The Constitution’s Notwithstanding Clause was a sop to provincial governments in western Canada opposed to the Constitutional recognition of a strong federal government with power and authority greater than that of the provinces and territories over such things as the implementation of a national energy policy and equalization payments, to sign on to the new Constitution in 1982. The clause gave the provinces the power to override the Constitution, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It also isolated Quebec which refused to support the new Constitution because Quebec’s status as a nation within Canada, and its right to national self-determination up to and including its right to secession, was denied. Indigenous rights and the rights of Acadians were also denied.
This week the Tory government in Ontario used the Notwithstanding Clause to attack free collective bargaining and the right to strike. Ontario’s 55,0000 CUPE members, who work in the province’s schools, saw their collective bargaining team dismissed, the government’s final offer imposed as a 4 year contract, and the union’s right to strike denied with legislation imposing $4,000 a day fines on CUPE members who defied the legislation and $500,000 a day fines on their union. This was accomplished with the passage of Bill 28 which cited the Notwithstanding Clause as the legal basis for their actions.
Outraged, CUPE workers and workers and unions from across the public and private sectors responded with defiance, organizing mass protests and picketing the Legislature and Tory MPP offices across the province, and mobilizing support for the province-wide strike and the huge fines they are facing. And this support is rapidly expanding, as workers recognize that this Tory government has just flushed the rights and the livelihoods of 1.1 million workers in the broader public sector, setting the pattern for diminished wages and living standards across the province – and the country.
Nine out of ten provinces in Canada now have right-wing governments, and all are looking at Ontario to see if the Notwithstanding Clause will stand up as a new tool for strike-breaking in the public sector.
The Communist Party of Canada stands with education workers and CUPE fighting for a living wage, and for the right to free collective bargaining and the right to strike, against a government committed to smash labour rights and to drive down workers’ wages and living standards to facilitate privatization of health, education, childcare, long-term care, and public services.
Increasing corporate profits and power are what drives this government and its reactionary, anti-worker, anti-democratic agenda. Ontario is where it must be stopped, and now is the time to do it.
The struggle in Ontario needs the unity, solidarity and active support of the labour and democratic movements across Canada to win. This is a struggle for fundamental labour rights across the country, including the right to a living wage for all workers. We call on the broad labour and democratic movements to give their full support to what will be remembered as a historic struggle for labour rights in Canada.
The Communist Party calls for the immediate repeal of Ontario’s Bill 28, and Bill 124 which has imposed wage restraints of 1% per year wage increase for 3 years across the Broader Public Sector.
The Communist Party calls for the federal government and Parliament to:
- declare Bill 28 unconstitutional, and to take immediate legal action against the Ontario government’s use of the Notwithstanding Clause to annul the right to strike and to free collective bargaining by CUPE workers, and likely others in the broader public sector. This could include, but should not be limited to Disallowance of the enactment of legislation by a provincial Legislature, set out in the Constitution Act, sections 55 and 90
- immediately pass legislation guaranteeing the right to free collective bargaining, to strike, picket, and organize; and further,
- amend the Constitution to include a Bill of Rights for Labour with these rights guaranteed to all workers across Canada
- convene a popular Constituent Assembly to address other fundamental flaws in the Constitution, including recognition of the multi-national character of Canada and the right of nations to self-determination up to and including secession; and recognition of municipalities and school boards as democratically constituted and autonomous bodies, with wealth-taxing powers, not property taxes, as the tax base
Central Executive Committee
Communist Party of Canada
November 5, 2022