Four years ago, Dalton McGuinty’s urged Ontarians to “Choose Change.” After nearly a decade of some of the most vicious attacks upon the working class in Canadian history, Ontario workers were promised “class peace” and a new government that would nurture them.
Four years later, the picture has, not surprisingly, changed very little. In fact, for thousands of Ontario workers, the picture today is much bleaker than even in the dreaded Mike Harris years of the late 1990s. Since McGuinty’s election, Ontario has lost over 140,000 manufacturing jobs, of which about 15,000 have been lost in the GTA since the beginning of this year. These jobs have disappeared, only to be replaced by poorly paid call centre or service sector jobs.
Since being elected, the Liberals have also launched a whole litany of attacks on Ontario’s working class – perhaps not as blunt as the Tory attacks of the past but significant, nonetheless. Even though the Liberals promised to treat unionized workers with respect, this didn’t stop them from sacking 1,000 nurses soon after being elected. Nor did this stop them from taking an inflexible stand against Ontario college instructors last year; the government was forced to retreat only after the instructors’ strike threatened to cancel the entire school year for tens of thousands of students. The Liberals repealed the tuition freeze, making it even more unlikely that working class youth will be able to attend post-secondary school. And, let us not forget the infamous health tax where the majority of the burden is put upon the worker’s shoulders.
In sum, the life of the average working class person in Ontario has become significantly worse over the past four years. The Liberals and their allies are warning us that on 10th October, Ontario workers will have to choose either between McGuinty’s Liberals, or returning the Conservatives into power. Well, this is akin to choosing your preferred method of execution – which will hurt less?
For some, it might even come as a surprise that we’re nearing a provincial election as there is widespread apathy over the choices available. Contrary to what the media or academics may claim, this is not because people are lazy or ignorant. No one cares because they know that in the end, nothing will significantly change for the working class. Politicians are constantly promising goodies, all the while sharpening their knives for the cuts and attacks that are to come.
There is absolutely no confidence amongst workers for the two bosses’ parties. The Liberals and Conservatives have both proven to be equally corrupt and equally dangerous to the livelihood of workers. If the latest polls continue to hold true, either party could emerge victorious by the slimmest of minorities. Likely holding the balance of power will be the NDP.
Earlier this year, Fightback praised the work that the NDP was putting into the $10/hr minimum wage campaign. At the time, we stated that once the NDP put forward a credible campaign that resonated with the demands of working class people, the party would begin to enjoy electoral success. On the backs of the minimum wage campaign, the NDP was able to capture York-South Weston in a by-election victory, a riding that had historically been won by the Liberals. The party’s support was cresting to as much as 23-24% across the province, a significant improvement over their results in the 2003 election.
Unfortunately, since then, the NDP’s campaign has lost a lot of momentum. In a campaign kick-off in early August, the NDP’s main platform plank is to eliminate the use of coal and nuclear power in Ontario – perhaps not the most pressing issue at the forefront of workers’ minds at this very moment. Sadly, the NDP has not promised much more that what the Liberals have at the moment. This is very similar to the situation in 2003 when the NDP ran a campaign that can be described as Liberal Lite.
Toronto NDP councillors have not endeared themselves to workers recently, either. In the wake of the Toronto budget “crisis”, NDP Mayor David Miller and his merry band of cronies have cozied up to the demands of the bosses and launched a series of petty attacks on Toronto workers. First, it was in the guise of a litany of fees and taxes – everything from land transfer taxes to vehicle registration taxes to booze taxes to new taxes on entertainment…etc. Although Miller may claim that these taxes will be borne by everyone equally, workers know that this is patently false. Considering workers’ deteriorating standards of living, these taxes would have had a serious impact on workers’ ability to buy a home, register their vehicle, or to relax after work. Meanwhile, Miller and Co. continue to enjoy the massive pay increase they received late last year, continue to enjoy free golf passes and Metropasses, and continue the $45 million renovations to Nathan Phillips Square!
Unfortunately, it is the right-wing on Toronto City Council that is trying to capitalize on the public’s opposition to these ridiculous taxes and use it to further their own agenda. Their programme is to launch a full attack on municipal employees. Mayoral candidate, Jane Pitfield, was infamously quoted last year as saying that she wanted to “get rid of” unions at the municipal level because “they have become too powerful under Mayor David Miller.” (Toronto Star, 13 Jun. 2006)
Miller and his allies could have refused to impose these new taxes or cut services and dared to run an illegal budget while mobilizing the mass of Torontonians against the Provincial and Federal governments. In this way, they could have shown the workers in Toronto that they were not the ones to blame for the mess the city is in. They could have dared the provincial and federal governments to step in, and allowed the workers to see who their real enemies are.
Kick out Dalton and Tory!
A Liberal or Conservative provincial government will result in more cuts and attacks against Ontario workers. Dalton McGuinty and John Tory are two faces of the same coin: they are the political representatives for the suits down on Bay St.
The very sad thing in this election campaign is that the NDP could stand to do very well if the NDP leadership presented a credible workers’ platform in the coming election. Ontario workers have shown in the past couple of years that they are ready and willing to fight; all that is needed is an ounce of leadership. As was proven in York-South Weston, the NDP can win on a programme that promises (and delivers) real change for workers. The NDP leadership cannot cozy itself up to the bosses, nor try to enter any coalitions with either of the bosses’ parties. No to electoral manoeuvring! The NDP will win by becoming the political voice of the workers’ movement at Queen’s Park.