilding' role militarily. But the grim reality of war in Afghanistan is coming home, with a growing death toll of Canadian soldiers and torture claims, which are blatantly covered up by the government.
Opposition falls short
The opposition parties provide no alternative on these issues. That is no surprise; they offer no alternative to the system of capitalism, which causes these problems. The task of building a new democratic, fighting party, run by and for the working-class, falls on the shoulders of union activists, socialists, community activists etc.
The loss of better paid jobs in manufacturing industry is a loss for the organised working class. It brings home the need for a fighting socialist alternative. The 'failing' industries should be taken into public ownership, under the democratic management and control of the working class, as should the big banks and other major parts of the economy.
The CWI in Canada and Quebec is campaigning for a socialist alternative, in opposition to all the pro-capitalist parties, and for a new mass party of the working class. We fight for jobs for all, a living wage and fully-funded health, education and other vital public services.
We also campaign for real democratic rights, including the end of undemocratic powers such as the prime minister's power to suspend parliament, which are held in reserve to defend the interests of the capitalist parties in power and the ruling class as a whole.
In The Socialist 17 February 2010:
Socialist Party campaigns
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Socialist Party news and analysis
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis