Once again, the leadership of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council and of several key union affiliates, is taking workers down the primrose path of liberal, middle class politics towards the October 2014 municipal election.
Rather than host a convention of labour activists and members of the labour-based New Democratic Party across Toronto and York Region to adopt platform policies and to select candidates to fight for a Labour City Hall, we see a relapse to the tactics that failed us in 2010.
The “Municipal Political Action Conference”, set for November 16, 2013 at 89 Chestnut Street, is “designed for everyone who plans to get involved in the 2014 Municipal/School Board elections”. That means regardless anyone’s policies and regardless their links to big business parties, like the Liberal Party, which bear responsibility for cutbacks, privatizing public services, giving tax breaks to the rich, and curtailing the right to strike.
It is quite revealing that the “Guest Speaker” at the Conference is Jeremy Bird, former National Field Director for the 2012 re-election Campaign of President Barack Obama. Obama is the chief executive tool of Wall Street who bailed out the world’s biggest criminal corporations. Obama wages endless wars of occupation around the world, propping up racist, sexist, homophobic rule abroad and at home.
What about Jeremy Bird? He was the target of a high profile protest, which forced him to cut short his speech at the NDP federal convention in Montreal in April 2013. It is shameful, and sadly indicative, that Toronto and York Region Labour Council officials would invite this ‘field director’ for the pro-austerity, big business, drone-wars regime in Washington.
The lessons of the failed David Miller mayorship and the feckless 2010 ‘labour’ municipal campaign are there for all to see. On the reverse side of this leaflet, read the analysis issued by Socialist Action in the immediate aftermath of the entirely preventable Rob Ford victory.
Instead of a multi-class, liberal smorgasbord of candidates and policies, labour needs an election team that demands: free public transit, a major expansion of the rapid transit system, reverse the cutbacks and privatization, build quality social housing to curb homelessness, and to fund this agenda, tax the developers, big business, the banks, religious institutions, and the rich.
Remember the old adage: The first time you fool me, shame on you. The second time you fool me, shame on me.
Don’t be fooled again. Protest the invitation of US Democratic Party imperialist hack Jeremy Bird. No support for Liberal, Conservative, Green Party, or ‘independent’ candidates. Turn the Political Action Conference into a policy-making, candidate selection gathering aimed at fighting for, and winning a Workers’ Government at City Hall in 2014.
Join Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste
What led to Rob Ford’s win?
The ‘realistic left’ at Toronto City Hall blew it. Thanks to them, the municipal election was a write-off.
By pandering to big developers and the rich, by targeting civic workers instead of tax-withholding banks, by hiking user fees (and politicians’ perks) while slashing community services, David Miller and company pushed tens of thousands of working people into the boa constrictor-like embrace of Rob Ford and George Smitherman.
Joe Pantalone, the hapless apologist for the Liberal-NDP coalition government, Joe ‘Pants’, the Bob Rae of City Council, alienated his base and deprived voters of a principled, independent working class alternative to the big business right wing, right from the start.
Many unionists and progressives in Canada’s biggest city were stunned by the scope of the victory of right wing populist Councillor Rob Ford in the race for mayor. Equally disturbing, an increased number of Ford-like labour-haters captured seats on Toronto City Council on October 25 — possibly enough to fashion a voting majority to implement an agenda of severe social and culture cuts, plus privatization and contracting-out measures.
The turnout of 52 per cent of eligible voters, compared to 39 per cent in 2006, rewarded candidates who promised “change”. Ford received 47 per cent of the votes cast. Former Ontario Liberal Health Minister George Smitherman, running on a similar programme of austerity and privatization, got 36 per cent.
Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, propped up by a disintegrating band of labour tops and fellow Councillors, came third with 12 per cent. Pantalone helped to steer the informal Liberal Party-New Democratic Party coalition that ran Toronto City Hall for seven years. That regime not only raised taxes and increased user fees while reducing public services. It forced 30,000 municipal workers into a bitter 40 day strike over wages and pensions. It abused workers and whetted the appetite of the corporate elite for more labour concessions.
A stormy period of clashes over the fate of city jobs and services is now in store. Hopefully, there will be mass resistance to the corporate agenda. If there is, it may hasten the realization that unions must break with the Liberals and fight for an up-front NDP-Labour slate of candidates committed to socialist policies prior to the next municipal vote in 2014.
How can this be done? Long before the next city election, after voters have digested the bitter fruit of opportunism, it will be time to return to the future. Labour and the NDP should convene a broad, mass, participatory convention to fashion a socialist platform and select candidates who can be held accountable to it, to run for all municipal offices. Just as the NDP and labour did in the 1960s and 70s, before the left-populism of Sewell and Crombie dulled our senses and muddled the class line at City Hall, a workers’ slate can be built again.
Union activists: Demand that independent working class party politics be reintroduced to the municipal arena. Fight for electoral reform, including preferential ballots.Give workers a real choice. Otherwise, the tragedy of October 25 will become a permanent farce – at the expense of the working class and our urban environment.