You're either with us or against us ...

Lana
Lana Payne
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And so the divisive smear politics that has dominated public debate south of the border and in Ottawa has found its way to Newfoundland and Labrador.

It is disheartening. No good can come from this.

To be clear, there is a big difference between political sparring or healthy political debate and the kind of nasty, polarizing, black-and-white discourse promoted by the Harper Conservatives, where those with different points of view are vilified and maligned, whether they be unions, non-profits, or simply the opposition parties.

The Harper Conservatives have perfected and popularized this kind of "you're either with us or against us" mentality in Canadian politics in their quest to annihilate their political opponents and to force people into taking sides.

It's why no one batted an eye when Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said to members of the opposition parties that they either sided with the government or with child pornographers with respect to the Internet "snooping" bill.

This was no middle ground, no compromise, no room for thoughtful or thought-provoking criticism. No room for the opposition parties to do their job: to hold the government to account, to ask questions, to be constructive, to ensure that legislation is implemented that is in the best interest of Canadians.

And now we see the same black-and-white polarizing rhetoric being used in our province.

Last week's throne speech referred several times to narrow agendas. Presumably those narrow agendas are held by people who disagree with government policy, whether it is Muskrat Falls, the fishery, or just in general.

The provincial fisheries minister has been pretty clear that criticism on matters of public policy is not welcomed, especially if that criticism comes from the fisheries union, which he has accused of acting in self-interest. He has not been so vocal with his concerns, if he has them, regarding the "self-interest" of players like Ocean Choice International (OCI).

OCI's actions with respect to the hiring of scabs on the Newfoundland Lynx have not been subjected to the same level or, indeed, any ridicule from the provincial government. And yet the union's attempt to protect the owner-operator and fleet separation policies is condemned for, and equated with, having a narrow agenda.

Make no mistake, the attack on the fisheries union by the minister is being cheered on by fish companies like OCI, whose real self- interest in maximizing profit margins, and its irreprehensible behaviour, goes unchallenged.

The decision by the provincial government to halt funding of science programs carried out by fisheries union members in retaliation for criticizing the government will have a chilling effect on Newfoundland and Labrador's civil society.

This is similar to the actions of the Harper government, which stopped funding feminist organizations for daring to be critical of the Conservative government's positions on child care, women's equality and the Court Challenges program. As with that situation, the real danger here is the message to those who depend on the provincial government for funding - criticize us and risk losing that funding. In other words, there will be consequences.

You are either with us or against us. You are either part of the solution or part of the problem. Disagreeing or critiquing is deemed to have a narrow agenda or be self-interested.

George Bush was perhaps the first to heavily depend on this kind of polarizing political discourse for his own political interests. Most will remember his "you're either with us or with the terrorists" comments in 2001.

For the most part, these kinds of divisive tactics are designed to force those who would not normally be part of the conflict into becoming allies or risk being deemed the enemy. Sometimes it scares people and organizations from getting involved in discourse at all, for fear of retribution.

And yet, intertwined with the message of divisiveness, last week's throne speech made several references to building partnerships and working as partners.

Partnership means give and take. It means compromise. It requires an understanding of the structures others work within. It means respecting that sometimes partners in furthering the interests of the province will disagree. There is never one solution to a problem, but multiple solutions that, hopefully, will result in compromise for the overall good of our society. It means understanding and respecting that civil society organizations have an important role to play in our provincial discourse, including unions.

It means respecting that we all have a job to do and, while sometimes we disagree, that does not in any way mean we do not have the interests of the people and the province as our motivating factor. To say otherwise is wrong. It is to paint those who disagree as enemies to building a healthy, prosperous, democratic and equitable Newfoundland and Labrador.

We would do well to remember the words of J.F. Kennedy: "Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed."

Ensuring our province succeeds means making it safe for all to feel like they can be part of the discussion, and sometimes that discussion will include disagreement. It's not personal. And, ultimately, it is healthy.

Lana Payne is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by email at lanapayne@nl.rogers.com. Her column returns March 24.

