“Just think of the jobs this will create.”
“If we do that, we will lose jobs.”
Those are the two basic themes. The two sides to the same coin. Politicians and corporations will invariably use the hammer of “jobs jobs jobs” as the reason, to do, or not do, anything. This could include making unsavoury backroom deals, ignoring or doing the opposite of good policy, destroying the environment, or even breaking the law.
As a recovering small town politician the most searing examples of this generally came in in-camera or private meetings, away from the public eye of course, but not always. The pressure of the “jobs jobs jobs” mentality is omnipresent. Ignore it or, god forbid, try to push back in any way, and judgement is swift from your political colleagues captured by the glare of populist dogma. (See “Old Ideas Die Hard in the Dark” for a local example)
Jody Wilson-Raybould’s treatment and testimony during the SNC Lavalin affair is a rare public glimpse of just how deeply this mentality permeates behind closed doors at every level of government.
While every Canadian citizen will cynically, and rightly, judge every politician after this brutal display of corporate capture of our Prime Minister and federal government, I do hope they recognize “JWR”, as the righteous example of what a politician should be. Principled, courageous, and most of all, willing to put the principles of good governance and rule of law above populist, corporatist, pressure.
There is certainly nothing wrong with corporations and companies stating their case. Lobbying, by all manner of interest group, is a required part of any functioning democracy.
It is when that lobbying travels up a kind of ladder of impropriety, first based on who agrees with who (ideology), who knows who (nepotism), and finally who pays who (corruption)… that lobbying can quickly turn from an essential part of democracy, to something which can test and destroy democratic institutions.
The worst part of the SNC Lavalin affair is the improper pressure put on the Attorney General to save the company from prosecution for corruption, but the second worst part is using working people to justify that unlawfulness.
It is not a worker on an SNC Lavalin project in Montreal or Calgary or Vancouver who demanded that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or the Clerk of the Privy Council bully and harass the Attorney General of Canada into approving a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA). Nor is it the worker who benefits from corrupt corporations lobbying corrupt government officials.
And yet, what did Jody Wilson-Raybould say she heard from the Prime Minister?
While the meeting was not about the issue of SNC and DPA’s the PM raised the issue immediately.
The Prime Minister asks me to help out – to find a solution here for SNC – citing that if there was no DPA there would be many jobs lost and that SNC will move from Montreal.
This is such boiler-plate, basic political bullying it is almost laughable that it occurs in what one might naïvely think of as our highest and most respected institutions. I can’t tell you — no really, I can’t, as it often happened in-camera, which is the point — how many times I heard the line, “You can’t do ____ because ____ large company will leave/not come and many jobs will be lost/not created”, when proposing an alternative solution or policy on the basis of good governance, public input, and/or evidence-based decision making.
It doesn’t matter if the issue is small town good policy for growth and thus future employment, or if it is the Attorney General of Canada making a decision independent of the Executive Branch of Government as is expected of her under the Constitution Act.
We must as a society try harder to move away from using jobs as a threat. We should all be able to agree that part of a well functioning society is its citizens being gainfully employed to the betterment of all. That is something we all advocate.
Pitting lawful society, clean environment, gainful employment, and other basic rights against one another only serves to diminish them all.
If anything comes from the SNC Lavalin affair, let it be to work toward a society that sees employment as a goal, not a wedge, an outcome, not a means, because as soon as you use workers to excuse or cover up bad behaviour and bad decision making, those workers — those citizens — lose.