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May 12, 2011

May Day celebration in Canada

The Canadian Charger

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Listening to speaker after speaker at a recent May Day celebration in Toronto, it became apparent why there's been a groundswell of support for the NDP on May 2nd. Most speakers see little difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals, and they feel that neither party is addressing the needs of the majority of Canadians.

Barry Weisleder, Federal Secretary of Socialist Action, said the election permitted the left to put socialist issues on the agenda. He said the Tory decade was preceded by the Chretien government's war on the environment and cuts to services and, in the wake of the recent economic crisis, it's the masses of Canadians who are being forced to pay for the problem, not the financial elite that caused the problem. The financial elite made billions during the financial crisis and, with the help of government bailouts, continue to make billions, even granting themselves million dollar bonuses during the time their companies were bankrupt.

“The World Bank reported that food prices have increased by 36 per cent. One billion people are underfed. Meanwhile, criminal CEO's are getting big bonuses. Unemployment is 8 per cent in Canada, more if you include unreported unemployment. Less than 1/5 of the damage done to the labor market has been repaired,” Mr. Weisleder said.

He added that at the United Nations Cancun Climate Conference last fall, there was no agreement on carbon reduction policies, while here in Canada, the Liberal governments of Chretien and Martin violated the Koyoto agreement, and now the Harper government plans to abdicate it.

“This is the same government that prorogued parliament to avoid an investigation of its war crimes and last June authorized the arrest of 1200 people at the G20 Summit. Subsequently most of these people were released without charge, a clear indication that there were no legal grounds to arrest them in the first place.”

Mr. Weisleder noted that Socialist Action Canada participated in the G20 protests and followed that by supporting the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War's April 9, 2011 protest against the war in Afghanistan.  Mr. Weisleder said the protest in Hamilton was the first mass street protest in Canada to stop the war.

Although the majority of Canadians support an end to Canada's military excursion in Afghanistan, where or who do they turn to when the Harper government, under pressure from NATO allies and corporate interests, broke its promise to bring Canadian troops home in 2011?

Moreover, politically, it was a no-brainer for Harper when that political genius Bob Rae, the Liberal foreign affairs critic and currently the overwhelming favourite to replace Ignatieff as Liberal leader, did an “expert” study of Canada's Afghanistan mission and then – in an attempt to one-up Harper and show Canadians that he would be the better choice for Prime Minister – Rae was actually the first to call for extending Canada's mission in Afghanistan. Thus when Harper brought the policy forth, there was no opposition to it:  something that was all-to-common on many issues when the Liberals were the opposition party.

Meanwhile, Khaled Mouammar, President of the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) told the audience celebrating May Day, that his organization defends the civil rights of all Canadians. The CAF also gives  a voice to those who want to criticize  Israeli government policies, as there aren't many willing to do that in Canadian politics  today.

He said the revolutions that have swept across the Arab world illustrate that when the people mobilize and are no longer afraid, nothing can stop them.

“What's happening in the Arab world is momentous ... They're finally getting rid of U.S. exploitation and domination. Three hundred fifty million Arabs are rising up against corrupt despots who serve foreign powers and line their pockets.”

He said that despite U.S. attempts to derail the process, the people  will continue to fight for their goals of social justice and equality for everyone, with resulting changes.

“Egypt has formed a labour party that will run in the election. They're establishing an independent foreign policy; restarting relations with Iran and stopping the siege of Gaza. They're also renegotiating the agreement to supply natural gas to Israel at below market prices.”

He cautioned that it's going to be a long struggle and people are going to suffer, but 60% of the people in the Arab world are under 24; they're educated and unemployed and they can see that the wealth is not being distributed.

“They're not going to stay silent. They'll die fighting for their rights. They're not afraid of dying.”

James Clarke, an organizer for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty said the people's capacity for resistance has been illustrated by the explosion we saw in the Arab world and his organization is hopeful that it's an experience people here in Canada can emulate.

“We're in a period of neoliberalism where the gains of the past are being taken away from us. It's a new breed of neoliberalism. They're coming at us with relentless power. The council of Rob Ford is destroying public services and public unions. But they can be stopped by working class mobilization.”

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