Tag Archives: Doug Ford

Ford Begins

By Mitchell Shore

Socialist Action – Toronto members proudly joined the June 13 People’s Rally at Queen’s Park to protest some of the first actions of the Doug Ford-led Progressive Conservative Party government.  On June 7, the Tories won 76 of the 124 seats in the Ontario Legislature — securing 61 per cent of the seats with only 40 per cent of the votes cast, equaling about a quarter of the electorate.

Despite the hard work of the organizers, the turnout was poor. Only about 200 people attended. While the extreme heat of the day served as an excuse, the primary reason was the absence of an organized union presence. Besides a handful of individual union and community activists, a solid presence by the $15 and Fairness coalition, and three or four socialist groups, there was no sign of coordinated union participation. There was no OPSEU, no AMAPCEO, no CUPE, no ETFO, OSSTF or OECTA, no UNIFOR, no UFCW, no ATU, no Steelworkers’ Union — the list goes on.

Likewise, there was no sign of the New Democratic Party. The NDP, Canada’s only labour-based political party, now holds official opposition status in Ontario.  Sadly, its leaders seem comfortable confining their meager resistance efforts to the chambers of the Legislature — an approach that is bound to fail. The Tories hold a majority of seats and the NDP can only slow the torrent of reactionary laws.  NDP MPPs are powerless to actually to stop any Conservative party legislation. They ought to join us on the streets to amplify their voices and educate for change. And where were the supposedly brave activists of the NDP who are calling for action immediately following the election? Ford is not taking the summer off. Before we know it, much more will be stripped away in the name of “saving taxpayers money”.

Premier Doug Ford has already put in place a hiring freeze and has frozen the pay of all Ontario public service mangers. He fired Ontario’s Chief Scientist, sacked the government’s investment czar, terminated its top business adviser, and decimated Hydro One’s leadership. The promise that “no one is getting laid off” under a Ford administration is quickly exposed as a lie. The Tories then awarded a plush patronage position to Rueben Devlin, a former hospital president, a former president of the Progressive Conservative party, and a close friend of Doug Ford. This is a three year contract that comes with $348,000 annual salary — on top of his existing, six-figure, public pension!  His role will be to think about new ways to end “hallway medicine”. Again, this cynical appointment exposes the falsehood behind the promise about putting “an end to the government’s party with your money”. Over three years that’s $1 million — money which could be better used to employ unionized nurses to try to help deal with treatment delays in our hospital hallway medicine crisis.

At a time of dramatic climate change and extreme global warming, the Tories have rolled back most of the mild green energy efforts of the previous Liberal Ontario government. The new Minister of the Environment, Rod Phillips, stated that government will come up with its own plan to fight climate change that does not put an “onerous burden on the economy”. What do these plans entail?  To start, they cut government subsidies and supports for green energy technologies and appliances.  They cancelled 758 renewable energy contracts in an effort to save $790 million.  Soon the government will table legislation to kill the White Pines wind turbine project on Lake Ontario, south of Belleville, which is anticipated to leave taxpayers on the hook for about $100 million.

In what came as a shock to many people working in the Ontario Public Service (OPS), immediately after the election and following the Speech from the Throne, congratulatory messages were sent to the Tories by two major public sector unions, OPSEU and AMAPECO. This is a betrayal of working class resistance and solidarity. Instead of ‘cutting Ford some slack’, these organizations should be gearing up to defend the jobs and rights of all union members and stand up to defend the services of the people of Ontario.

The first thing on his legislative agenda is busting the four months-long strike of teaching and graduate assistants at York University. CUPE Local 3903 members walked off the job on March 5 seeking improved job security as well as better funding for the university. It is now the longest academic strike in Canadian history. Not surprisingly, rather than using their authority to encourage York U to go back to the bargaining table, to come to a negotiated settlement, the Tories have chosen to make one of their first legislative initiatives an attack on workers, and ultimately an attack on the quality of education at Ontario universities. After four and a half months on the picket line, the courageous workers of CUPE 3903 now have to deal with the harsh reality that they will be unjustly, and unconstitutionally, legislated back to work. And at this critical time, the mis-leaders of two major public service unions should be ashamed of themselves for offering the government congratulations. CUPE 3903 deserves union solidarity, not offers of collaboration with the political thugs who aim to force them back to work.

