Comments from a Toronto trade unionist about“NAFTA redux and on steroids”

Ernie Tate introduces some discussion on his recent piece about NAFTA

Since the posting of my NAFTA item on the Left Unity website a couple of days ago, I’ve received an unusually high number of responses to it – all of them positive and mostly from Canadians –many from the various lists I’m on, and all in a remarkably short time.  Obviously this reflects a high level of interest among activists about the NAFTA issue.  One of the longest, and most interesting, I thought I should share with Left Unity.  It’s from a trade unionist,who functions at a leadership level in his union in the Toronto area, andhas done so for many years. It’s a contribution to a discussion that seems to be getting underway in these parts about NAFTA.

Ernie Tate, April 27th, 2017



“Great article Ernie.

“In the softwood lumber debate it was said that Stephen Harper sold out the East in favour of the West. Now that a 20% tariffs has been imposed on these exports it will be interesting to watch how Justin Trudeau reacts. In recent days David MacNaughton, Canada’s Ambassador to the US, has been critical of the Trump administration. Initially, there was great restraint but I wonder if the rhetoric and actions may ramp up on the Canadian side in the face of what is at stake for the country.

“Further, what Rachel Notley thinks about the renegotiation of NAFTA would be also interesting to know.Nonetheless, your closing point concerning labour organizations in Canada is the most worrisome part for me. The Labour Movement remains demobilized and we may have to look to immigrant, environmental and social organizations in the community to fill this gap.

“Unfortunately, unions today have taken a more transactional approach, which focuses on collective bargaining without concern for the broader community. And it is this type of thinking that NAFTA and other trade agreements have eroded to the point where broader communities that don’t enjoy the benefits of a union. The result is that these groups advocate for the removal of the benefits such as defined benefits pensions.  The calculus is that if they don’t have it no one should (the race to the bottom).

“The recent (last Saturday) Ontario NDP provincial council speech by Andrea Horwath (Provincial Party leader)was symptomatic of this disconnect.  It was laced with the appeal to the mythical ‘middle class.’ There was talk about Pharmacare, however, the focus was on hydro rates (reducing and freezing them) and ‘returning’ Hydro One to public ownership by a buy- back program.

“Other than a cursory mention of the water crisis in Aboriginal communities there was no talk of the poor. A $15 minimum wage was adopted but there was not any talk about the elimination of poverty. Additionally, NAFTA was not even mentioned.

So as we look at Unions and NDP leadership, both federally and provincially, we need a grass roots movement to refocus them from the middle class to the poor and working class.

“What do you think?”



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