Radio — A broad coalition against austerity in Newfoundland

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Mary Shortall, Jim Dinn, and Sara Langer. They are all members of Common Front NL, a broad coalition that has formed to oppose the drastic austerity measures being implemented by the provincial government in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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According to today’s guests, there isn’t a lot of precedent, at least in recent decades, for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador rising up in significant numbers to oppose the policies of their provincial government. But late last year, a provincial Conservative government that had been in power for many years was decisively defeated, and a large Liberal majority swept into office. Though their platform did not call for cuts and privatization — that is, for austerity — the introduction of their first budget in the context of a major economic downturn made decisive moves in that direction, with the possibility of even more drastic cuts in a second budget slated for late in 2016. The cut that made the news most widely outside of Newfoundland would’ve resulted in the closure of many, many public libraries, and that has (at least for the moment) been rescinded, but as today’s guests discuss, the vast majority of cuts are still happening, and people’s lives are being impacted in a wide range of ways.

Mary Shortall is the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. Jim Dinn is the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association. And Sara Langer is the treasurer of the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of the Canadian Federation of Students. The Common Front NL brings together unions, student groups, women’s organizations, social justice groups, faith groups, and other sorts of community organizations, as well as concerned individuals. While some of the component member organizations have already been mobilizing people into the streets, the common front as a whole has so far focused on using roundtables and town halls to talk with Newfoundlanders in a way that they say the government has not. They are talking with people about their lives, about the impacts of austerity, and about developing a more hopeful vision for a fair and prosperous Newfoundland that makes sure everyone’s needs are met. Though actual reversals of proposed austerity measures have so far been minimal, the engagement by ordinary Newfoundlanders is unprecedented — not just via the common front but in lots of other independent initiatives as well — and the popularity of the ruling Liberals has tanked despite being in office for well under a year. Though they see a long road ahead, the common front also sees a real possibility for turning back the austerity agenda in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Shortall, Dinn, and Langer talk with me about the impacts that austerity is having and will increasingly have on people in Newfoundland and Labrador, and about what the Common Front NL and its member organizations are doing to fight back.

For more information on the work of the Common Front NL, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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