The Tories also plan to repeal the 2015 sexual education curriculum. In its place, the Tory homophobes have promised to bring back the 1998 curriculum! This is a highly sanitized version of curriculum that preceded high-speed internet and Google, a time before cyber bullying and the dangers of sexting, a time before open and honest discussions about consent, sexuality, gender identity, and same-sex relationships. The Tories are doing this, it seems, largely to appease a tiny minority of social conservatives in their ranks, such as the religious-nut Charles McVety, right-wing newspaper columnist Barbara Kay, national president of the anti-abortion Campaign Life Coalition, Jim Hughes, and the newly appointed Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education, the home-schooled 20 year old, Sam Oosterhoff, all of whom backed Doug Ford in his bid to become leader of the party.

The Tory thugs have also announced they will cut essential curriculum development, which was started on recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  They put a stop to the development of an American Sign Language (ASL) curriculum, and they have cut all funding for crucial school repairs.

Next, it is likely they will repeal Bill 148, the labour law reforms that include a $15/hour minimum wage set for 2019. This will probably be followed by a tax cut of 20 per cent that will most benefit the rich. His tax credit for child care costs will not create more spaces, raise or enforce standards, or boost pay for low wage workers. No steps to build social housing, and no significant increase in health care funding are in store. The Ford government has also postponed implementation of the Ontario Special Investigations Unit Act aimed at improving police oversight. Ontario is headed towards a return to carding – a practice that disproportionately targets black and brown people. Carding is a racist practice that stigmatises minorities, but does nothing to stop crime. This decision was made just days before Michael Tibollo, the Minister of Community Safety and Corrections, the man tasked with heading up the Anti-Racism Directorate, said in the Ontario Legislature that he wore a bulletproof vest when visiting Toronto’s largely poor and racialized neighborhood of Jane and Finch. The Tories seem uninhibited when it comes to revealing their racist bigotry. This kind of frenzied, toxic atmosphere is what the Tories are rapidly fostering.

On June 17, Doug Ford’s office announced the creation of an Independent Financial Commission of Inquiry into Ontario’s past spending and accounting practices. This inquiry will be under the direction of former Liberal Premier of British Columbia Gordon Campbell. It’s another indication that Tories and Liberals are cut from the same cloth. The $6 billion that Ford promised to find in “efficiencies” translates to firing thousands of teachers, health workers and others in the public sector. Cuts in services will be staggering and bloody, impacting most harshly on the impoverished. Ford is a job killer, and a servant to his corporate buddies whose taxes he will greatly reduce, putting the province deeper in the hole.

So what can we do? We need more than just talk about recreating the Days of Action which challenged Ontario Premier Mike Harris in the mid-1990s. In fact, a better action model is needed to avoid a repeat of what happened then. Leaders of the Ontario Federation of Labour and its major affiliates terminated the momentum-gathering Days of Action before they risked losing control of the movement. The result was massive demoralization of the labour movement and ultimately the re-election of Mike Harris in 1999. And if you think things were bad during the Mike Harris years, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Urgently needed is real, unlimited, militant action. But so far, we have seen very little coordinated resistance. Socialist Action is circulating widely a resolution to encourage all unions, every NDP electoral district association, social justice movements and working class organizations to discuss and adopt a plan in favour of coordinated mass action.

If working class organizations go on record now in favour of mass action opposition to the Ford/Conservative agenda in Ontario, and for a democratic united front of resistance to capitalist austerity, it will help to prepare and coordinate the next phase of struggle. It can also be a very useful item in our tool kit to connect with rank and file workers, fighters against oppression of every kind, and social justice movements.

