At first, we didn’t know what to call it even though
we could feel it. We had a growing sense that
something wasn’t right. Things that mattered to
Ontarians stopped being fair. Money and power began
to outweigh the quality of peoples’ lives.
In the 1930s Americans saw a huge shift in wealth
through their New Deal, a set of economic programs
enacted in response to the
Today both Canada and the U.S. are seeing another
Commentator Dylan Ratigan has called it “corporate
communism”. He points to the collusion that comes
from the takeover of government by corporations who
promote policies that protect only their interests.
As in the Soviet Union, corporations then become
less competitive and innovative. The public pays the
“The concept of communism is rightly reviled for the
simple reason that it is blind to human nature,
allowing a small group of individuals (corporations)
near-total control, while sticking everyone else
with the same crappy systems - and the bill. America
spent countless lives and half a century fighting
against this system of government. So why are we
standing for it now?”
While Canada is not the U.S., corporate communism
has found its way into Ontario. Corporations pulled
it off with right wing politicians. They are now
running off like bandits while the rest of us are
One result of the takeover is billions of corporate
dollars stashed away, often in off-shore accounts,
rather than reinvesting in the economy. Dead
corporate money has deadened society by sparking
wage reductions and income inequality. Today, 9 out
of 10 Canadians earn less than $80,000 per year
leaving that top 10 percent
very rich indeed. Through this a just society
is destroyed along with our quality of life.
Does Ontario need dead corporate money or working
people earning fair wages? The later of course! Tax
cuts won’t create jobs. Workers with disposable
Another feature of corporate communism is defined by
right-wingers with the term: “starve the beast.”
This strategy works in four steps: (1) cut taxes;
(2) wait until the resulting budgetary deficit
becomes a problem; (3) cut spending in order to deal
with the budget crisis; and then (4) repeat step
The corporate plan for Ontario is based on
right-wing policies: starve the beast; lower taxes;
stagnate wages; slash interest rates; provide easy
Let’s look at how these factors have worked in
This plan brought wage stagnation. Some thought
government did not appreciate that stagnant wages
meant reduced tax revenues and larger deficits. They
knew. Look back at step 2 in “starve the beast.”
The plan then lowered interest rates to provide easy
credit. For a time, this allowed many to continue
consuming. These high debt levels set the stage, in
2008, for the worst international financial collapse
since the Great Depression. Even in 2013, we still
hear warnings about Canadian’s personal debt. In
1995 the average Canadian household had a debt to
income ratio of 100 percent. By 2010 that debt to
income ratio had grown to about 155 percent.
Personal debt is still at record levels.
The situation grew worse with the next steps in the
plan. Tax cuts followed. So did growing
unemployment. Both reduced government revenues.
While tax reductions provided higher disposable
incomes, these were just an illusion. Many community
services disappeared while others were sold to the
private sector. User fees then applied reversing the
tax savings. Corporations profited as they took over
the privatized services.
According to plan, working people were also told to
do more with less. This placed worker against
worker, demonizing unions as greedy and
unreasonable. This caused a drop in union
membership, as a percentage of the workforce in
Canada. Reduced union density eroded private sector
wages, focusing attention on the public sector.
There was little factual reason for this as studies
have proven that the wages are the same in similar
public and private sectors jobs.
The plan then focused on public service costs even
though they had not caused the deficits. Deficits
needlessly and purposely developed from interest
rate reductions, increased personal debt, tax cuts,
wage stagnation and corporate greed.
And to what end? While right-wing governments talk
about fiscal responsibility, they seldom leave
public finances in better shape than they found
them. Look at the Harris term in Ontario which,
after many painful cuts, increased Ontario’s deficit
by billions of dollars.
Another perversion came in 2008, when the economic
bubble burst. Corporations went to governments
claiming the capitalist system would fail without
taxpayer funded bail-outs. They got the public’s
money, nobody went to jail, and Wall Street and Bay
Street kept booming.
These factors set us on our current course in
Ontario. Instead of an expanding economy based on
wage increases, wealth was drained away by two
decades of corporate greed financed by
taxpayers. Bail-outs stretched government fiscal
capacity, leading to reduced public spending. People
lost on two fronts: wages and public services.
That’s Ontario’s “corporate communism” story. The
rich have banded together to take control of
government. Now, money goes right from our pockets
to theirs. This has a big impact at the bargaining
table. Threats of layoffs, downsizing and wage loss
abound. An ill-informed public often supports these
moves. Many people have yet to figure out this
complex economic conflict.
The day of discovery is coming. People will grasp
that the labour movement didn’t cause the financial
crisis. Public sector workers weren’t at fault.
Equally, private sector workers were not to blame.
I am amazed at how politicians move from government
to high paid jobs on Bay Street. Look at the latest
examples: ex-politician Pupatello and former Finance
Minister Duncan. Government work feathered these
nests in the private sector. Union members and the
public, who criticize a bargaining team or the union
for taking a stand, should direct their anger to
where it should belong: corporations and the
politicians that supported this corporate takeover.
The times are changing. OPSEU has changed public
dialogue on tax fairness, income equality and the
value of quality public services. We are all coming
to a point that will mark a change of course for
Ontario. But there is more work to do. We will
continue to expose the truth. Together we will set
the stage for change - the OPSEU way - by moving