Canada: Federal elections called for 2 May

Outgoing Harper government presided over price hikes, sell-offs and foreign wars

A federal election has been called in Canada for 2 May. The last election took place in 2008, which led to the forming of a Conservative minority government, led by Stephen Harper. For many working class people, the only changes seen since the last election are an increase in food, gas and utility prices, a loss of employment and worsening working and living conditions. The Harper government, which has been in power for the last five years, has done nothing but ensure their support for big business through tax cuts, pushing for privatization and bailing out the banks during the height of the recession. In addition to this, the continuation of the involvement of Canadian troops in Afghanistan and now Libya has angered many people throughout Canada and Quebec. These are just a handful of hated measures the Conservatives have pushed through over the past few years.

No alternative offered by the main parties.

While working class people are being told to brace themselves for a possible 5-7% increase in the cost of food and cuts to services, 65 new F-18 jets have been ordered by the government, at the cost of $100 million each. In 2009, Statistics Canada reported that 1 in 10 children in Canada live in poverty yet after the financial bail-outs in 2008, many banks in 2009 recorded their biggest profits ever. However, the main opposition parties have already proved they are incapable of offering any real alternative to the misery of poverty and instability caused by capitalism. All early indications are that there will be no significant change of government after the election, with either a minority Conservative or Liberal government.

The Liberals, led by Michael Ignatieff, announced a few meagre changes they would make if in power, including some financial incentives for students at university, which if implemented would not make higher education any more accessible for working class people. The NDP (New Democratic Party), led by Jack Layton, tries to be seen as being to the left of the Liberals. But the NDP does not have a real fighting programme to truly contend both the Liberals and Conservatives. They have announced they would give tax cuts to small businesses as an incentive to keep on employees and promised they would increase corporate tax to big businesses to 2008 levels of 11% (from the current 9%). These are not real changes. At such an early stage of the election, the opposition parties have already proved they cannot offer a real alternative. The Bloc Quebecois (Quebec separatist party), led by Gilles Duceppe, held 46 seats in the House of Commons at the time of dissolution. Duceppe, who is contending his 8th election, is Canada’s longest serving political leader, and is rumoured he may soon be stepping down. The Green Party, which was rated third after previous televised leaders’ debates, failed to win any seats in the 2008 election. These parties are also unable to offer an alternative to capitalism. While they try to find solutions, always of course within the limits of the big business system, their capability to capture the support of the youth and working-class is severely weakened. When it comes to providing a solution to the national question, for an end to poverty and discrimination of aboriginal communities or even beginning to looking into solutions in relation to the environment, the farce of the election campaign is evident for all to see.

Need for a new mass workers’ party

There is a lack of a mass socialist alternative in Canada; the need for a new mass workers’ party is critical. Many of the trade union leaders are politically weak and are incapable of helping to build and lead the workers’ movement. These need to be immediately replaced by real representatives of the workers’ movement, from the grass roots up. Trade union membership is still high in many sections of workplaces throughout Canada. The resource industries, such as the lumber, manufacturing and mining, still employ many workers, of all ages. In addition to these workers, teachers, service sector workers, youth etc, represent the potentially powerful force which together can organize to fight for a real alternative. Early signs of possible steps in the direction of forming the basis of new left formations and towards the goal of a new workers’ party are expressed with the launch, in May, of the ‘Socialist Party in Toronto’, which is made up of former NDP members and others on the Left. There is undoubtedly a lot of anger mounting over cuts taking place in every province and territory. This is compounded with the rise of living expenses, such as food, gas and electricity. Events unfolding around the world, such as workers fighting back against cuts in Europe, capture the attention of many working class people and youth throughout Canada and Quebec, making an important impression of what needs to be built.

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April 2011