The resolution, presented below, calls for a democratic united front of resistance to capitalist austerity and it will help to prepare and coordinate the next phase of what is going to be a very long struggle.

“Be it resolved that ……. (fill in your union, NDP association and/or community organization) request that the Ontario Federation of Labour hold an emergency convention to adopt an action plan to confront and defeat the Doug Ford – Progressive Conservative government agenda.

Be it further resolved that …….. (your union, etc.) commits to respond with mass protests, including rallies, demonstrations and job actions,up to and including sectoral and general strikes, against Doug Ford – PC government attacks on public services, civil liberties, equity seeking groups, unions and non-organized workers in this province. We believe that all unions and social justice partners, in anticipation of serious cuts to jobs and services, should go on immediate strike alert and build a broad, democratic united front of resistance.”

The only way to stop the Ford-nado that is about to ravage the province is to shut it down before the mix of hot air and cold hearts gains too much strength and power. We can do this only by building an impenetrable wall of resistance and opposition, which could be a vital step towards a Workers’ Agenda for Ontario.

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It’s War

The June 7 election of the Doug Ford-led Progressive Conservative Party to government in Ontario means an escalation of the class war against working people, visible minorities and impoverished social layers.

The former right wing Toronto city councilor and brother of deceased Mayor Rob Ford cloaked his fiercely anti-labour agenda in populist rhetoric pitched against ‘the establishment, the downtown elites’.  This allowed Doug Ford to channel mass discontent with 15 years of Liberal government cutbacks and corruption.  Premier Kathleen Wynne tried to save the furniture from the fire with a late shift to the left (e.g. increasing the minimum hourly wage, promising more spending to improve health services).  But her Liberal Party lost half its voters and is now reduced to a rump of seven seats in the Ontario Legislature, one shy of official party status.

The labour-based New Democratic Party, running on a mildly left-reform platform, surged to 33.6 per cent and nearly doubled its seat total to 40.  Several of its best policies (re-nationalize Hydro One, free university, drug and dental care, raise taxes on the rich, build social housing and public transit) came straight from the NDP Socialist Caucus playbook.

Andrea Horwath was over-the-top ecstatic at becoming Leader of the Official Opposition, pledging to hold Ford “to account”.  But this won’t do.  The Tory agenda today is much more aggressive than that of right wing Premier Mike Harris in the mid-1990s.  The horror show must be confronted and stopped by mass protest in the streets and work places, not by reliance on polite parliamentary criticism.

NDP and union leaders should be challenged to lead the fight outside the Legislature. In fact, the labour tops should have mobilized the ranks to campaign for the NDP, to counter the threat of the rampant anti-worker agenda of Ford and his conservative hate mongers. A serious effort to expose Ford’s populist propaganda might well have won the election for the NDP. Instead many labour officials sat on their asses; some even urged ‘strategic’ voting, which meant a vote for the Liberal Party. Unforgivable. This shows why union leaders should be paid no more than the average wage of their union collective agreement. Privileges and fat expense accounts be gone! Replace the conservative bureaucrats with rank and file militants and turn the unions into instruments of class struggle.

Still, one thing is very clear:  Doug Ford’s victory does not signal a unilateral shift to the right. The election rather reflects a polarization to both the left and the right.  The highly disproportionate first-past-the-post electoral system perpetuates capitalist rule by usually delivering a majority of seats to parties that gain a minority of votes. On June 7 the Conservatives captured 61 per cent of the seats (76 in total) with only 40.5 per cent of the votes cast.  In other words, nearly 60 per cent of those who cast ballots supported parties ostensibly to the left of the Tories. That includes the Green Party which won 4.6 per cent and (for the first time in Ontario) one seat. Taking into account a voter turnout of 58 per cent (up from 51 per cent in 2014), it is evident that only about a quarter of the electorate backed Ford Nation.

