Operation Solidarity 2.0?
The last time Canadians witnessed such a savage attack on the public sector was in British Columbia in 1983. Premier Bennett facing a weak opposition and not intending to run again announced legislation to enact drastic changes to the public sector.
He used the currency, fiscal and banking crisis of 1983 as cover for Draconian legislation. Does that sound familiar?
“Rent controls were abolished. Landlords were given the right to evict tenants without cause. The Human Rights Commission was shut down, its workers fired on the spot. The Employment Standards Branch was killed off.”
“Scrutiny of Crown corporations was wound up, while the government tightened its grip over local school board budgets and community colleges, including course content.”
Opposition to Mr. Bennett’s cuts resulted in Operation Solidarity: an amalgam of public and private sector unions and workers. Operation Solidarity worked. Premier Bennett had to back down on many of the controversial proposals in the face of widespread opposition.
Operation Solidarity was more significant than that: it was the beginning of the end of BC Social Credit party. It no longer exists. It by accident won one more election under the epically bad leadership of Bill Vander Zalm.
The Social Credit party splintered and collapsed afterward. There are strong parallels with what is going on in Manitoba. Mr. Pallister is not going to run again: he will not have to pay electorally for the aftermath of his policies.
The Conservative party in Manitoba has deep rural roots, and only wins office when they can win in Winnipeg. Mr. Pallister’s policies will lose seats in Winnipeg, and thus will lose government.
Good people like Ministers Rochelle Squires and Cathy Cox, who narrowly won their seats in the last election in Winnipeg, will likely lose in the next election. The most probable outcome at the next election is the Conservatives will be reduced to a rural rump.
The last time that happened was 1999, after Mr. Filmon’s orgy of austerity. It did not end well then for the Conservatives who spent the next generation in the electoral wilderness. That seems likely to happen again should Mr. Pallister continue on his present course.