Saturday, October 27, 2012

They wouldn't be that stupid again would they?

I have been watching things unfold between the Ontario government and the public sector unions of Ontario and it is reminding me of 1994/95.

It was during this time that these unions hammered the government of Bob Rae over his efforts to reduce government spending.  You see he was imposing policies that resulted in public servants and other workers in the public sector losing some of their income due to forced days off and other measures.  We all remember the so called "Rae Days".  A lot of bad blood rose between the two of them and it is certain that it contributed to the trouncing Mr. Rae took in the subsequent election and the election of Mike Harris to a majority Tory government in Ontario in 1995.

By no means was that the only reason why Mr. Rae lost but the desertion of many of these votes from Mr. Rae caused a split in the non-Tory vote and it allowed Mr. Harris to come up the middle.

Of course the rest is history.  Instead of howling about forced days off the public sector unions could only watch in helpless frustration as Mr. Harris took the route all right-wing governments take and laid off public sector workers by the thousands.

Could history be repeating itself?  Could the public sector unions be so focused on the short-term that they are forgetting history?

Maybe they believe that they can do this because the Ontario NDP will win the next election.  If that is the case the leadership of Ontario public sector unions are idiots.

I would be willing to bet a sizable chunk of money that the NDP will not even get a sniff of power in the next Ontario election.  The reasons are many.  First, they are in third place in the Ontario Parliament.  It is exceedingly rare for the third place party to win an election.  Second, there is widespread perception in this province that the NDP cannot be trusted with power because of the cock-up of Bob Rae.  I do not agree with that perception but my disagreement and a toonie will buy a coffee at Timmie's.  Third, many Dippers saw the results of the Federal election and got all misty eyed over what Jack Layton did and they believe Ms. Horvath could do the same thing.  The problem with that is Ms. Horvath is not Jack Layton and even if she was I would also remind Dippers that Jack Layton did not win anything.  All he succeeded in doing is taking his party to Official Opposition status against a majority government, probably the most frustrating place to be in our political system.  Just ask the Reform Party and the Canadian Alliance if you do not believe that.

During the next election the two parties most likely to form the government in Ontario are the Liberals and the Tories.  The question for public sector unions is which one would they prefer?  I can understand that neither option is particularly palatable and I agree with them that the Liberals are out of line imposing these policies in the high handed fashion that they are imposing them.  However, the Liberals are not laying anybody off.  If Tim Hudak becomes Premier of Ontario, he and the Tea Party wannabes in the Tory Party will follow in the footsteps of Mike Harris.

Does the leadership of the various public sector unions not see this reality?  Did the experience of the mid-90s not teach them a fine lesson?

My gut says no to both questions.  Like all politicians the leadership of these unions are not looking past the immediate concerns to the big picture.  They will probably continue to sow resentment to the Liberal government amongst their memberships so that when the next Ontario election rolls around the members of these unions will split their votes and allow Tim Hudak to win a probable majority government.

It is unfuriating that the unions have to take the treatment that the Ontario Liberals are visiting upon them.  It is also infuriating that there really is no viable, electable alternative to the Hudak Tories and the Randy Hillers of Ontario because I happen to believe that the Liberals could use a rest from government.  It's galling but it is what it is.  So, the public sector unions better realize that if they want to maintain the jobs of their members they had better work to prevent the election of a Tory government and the odds state that the only party able to do that in Ontario at this moment is the governing Liberals much to their and my chagrin. 

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