This is an undelivered speech from Brian LaTour, an engineering student, student activist and member of the CFS and IWW from Manitoba. Brian was to give his speech at a Rally against Steven Harper and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a right wing think tank that thinks the self regulating, invisible hand of the free market is the pinnacle of society. (I wonder what they think of invisible hands and Ouija boards?) Brian could not deliver his speech that evening however due to being stuck out of town working mandatory overtime. Such is the life of a working class student.
Brother LaTour wishes to point out that: “...there are a couple things in here that I'm missing, like the SSHRC cuts.”
Good evening, brothers and sisters. It's wonderful to see so many people out here today, to give Stephen Harper a nice, friendly Winnipeg welcome. I was actually wondering how best to welcome Harper to Winnipeg on my way over here. I came up with one idea, but unfortunately I didn't bring an extra pair of shoes.
But seriously, we are gathered here today because the policies of this government have been intolerable. As a student at the University of Manitoba, one who has seen tuition increases of 40% since I started my degree, I'm here to talk about why students can't take any more right wing governance. And this Frontier Centre, which claims to be independent and objective but manages to get a right-wing Prime Minister to fundraise for them, has done nothing but carry water for right-wing attacks on students.
In a time of economic crisis, educational issues are now more important than ever. More and more jobs are requiring some sort of post-secondary education. People losing their jobs are going to be trying to go back to school to gain the skills they need just to make it in this capitalist economy. We should be helping people access education in these times, not raising barriers.
Since cuts to transfer payments in the 1990s, federal funding for education has been insufficient. This has manfested itself in increased tuition, a clear attack on working class students in Canada. Tuition these days is the highest it has been since around World War II. And it's a lot higher for us than it was for Harper and these right-wing hacks at the Frontier Centre who constantly whine that it's too low and push for increased tuition, a barrier to education for working class students.
And let me be clear, none of this has to do with of a lack of resources. There are more than enough resources to eliminate tuition forever, it's just a question of priorities. Neoliberalism, tax cuts for the rich and military spending or funding education and other public services? The total tuition paid in Canada is a fraction of what is spent on the Canadian Forces, some of which goes to the militarization of our universities and recruiters who prey on students facing economic hardships because they want their blood to oil the gears of the imperialist war machine.
This Harper government has also been attacking aboriginal students. The Post-Secondary Student Support Program, which was never anywhere near sufficient in the first place, is under attack by the Harper Tories. They have planned to scrap the program and replace it with loans, giving First Nations students who are already underrepresented in post-secondary education nothing but more debt and more barriers to education. And guess who is right behind them? That's right, the Frontier Centre, with the racist argument that, quote “Moving towards loans would be good for First Nations as it would encourage them to be better stewards of their funds”, as if what aboriginal people need is the Canadian state imposing more hardships on them to teach them a lesson. When it comes to imposing hardships, hasn't the Canadian state done enough already?
In addition, the Harper government's policies towards Israel have encouraged the apartheid state in their bombings of schools and universities in Gaza and quashing the rights of Palestinian students to education. We stand here in solidarity with those facing oppression aided by this government worldwide!
And not only has this government been attacking students directly, recently they have been exposed in plotting to subvert the student movement. They have held sessions across the country, including in Winnipeg, in which they have plotted to take over student unions, defund PIRGs, and subvert the Canadian Federation of Students, the only national organization fighting for students rights. These anti-democratic actions by the control freaks in the Harper government only show that they can't handle any criticism or resistance to their ideological attacks on students and the working class.
Over the past thirty years or so, the forces of capital have been particularly vicious when it comes to attacking the working class. Working class students are facing constantly increasing tuition while being stuck in low-wage service sector jobs. Thirty years of the ideology represented by Harper and the Frontier centre has left my generation facing capitalist crisis, attacks on our public services, attacks on pay equity, and an ecological crisis looming over our heads. Young people are not the problem here, we are the solution. We didn't cause these crises and we shouldn't pay for them.
Brothers and sisters, we must fight this government wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head. And we must continue fighting for justice together long after Harper is nothing more than a bad memory and a cash cow for right-wing bullshit factories. We need to keep fighting until we have eradicated this exploitative and oppressive capitalist system and brought to earth a new world, a better world, a world of peace and justice for all.
Thank you, and solidarity forever!
Brian LaTour also blogs for Canadian Dimension Magazine you can read it here.
below is part of a leaflet and press release put out by the Winnipeg Labour Defence League.
What is the Frontier Centre for Public Policy?
Wonder why Stephen "I hate Labour" Harper is the star guest at a gala fund-raising dinner for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, $150 a plate?
Supported by dubious facts, poor logic and pompous professors, the Centre emits an unrelenting ooze of reactionary policy ideas designed to boost the fortunes of the millionaire big shots who already have the government's ear.
The Centre elevates greed as humanity's highest and only aim. Its policies would grind the needy into the dirt. Its aims are far from benevolent.
Yet the government has given the Centre charitable status, so it can give expensive tax receipts to its wealthy backers, paid for by Jane and Joe worker/ taxpayer.
With the Frontier Centre and its professors:
- Rent controls would be gone.
- Public housing would be sold off.
- Labour rights would be curbed, giving corporations more power to crush unions.
The FCPP wants:
- Privatized child-care
- A frozen minimum wage
- Privatized utilities for Hydro and Water.
- A "flat tax" where those with lower incomes pay the most.
- Even more tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations
- No pay equity for women or other discriminated groups
- No marketing boards such as the Wheat Board to protect farmers and consumers from the big Agri-monopolies
- In a racist way, it constantly attacks "poor governance" in Aboriginal nations, forgetting the truly massive scale of corporate sleaze and corruption.
- Failing to recognize the colonial theft of Aboriginal land, it promotes the illusion that Aboriginal peoples are on a level playing field with the non-Aboriginal corporations that own and dominate Canada's land and resources.
- It attacks the very concept of "national rights," rights which are fully enjoyed by the Canadian state, but whose denial relegates Aboriginal nations to a position of inequality, humiliation and subjection.
Are these policies that would help the large part of the working class that lives in perpetual misery from day to day?
Would these policies lead to a society where everyone receives what they need and contributes what they are able?
The answer is obvious. The FCPP is a front for the corporations and the wealthy.
The FCPP has too much influence over government policies already! They got us into our present mess.