But Ford says he has a mandate to implement his policies, swiftly.  What are they?  He will probably begin by breaking the strike of teaching assistants at York University, CUPE Local 3903, and then repeal Bill 148, the labour law reforms that include a $15/hour minimum wage set for 2019.  Next will be a tax cut of 20 per cent that will most benefit the rich.  His tax credit for child care costs will not create more spaces, raise or enforce standards, or boost pay for low wage workers.  No steps to build social housing, and no significant increase in health care funding are in store.  On transportation, Ford pledged to take ownership of Toronto’s subway system, which could be the fast track to privatization — while bus service remains woefully inadequate.

Jobs?  The $6 billion Ford says he will find in “efficiencies” translates to firing thousands of teachers, health workers and others in the public sector.  Scores of schools and hospitals will be shuttered.  Cuts in services will be staggering and bloody, impacting most harshly on the impoverished.  Welfare rates will be rolled back and frozen.  Will hydro bills shrink by 12 per cent as promised?  Not likely as the private investors in Hydro One, sold off by Wynne’s Liberals, demand profit dividends.  Most workers won’t miss the demise of the regressive cap-and-trade taxes, a license to pollute, but there is no climate justice plan in its stead.  Hostile to indigenous people’s needs, Ford boasted he’d personally drive the bulldozer to exploit rapidly the Ring of Fire resources in Northern Ontario, with or without local consent.

On education, the Tories promised to repeal the new sex-ed curriculum but earmarked no new funds to repair crumbling school infrastructure.

Surprisingly, Ford never presented a fully costed platform. Economists estimate that the changes he promised, including tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, will create a $20 billion budget hole.  The shortfall is sure to come out of the hide of the working class.

Many workers who voted for Ford expect him to put money in their pocket and deliver $1 beer.  Imagine the disillusionment, indeed the raw anger, that will be felt when they realize they’re less well off.

As Karl Marx observed over 150 years ago, “The point is not to interpret the world, it is to change it.”  Today, the task is not to wait for unfocussed anger at Ford to swell; it is to fan the flames of discontent, build a broad, democratic, united front against capitalist austerity. It is to provide leadership in the struggle for a Workers’ Agenda.  The municipal elections in October offer an opportunity for the left to unite and confront the Ford agenda with a socialist platform. In any case, the road to effective action at all levels will entail replacing the leaders of the mainstream workers’ organizations with radical grassroots activists.

The class war is escalating.  There is no denying it.  The point is to wage it and to win it through mass protests, up to and including sectoral and general strikes with the aim of replacing the Ford regime with a Workers’ Government.