 

Organizations: Harper Conservatives, OCI, Court Challenges Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Colin Burke
    March 12, 2012 - 10:02

    It isn't as easy as some employers assume, for employers to escape the charge that they are exploiting others. When businesses pay taxes or contribute campaign funds to support governments which run an education system that operates on the assumption that it's normal for most competent people to work for someone else instead of becoming self-employed fishers, farmers or craftsmen, the owners of those businesses are at least by proxy encouraging people too young to challenge their teachers' assumptions, to accept being exploited. (G.K. Chesterton said it's what teachers assume, rather than what they openly profess, that does the real work.)

  • Colin Burke
    March 12, 2012 - 09:12

    If people deserve their deeds' effects, the fishermen do deserve most to benefit from the fishery, for they do the fishing. Those who ought next to benefit are the people who actually help the fishermen with what the fishermen actually do: the people who supply what the fishermen need in order to fish, and then the processors who buy the fish. And the fishermen should decide whom they want to help them thus.

  • Mark
    March 12, 2012 - 00:03

    ''...divisive smear politics... has found its way to Newfoundland and Labrador.'' Good Lord. Did you sleep through the past decade?

  • thecodfather
    March 11, 2012 - 23:42

    how can you support oci? they want to control our natural resource of seaproducts what goes in and what goes out a private company, the owners from newfoundland yes but they only seem to look out for themselves they make very large surpluses and tell the fishermen they are on the brink, now they want to take a large portion of fish out of our processing plants to send it all to china, in most part employing chinese at much lower rates of pay to process the fish themselves maximizing their profits, creating jobs for the chinese yes thats good but its completely opposite in newfoundland, they're just wanting to ship the jobs away on newfoundlanders and leave us high and dry so they can get their slimey hands on some extra cash to go into their already overfilled wallets. goodnight.

  • Herb Morrison
    March 11, 2012 - 19:18

    Dear Mudslingers Are Not Intelligentt Enough To Engage In Debate. While I do agree with you when you accuratel;y point out that too many people on this and other sites attempt to discredit otherwise legitmate arguements by at best, making disparaging remarks and at worst engaging in character assination, instead of refuting the argument in question, I would point out that the pseudonym you are using is an example of the very type opf mudsling you profess to abhore. In addition I find the practice of using pseudonyms equally objectionable.Do you have a legitimate reason for using a pseudonym? Your post is a contradiction. On the one han, you scold posters for mudslinging, while you insist on using a pseudonym which would be interpreted as an obvious example of mudslinging by any thinking individual. Your ignorance of the history of the fishery in Newfound and Labrador leaves much to be desired. For many years, businesmen (merchants) have made their fortunes by exploiting the fisherpersons of Newfoundland and Labrador. Unfortunately, ffor OCI, the present Government is attempting to end the exploitation of fisherpersons and other workers, to the point where persons, like yourself, are forced to move your business interests out of the country to places qwhere the exploitation of blue collar workers is still deemed to be acceptable. By your own admission, you see the issues pertaining to fisherpersons and other blue collar workers, as being political in nature and not personal. A pretty cold-bloded approach if you ask me, considering that the it's living, breathing people on whose back you make your money. Working people are not machines, despite the attempts of business persons like yourself to have them treated as such. Consequently any issues discussed on this site are as personal as they are political. Despite your assertion to the contrary what could be more personal than your own assertion that you have the right to look after number one. Can't get any more personal than that. I suggest that before you criticize anyone else's ability to debate, it would be in your own best interests to polish up your own debating skills. which, as evidenced by your perchance for contradicting yourself, obviously need some polishing.

