Why it's hard to talk about austerity during the election

150,000 demonstrate in Montreal. Photo: MADOC

Canada's elections have made it difficult to talk about austerity. 

(To find out more about the austerity agenda in Canada, click here.)

Green Party leader Elizabeth May started things off well by taking a stand against fiscal austerity at the first debate. Leading in the polls in BC and Quebec in late August, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair attempted to shore up his party's appeal in right-leaning Ontario by issuing a series of fiscally conservative pronouncements. He appears to have miscalculated. August 25 marked both the beginning of these pronouncements, and the beginning of the NDP's long, continuous decline in the polls.

In an opportunistic move in the aftermath of the first debate, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau took up the mantle of anti-austerity, attempting to brand Mulcair with the term. Paul Martin and Jean Chretien, who permanently cut billions from health care and social spending when they were in power, were even trotted out to sell the new Liberal plan, which promises to invest in infrastructure and run mild deficits. (Less attention has been paid to their support for privatization, likely to funnel billions to corporate cronies.)

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Campaign update: Unite Against Austerity

An anti-austerity movement is a good thing to have around. It makes it easy to connect different movements -- from women to migrant workers to unions and the environment -- by referring to the economic origins of their issues: sacrificing the common good for corporate profits.

In the past few months, we at Smart Change are excited to be a part of a surge of activity that is analyzing, opposing, and proposing alternatives to austerity.

We printed over 100,000 stickers and posters, which we have been distributing across the country. Over 3,000 people have shared UniteAgainstAusterity.ca with friends. We were featured in Ricochet, the Media Co-op and Rabble.ca. We organized packed panel discussions in Toronto and Vancouver (photos here and here; early video here; Reilly Yeo's fantastic powerpoint here). These were followed by lively discussions about connecting different movements to unite against austerity. (More events are coming soon!)

Unite Against Austerity graphics, created by Montreal designer Kevin Yuen Kit Lo, showed up at May Day demonstrations in Toronto and Ottawa, and in public spaces across Canada.

We're not alone! Popular organizations in Quebec carried out a May Day bank occupation in Montreal, and numerous marches converged in the city centre. Avi Lewis gave a talk in Alberta entitled "Battling Austerity with a Bold Green Vision" before he joined our panel in Toronto, and Nova Scotians have united against austerity in opposition to the Liberal party's cuts. The Media Co-op announced a special issue addressing austerity.

South of the border, Jacobin magazine took a long look at the Canadian Liberal Party's contributions to austerity, and Ruth Wilson Gilmore, a leading black scholar of criminalization, called mass protests in Ferguson and Baltimore "uprisings against austerity." In Europe, mass anti-austerity rallies marked May Day, while a slow-motion showdown over austerity measures continues, notably in Greece and Spain.

Our goal is to make sure that, going into the next election, all Canadians understand how austerity policies have affected us, our friends, relations and neighbours.

We're looking beyond the election, a part of a growing, global movement that seeks to reverse the flow of wealth to the 1%, and build a sustainable and just economy.

Want to get involved? Here are some options, and stay tuned for more:

• Get some stickers
• Sign a petition
• Share Unite Against Austerity with a friend!
• Join local organizations fighting austerity

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Smart Change brings people together to resist the austerity agenda and supports efforts to build a just and ecologically sustainable society and economy.