Lead Editorial, Winter 2008
There is good reason for youth across Canada to have real sense of urgency today – just what is going on in the fights for peace, jobs and education. Almost everything we are fighting for comes back to the main obstacle, the Harper Conservative agenda, in some form.
Harper's Throne Speech in mid-October noted that Canada's military spending will rise yet again. Canadian military spending is now higher than in the imperialist Korean war. Harper also clearly stated his intentions to lock Canada into Afghanistan until a minimum of 2011.
Anti-war and peace forces are up against an aggressive "Support Our Troops" yellow-ribbon campaign coming from the Department of Defense, working with the media. These latest developments make "Troops Out Now," as well as counter-recruitment, all the more pressing.
Harper is also again lowering taxes, the main way we pay for social programmes. For the first time in recent Canadian history, the top one percent of Canadian families pay a lower total tax rate than the bottom 10 percent of families! It is tuition fees, not corporate taxes, that must be reduced.
Up ahead are also more agreements like TILMA, the free trade agreement between BC and Alberta that allows corporations to sue municipalities and even school boards to overturn democratic local rules about environmental, labour and other regulations.
The only comments about youth in the Throne Speech were in connection to crime, which with the practice of police racial profiling largely means criminalization of youth of colour and aboriginal youth. Social policies for youth, including raising minimum wages, job creation and funding for equality, sports and cultural programmes are not on the table – in fact the cost of 2007 summer training for five cadets equalled federal governments entire annual subsidy to the Canadian Girl Guides, not to mention federal subsidies for progressive youth organizations!
Clearly, the need for building political alternatives is pressing. We must keep the objective of booting out Harper front and center in every discussion. While the realization of that victory will be electoral, the conditions for that change will not come from within Parliament. Its time to deepen and broaden the fight-back, and sharpen up the critique of the Tories, so that all the opposition parties are emboldened and/or pressured to pull the plug, and fight to bring down the Harper Tories.
This means is that the fight will have to be in our schools, in workplaces, on campus, at community centers, at the mall, online, and in the streets and directed at the Harper government's weak points. Massive public pressure can be decisive – and Harpers weak points are clearly issues youth can directly connect to, like the continued stealing of student's money and even lives to support the dirty war in Afghanistan, or growing poverty and minimum wages, or the crushing student debt burden which has reached crisis levels.
What we are talking about here is not "anybody but the Tories." We are talking about a dialectical relationship between the corporate assault on the one-hand, and on the other hand, the struggle to advance alternative policies for the people. People's agenda policies would have to include asserting the popular, democratic sovereignty of Canada – by getting out of NAFTA, stopping the SPP deals, and pursuing an independent foreign policy of peace and disarmament. Funding education. Raising minimum wage above the poverty line. Reversing the assault on democratic and labour rights.
A powerful movement of labour and working people, women, youth, and all the people can defeat the Harper government and its policies, turning the country in a new direction – a direction that puts the issues of people and the environment first, and breaks the monopoly of the big corporations in favour of peace and against imperialism.
That is the key point. It is not just the man we're after – we're out to defeat the political, economic, and military agenda of what lies behind Harper. The stakes are high. Youth activists have choices. Join the growing opposition... or else... You can be the hammer or the anvil.