  • mudslingers are not intellegent enough to engage in debate
    March 11, 2012 - 12:49

    I repsect that everyone has a right to have an opinion. Workers have a right to demand more money, and I as an owner have a right to demand they take less money and then move MY company to a foreign country to pay workers less. What I don't respect is the constant mudslinging that occurs when an opposing point of view is presented. To those who sling the mud, I ask you this: do you know how to conversate in a argumentative manner? did you learn how to dissect an opposing arguement and counter it using facts, evidence or more logical opinions? Why do you name call? Now I'll answer my own questions. I think the mudslingers are those who are uneducated and unskilled and therefore not capable of refuting an opposing point of view on its merit. Perhaps they are union sheep who only know what the union says and has no knowledge of the other side's position. Perhaps they are not capable of even understanding what the other side is saying. Honestly, mudslinging by adults is so pathetic....it takes matters to a personal level when really, most matters discussed on this site are political matters. Lets stick to the facts, advocate for our own interests to the best of our ability, and let democract do its job. ..PS....................I am looking forward to the next election.....I look forward to making donations to candidates who are openly supportative of offshore fish processing and foreign companies using foriegn workers to catch CANADA's fish......I don't care who actually catches the fish, as long as it is caught in a manner that contributes to OUR tax base. If using foreign workers and cheaper workers leads to more money in the coffers, then I completely support it. The fishery must benefit all of US, not just the fishermen. SO lets let corporations have complete control of the fish, lets let them hire whoever they want, and lets let them fill our coffers. The fishermen are JUST looking out for themselves....we need a policy that looks after all of us....anyway, I look forward to go doorknocking and supporting the canadidates that will serve my interests. PPS....I expressed my view without personally attacking anyone.

  • John Smith
    March 11, 2012 - 10:50

    As usual, when people cannot debate with fact they immediately go to the personal mudslinging, name calling etc. Hilarious. Those who disagree with my opinion should state why I am wrong, not call me a parasite, and this and that. I support the PC party, only because I look across at what the NDP and the liberals offer and I shudder to think where we would be if they were in control. The Liberals had us destitute, impoverished, near bankruptcy, almost 13 billion in debt! Sure it's easy to keep the unions happy, just keep passinf them over billions of dollars. The former premier came back with the 2 billion and instead of it helping with infrastructure, or healthcare or whatever it had to go directly on the unfunded teachers pensions that succesive liberal governments had raided for years. As far as the latest polls go the PCs enjoy a gigantic lead, 75% of those asked said they were satisfied with the present government. Don't forget that Mr> Williams was the most popular Premier in Canadian history, so not many are going to match his numbers. I think the libs and dippers should look to the numbers their own leaders generated...liberal leader...13%...NDP 20%...PC leader 50%...so I think Ms. Dunderdale can live with that. I wonder when we will ever see a Liberal leader with 50% satisfaction in the polls? Not any time soon I can assure you.

  • KickJohnSmithOffForum
    March 10, 2012 - 13:02

    John Smith is the only parasite here, a serious virus only contagious to the Conservastive and Muskrat crowd who have all caught it. We must innoculate ourselves from these virusesfeeding at the top of the food chain as they can kill us, the citizens of NL and the Island itself. Then again, it seems we are being currently vaccinated. No worry about the John Smith deadly virus and parasidic feeding frenzy of citizens and tax payer dollars. Good article Lana. The only partnership of local Conservatives is with that viral excuse of a PC party in Ottawa who should be quarantined behind bars until they get better. They are very sick and a serious threat to the public. Their minds totally gone from the contagious virus. Perhaps we should burn their carcasses as with the mad cow disease. Otherwise serious threat!

  • The fishery cannot just benefit the fishermen....it must benefit the entire province, the entire citizenry
    March 10, 2012 - 12:06

