Over 400 people rallied on Saturday, September 20 outside the uptown Toronto constituency office of Conservative Finance Minister Joe Oliver to demand a halt to Tory and Canada Post Corporation plans to eliminate home mail delivery and set higher prices for postage.
Participants came from as far away as Vernon, B.C. and Charlottetown, P.E.I. They included retired auto workers from Oshawa, and a group of posties who hired a bus in Hamilton, Ontario.
Rally chair Elizabeth Byce, a proud retired member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, past Secretary of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council and a leading member of Socialist Action, welcomed the crowd. In the breezy, warm sunshine she led-off the proceedings with a few chants: “1,2,3,4, mail delivery door-to-door, 5,6,7,8, stop increasing postal rates”, “Stop the Cuts at Canada Post”, and “They say Cutback. We say Fightback”.
“I say to Finance Minister Joe Oliver, you can hide, but you cannot escape our anger, and you cannot avoid our determination to hold you and your government accountable for cuts to the postal service that Canadians hold dear. Keep your bloody hands off our public services!”, Byce told the gathering.
“Many organizations have endorsed this rally. They are listed on the newspaper ads and the leaflets you’ve seen. New endorsers include: the Workers’ Action Centre, York Region Catholic Teachers, United Steel Workers – Toronto Area Council, and the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP). We thank them all.”
She then introduced the rally speakers as follows:
“Denis Lemelin, the leader of the fight to save vital postal services and good jobs, is the President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. His involvement in the union began in 1979 when he started as a postal clerk in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
“Marie Clark-Walker comes out of CUPE-Ontario. She celebrates her Jamaican heritage, and is a Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress.
“Sid Ryan, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour, is a past-President of CUPE-Ontario, and is former Ontario Tory Leader Tim Hudak’s worst enemy.
“Sharon DeSoussa is the Regional Executive Vice-President in Ontario for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
“Barry Weisleder is the person who organized the rally from scratch. He is a teacher, union activist, journalist and the federal secretary of Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste. (See the text of his speech below.)
“Mark Brown is the Education and Organizing Officer for the Metro Toronto Region of CUPW, and is also a member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.
“Hockey has its Hall of Fame, and so does Labour. Buzz Hargrove is a past President of the Canadian Auto Workers. He speaks today on behalf of Unifor, Canada’s newest and biggest private sector union.
“The Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, which generously contributed to the publicity tools that made this rally a success, is represented by a Vice President of OPSEU, Myles Magner.
“The Canadian Union of Public Employees in Ontario played a key role in promoting the protest. Fred Hahn is the President of CUPE-Ontario, and a long-time fighter for LGBT rights and dignity.
“Liz Rowley is the Ontario leader of the Communist Party and a former school board trustee.
“Carolyn Egan is President of the United Steetworkers’ Toronto Area Council and a member of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council executive.
“Chris Clay is a leader of CUPW in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
“CUPW Union Rep Mike Palecek, based in Ottawa, is here today to sing his new anti-austerity, anti-Stephen Harper song, which debuted on Parliament Hill at the People’s Social Forum rally on August 21.”
The rally chair reminded everyone that the campaign to Save Canada Post continues, and called on people to attend a meeting of the Toronto Organizing Committee to plan the next steps.
Extensive coverage of the Toronto protest featured prominently on that day’s 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news broadcast of CITY-TV.
The following is the text of the remarks of rally organizer Barry Weisleder:
“Sisters and brothers, it’s great to see such a large crowd here on this beautiful day. Did you enjoy the summer? I did. I spent much of it organizing this rally, and I’d like to tell you why.
“Firstly, I’m sick and tired of Tory lies. Canada Post is profitable. And it could be even more profitable if we had postal banking. We need good jobs. Killing over 8,000 letter carrier jobs makes no sense — unless you are a corporate vulture planning to dine on the dismembered parts of a vital public service.
leave for its members, a gain that spread to all organized workers. CUPW has been in the forefront of solidarity campaigns with workers’ struggles, at home and abroad, for generations. That’s why it has legions of allies.
Now is the time to returnthat solidarity, and to stopthe onslaught against public services and workers’ rights. It is also a golden opportunity to boot the Harper Conservatives from office, and to bust up the bosses’ offensive.
“They’re feeling the pressure. The plan to terminate home mail delivery is possibly the most unpopular policy of the Tory government. But it’s tied to many others. Like undermining pensions and E.I. Gutting health and safety in the work place. Promoting dirty oil pipelines. Plundering aboriginal lands. Victimizing migrant workers. Sending troops to Iraq. Backing the seige of Gaza. Giving tax breaks to big corporations. Watching our cities descend into the despair of grid-lock and homelessness.
There’s a funny saying: “Capitalism is just a phase we’re going through.” Unfortunately, this phase is killing the planet and its inhabitants. Its stale date is well over a century old. We need ways to break the grip of the 0.1%.
“We can bring down the Tories. We can restore and expand public services. Broaden the battle for social equality and a genuine economic democracy. And perhaps, we can shake this rotten system to its core, and bring to birth a cooperative commonwealth in our time. Let’s make the most of it. Let’s fight to win, in solidarity.”