Tag Archives: New Democratic Party

Terror bill, MP defection, show Liberals, Tories more alike

by Barry Weisleder
The massive ‘anti-terror’ Bill C-51 that Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is rushing through the House of Commons has been roundly denounced, including by four former Prime Ministers and five ex-Supreme Court judges. It would create a secret police force with powers to spy on Canadians, to break the law in order to disrupt protest groups, and to detain suspects on the thin grounds that a crime “may occur.”

Continue reading Terror bill, MP defection, show Liberals, Tories more alike

NDP Childcare Plan – a step forward

Thomas Mulcair, Nathan CullenThough federal New Democratic Party Leader Tom Mulcair rules out hiking taxes on corporations and the super-rich, and promotes investment in climate-wrecking fossil fuels and pipelines, the party’s campaign for a cross-country child care plan is a breath of fresh air.
Stealing a march on the ruling Conservatives and the third party Liberals, the labour-based NDP Official Opposition launched its election platform, more than a year before the anticipated 2015 vote. It did so with a pledge to create one million $15-a-day child care spaces across the country within eight years.
While the time frame resembles the agonizing pace recently proposed by Mulcair for raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour (i.e. by the year 2018), it has the merit of putting child care back at the top of the political agenda.
It also represents a step away from years of retrenchment and towards the expansion of public services.
BuimVSnIAAAnuuC.jpg largeThe NDP plan depends on partnership with the provinces. Ottawa would fund 370,000 child care spaces at a federal cost of $1.87 billion. The annual cost to create or maintain one million affordable spaces would rise to more than $5 billion by 2023 when the plan is fully implemented.
The provinces would be responsible for 40 per cent of the program’s costs. Mulcair points out that some provinces like Ontario, which has two years of full-day kindergarten, are already spending heavily in early childhood education and care. The aim, which may miss-fire on this point, is to have most provinces signed on to the program.
The prospect of success is a testament to the demands of millions of working parents who clamour for economic relief. While workers’ incomes have been frozen or shrinking for decades, the cost of living continues to rise. Toronto parents can pay up to $2000 a month for child care with average costs eating up more than 18 per cent of average Canadian family income. A $15 a day, or $300 a month plan would be a real boon. Quebec now provides $7 per day childcare.
Across Canada there are licensed child-care spaces for just 22.5 per cent of children under age 5 at a time when more than 73 per cent of young mothers are working.
After the Conservatives won the 2005 federal election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper scrapped a Liberal child care plan, which the Liberals spent 13 years discussing, and replaced it with a $100 monthly payout for parents with young children. In late October, under mounting pressure from the NDP, Harper said his government will increase the benefit next Spring to $160 a month – which is still far short of the private costs most parents face. A public plan could meet the social need, and do so at a higher standard of care.
The question is, assuming there is broad provincial agreement, how would Mulcair fund the federal share of the program he proposes. And how would he meet similarly urgent needs in the areas of education, health care, social housing, public transportation, and conversion to a green energy system?
There is no indication that Mulcair is prepared to cut the military budget, make industrial polluters clean up their mess, and steeply tax big business and the banks – all of which would be modest but necessary steps towards a Workers’ Agenda.
— BW

OPS benefits cut, but NDP’s Horwath silent, and OFL’s Ryan pissed

Following the lead of the federal Conservative regime, the Ontario Liberal government announced that, starting in 2017, it will force its public service workers to pay more and work twice as long to qualify for retirement benefits such as life insurance and health coverage.