    I completely support OCI's actions with respect to the hiring of qualified replacement workers on the Newfoundland Lynx. They are the owners of the company and have a right to hire whomever they want. I welcome the policy changes that will allow the company to staff the boat with foreigners. I support decisions that give autonomy to companies and must point out that more profits for the company equates to more taxes paid by the company. It is no coincidence that OCI have not been subjected to the same level or, indeed, any ridicule from the provincial government.....this is a government that was put in place by the people of the province, and they lack of ridicule should tell you that the majority of people in the province are sick of the fishery reachiing into our pockets. The government knows that supporting the fishery would alienate the majoirty of voters, so they stayed silent. DECMOCRACY IS WORKING. AND The union's attempt to protect the owner-operator and fleet separation policies is condemned for, and equated with, having a narrow agenda because is intended to serve the interests of a smaller number of fishermen at the expense of the rest of the province. The way I see it, allowing OCI to do whatever they want to maximize their profits will enable the province to get more taxes to serve ALL the people of the province. This is an example where the interests of the fishermen are of a less benefit to the province as a whole than is OCI's position. No only is the attack on the fisheries union by the minister is being cheered on by fish companies like OCI, it is also being cheered on individuals like me who are sick of the fishery being a drain on the tax base. There is nothing wrong with OCI's real self- interest in maximizing profit margins, and its behaviour, goes unchallenged....They are a company that exists to make profit. This fishery is a public resource to benefit the people as a whole, not just the fishermen. That is why I support OCI...because even though they will make decisions that will hurt the fishery, the results (more profits and higher taxes paid) will benefit everyone in the province, not just the fishermen. The fish is not the property of the fishermen, but rather all of us. So lets take it back from the fishermen and and allow OCI to make more money and pay more taxes. Lastly, I completely support the provincial government to halt funding of science programs carried out by fisheries union members in retaliation for criticizing the government will have a chilling effect on Newfoundland and Labrador's civil society. Why would the government give the union money to conduct science program....why not hire independent scientist will explore ways of operating with less workers. In any case, the government should not be givng our tax dollars to ANY union. SO back to the topic, this is certainly a polarizing issue....it is time for the citizens of this province to tell the government that the tax dollars and public resource (the fish) must no longer be a tool to benefit the special interest group that the fishery is, but rather must be restructured in a way that allows corporations to operate as they see fit and pay greater amounts of tax dollars. If that means closure of plants, displacement of workers, importing of foreign workers and offshore processing.....they I say sign us up! NO more of pandering to the special interests of the fishery ...No more working to save the fishery only to let it and its workers continue to be a bottomless put that takes the tax dollars of every single person though EI, union grants, and god know what else. Lets stop the madness, less close off the bottomless pit, and lets more towards jobs that we wish for our children. I suspect for most of us, those are not fishery jobs. Time for the majority to take back our fish.

    • james
      March 10, 2012 - 16:35

      this is aimed at the comment "the fishery can't just benefit fisherman"....I gather from the way your talkin your p.c. blue to the core but just to set you straight....(a) there was a collective bargaining contract in place that carries over til the new 1 is signed on that lynx issue;(b) there's a reason why some of the richest people on the island are part owner/processor........its what's makin them rich a public resource(c) I'm sure in my opinion with the accountants oci got in place they pay no more taxes.....and (d)oci in case you can't remember was formerly known as fbi which in the province history was the single most subsidized company in the fishery.......and guess who inherited all this wealth........your p.c. buddies ......anyway we will agree to disagree cause you know by now i'm a union supporter and by the way you communicate I judge you to be management material.

    • thanks for a fair post
      March 11, 2012 - 12:35

      I just want to express my respect for James in the above post. I am clearly management minded, and he a union supporter. Obviously we disagree but I am impresses and grateful that he epressed his opinion in a way that was respectful. The bottom line is that we all have our on opinions, but discourse, debate and discussion is benefitical to all, where mud slinging accomplishes nothing. The way I see it, James is a union supporter who is intellegent enough to formulate and articulate an argument in clear language, and those mud slinging posters are probably the unskilled unedcuated workers whoose jobs I take pleasure in offshoring.

    • thecodfather
      March 11, 2012 - 23:38

      how can you support oci? they want to control our natural resource of seaproducts what goes in and what goes out a private company, the owners from newfoundland yes but they only seem to look out for themselves they make very large surpluses and tell the fishermen they are on the brink, now they want to take a large portion of fish out of our processing plants to send it all to china, in most part employing chinese at much lower rates of pay to process the fish themselves maximizing their profits, creating jobs for the chinese yes thats good but its completely opposite in newfoundland, they're just wanting to ship the jobs away on newfoundlanders and leave us high and dry so they can get their slimey hands on some extra cash to go into their already overfilled wallets. goodnight.