Big Biz comes out ahead in Toronto city election

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Chow snatches defeat from the jaws of victory
by Barry Weisleder
Big business scored a big win in the October 28 Toronto municipal election. While voters rejected the mayoral bid of ultra-conservative, bully-Councillor Doug Ford, they put Bay Street big wig and corporate fixer John Tory into the top job in Canada’s biggest city. Ex-New Democrat MP Olivia Chow marginalized herself with one of the least effective city campaigns in memory.
Doug Ford was a last-minute stand-in for his drug-addicted, cancer-afflicted, younger brother Rob Ford. For four years, Rob was Toronto’s right wing populist rogue mayor, and the butt of international late night TV comedy.
Tory won with 40 per cent of the city-wide votes cast. Ford attracted 34 per cent, and Chow trailed with 23 per cent. The turnout was 61 per cent — a significant rise from 51 per cent in 2010. In Mississauga to the west, only 36 per cent bothered to vote.
At his victory party, John Tory, who was briefly leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, and for a longer stint was CEO at the Canadian Football League, crowed that the result put an “end to the division that has paralyzed City Hall.” The strongly pro-Liberal Party Toronto Star seemed to agree, hailing the “return to normalcy”. A look at Tory’s platform reveals that it has much in common with the Fords’ agenda — minus the soap-operatic drama.
Tory pledged to privatize garbage collection on the east side of the city, following the Ford union-busting initiative west of Yonge Street. Tory promised no new taxes on the rich. He offered no social housing construction plan, and no measures to alleviate poverty and hunger in the city. His answer to traffic congestion, now at epic proportions, is a pie-in-the-sky scheme that involves borrowing billions and hoping for higher property tax revenues at future rapid transit stops.
imagesOlivia Chow, widow of deceased federal NDP Leader Jack Layton, led in opinion polls from January to June, but faltered over the summer months. Chow’s vacuous message “New Mayor. Better City.”, and her weak style, led establishment and middle class forces, who were desperate to purge Toronto of the Ford embarrassment, to rally behind John Tory’s “sensible” option. It is no wonder that the two campaigns were so similar in their blandness. Chow’s was run by Liberal and NDP honchos. Tory’s was headed by Conservative and Liberal wags. It was a difference without a distinction.
Chow shifted slightly to the left after Labour Day. She advanced the idea of a higher property transfer tax on residences that sell for over $2 million. But it was too little, too late. For ten long months she said nothing about police racial profiling and deadly shootings by cops, nor about the imminent flow of environment-threatening bitumen through pipe Line 9 across the top of the city.
Chow followed in the footsteps of Andrea Horwath, the Ontario NDP Leader, whose Spring provincial election campaign failed in similar ways. Their common error: fiscal conservatism that alienates a left working class base, while proving unable to win support among the affluent or in business circles.
The composition of the new city council is not unlike the outgoing one. Thirty-six incumbents were re-elected to fill the 44 council seats – producing a snake pit of hard line conservatives, compromising liberals, and soft-on-austerity New Democrats.
In other words, the neo-liberal agenda of cutbacks and privatization is alive and well. Residents and workers face four more years of battles against austerity measures, while poverty, violence and congestion increase.
The election was also a magnet for racism, sexism and homophobia, which ‘Ford Nation’ steadily PJT-FordFest-25.jpgexcreted and excused. Among the targets were Chow, councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (an open lesbian, re-elected in Ward 27) and school trustee candidate Ausma Malik (elected in Ward 19). Most Torontonians rejected bigotry, but did so in a neo-liberal context that defined the political alternatives as ‘progressivism’ versus ‘conservatism’, rather than posing class against class, or socialism versus capitalism.
What should the workers’ movement do in such an untenable situation?
Demand a break from the disastrous political treadmill of vacuous ‘progressivism’, which is just a cunning mask for capitalist austerity. Launch the fight for a Labour City Hall, based on direct action and socialist policies.
The first step, as we argued two years ago, and earlier, is to demand that the NDP and Toronto and York Region Labour Council convene a mass municipal political action convention. Such a gathering should be held in 2016. It should shoulder the task of adopting a Workers’ Agenda and selecting a team of candidates for all city offices who will be accountable to working people through their mass organizations.
Now is the time to start moving forward on this course, while mobilizing in the streets and communities against the coming attacks sure to emanate from a city hall that operates more and more like a subsidiary of Corporate Canada.
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SA candidate got 9% in Mississauga
tlheadshotSocialist Action candidate for School Board Trustee in Mississauga Wards 3/4, Evan Engering, received 1,322 votes, 9 per cent of the total votes cast in that election race.
This is the first time Socialist Action, founded in 1994, presented a candidate in an election for public office. Evan Engering, a leading member of Youth for Socialist Action, a young worker and a member of UFCW, is now a student at Sheridan College. His campaign relied on social media, a web site, a cable TV appearance, and a modest leaflet — with no funds for lawn signs, a campaign office, or flashy advertizing.
But when over one thousand people in a working class section of Mississauga vote for an openly socialist candidate it is no fluke. It demonstrates a real interest in radical change. Socialist Action will soon explore the extent of this new attraction to socialist ideas by hosting a public meeting in the community 20 minutes west of Toronto.