OPINION: The CN strike and our ensuing winter of discontent – by Melanie Paradis (Globe and Mail – November 25, 2019)


Melanie Paradis is a director at McMillan Vantage Policy Group.

What started with coal miners in the United Kingdom may serve as a warning for what could come for Quebec and the rest of Canada this winter. With a new minority Parliament and a Senate in disarray, an inability or unwillingness to act could trigger Canada’s own Winter of Discontent.

In the mid-1970s, the British economy was struggling, a problem compounded by soaring inflation. Wages had not kept pace, so coal miners began job actions across Britain. At a time when most of the country’s electricity was produced by coal-burning power stations, the effect was immediate and severe, touching the lives of families and businesses alike.

Within a month of the initial job actions, the British government temporarily implemented a three-day workweek in order to reduce electricity consumption and conserve coal stocks.

Today, in Quebec where propane is used to heat hospitals and long-term-care facilities, energy supplies may similarly need to be rationed if the CN rail strike continues. In such a scenario, it wouldn’t be long before the cold set in.

But it was another series of labour strikes, this time across industries and public services, touching every corner of Britain, that brought down a prime minister. With striking rail workers grinding Canada’s economy to a halt, the 1979 Winter of Discontent warrants reflection.

For the rest of this article: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-cn-strike-and-our-ensuing-winter-of-discontent/