April 1 st 1991

"Traitor" is the title of an article by George Ehring in the March 1991 issue of Our Times, a magazine which describes itself as an "Independent Canadian Labour Magazine."

The person denounced as "traitor" is none other than Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. The article's title and content, however, tell more about the mindset of this author than it does about the Prime Minister. They also explain why this kind of "labour" spokesman is unable to make any kind of positive contribution to preserving Canada as a decent and civilized society.

Let's take a look at Ehring's argument.

His tirade has become standard fare in the radical, left-wing press. It's a style that seems to come naturally to those who divide the world very simplistically into the oppressed and the oppressors. We have heard plenty of harsh denunciations in the labour press about the evils of the present Canadian government and especially of the recent budget brought down by Finance Minister Michael Wilson. Union leaders, from Canadian Labour Congress president Shirley Carr on down, have been unrelenting in their criticism of the Mulroney government, which they have accused of being in league with big business and determined to destroy the labour movement, and, for good measure, the country itself.

Daryl Bean, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, called the recent federal budget "insane" and threatened to call a general strike. He said, "Words can't describe the anger and frustration I feel tonight and the absolute contempt I feel for this government. No man in his right mind would do this," and he accused Wilson of being "as sadistic as Saddam Hussein, only in another form." We've heard more of the same from other trade union leaders.

Ehring's article stokes the fire of denunciation even hotter. He compares the policies of the present Mulroney government with the actions of the Quisling government of Norway during the Second World War. Vidkun Quisling betrayed his country to the Nazis and became their puppet prime minister, which earned him the hatred of his countrymen and the distinction that his name has ever since been synonymous with "traitor." Ehring continues:

This brings us, as clever readers already know, to our own lamentable Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who has systematically and deliberately planned and implemented a scheme to undermine the Canadian way of life and to eventually destroy the country itself.

Ehring proceeds to explain that a country is destroyed when the institutions that bind it together and give it identity are disbanded. To destroy a nation's identity, he writes, you must "take from its people those things that allow them to think of themselves as different from others." He then mentions the sort of institutional identification marks of Canada that the present government is treacherously destroying. They include the free trade agreement with the United States, the debacle of Meech Lake, the gutting of the CBC, the dismantling of VIA Rail, closing rural post offices, the privatization of Air Canada and Petro Canada, and changes in unemployment insurance and old age pension.

Ehring sees these government moves as tactics to sell out and destroy Canada so that we will become a satellite of the United States. Ehring concludes:

It's what our Prime Minister has in his tiny mind, regardless of his hypocritical and disgustingly sentimental lies about his love of Canada.

Incidentally, when the Nazis lost the war, Vidkun Quisling tried to escape, was captured, tried for treason and convicted. On October 24, 1945, in the name of the Norwegian people, he was executed.

It takes a while to let the significance of Ehring's argument sink in. It's one thing to honestly disagree with the policies of the Mulroney government. But to describe this government, which is struggling with immensely difficult public policy decisions, in the way Ehring does, and to call our Prime Minister a traitor, is an act of dreadful irresponsibility. It also explains why this kind of labour spokesman deserves nothing but the contempt of all those who truly care for the well-being of this nation.

Harry Antonides
Harry Antonides

Harry Antonides came to Canada in 1948, initially working as a farm hand and railway labourer. After over a decade working in a chemical plant in Sarnia, Ontario, Harry joined the newly forming Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) in 1962 as a field representative. By 1970 Harry became director of research and education. In 1974, he was a founding member of the Work Research Foundation (now Cardus) and publisher of their sole publication, Comment magazine. A prolific writer and dynamic speaker, Harry delivered lectures all over North America and published numerous articles, reviews, and essays. He is author of several books on Christianity, labour, and economics, including Multinationals and the Peacable Kingdom (1978) and Stones for Bread: The Social Gospel and its Contemporary Legacy (1985). Harry is retired and lives with his wife Janet in Willowdale, Ontario.


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