Ontario’s Flirtation With Extreme Capitalism

The past week has been busy for those interested in the relationship between politics and capital in Ontario.

First, word emerged on Oct. 30 that the provincial Liberals and Progressive Conservatives were intent on ramming a PC MPP’s Private Member’s Bill through the Legislature that would allow construction giant EllisDon to skirt 55-year-old obligations to hire unionized workers.

By Tano4595/Wikimedia Commons

By Tano4595/Wikimedia Commons

Some background:

  • EllisDon, which the Toronto Star has reported is a major donor to both the Liberals and the PCs, lobbied Queen’s Park for the legislation despite an Ontario Labour Relations Board ruling against the company on the very same issue in 2012.
  • That labour board ruling was overturned by the Divisional Court on Sept. 27.
  • EllisDon is within its rights to lobby the government. It is up to the province to decide whether the request is compelling.

Then, yesterday, the Liberals abruptly reversed their course, yanking their support for the bill, provided the Divisional Court ruling is not appealed.

A report by Ontario Newswatch emerged late yesterday that one union involved in the case plans to appeal.

Meanwhile,  a separate story emerged yesterday in which PC Leader Tim Hudak called for major restrictions on advertising by third parties such as citizen coalitions and unions.

Hudak, who is no fan of unions, even went so far as to say it is not OK for unions to donate to political parties but it is OK if corporations do so, according to the Toronto Star’s Richard Brennan.

Both of these cases suggest Ontario’s power structure is flirting with an extreme brand of capitalism in which big corporate donors to political parties are seeing their agendas pushed through the Legislature and workers’ rights are being eroded under the guise of economic competitiveness.

If that isn’t the reality, then it is an arguably fair opinion, based on the facts.

Karl Marx told us that the government Executive exists merely to manage the issues common to capitalists.

Indeed, it is difficult to ignore the Marxist analysis when presented with the above cases.

Corporations create jobs. But unions help make sure those jobs are well-compensated, safe and secure for workers who must sell their labour for a wage.

The message the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals are sending is that Ontario’s political culture is one that favours the entrenched privileged elite.

But in a province in which the first same-sex marriage was solemnized and where battles over the legalization of marijuana and prostitution have been fought to extend rights and civil liberties to marginalized people, such a political culture, as that being pushed at Queen’s Park, is looking awfully rusty and out of touch.

The events of the past week lead to real questions about whose interests the PCs and Liberals are working for and to what end. Workers ─ just like any marginalized group ─ deserve just as much consideration from a provincial government as capital.

It seems like the Grits and Tories need to be reminded of that.

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