Harper Exposed: The Leaders Debate – A Failed System and More Promises
CPS Election Analysis 2008 - Week 6
William O’Casey

Stephen Harper’s corporate agenda was exposed for all to see during the leader’s debate. Dion, Duceppe, Layton and May all got shots in. While the self congratulatory back slapping can still be heard in the halls of the CBC the real questions of the day were sidelined through a series of stock rhetorical and scripted answers. All of the party leaders vied with one another to convince Canadians that they would be best suited to manage corporate tax cuts and transfers. Seventeen million Canadian workers were left with nothing but a grab bag of “investment” assurances. Not one leader articulated a vision for the nation. They all defended capitalism brilliantly.
Not one of the leaders discussed Harper’s $450 billion defence plan. Not one leader had any plan for the deepening manufacturing crisis in Ontario except to lament the job loss and say that “we need to invest in a green economy with sustainable jobs”. More talk of green jobs. The only “green job” that a worker approaching 50 sees is a green garbage bag picking beer bottles from ditches. This is what a green plan means for working Canadians. We will “invest” in Canadians. We will “tax the big polluters”.
We will defend Canadians
We will defend Canadians - May said that “...Canadian economic health needs to be buttressed...I would put a freeze on the takeover of our corporations...we need to defend our corporations”, Dion said, “The government has a role to play...[Liberals] will speed up investment to build infrastructure and the manufacturing sector...enact regulatory agencies like the Bank of Canada to protect your savings”, Harper said that, “Canadians are worried about the volatility in market and what leaders need to do is have a plan and not panic...we need to have a budget that is in surplus and invest in jobs”, Layton said that, “[NDP] would bring in effective regulations on our financial sector...we would invest in the fundamentals of the real economy...if we were to stand up for the real economy and working families...then the banks and the real economy as a whole would be just fine...”, Duceppe said, “the state has a role to play to help the companies and the workers”.
Taken as a whole what the leaders were saying to Canadians is that they will continue with those same old capitalist economic policies of defending corporate and company interests first. In one variant or another they will do this by reforming, regulating and by transferring national wealth to corporations, the very same class that has placed Canada into the crisis. Paraphrased in the words of the leaders; “Government has a role to play to defend our corporations by giving the banks more control to regulate the stock market and to buttress Canadian corporations and companies and if we do that the banks will be just fine and workers will get the scraps”. It was all a bit much.
While the leaders all defended the capitalist system they were forced to acknowledge that decades of neo-liberal economics is a failure. They are being forced to address the failures of the system by the outrage of Canadian workers. Canadian workers are not fooled. Labour is forcing the leaders of capitalism to acknowledge that workers demand a voice in the affairs of the nation.
The Silence has been Broken
This is bound to arise and runs like a thread through all capitalist crises in Canada. Tim Buck said, “The Idea that Canada has to replace its present economic policy has broken through the barrier of official silence. It is acknowledged now by many public men.”
What Buck was saying, and every worker feels, is that the people of Canada need more than to be told that the Canadian economy is in trouble, as all the opposition leaders have done. Canadians require policies of national economic development. Canadians need a vision of the nation that articulates and plans economic development across the country. A plan that connects the all the regions of the country and places labour in the leadership role at the head of the plan.
In spite of the perplexing array of economic promises, over the differences among the various regional corporate political and economic interests of the parties that represent the profit system, characteristic of capitalist politics in general, global economic events are making Canadian workers aware that workers’ interests are not served by any of the capitalist parties. The struggle against the strangle hold of the monopolies over the Canadian economy exposes the crisis in capitalist politics which was so evident in the leaders debate.
Organized labour is beginning to make the connections. The Canadian Energy and Paper Workers Union president David Coles calls for the nationalization of Canadian energy. The increasing independent political action of organized labour alarms all political leaders and causes them to desperately appeal to Canadian workers to help them save the capitalist system.
The global crisis of capitalism is gaining momentum and clearly is not over. The EU is in the midst of a “crisis summit”. The US government has passed the now $810 billion US bank bailout. Wars rage, poverty deepens, pensions are under threat, the housing crisis is lapping at Canadian shores, and the manufacturing sector is tossing thousands upon thousands of workers on to the streets. Those workers that do have jobs continue to work longer, harder and for less. Capitalism offers workers nothing except more crisis, uncertainty and anxiety.
What is clear is that as the capitalist crisis deepens and intensifies attempts will be made to get out of it and save the system on the backs of workers. In Canada that will mean that social programs will be under greater threat, wages will be reduced, taxes for workers will be increased through off-loading onto municipal jurisdictions and workers will be cast out of employment as a “necessary pain” of rationalization that “we all must accept” to get though the downturn in the economy.
A Failed System
Capitalism is a failed system. It only works for the banks and stock market speculators, oil monopolies and war industries. Capitalism harbours economic gangsters and war criminals. It perpetuates wars, military and economic occupations and intensifies global conflict. It creates parasitical owner, speculative and intellectual classes that retain power through a deceptive array of apologies and historical revision. The parasitical classes live off of the unpaid labour time of workers. And now capitalist economic managers seek globally, trillions of dollars more in compensation for overseeing the perpetuation of its imperialist wars of plunder.
Workers don’t have to accept it. Canadian workers are left with little in the way of options – except for one – fight for all that we create. Canada is a highly developed modern nation with all the natural resources and technology to make huge leaps forward. It has all the requirements to provide Canadians with a good life free of economic worries. It is a nation that can be at the forefront of peaceful world development. But it can only become such a nation under socialism. Reforming, regulating or managing capitalism out of the crisis and to make it more “user friendly” will never make it resolve its fundamental basis – private accumulation of capital through socialized production. Workers as the only productive class that produces all real wealth in the nation will continue to remain exploited and under threat as long as capitalism remains the economic system.
A Nation of Builders
The people of Canada are looking to develop the country on truly national lines - to build the country from coast to coast to coast. That development begins with energy. It begins by the development of the industrial capacity on the material basis of expanding energy throughout the country. Not by halting development or placing moratoriums on development.
Canadians are highly skilled and educated - a nation of builders. Canada is a vast nation with a small population and to remain a nation requires great industrial capacity to join the country across great distances. To bring modern science, engineering and technologies to communities separated by varying and difficult geographies is a challenge that will be solved by workers themselves and not by capitalist economic mangers and their political apologists.
The demand for governmental planning is evident everywhere in the country and is being acknowledged by all the political parties. It is expressed in the demands of labour to deal with the manufacturing, forestry and energy crisis. It is being called for the scientific community who study the effects of environmental degradation. It is being demanded by healthcare and education workers who are witnessing rapid erosions in the level of service provided to Canadians after decades of for profit market planning and governmental cut backs.
National development on the scale that the left environmentalists envision is not possible in a market for profit economy. All the green plans that the party leaders articulate are appeals to the monopolies to reform themselves and to regulate the worst effects through tax reform and tax shifts. National development on the scale that is required for Canada can only be carried out when political power is in the hands of workers. It can only be achieved under socialism.
Left Turn Canada!