The warm rays of the sun appeared just in time for university workers and their supporters to take demands for decent income and job security to the streets of Toronto on Saturday, March 21.
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.
Olivia 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.
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.
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.
Evan Engering is running in the municipal election in Mississauga wards 3 and 5. Read the campaign platform here
ELECT EVAN ENGERING
SOCIALIST ACTION – SCHOOL TRUSTEE CANDIDATE –
Mississauga WARDS 3 & 4
I am a student, labour activist and have been a resident of Mississauga for 24 years. My family has a long history of learning at, and working for the Peel District School Board. I care deeply about our public school system. From the fight against Bill 160 in the Conservative Mike Harris years, to the most recent dispute with the McGuinty/Wynne Liberal government, I have walked the picket line with teachers, defending their right to decent wages and collective bargaining. As a student, I have taken part in demonstrations in Ontario and Quebec in favour of free, quality post-secondary education for everyone.
This municipal election is full of liberals, conservatives, and other candidates who have no plans to change the status quo, or to make Mississauga a better place in which to live. With land development firms making bigger campaign contributions than any other entity – while public services shrink — it’s clear who’s calling the shots and who’s getting left behind.
The school trustee races are particularly lacking in policy platforms. Most candidates seem content to run on vague slogans and platitudes, rather than advance clear ideas, let alone good ones. This is why it is time for a change. We need real working class candidates to stand up for our public services and to offer a bold direction, to fight for radical change, to ensure that everyone is guaranteed free and equal access to quality public services.
- For free secular public education, with one school system in English, and one in French. No public funding for religious, separate or private schools.
- End standardized testing. End streaming of students into dead-end courses.
- No cutbacks. No school closures.
- For free collective bargaining for all education workers. For decent pay, benefits and job security for teachers, substitute teachers, hall monitors, lunch room attendants and school office staff.
- Elimination of property tax on primary residences.
- For steeply progressive taxation of land developers, big corporations and banks, religious institutions and the rich.
- A new needs-based funding formula to cover the real costs of public education.
- Smaller class sizes in every grade; more teachers and support staff.
- Give students a greater range of subjects and make improvements in culture, arts, music, sports and environmental studies.
- Increasing funding for Adult Education and English as a Second Language (ESL) program’s.
- Voting rights in civic elections for permanent residents.
Endorsed by Mississauga New Democratic Youth
Over 400 people rallied on Saturday, September 20 outside the uptown Toronto constituency office of Conservative Finance Minister Joe Oliver to demand a halt to Tory and Canada Post Corporation plans to eliminate home mail delivery and set higher prices for postage.
Participants came from as far away as Vernon, B.C. and Charlottetown, P.E.I. They included retired auto workers from Oshawa, and a group of posties who hired a bus in Hamilton, Ontario.
Rally chair Elizabeth Byce, a proud retired member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, past Secretary of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council and a leading member of Socialist Action, welcomed the crowd. In the breezy, warm sunshine she led-off the proceedings with a few chants: “1,2,3,4, mail delivery door-to-door, 5,6,7,8, stop increasing postal rates”, “Stop the Cuts at Canada Post”, and “They say Cutback. We say Fightback”.
“I say to Finance Minister Joe Oliver, you can hide, but you cannot escape our anger, and you cannot avoid our determination to hold you and your government accountable for cuts to the postal service that Canadians hold dear. Keep your bloody hands off our public services!”, Byce told the gathering.
“Many organizations have endorsed this rally. They are listed on the newspaper ads and the leaflets you’ve seen. New endorsers include: the Workers’ Action Centre, York Region Catholic Teachers, United Steel Workers – Toronto Area Council, and the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP). We thank them all.”
She then introduced the rally speakers as follows:
“Denis Lemelin, the leader of the fight to save vital postal services and good jobs, is the President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. His involvement in the union began in 1979 when he started as a postal clerk in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
“Marie Clark-Walker comes out of CUPE-Ontario. She celebrates her Jamaican heritage, and is a Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress.
“Sid Ryan, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour, is a past-President of CUPE-Ontario, and is former Ontario Tory Leader Tim Hudak’s worst enemy.
“Sharon DeSoussa is the Regional Executive Vice-President in Ontario for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
“Barry Weisleder is the person who organized the rally from scratch. He is a teacher, union activist, journalist and the federal secretary of Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste. (See the text of his speech below.)
“Mark Brown is the Education and Organizing Officer for the Metro Toronto Region of CUPW, and is also a member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.
“Hockey has its Hall of Fame, and so does Labour. Buzz Hargrove is a past President of the Canadian Auto Workers. He speaks today on behalf of Unifor, Canada’s newest and biggest private sector union.
“The Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, which generously contributed to the publicity tools that made this rally a success, is represented by a Vice President of OPSEU, Myles Magner.
“The Canadian Union of Public Employees in Ontario played a key role in promoting the protest. Fred Hahn is the President of CUPE-Ontario, and a long-time fighter for LGBT rights and dignity.
“Liz Rowley is the Ontario leader of the Communist Party and a former school board trustee.
“Carolyn Egan is President of the United Steetworkers’ Toronto Area Council and a member of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council executive.
“Chris Clay is a leader of CUPW in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
“CUPW Union Rep Mike Palecek, based in Ottawa, is here today to sing his new anti-austerity, anti-Stephen Harper song, which debuted on Parliament Hill at the People’s Social Forum rally on August 21.”
The rally chair reminded everyone that the campaign to Save Canada Post continues, and called on people to attend a meeting of the Toronto Organizing Committee to plan the next steps.
Extensive coverage of the Toronto protest featured prominently on that day’s 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news broadcast of CITY-TV.
The following is the text of the remarks of rally organizer Barry Weisleder:
“Sisters and brothers, it’s great to see such a large crowd here on this beautiful day. Did you enjoy the summer? I did. I spent much of it organizing this rally, and I’d like to tell you why.
“Firstly, I’m sick and tired of Tory lies. Canada Post is profitable. And it could be even more profitable if we had postal banking. We need good jobs. Killing over 8,000 letter carrier jobs makes no sense — unless you are a corporate vulture planning to dine on the dismembered parts of a vital public service.
leave for its members, a gain that spread to all organized workers. CUPW has been in the forefront of solidarity campaigns with workers’ struggles, at home and abroad, for generations. That’s why it has legions of allies.
Now is the time to returnthat solidarity, and to stopthe onslaught against public services and workers’ rights. It is also a golden opportunity to boot the Harper Conservatives from office, and to bust up the bosses’ offensive.
“They’re feeling the pressure. The plan to terminate home mail delivery is possibly the most unpopular policy of the Tory government. But it’s tied to many others. Like undermining pensions and E.I. Gutting health and safety in the work place. Promoting dirty oil pipelines. Plundering aboriginal lands. Victimizing migrant workers. Sending troops to Iraq. Backing the seige of Gaza. Giving tax breaks to big corporations. Watching our cities descend into the despair of grid-lock and homelessness.
There’s a funny saying: “Capitalism is just a phase we’re going through.” Unfortunately, this phase is killing the planet and its inhabitants. Its stale date is well over a century old. We need ways to break the grip of the 0.1%.
“We can bring down the Tories. We can restore and expand public services. Broaden the battle for social equality and a genuine economic democracy. And perhaps, we can shake this rotten system to its core, and bring to birth a cooperative commonwealth in our time. Let’s make the most of it. Let’s fight to win, in solidarity.”
government and Canada Post Corporation to reverse plans to end home mail delivery, to eliminate thousands of jobs in the postal service, and to
raise the price of postage.