  • james
    March 10, 2012 - 11:41

    what mr. smith and some others kindly are forgetting is that "the referred to "union" represents the majority of workers involved in the fishery both in the processing and harvesting sides of the industry.not only in the fishery do they represent the best interests of the workforce; they have many divisions in processing and hospitality branches of industry and walk hand in hand with alot of the sciences gettin done to ensure the industries and work standards are kept modern and up to date.what oci is trying to do right now is setting the labour movement back 80 yrs and meanwhile the economics of the business matches todays currency rates.....putting huge profits in the pockets of a few ...while the rest are left with table scrapes...no mr. smith we won't bow down to no government or company thats only interest is big profits for political friends or partners and likewise we won't let the people's quota's go to the wasteland of corporate greed and watch rural nfld. die with it. on a footnote to to our good pc.. supporter just look at the last poll and the popularity results.........it ain't danny this time to blame it on.

  • Allan
    March 10, 2012 - 11:19

    Well Stated as usual by Lana.... There are companies you simply can not do enough for.. the workers in marystown worked with the company and government in 2010 to see half the entire quota of yellowtail go out of this province un-processed... not because the market required the fish that way as the sullivans would have people believe.. all that fish went to china or the united states for furthur processing... along with the entire 10 million pounds of Red Fish... and the company promised a Brighter future for marystown as a result of that, yet they were back in 2011 looking to ship up to 80% and create very little work here in our province... workers here came to the same conclusion as government did ...thats simply not acceptable or good enough.... so what happened .. the company shut down the plant in hopes they would get to ship more fish out un-processed.. they should be permitted No Furthur Exemptions.. and the workers in Marystown should Not have To Loose Their jobs for standing up for our resourses.

  • sealcove
    March 10, 2012 - 09:10

    John Smith must be part of the 1% to hell with everyone else

  • Brent
    March 10, 2012 - 09:04

    I always thought the unions stance was to get better working conditions for the workers they represent. The FFAW has certainly swayed from this mission. I always wondered how one group could lobby for both harvestors and fish plant workers when a majority of the time these two groups are at odds with each other. And even groups within the same sector are at odds...ie Fortune and Marystown. It seems as if the Union is supporting Marystown because it gets more press time while the workers in Fortune are left to fend for themselves. The FFAW under the present leadership is not working. Their main goal is to keep protesting everything to show they are earning their keep. It is actually embarrassing to watch most times.

    • james
      March 10, 2012 - 12:09

      brent: the union is still fighting to improve working conditions everywhere. In regards to the issue with marystown and fortune both locals are well represented at table and was no in house fighting at the meeting I last attended;both want a fair and reasonable solution for each membership; oci uses the media to shine the light on an issue and casts false shadows to create the illusion that their the good guy in all of this.........bottom line if they are allowed in any shape or form to ship ground fish out of province unprocessed both fortune and marystown will be the losers in the long run....no matter which stays opened .

  • Rich in Bay Verte
    March 10, 2012 - 08:47

    I see Comrade Payne is spouting some more of her socialist, union drivel against the conservatives again. For a person is so Anti American, you sure love to quote Americans.

  • Harvey
    March 10, 2012 - 08:16

    Prior to the May 2, 2011 federal election, Harper and Dunderdale exchanged political marriage vows at the Delta Hotel. The honeymoon is still on-going!!! There is no evidence of a divorce in the near future.

  • John Smith
    March 10, 2012 - 08:15

    What about the minister refusing to grant OCI the exemtions? What about the increases in the minimum wage? What about the lowest tax rate in Atlantic Canada? What about the innovations for worker safety? If it's about being with the government, or against self seving, parasitic unions, that exist only to prop themselves up, at the expense of those they pretend to help...I'll go with the government. Thanks all the same Lana.