SUMMERSIDE – Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Revenue Minister Gail Shea were the targets Monday of Common Causes, a new collaboration of Canadians wanting a change in the agenda of the federal government.
About 20 people braved the cold temperatures Monday and gathered outside Shea’s Summerside office to bring their message to the public. The day of action was planned in collaboration with Idle No More and regional organizers from across Canada.
“We’re a social movement dedicated to defending democracy and social justice, the environment and human rights in the face of an all-out assault on the part of the Harper government,” said Carl Percy, president of the P.E.I. Federal of Labour. “On Sept. 13, 47 diverse regional and national organizations came together to share concerns about the direction of the Harper government and to place strategies to counter the federal government agenda that we believe is at odds with the values of the significant majority.”
He said Common Causes is a group of organizations that represent workers, the poor, students, First Nations, women environmentalists, farmers, educators, human rights and social justice advocates, immigrants and refugees, writers and artists, scientists and many others.
“Our mission is to unite communities and people to work in solidarity for change,” Percy said. “Our goal is for a just, fair world and country.”
Percy said there are cuts happening on a regional basis through the employment insurance reductions and the elimination of federal jobs.
“It’s taking money out of our communities,” he said. “Businesses are suffering and they’re going to suffer more because these cuts keep on going on a regular basis. All we want is fairness for Islanders, fairness for the Atlantic region and fairness for all Canadians and not just for the one per cent Harper looks after.”
Island journalist Jack MacAndrew was among the 20 people who turned out for the rally.
“We are here as advocates for a better Canada and not just protestors,” MacAndrew said.
MacAndrew, who is approaching 80, said he has never experienced a government that has operated in such a fashion as the Harper government.
“There are certain characteristics that define a dictatorship,” he said. “One is the prevention of information being handed out to the people of Canada. Secondly, one that elevates itself above the judiciary as the final arbiter of what’s legal in this country. Those are two defining characteristics that we have to endure until the next election when the will of the people can be heard again.”
Lori MacKay is division president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees P.E.I.
“I’m a proud trade unionist,” she said. “I’m a proud Atlantic Canadian and I’m a proud Canadian and I’m really tired of being treated like I have no voice in Canada. Every group and organization that has a different perspective in Stephen Harper’s funding has been cut. Any opportunity he’s had to cut he has cut.”
She said the trade union movement is something the prime minister cannot cut because he doesn’t fund it.
“He’s passed legislation in the last month that means he is opening up trade unions so that they are vulnerable to the people that they are negotiating against and he wants to know how much we spend on political activism,” MacKay said. “His legislation that is going to come is going to continue to deteriorate trade unions in the country.”
MacKay said she has no problem with the government and the unions disagreeing.
“What I have a problem with is taking away voice,” she said. “This country was built on different perspectives and people having an opportunity to speak their mind, have an intellectual conversation, have debate and come up with good, common sense decisions. That’s not happening today.”
“We’re asking Minister Shea to speak for use,” she said. “Damn with the consequences. Speak for us.”