Pleasing the 40 per cent

Lana Payne
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The Harper government must think Canadians are stupid. Either that, or they are counting on the fact that the 40 per cent of the population who voted for them in the last election will continue to support their plans to gut the federal public service, eliminate the Wheat Board, close the maritime search and rescue centre, destroy the gun registry and continue to hand out billions in tax cuts to super wealthy corporations.

After all, for the Harperites, governing Canada is not about governing Canada. It is just about keeping the 40 per cent happy.

It is about ideologically driven public policy.

It is about using the deficit — one largely created not because of the recession but because of reckless tax cuts to the top one per cent in Canada including banks, oil companies, and mining corporations — as the excuse to do the nasty.

As the Harper government guts and slashes the federal public service, including in our province, federal cabinet ministers have taken to saying — with audacity and straight faces — that these cuts will actually be good for us.

They say that somehow eliminating federal jobs and programs will improve the services we receive. Gob smacked at their bold-faced, twisted and deceitful political spin? So are a lot of people.

Case in point, last week Human Resources Minister Diane Finley told Canadians that her government was acting to improve service to unemployed Canadians.

They are doing this by eliminating the jobs of the people who deliver the services.

In other words, “we’re cutting services in order to serve you better.”

Yet service is not better. Wait-times involved in processing Employment Insurance claims for jobless Canadians have increased substantially since the Harper government eliminated hundreds of EI processing jobs across the country.

Ms. Finley says new automation and technology will improve EI processing systems, but the reality is something entirely different. Some jobless Canadians are now waiting months before they receive benefits. Months without income.

Unless you are unemployed and waiting for benefits from a program you paid premiums into, the Harper government is counting on the fact that you won’t care that their austerity plans are causing undue hardship for your neighbours.

Because in their minds, they only have to keep the 40 per cent happy.

And they figure that cutting $4 billion from federal services — estimated to be the equivalent of about 80,000 jobs or one-third of the entire federal public service — will please the 40 per cent of Canadians who voted for them.

After all, public sector workers are easy targets these days.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement is counting on it.

When not being forced to explain his own role in the misuse of G20 funding in his riding, Mr. Clement spends his days refusing to tell the country just where his government intends to cut an additional $4 billion annually in public spending.

In fact, these decisions are being made behind closed doors with the help of Deloitte Inc. which is being paid $90,000 a day for their “slash and burn” recommendations.

Canadians deserve to be told where the cuts are planned and what programs and services are intended for elimination.

People have a right to know what they will be losing in order to pay for another round of tax cuts for the richest corporations in Canada. Because these are the choices being made by the federal government — search and rescue centre for St. John’s and a safety net for offshore workers, or tax cuts for banks.

In addition, we are told that federal government executives will receive big bonuses if they come up with ways to contribute to the budget cuts.

The result when you institute these kind of “incentives” is reckless and wrong-headed decisions like the one to close the search and rescue centre.

The result is lives get put at risk.

The result is jobless Canadians wait longer and longer to receive a measly EI cheque.

The result is the loss of sound and fact-based information that would have been provided by the now laid-off scientists, statisticians and economists. The result is a transformation of what we can and should expect from government.

The result is something provinces and municipalities should be extremely concerned about. They will be the ones left to pick up the pieces of the Harper agenda.

Provincial governments of all  political stripes had better figure out how they are going to respond to this agenda or eventually they will be tarred with the fallout.

As shown through their opposition to the omnibus crime bill, provinces, when they come together and push back, can resist, slow down and interfere with the implementation of Harper’s vision of Canada.

They must do more of it before this prime minister and his high-priced help complete the job of tearing down the Canada that has taken generations to build.


 Lana Payne is president of the

Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by email at

Her column returns Dec. 3.

Organizations: Employment Insurance, Wheat Board, Deloitte Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • Carl
    November 21, 2011 - 09:42

    I always find it hilarious when someone like Lana Payne, socialist firebrand extraordinaire, calls someone else's thinking "ideological" as if it's an insult. And like most ideologically-minded socialists, Ms. Payne is mathematically challenged. Corporate tax revenues have increased under the Harper government, while personal tax rates have decreased. Ms. Payne fails to understand a little thing economists call the "Laffer Curve", which shows how lowering tax rates in many cases can actually stimulate economic activity and expand the tax base enough to increase revenues. That is what has happened under the Harper government. So by increasing corporate tax rates, Payne and her socialist ilk would drive Canada's world-leading economy into the ground and increase the deficit and debt. Then how would she pay for all those expensive "services" she feels entitled to? Or does she think the government shouldn't pay for its programs at all and should just keep getting deeping in debt?

