Since taking office at the end of June, the Tories have already unleashed a veritable tsunami of austerity measures and regressive initiatives. A freeze on hiring in the public sector has been announced. A planned increase in the minimum wage will be cancelled. They have hired a high priced official to ‘go over the books’ and look for ‘efficiencies.’ Their new advisor on healthcare has a brutal track record in closing and privatising hospitals. They have removed themselves from climate change initiatives that will mean billions of dollars in revenues from the Federal Government will be lost. Already we know that this will mean the cancellation of desperately needed repairs to schools and public housing. Timid measures of civilian police oversight have been cancelled. Ford has announced that Ontario will remove itself from agreements around locating and sheltering refugees, with vile racist language on ‘illegal border crossers.’ Seeking to ensure opposition to their agenda is prevented, the Tories have announced that the City Council in Toronto (the capital of Ontario and by far the largest city in Canada), will be reduced in size by almost half.
As I write this, Ford’s Minister of Community and Social Services has just finished announcing grim news for unemployed and disabled people who live on Ontario’s sub poverty social assistance system. A promised 3% increase in income will be cut in half. This means that the first rate increase above the rate of inflation since 1994 will not happen and people will sink even deeper into poverty. Like the Finnish Government, from a right wing perspective, the Tories have also announced the Province’s basic income pilot project will be wound down. This is because they want to focus and an entirely punitive model. Over the next hundred days, a system of right wing ‘welfare reform’ will be developed. The Minister hinted that this will feature a crack down on so called ‘welfare fraud’ and measures to drive people into the lowest paying and most exploitative jobs on offer. Clearly, a Tory war on the poor is in the works that will be utterly vicious.
There is no doubt that the attack in Ontario fits into an international agenda. The Tories in the UK have set an example of social regression in that regard that their Ontario counterparts are eager to emulate or even exceed. From 1995 to 2003, the last Tory Government in Ontario carried out sweeping cuts and massive attacks. The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) was part of a movement of resistance in those days that united trade unions and community organisations. The fight back grew to the point where the Ontario Days of Action were launched. These were a series of city by city general strikes and mass protests that challenged the Tory regime. They involved huge strike actions and some of the largest demonstrations in Canadian history. Sadly, the union leaderships failed to escalate them to the point where the Tories could actually be stopped. Fifteen years later, we face an attack that is even more dreadful. Doug Ford intends to smash workers’ right and devastate the social infrastructure in the Canadian Province with the largest economy and population.
OCAP will take to the streets against the particular attacks on poor people that Ford unleashes but we will also work for the formation of a broad social movement of resistance as well. We don’t accept that we must simply endure the pain and misery the Tories dish out and respond with mere acts of moral indignation. We believe that workers and communities united can generate a struggle that inflicts such a level of economic disruption and political crisis on the Ford Tories and their corporate backers that the Province can be rendered ungovernable and their agenda impossible to implement. We must work to bring down the Doug Ford Government.
Some will suggest that the course of action we are proposing is ‘extreme’ or ‘radical’ but it is actually the Tories who have a truly radical set of plans to enrich the banks and major corporations at the expense of everyone else regardless of the human cost. In the fight against the international agenda of neoliberal austerity, there are places and times where things become especially sharp and particularly decisive. In Ontario, we are now going into such a situation. If Ford’s attack prevails, the injury will be felt across Canada and beyond but if we can create a model of resistance that succeeds here, it will set an example on the international stage. For that very reason, as we always say in OCAP, we intend to fight to win.
Witten by John Clarke, from Ontario Coalition Against Poverty