Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Report on Business

Economy Lab

Delving into the forces that shape our living standards
Best Business Blog, EPPY awards, 2011 and 2012

Entry archive:

Economy Lab has moved

Only Globe Unlimited members will now have access to a wide range of insightful commentary
and analysis on the economy and markets previously offered on this page.


Globe Unlimited subscribers will be able to read these columns,
written by some of Canada’s most deeply respected economists,
such as Christopher Ragan, Sheryl King, Andrew Jackson, and Clement Gignac,
as part of our ROB INSIGHT section.


All of our readers will still be able to browse the Economy Lab archives and read our
broader coverage of economic data and news by accessing their 10 free articles a month.


Learn more about Globe Unlimited and how to subscribe.

Without clear guidelines, the government's declaration that a possilbe strike by Air Canada flight attendants would be harmful to the economy amounts to selective meddling. (Della Rollins/Della Rollings for The Globe and Mail)
Without clear guidelines, the government's declaration that a possilbe strike by Air Canada flight attendants would be harmful to the economy amounts to selective meddling. (Della Rollins/Della Rollings for The Globe and Mail)

Economy Lab

Is Ottawa putting the right to strike at risk? Add to ...

Memo to Canadian workers: if what you do is “significant” to the economy or the general public, your right to strike is at risk.



That, at least, is the message federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has delivered as she prepares to order a quick end to a possible strike by Air Canada flight attendants -- the second time she's threatened back-to-work legislation at the airline this year.

More related to this story



“From our perspective, the government gets engaged when we see that there's going to be a nationally significant effect either on the economy or on the general public,” Ms. Raitt told CBC-Television.



Her remarks pose the question what other workers can’t strike in Canada? Just airlines? All workers at federally regulated industries? And is this a permanent ban, or a temporary ban, while the economy remains fragile?



It’s worth pointing out here that, however inconvenient or economically destructive strikes are, Air Canada is a private company. It’s no longer a Crown corporation. Air Canada has fierce national and international competitors on most routes -- companies that have an economic interest in what Ottawa does.



Does Ms. Raitt’s edict also apply to workers at Westjet and Porter Airlines, whose workers may want to unionize in the future?



What about railroad workers, truckers and telecom employees?



And why stop there. The lives of millions of Canadians would also be deeply affected if Tim Horton’s went on strike, or Molson-Coors.



What’s the value of belonging to a union if the most basic right of employees -- to withdraw service in the event of a contract impasse -- no longer exists?



We don’t know the answer to any of these vital questions because the Harper government appears to be making up the rules as it goes along.



It’s not the first time. Last year, the government blocked a foreign takeover of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan in the face of popular anger in Saskatchewan. At the time, then-Industry Minister Tony Clement suggested the company was too important to the Canadian economy to let fall into foreign hands.



It’s a defensible position. But Ottawa has so far failed to clarify what’s for sale, and what’s not in Canada.



It amounts to selective meddling in the economy, without putting in place clear rules of the road. Ms. Raitt and the Harper government owe that Canadian companies and their workers.



Follow Economy Lab on twitter

Follow on Twitter: @barriemckenna

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories