by Kurt Young*
Since it came to government, Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party has been in a mad rush to ram through as much legislation as possible. Ford claims a mandate from the 2018 Ontario election where the Tories won 76 of 124 seats, but received only 40.5% of the votes cast. Their new laws are an attack on the poor and working class people of Ontario. Nothing exemplifies that better than the proposed omnibus Bill 66.
The many Schedules of Bill 66 are replete with attacks on workers’ rights. Schedule 1 removes the right of ornamental horticultural workers to form a union by adding that industry to the Agricultural Employees Protection Act. Schedule 9 states that collective agreements pertaining to construction workers will no longer be binding on public institutions, like school boards or hospitals. The bill removes protections against excessive hours of work and unpaid overtime. It makes it harder for workers to learn about their rights on the job.
Bill 66 attacks public oversight. In Schedule 8 all references to public consultation within the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Act have been removed, save for one, which leaves the power to call public hearings with regard to Long-term Care facilities solely in the hands of an appointed bureaucrat. In Schedule 4 all references to sub-meters, a device used to monitor the power usage of individual units in an apartment complex, have been removed. Potentially, that removes apartment units from the purview of the Energy Board.
As egregious as are the above provisions, the Conservatives outdo themselves by attacking public safety. Schedule 2 of the Bill repeals the entirety of the Pawnbrokers’ Act removing the need for pawnbrokers to be licensed and removing legal guidelines when potentially dealing with stolen goods. Schedule 5 repeals the Toxic Reduction Act and Schedule 7 eliminates Ontario’s requirement for labeling upholstered and stuffed articles which will leave Ontarians ignorant of potentially harmful materials contained in the pillows, sofas and stuffed toys that consumers buy for their children. These are only a handful of the harmful provisions contained in Bill 66.
The Conservative government and Bill 66 should be opposed at every instance. But a big problem is the antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system that enables a party to gain the majority of the seats without receiving the majority of the votes. When we take to the streets to stop the Ford agenda, we should also demand proportional representation so that no government can exercise absolute legislative control against the will of the majority of the people.
* Kurt Young is a member of the Sheetmetal Workers’ Union and Socialist Action.