The measures, which require retirees to pay half their benefit premiums, now fully funded by Queen’s Park, and necessitate 20 years’ service instead of the present 10, are not subject to negotiation, which they will be at the federal level. Liberal Government Services Minister John Milloy simply imposed the changes, aimed at saving $1.2 Billion over five years. This will be directly at the expense of provincial workers, and indirectly harms all workers by the example it sets.
Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union President Warren (Smokey) Thomas denounced the “out of the blue” move. “We are looking at our options.”
According to President of the Ontario Federation of Labour, Sid Ryan, when Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was asked by reporters about this, she said “No comment.”
horwathThat was coupled with Horwath’s avoidance of the minimum wage issue for months. Then she proposed a measly increase, over two years – just $1 more than the insulting Liberal increase of 75 cents to take effect this Spring. While Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne sets the poverty wage at $11/hour, Horwath would make it $12/hour (in 2016). Labour and many anti-poverty groups demand a $14/hour minimum now, indexed to the rate of influation. Socialists, and some unions like CUPE-Ontario call for $17/hour now, fully indexed. Apparently, that doesn’t fit with Horwath’s appeal to ‘middle class’ voters, and to “making life more affordable.”
Sid Ryan delivered a scathing report to the Ontario NDP provincial council on the morning of March 2. He said he was “perplexed” by the process and by the weak position taken on the minimum wage.
Ryan minced no words in stating how disturbed he was to hear that NDP MPPs voted in the Ontario Legislature for a Conservative motion that opposes any increase in corporate taxation. He additionally denounced Horwath’s call for a reduction in taxes on small business, from the present 5% to 3.5%, to support a tiny increase in the minimum wage. “How will an NDP government pay for improvements in transportation, health, education and other vital services if it doesn’t plan to tax those who can afford to pay more?”
On the topic of pensions, Ryan bluntly warned that if Queen’s Park initiates an Ontario pension plan because Ottawa refuses to increase the CPP, it had better be a universal plan, with no opt-out features, or Labour will vigorously oppose it. He explained, in advance, his reasons for concern.
“There is no consultation with unions by the party leadership. Policy decisions are just announced. There may be a wise and grand strategy behind it all, but it’s certainly not evident to me,” Ryan complained.ryan_syd
Finally, the OFL President insisted on the importance of the campaign to defend postal services, to reverse the Tory-backed Canada Post plan to eliminate door-to-door mail delivery. He pointed to this writer as the organizer of a mass picket, set for March 15 at the Toronto office of Conservative Cabinet Minister Joe Oliver, and urged everyone to participate in the protest.
To those who claim that, no matter what the NDP does, labour has no where else to go, the OFL head warned: “Look at what happened in British Columbia. Workers there were alienated by the NDP, and when the election came, many just stayed at home.”
Sid Ryan concluded by confiding to the council that the harsh things he’d said were necessary to say, all true, and told from the heart – and that being frank about these matters may be the only way to get a real dialog going.
And he’s correct. But much more must be said, and done, to force the ONDP leadership off its present course, increasingly distant from the union movement, and increasingly cozy with the business class.
– BW1410784_498136460293937_261030378_o

Kellogg’s takes the money, and runs

B821471832Z.1_20131210191412_000_GA514PRQB.7_Contentby Barry Weisleder
How can they get away with it? Ontario taxpayers have given millions to cereal-maker Kellogg Co., which amassed $2 billion in operating profits last year. In 2007, the Liberal government gave the breakfast food giant $2.4 million to buy processing and packaging equipment for its London, Ontario plant, two hours west of Toronto. A year later the government provided Kellogg with a $9.7 million low-interest loan – about 10 per cent of the total cost of opening a new plant in Belleville, Ontario, two hours east of Toronto. And until Kellogg announced on December 10 that it is closing its 90-year old plant in London, and thus killing 610 jobs by the end of 2014, Queen’s Park was set to give Kellogg another grant for $4.5 million.
In other words, the Ontario government has been helping Kellogg to build a new, non-union manufacturing plant in Belleville so that the company can shutter an older, unionized operation in London, Ontario.
The corporate move is part of an overall restructuring, which by 2018 will include closing a plant in Australia and expanding a facility in low-wage Thailand.
kelloggs_closure_londonWe’ve seen this film before. In 2008, the Ontario and federal governments helped bail out General Motors. But when GM became profitable again, the company closed one of its two Oshawa assembly lines, and shifted some production from Ingersoll, Ontario to Tennessee. How’s that for gratitude? In recent years, Massey-Ferguson in Toronto, and the U.S. Steel Corp. in Hamilton behaved similarly.
So, to return to the question posed at the outset, how is this possible?
It is both possible and inevitable because the politicians and governments bestowing the public largesse on those greedy, anti-social firms are the servants of the super-rich.
Why don’t leaders of the unions and the labour-based New Democratic Party challenge the discredited practice of foolishly feeding the corporate elite, and instead advance the democratic idea of public ownership under workers’ and community control?
Surely society is capable of planning the production of useful things without having to bribe private profiteers who operate for a while, then flee, with stuffed pockets, to greener pastures.
To put the democratic option on the table it will take direct mass action from below — like Kellogg’s workers in London occupying the plant they made profitable with their sweat and toil – before its doors are locked forever.

