As Ford agenda comes into focus, the need for mass action enters the picture

People in Ontario are starting to understand what the Doug Ford agenda is all about.

High school students will be returning to school in a few weeks to find that 25% of their teachers and the classes they teach have been cut.

University and college students are now receiving their student assistance, and thousands are finding out that the grants that they rely on have been converted into loans. Many are asking whether they can return to school at all.

Health care workers and anyone who is ill face an uncertain future, thanks to a new law giving the government and their appointees in the new Super Agency extraordinary powers to restructure, cut, transfer, close and privatize health services. The government has already taken away safe injection sites in the middle of the opioid crisis which is claiming thousands of lives in Ontario alone.

Over a million public sector workers have an axe held over their heads. The Ford government is set to pass so-called “wage freeze legislation” which is in fact a public sector wage cut of 4%. This is an attack on free collective bargaining in health and education, where important negotiations are ongoing.

Ford’s cuts aren’t austerity lite; they’re the difference between life and death for many. These cuts mean the very real expansion of misery and the harshest exploitation.

The Ford agenda is about joblessness and the decimation of communities. This is seen in the actions of major corporations like Bombardier and GM, who cut jobs in search of higher profits.

The Conservatives made major cuts to Indigenous Affairs in Ontario. This will slow land claim and treaty settlement efforts, as well as undermine processes of consultation over resource development. It means the Ontario government plans on ignoring the sovereignty of Indigenous people while it invites corporations to exploit Ontario’s Ring of Fire in Northern Ontario. This week, people in Attawapiskat discovered they are again unable to drink their water or use it to wash food or themselves.

When Ford cancelled the minimum wage increase, it meant a transfer of wealth from Ontario’s lowest-paid workers to business in the order of $1.3 billion.

And the government has done nothing in terms of meaningful action to protect the environment. Along with the threat of a major imperialist war, the single biggest danger for humanity is climate catastrophe. We’re headed for a cliff and the driver is refusing to change direction.

We know that the situation in Ontario wasn’t rosy last year before Doug Ford was elected.

More than two decades of brutal austerity in the public sector in Ontario, pushed by both Tory and Liberal governments, has caused wages to fall far behind inflation. Workers today have significantly lower living standards than they did twenty-five years ago.

The Ford cuts are not a change in direction in Ontario, but rather an acceleration of aggressive neoliberal policy. Ontario now sits dead last among the provinces in per-capita government expenditures and more than $2,000 below the average for the rest of Canada. Program spending over the last decade has been growing at half the rate it has been in the rest of Canada.

While maintaining one of the lowest corporate tax rates in North America, Ford is lying when he says that cuts are the only response to a provincial deficit.

The good news is more and more people understand we cannot wait for the next election, and that we need to act now to block these measures and stop this government. The massive high school walkouts and rallies to protect public healthcare and stop education cuts put tens of thousands into the streets and have clearly shown that mass action is possible.

Now is the time to build a People’s Coalition, with labour at its core, to undertake mass action like the 1990s Days of Action which, had they continued, could have brought down the last Conservative government in Ontario.

(The above article is from the September 1-15, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)