Monday, November 29, 2010

In Today's Canada Solange Denis Would Have Never Been Heard

In 1985, a feisty senior named Solange Denis ambushed then prime minister Brian Mulroney, after his finance minister, Michael Wilson, announced that he would be de-indexing old age pensions.

The encounter was captured on national television, raising the ire of seniors across the country, who protested against this arbitrary decision.

"You lied" Denis shouted at Mulroney. (see video below for 2006 version) Those two words were the rallying cry and after seniors threatened to abandon the Tory party, they backed down.

The power of one.

Brian Mulroney didn't really have to listen to her. He had a majority and at least three years until another election, giving him ample time for damage control. But his Tory party didn't want to earn a reputation for abusing senior citizens.

I use to think of the Tories (PCs), in a "head in the clouds" kind of way, I guess; as fiscally conservative but socially responsible.

In 2003, Canada's Tory party folded, and has been replaced with a neoconservative option, that is neither fiscally conservative, nor endowed with a conscience.

And now that the Neocons (52) outnumber both the Liberals (49) and Tories (2) in the senate, they are showing just how different they are to Canada's Tory tradition.

Controlling a committee they have sided with a corporation over Canadians, who had worked for a company, many for decades, and paid into a pension plan.
Nortel employees predicted a bleak future filled with illness, poverty, homelessness and even suicide after the Harper government signalled it will kill legislation aimed at protecting workers from losing their long-term disability benefits. The disabled employees were distraught Thursday after Conservative senators used their majority on the Senate's banking committee to recommend that the upper house not proceed with the bill.

The red chamber, now dominated by Tories thanks to a raft of recent appointments by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is virtually certain to accept the committee's recommendation. And in the House of Commons, Industry Minister Tony Clement indicated he believes Conservative senators are doing the right thing, even though it means about 400 disabled Nortel employees will be cut off long-term disability benefits at the end of next month. That assertion won him cries of "shame" from a small group of Nortel employees watching from the public gallery. They were escorted from the Commons, at least one of them in tears.
I really wish the media would stop using headlines associating 'Tory' with this evil. No Tory I ever knew would be party to this.

It's not bad enough that the neocons have hijacked their history, but they've also hijacked the senate, further sullying the brand, which will now be forever labelled the party of "mean".

I was thinking about Solange Denis and how we could use her spirit now, but then remembered that things are much different in Canada today. Stephen Harper would never have backed down. In fact he was a legislative assistant to PC Jim Hawkes at the time, but quit because he claimed that Mulroney was unable to make the tough choices.

He can, even when those tough choices involve having an 88-year-old woman arrested and abused in Kingston, Ontario for protesting the closing of the Prison Farms, and a 78-year-old diabetic man repeatedly kicked by police, for not going down a flight of stairs quick enough at the U of T, during the G-20 weekend.

Solange would not have stood a chance.

Her one small voice would have been lost in the deafening silence of 34 million.


  1. I am one of the said disabled Nortel workers. I also used to think of the Conservatives in a heads in the clouds sort of way. No longer. They do not care that the disabled are suffering and will die due to their stoppage of Bill S-216.

  2. Thank you Connie for sharing your story. This is horrible and completely unCanadian.