Cracked, but still on track

rob_ford_vice2by Barry Weisleder
Too much ink already has been spilled to expose the antics of Toronto’s crack smoking, drunk driving, serial lying, gangster-linked mayor. The butt of late night comedy TV, Rob Ford is merely the unvarnished version of the establishment hardware.
But behind the ongoing Rob Ford soap opera are a few noteworthy points.
  1. The bourgeoisie in Canada’s biggest city is far from infallible. They committed a whopping error of judgement. By backing Ford, as some high rollers did, to channel popular resentment against the liberal-social democratic David Miller City Hall regime, and for failing to stop Ford (despite his well known fatal flaws) prior to the 2010 municipal election, the corporate elite got much more instability than they bargained for.
  2. When embarrassed and beset by the eccentric, belligerent and obstinate Ford brothers (suburban city councillors Doug and Rob), the city fathers didn’t stand on ceremony. They wielded, twisted and re-purposed the rules to strip Rob Ford of his mayoral powers to appoint and initiate. But be very certain of this: in the event that Toronto ever elects a socialist mayor, the agents of Capital will use the same select punitive procedures to hobble an insurgent left. Ergo the need to base a Labour City Hall on mobilized workers outside the stately edifice.
  3. The capitalist austerity agenda remains intact and on track. Unaffected, and perhaps abetted by the tantrums, abject apologies and woozy spectacles of distraction, are the policies that keep the burden of funding Toronto’s crumbling infrastructure on cash-strapped workers, seniors and the poor, while minimizing the taxation of the super-rich. While the business media declared war on the Fords, there is no business war being waged against poverty, homelessness, traffic gridlock, inadequate childcare, and environmental degradation. The only war we see is on workers, like garbage collectors, bus drivers, and rec centre staff. If City Hall pushed progressive change at the speed pipelines will move hazardous bitumen though Canada’s most densely populated urban corridor, a new day would truly be dawning.
    The question is, why have leaders of the unions and the NDP, and all the so-called ‘progressives’ presently on Toronto city council, not seized on the Ford debacle to trash the corporate agenda and set the stage for transformative action on inequality and urban decay?
Because that would require a break with higher user fees and putting a halt to pandering to big business as practiced by the David Miller/Joe Pantalone regime.
Instead, Toronto’s labour leadership 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 policies and to select candidates to fight for a Labour City Hall, we witness a relapse to the tactics that utterly failed in 2010.
The “Municipal Political Action Conference”, sponsored by Toronto and York Region Labour Council on November 16, was “designed for everyone who plans to get involved in the 2014 Municipal/School Board elections”. That meant it didn’t matter what are one’s policies and what are one’s links to big business parties, like the Liberal Party. Ignored is the reality that the Liberals share responsibility for cutbacks, privatizing public services, giving tax breaks to the rich, and curtailing the right to strike.
Quite revealing was the fact that the conference “Guest Speaker” was Jeremy Bird, former National Field Director for the 2012 re-election Campaign of President Barack Obama. Bird, readers will recall, 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, pro-big business bail-out, drone-wars regime in Washington.
The lessons of the failed David Miller mayorship, and the feckless 2010 ‘labour’ municipal campaign, are glaring. The situation cries out for a political alternative.
Instead of a multi-class, liberal smorgasbord of candidates and policies, labour needs an election team that demands: a free and greatly expanded rapid transit system, reversal of the cutbacks and privatizations, the mass construction of quality social housing to curb homelessness and poverty, a big expansion of quality childcare, and much greater support for the arts, parkland, and community sports facilities. To fund this agenda it is necessary to heavily tax the big land developers, property speculators, big businesses, the banks, religious institutions, and the rich.
The corporate elite is scrambling to find their ‘unity’ candidate for mayor. Perhaps it will be former provincial Conservative leader John Tory, or a right wing city councillor like Denzil Minnan-Wong or Karen Stintz.
So now is the time for the left to seize the opportunity. Ford’s fall from grace, and the momentary disarray of the right wing on city council is just the occasion to convene a real Labour Political Action Conference aimed at choosing policies and candidates to fight for, and to win a Workers’ Government at Toronto City Hall in 2014.