Opposition to the bully tactics of the Ontario Conservative government is growing. Premier Ford’s Bill 28, which not only bans a strike by 55,000 school support workers but imposes a wage settlement without arbitration or any further negotiation, is an outrage to millions, including most of the labour movement inside and outside Ontario.
On November 4, well over 10,000 people rallied at Queen’s Park, and marched repeatedly around the provincial legislature in defiance of the government’s Draconian law.
A wide range of unions and other working class organizations came to the defense of the Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario, which represents 55,000 school support workers, and the right to strike.
This included LiUNA and the Ontario Building Trades Council, which had endorsed Ford and the Tories prior to the June 2, 2022 provincial election, UNIFOR, the largest private sector union and which is currently outside the CLC, and a host of other labour bodies.
Socialist Action erected a literature display under its red canopy. It was a hub of activism, attracting dozens of new worker contacts and prospective members throughout the morning and afternoon.
The gathering featured union and NDP MPP speakers, along with music and chanting. When a CUPE leader announced that locals not presently on strike would be consulted on the need to broaden the walkouts and job actions, the crowd of thousands broke out into shouts of “General Strike! General Strike!”
The need for this type of massive workers’ job action in Ontario is long overdue. On November 2, CUPE-Ontario President Fred Hahn told rabble.ca that a province-wide general strike was “absolutely a possibility.”
A workers’ action of this nature has not happened since the mid-1970’s, when the Canadian Labour Congress led over a million workers to walk off the job on October 14, 1976, in protest against the Pierre Trudeau Liberal federal government’s plans to impose wage controls. More recently, the Ontario Federation of Labour held Days of Action, general strikes held sequentially in ten cities across Ontario in 1995 and 1996, against the severe cutbacks imposed by the Mike Harris Conservative provincial government.
Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford today finds himself facing a mounting wave of popular opposition. In fact, the attack that the Ford government is currently waging against Ontario’s working class is a much more direct threat to workers’ rights and civil liberties than Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau imposed in the lead up to the one day general strike in 1976. Ford’s use of the ‘notwithstanding clause’ of the Canadian Constitution to bar a legal challenge against his ban of a strike before one occurred, and his imposition of wages and conditions within Bill 28 itself, smacks of authoritarianism.
The Ontario conservative Ford government managed to gain a super majority in the 2022 Ontario elections this past year, though the results did not reflect anything near that level of popular support.
Out of 10.7 million eligible voters, only 17.7% (1.9 million) voted for Ford’s PC government, while 23.6% (2.5 million) voted for other parties. The opposition to the Conservatives received almost 60% of the popular vote, yet they gained less than a third (41 of 124) of the seats in Ontario’s parliament.
Despite obtaining just 40.5% of the popular vote, the PCs hold a super majority in Ontario’s Legislature, which in the antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system equals 83 of 124 (67%) of the seats.
This distorting system aggravates the worst aspects of an unjust and oppressive society. The fight for workers’ rights will never be won exclusively at the ballot box, but even modest progress will continue to be impeded by the current electoral system. Presently, the best hope for the working class is to topple the Doug Ford regime in the streets.
An extended province-wide work stoppage could force the repeal of Bill 28, if not the removal of the government, and send a strong message to the capitalist class that the working class is capable of taking Ontario in a new direction.
Socialist Action calls for mass job action to demonstrate solidarity with CUPE-Ontario. This is an emergency situation in which momentum is growing for a showdown with the corporate agenda. Workers of Ontario should take up the fight – Dump Thug Ford with a general strike!