Tag Archives: municipal election

Why I am running for Toronto City Council

by Peter D’Gama

I am the Socialist Action candidate in the October 22 municipal election in Toronto because I want to bring a Workers’ Agenda to City Hall. For the past decade I have seen inequality grow while corporate profits, particularly those of the financial sector, rise astronomically. Life for workers has become more precarious as we have to settle for jobs paying minimum wage and work long hours just to meet the high cost of housing, both rental and for home ownership. Many workers have been pushed into precarious economic situations, which lands some on the streets.

This situation is made worse by capitalist politicians preaching cuts to social and community services and for privatization of public assets such as mass transit. I ran in 2010 as an independent socialist to protest the militarization of the city during the G20 Summit. Today I am running as a member of Socialist Action — for a Workers’ Agenda that is anti-capitalist, that seeks to take back public space and assets controlled by private interests.

The city, as radical geographer David Harvey famously said, is a site for class struggle. While we are not yet in a revolutionary period reminiscent of the Paris Commune of 1871 or the Russian Revolution of 1917 when workers took control away from bourgeois interests, we do see that socialism is becoming more relevant to young workers seeking to escape the traps of the capitalist mode of production.

I am running to stop landlords and large real estate investment trusts from making huge profits at the expense of renters who face whopping increases and deteriorating living conditions. Housing is a human right, not a privilege. As such we have to prioritize human needs, not private profits, by imposing strong rent controls and by building public housing massively. We need a housing agency that acts as a developer utilizing city owned land and by nationalizing a construction company to facilitate rapid building of affordable housing. Socialist Action aims to stop the sharp decline of investment in public transit and to build Light Rapid Transit and a downtown relief subway line, while at the same demanding free and accessible public transit.

As a long-time paralegal and community organizer in Etobicoke North, I am running not to be another seat holder, but to be a worker/activist who opposes neoliberal policies on council and on the street. I pledge if elected to take only 50% of a Councillor’s salary and spend the rest on community organizing to mobilize workers in Etobicoke North against anti-worker policies such as reduction of minimum wage, cancellation of LRTs and advocate for a just energy transition and the creation of green jobs. That includes putting solar panels on the roofs of city-owned buildings, making sure that green jobs are unionized, and ensuring that projects come under democratic workers’ and community control.

I stand with the theatrical stage workers represented by IATSE Local 58 and against the union-busting antics of Exhibition Place and City Council. Stop contracting-out. End the lock-out. Defend decent jobs. Improve wages, benefits and pensions. Organize the unorganized. Workers make the city run. Workers should run the city.

When will they ever learn?

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.
stubbornRemember 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
visit: www.socialistaction.ca phone: 416-535-8779
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.