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Vol. 72/No. 51      December 29, 2008

Canadian rulers face parliamentary crisis
MONTREAL—Under the pressure of the unfolding world economic crisis, Canada’s capitalist rulers have faced political instability and a parliamentary crisis since the October 14 federal election won by the Conservatives.

On December 1 the Liberals and the social-democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) formed a coalition backed by the Bloc Quebecois (BQ), a capitalist party that supports sovereignty for Quebec, to replace the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They accuse the Conservative minority government of not doing enough to stimulate the economy.

To prevent a no-confidence vote that would oust him, Harper shut down Parliament December 4. He also launched a chauvinist, anti-Quebec propaganda campaign slamming the new coalition as “a betrayal of the best interests of our country.”

The officialdom of the Canadian Labour Congress and the three Quebec union federations initiated rallies in at least 12 cities across the country backing the moves toward a Liberal-NDP coalition government. At a Montreal rally of about 1,000 people, Liberal, NDP, BQ, and union speakers claimed the coalition was defending “Canadian democracy” and the interests of working people. Many spoke against the Conservative “Quebec-bashing” campaign.

Following the parliamentary shutdown, a long-term leadership crisis in the Liberal party ended with the resignation of its national leader, Stéphane Dion, and his replacement with Michael Ignatieff.

Parliament will reopen January 26 and the next day the Conservative government will present its proposed budget. If it is defeated by the opposition, that could precipitate another federal election or revive the Liberal-NDP coalition option.  
Tens of thousands of layoffs
The backdrop to this political instability is the rapid contraction of Canada’s economy.

In November 71,000 workers were thrown out of work, the biggest monthly job loss since the recession of 1982. In Ontario, Canada’s industrial heartland, 66,000 jobs were cut, many in the automobile industry. Nationally, 38,000 jobs in the service sector were lost.

Mining towns like Sudbury are facing massive layoffs with the drop in the price of nickel. In the West, slumping oil prices foreshadow layoffs in Alberta and elsewhere as drilling and other oil-related projects are cancelled or put on hold. Layoffs and plant closures are accelerating in the forest and pulp and paper industries.

The Canadian dollar, which had climbed to par with the U.S. dollar, has fallen to about 80 U.S. cents. Across the country home prices are dropping at a sharp rate.

Over the past months the federal government has given $25 billion to Canada’s banks to avoid a crisis. Ford, GM, and Chrysler are demanding an emergency government financial bailout of up to $7.2 billion for their plants in Canada.  
Communist League candidate speaks
The parliamentary saga in Ottawa completely overshadowed the December 8 Quebec provincial election. The former minority Liberal government was returned with a smaller-than-expected majority of 66 seats in the 125-seat Quebec National Assembly. The bourgeois nationalist Parti Quebecois (PQ), which favors sovereignty for Quebec, moved up, coming in second with 51 seats to become the official opposition.

The previous official opposition, the right-wing Quebec Democratic Action, which is for Quebec autonomy, was reduced to third place with seven seats. Quebec Solidaire, a reformist party formed in 2006, elected one member in a Montreal district. Quebec Solidaire is the product of the fusion of several parties of the petty-bourgeois left. It supports Quebec’s sovereignty.

Speaking on the Ottawa developments at a Militant Labor Forum one day before the Quebec election, Michel Prairie, Communist League candidate in the Montreal electoral district of Laurier-Dorion, said, “The anti-Quebec campaign of the federal government aims at weakening our capacity to resist by deepening divisions in the working class along national lines.

“Despite their differences, both Conservative and Liberal-NDP coalition proposals to deal with the economic crisis start with propping up the capitalist system and increasing profit rates at the expense of working people.”

Prairie said that “backing a Liberal-NDP coalition government in no way strengthens the capacity of working people to defend ourselves as the capitalist crisis unfolds.”

“The only realistic perspective for workers is to take the road of independent political action in order to build a revolutionary movement of millions to take political power out of the hands of the capitalist class,” he explained.

Fighting workers should advance the perspective of building a labor party that is based on a transformed and fighting union movement, Prairie said.
Related articles:
Communist League opposes attacks on free speech in Canada elections  
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