  • sealcove
    November 20, 2011 - 10:16

    Would you please get over it the fiberals lost. move on no one is listening just look at how many people read the article

  • Townie
    November 20, 2011 - 07:28

    Why is it everyone ignores the 40% who were not counted. Conservatives are of the lynch mob mentality so I don't see how anyone who did not vote could be a Conservative. If we see these people as not having anyone they can even marginally support, then they are a group like the other parties. If you include these votrers(nonvoters) the Conservatives have a percentage of the vote of 24.6%. This is a more correct measure of their support fron Canadians. So we have a dictatorship by less than a quarter of the population. This is not healthy and is the reason why Ocuppy and others like them want change.

  • BananaManAndCrocoduckBoy
    November 19, 2011 - 18:48

    Lana, By your own logic, perhaps you should ask David McGuinty to step down.

  • David from Paradise
    November 19, 2011 - 17:28

    Ms. Payne is still whining about the CPC winning a majority government with less than 50% of the vote? Where was she and the rest of the sore losers when the Chretien Liberals were winning the same way? Oh that's right. It was the Liberals then so it was OK. The election was almost 7 months ago. Get over it already, you crybabies.

  • David
    November 19, 2011 - 14:36

    Canadians wwere pretty stupid during the Liberals 1000 years of power...but it's Harper's fault that they're now still just as stupid. Ooooh, I could stamp me little feet!

  • Robin
    November 19, 2011 - 13:44

    When will Dunderdale stop these same tactics and govern?

  • David from Paradise
    November 19, 2011 - 11:18

    Ms. Payne is still whining about the Conservatives winning a majority with less than fifty percent of the vote? Where was she and the rest of the sore losers when the Chretien Liberals were doing the same. Oh that's right. When it was the Liberals it was ok. Get over it.

  • Rick Bungay
    November 19, 2011 - 10:58

    I don't know Lana if you heard that globally we are in a economic depression the likes of which we haven't seen before. Canada is much better shape than a lot of countries. This is not a time to spend but a time for fiscal restraint and yes unfortunately people will lose their jobs in the cutbacks. You constantly rage against "the harper government" however never ever say one critical word against organized labour, I wonder why that is? is labour perfect? I also don't see you volunteering to take a pay cut in your overinflated wages to help out your membership. Its easy to blame "big business" but look in the mirror some of the outrageous demands some of the unions that you represent cause a lot of problems as well.

  • Cyril Rogers
    November 19, 2011 - 10:14

    Actually, Ms Payne, it is more like 25% of the Canadian electorate that voted for Harper in the last election. Such is the brokenness of the electoral system that we are electing dictators like Harper and will likely continue to do so as long as we don't collectively rise up and demand a fairer system. An analysis of any statement coming out of Question Period, or out of any member of Harper's Cabinet, reeks of obfuscation and a very simplistic response to critical issues facing the average person. These people are so far removed from the reality of everyday life that it is unbelieveable but here they are...firmly entrenched and believing they have a mandate from the Canadian people to do what they want. No fair-minded person could look at this system and see anything democratic about it. yet, by and large, the electorate is allowing this dictatorial government to drive us toward a right wing approach to society. If Canadians don't wake up, we will awake one day soon and wonder how we became such a rich-oriented and selfish society in such a short period of time. The real scandel is that we have done it to ourselves!

    • rogers deception
      November 22, 2011 - 08:07

      Here he goes again, twisting statistics in an effort to deceive people. A true proponent of 'lies, damn lies and statistics'.

    • Carl
      November 23, 2011 - 14:28

      Just because some Canadians decide to forego their opportunity to vote, that doesn't mean the government elected by those who do vote is somehow less democratically chosen. Those who do not vote had their chance, and made their choice just like the rest of us. They chose to let others decide for them.

  • sealcove
    November 19, 2011 - 09:05

    Would you please get over it