Austerity or Confiscated Democracy (Journal de Montréal Blog)

By Julia Posca
Originally published on January 26 2015
See original French text here: http://www.journaldemontreal.com/2015/01/26/lausterite-ou-la-democratie-confisquee

Source: Photo Archives/Reuters
Photo Archives/Reuters

Austerity is on everyone’s lips since the Liberal’s return to power in Quebec in April 2014. Our current political climate is resonant with the “debt crisis” which has been rocking Europe since the economic and financial crisis of 2008.

Yet fiscal austerity measures on both sides of the Atlantic are not simply a response to the economic crisis. In spite of the extent of austerity’s claim on the political landscape over the past seven years, the imperative of the balanced budget has been around since long before the subprime bubble burst, sweeping the global economy along with it. Austerity is simply the current manifestation of the question of balanced public finances.

One must turn back the clock to the mid-1970s in order to find the first battles waged by governments against public debt (at least in its neoliberal version). In those days, climbing inflation and global unrest put the breaks on economic growth, depleting state coffers. Those who intend to narrow the scope of public spending set their sights on social security spending, considerably on the rise since World War Two. The welfare state is traded in for the commodification of public services and the privatization of various state functions. Neoliberal doctrine is on the up swing, while politicians critical of social security nets are globally brought to power (Tatcher in the United Kingdom, Reagan in the United States, Mulroney in Canada, Bourassa in Quebec) or “installed” (Pinochet in Chile or Videla in Argentina).
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Austerity in the Time of Abundance (Liberté)

Money, there is. But not for everyone.

By Julia Posca
Originally Published: Fall 2014
See the original French text here: http://revueliberte.ca/content/lausterite-au-temps-de-labondance

At a stone’s throw from the Colisée Pepsi, the former home of the Québec Nordiques, workers are busy on the worksite of the city’s new amphitheatre. The official opening of this four hundred million dollar project is scheduled for September 2015. As they await this exciting date, hockey fans in the capital region dream of attracting a new NHL team due to this arena that has been financed directly by municipal and provincial funds.

In mid-July, when journalists wandered around the new building in the neighbourhood of Limoilou to take in the progress of the construction, union members from the Laval CSSS were had their picket signs in the hopes of making themselves heard by the Minister of Health and of sensitizing public opinion to the consequences that the public will surely feel from the cuts of around twelve million dollars that had been announced by the Liberal government.  There are no cuts to the staffing framework currently planned, but we know already that night posts for auxiliary nurses will be cut and that the number of extra hours will be lowered.

Welcome to the reign of austerity in the era of massive wastefulness. All spending is allowed, so long as there is no question of making it seem to us, the little guys, that the purpose of government is to respond to the needs of their supposed constituents. Before treating me as a killjoy, know that my intention is not at all to take aim at our illustrious national sport. I will instead say this: the Neoliberal State is not a Lean State, that spends prudently like only a good father of a family could do. The Neoliberal State is rather one that gave, in 2011, to a company represented by a former political counsellor of the premier at the time, a two hundred forty million dollar contract to install forty thousand indispensable smart white boards in primary and secondary schools in the province. During this time in Montreal, students were chased out of their neighbourhood schools by dangerous mold that had made its home in the walls of their buildings. The situation has been going on for more than two years, but the Montreal School Commission, responsible for these infected buildings, also had to work towards budgetary equilibrium. In short, everything suggest that a solution is within arm’s reach in this case.

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