An accelerated attack on working people in Ontario

Working people in Ontario are facing major political struggles in order to defend already meager living standards and their social and economic rights. We have only seen one third of the four-year term of the Conservative majority government, and already it has managed to drastically accelerate the pace and expand the scope of the corporate attack in the province.

After the concealment of the Conservative program with an empty anti-Liberal election campaign, the majority of the working class is now aware of the true intentions of the Tory government. Now that the policies are clear and the effects of the cuts are starting to be felt, Doug Ford’s approval rating has dropped to 26%. 

At the same time, the Ontario Tories are receiving significant support for their corporate agenda from the capitalist class. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has  unbridled enthusiasm for this government. Clearly big money is still bankrolling the Ford steamroller, judging from the fact that the Ontario PCs have brought in more than twice as much fundraising than the Ontario NDP and Liberals combined so far in 2019.

This government is deeply unpopular, but the class project behind it is powerful. The spring saw an outpouring of mostly spontaneous resistance to Ford which resulted in some retreats in certain areas by the government, but it will take organization and escalating mass action to roll back the attack, defeat this government and win meaningful reforms. These reforms are urgently needed to make life livable for millions of working class Ontarians. 

The working class around the world and in Ontario face deepening exploitation, expanding imperialist wars and the capitalist climate crisis. A mass fight for a People’s Alternative has the ability to build a powerful coalition of labour and people’s movements and shift the balance of class forces. This is a prerequisite to ending capitalist economic, environmental and social crises by winning socialism through working class political power. This is our goal as Communists, and charting a path towards that goal in Ontario starts from building a powerful resistance to Ford’s attacks and advancing class demands that can increase unity and militancy.

Housing for people, not for profit!

It is now acknowledged even by right-wing politicians that there is a serious housing crisis in Canada. Ontario rental rates overall are the highest in Canada, while Toronto has the highest rent of any city at more than $2,300 for an average one-bedroom. The housing crisis is a stark example of how an extremely profitable industry can fail entirely in meeting the needs of working people. 

Parkdale organizes against Ford’s austerity budget, Spring 2019

The Ford government has used the crisis to implement regressive reforms that will make living standards and conditions worse for millions in the province. After promising no changes to rent control during the election, the government then brought in legislation which ends rent control for all new rental units as part of its “Housing Supply Action Plan”. The sky is the limit for rent increases on these units, and it will contribute to raising rents across the board. This gift to landlords is supposed to incentivize the building of new units for rent, as opposed to extremely profitable speculation. 

Ontario only needs to look to the last Conservative government which in 1997 scrapped rent control for buildings constructed after 1991, after the NDP had opened the door for them by temporarily lifting rent control in 1992. This exemption did not increase the supply of rental units; it actually dropped after the Tories’ legislation. While the market is denying people’s right to housing, Ford is doubling down on “free market” ideology and lifting the cap on already astronomical rents.

At the same time the government is scapegoating residents of social housing who have nowhere else to go. This fall, social housing providers were given the power by the province to refuse applications from people who have been evicted in the last five years for an “illegal act” in a social housing building. This exclusion will exacerbate the homeless crisis and further criminalize and punish Ontarians living with mental health and addiction issues. It expands the precarity of over-policed poor and racialized communities. The sanctions can also apply to an entire family where one member has been evicted in the past. By scapegoating low income people in social housing Ford is attempting to blame them for the severe lack of subsidized housing, letting governments off the hook for the crisis.

The worst may be yet to come as Ford muses about new ways to deepen the housing crisis. Recently, during a “fireside chat” with the neoliberal C.D. Howe Institute, Ford floated the idea of public housing tenants being able to purchase units with government backing. This could mean wholesale privatization of the limited social housing available in the province.

The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) continues to demand a comprehensive provincial social housing program that treats housing as a public utility and delivers it according to need. Developing and implementing an emergency plan to build 200,000 new, publicly owned, social housing units as well as upgrading and retrofitting existing units would be a real start to addressing the housing crisis. We need legislation that will close rent control loopholes and bring in rent rollbacks for all renters in Ontario so that no one is compelled to pay more than 20% of household income for rent. This winter and beyond we need guaranteed funding for sufficient and safe emergency shelters.

Stop the privatization of healthcare!

Doug Ford’s cuts and restructuring in health are both accelerating the drive towards privatization. The “Hospital Restructuring Act”, rammed through Queen’s Park this spring, sets up a centralized Super Agency to replace the fourteen LHIN networks, Cancer Care Ontario, Health Quality Ontario, the Trillium Organ donation system and many other health care services in the province. The legislation gives the Minister of Health enormous powers to order mergers and transfer and close services. It is the most severe restructuring of health services in the recent history of Ontario.

Ontario Health Coalition Rally at Queen’s Park

The centralization of powers in health care has set the stage for sweeping privatization. The new Super Agency includes members like Charles Lammam, from the free market extremist Fraser Institute, Shelley Jamieson from the multi-national long-term care corporation Extendicare, and Elsye Allan from the corporate think tank C.D. Howe Institute. This powerful new agency was put together for a reason.

