Sinclair got his dates mixed up
Editor: I wish to respond to Jim Sinclair’s piece entitled “Unions led to the middle class,” (The Times, Aug. 30).
I won’t go into detail about his reliance on discredited Keynesian economics, in which he claims it is increased consumer spending that somehow brings economic prosperity. I won’t go into his incorrect inference that it is labour, and only labour, that generates wealth. And I won’t bite on his constant insinuation that business owners, executives, and shareholders somehow are not “working people,” while every fully-pensioned, impossible-to-fire government worker assuredly is.
As it is Labour Day weekend when I write this, I’d like to be more charitable than that. What I would like to write about is his reference to the historical foundation of Labour Day in Canada, that being the strikes of April/May 1872 and the subsequent passage of the Trade Union Act by Prime Minister John A. MacDonald.
It seems Sinclair got his dates mixed up. According to the Canada Gazette, it was passed on June 14, 1872, and not after the supposed Sept. 3, 1873 rally, an error that Sinclair probably inherited from the Wikipedia entry for Labour Day.
I believe we can find some common ground in this Act. In fact, I am sure that Canadians committed to the principles of free enterprise will walk shoulder to shoulder with union members in Labour Day parades if we returned to the statutes that were passed that day.
MacDonald’s bill was borrowed almost word-for-word from the Imperial Trade Union Act that was passed a year earlier in Great Britain. This law was predicated on several important principles.
First, that union members undertaking job action should be no more — or less — criminally liable than a private individual committing the same act. This is not the case in Canada, where union members routinely engage in harassment, intimidation, vandalism, threats, denial of lawful access, disturbances of the peace, and contempt of court orders during their job action, and are rarely if ever prosecuted.
The second principle is that there should be no special laws specifically directed towards trade unions. They should receive the same protections as every other voluntary association. That is not the case today in Canada, where unions specifically enjoy more legal rights and preferential tax treatment than any other association (except political parties, but that’s for another day).
Finally, the 1871 Imperial act stipulated that unions must be voluntary associations, consistent with the longstanding right of freedom of association. Courts and governments in Canada have subsequently taken this right away, under the made-up “right to collective bargaining,” a right to which you will find no explicit mention of in any constitutional document.
Closed-shop extortion is the only way that many irrelevant unions still survive today, and are able to pay executives like Sinclair to defend their existence.