There is already evidence of private healthcare’s expansion. The private Advanced Medical Group in London has said they are interested in offering publicly covered surgeries privately and be a part of the new Ontario Health Teams that are replacing the regional Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs). This would mean private, for-profit medicine tied into what is left of a public system. The Advanced Medical Group is itself a warning against privatization as health workers there are overworked and patients are more at risk for negligence.

The Ford government has launched a long list of cuts right across the health sector. Most recently it is eliminating 25 out of 35 local public health units putting more pressure on municipalities to continue to maintain services provided by the health units like vaccination programs, infectious disease outbreak investigations and restaurant inspections. The government has decided to eliminate 49 out of 59 local paramedic and ambulance services and eliminate more than half of Ontario’s local dispatch units.

“Hallway medicine” has not improved despite campaign promises. In many communities the situation is critical. In Brampton, where the government just voted against funding the building of a second hospital, the current hospital was operating at more than 100% capacity throughout the first half of 2019. Thousands of patients have been stuck in hallways for more than 72 hours waiting for a bed.

Ontario Health Coalition Rally at Queen’s Park

While claiming to be spending more money on health, the province is in fact imposing real-dollar cuts to long-term care and hospitals, with funding increasing at less than the rate of inflation and population growth, let alone accounting for the aging of the population. In short, while campaigning on “ending hallway medicine”, the Ford government has proceeded to implement massive cuts to health care which will only exacerbate the crisis. An expansion of private health care provision is underway.

The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) calls for the immediate restoration of health and hospital funding, and increases above the national average. Privatization needs to be reversed and profit needs to be taken out of all aspects of health by expanding universal health care to include dental care, vision care, pharmacare, mental health and long-term care.

Education is a right! Stop the attack on students’ democratic rights!

Early 2019 saw a double-barrelled attack on students and the organized student movement. The Ford government, masked by feigned interest in students’ choices and affordability, announced that tuition fees would be reduced by 10%. In fact, the real effect of the changes was a drive towards further privatization, a sweeping attack on student grants and an attack on students’ democratic rights.

The 10% cut in tuition fees was not made up by any new provincial funding, meaning universities and colleges will continue to use the same strategies they have been using to make up for a lack of funding: attacking workers’ wages and pensions, closing and underfunding programs that do not attract corporate research dollars, and raising tuition fees for international students. 

Worse still, the government announced that it would be adopting a “performance-based” funding model for post-secondary education. This market-based performance funding will tie 60% of all funding to arbitrary metrics, allowing for public funds to be allocated towards education that produce workers for particular industries or towards the creation of profitable intellectual property for corporations. This will greatly accelerate the corporatization of universities and colleges.

Counteracting any positive impact on accessibility from a 10% tuition fee reduction was a $600 million dollar cut to grants, impacting working-class and low-income students the most. This fall, thousands of students received far less funding through OSAP than previously and many had to make the difficult decision to drop out, having their right to education denied by this government.

The so-called “Student Choice Initiative” was announced along with these changes. It allows students to opt-out of paying fees to student organizations that were democratically decided on through student referendums on campuses. It is a “right-to-work” style policy designed to destroy student unions, women’s and trans’ centres, Public Interest Research Groups, campus newspapers and radio, and other independent, progressive student organizations. The youth of the Conservative Party had been trying to defund these groups on campuses for a long time by running referendums. They got a big helping hand on campuses from Queen’s Park. Collective student decision-making over their own organizations was attacked. 

YCL Toronto at march against cuts to Post-Secondary Education, Winter 2019

It was not a mistake that the government announced an attack on the accessibility and quality of education at the same time as attacking student unions and student organizations. The Student Choice Initiative represented an attack on the ability of students to resist reactionary measurers. Students have played a recurrent role in social movements challenging corporate power and the politics that benefit the ruling class in Canada and the Conservatives are well aware of this. There is also good reason to believe that this is was a trial balloon for the real target of “opt-out” style legislation: the labour movement. This November, the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario and the York Federation of Students were successful in their lawsuit to have the Student Choice Initiative overturned by the courts. Solidarity with students must be kept up in order to ensure that the Ford government’s appeal is not successful or that new legislation is not used by the government to try and implement the content of the SCI through other means.

The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) understands that education at all levels is a right and a social good. As such, education needs to be free, fully public, accessible and democratic. Student loans need to be converted to grants and student debt cancelled. Students need a living stipend to attend school, be able to concentrate on their studies and pay rent. The government’s push to defund student unions and organizations needs to be stopped and students’ right to organize protected in legislation in the same way labour unions have legal rights.

Defend Public Education!

The fight to defend public education is perhaps the sharpest struggle against the Ford government at the current moment. In Spring 2019 the Ford government brought in a program of major cuts resulting in a three-per-cent cut in per-student funding across all Ontario school boards, 10,000 teaching positions lost over four years, raising class size caps, a massive reduction in class offerings to students, and the loss of educational supports and special needs services.

Teachers’ unions representing 160,000 public education workers are now in bargaining with the government backed by strong strike votes. The government is demanding a 1% cap on wages and benefits (which is in fact a compensation cut now backed by public sector wage cut legislation), and the removal of board level class size caps. The move to increase class sizes directly impacts hiring for teachers and it also results in drastic cuts to school funding.

These cuts will serve to further privatize education by continuing to erode the quality of public education. The drive towards privatization has also been accelerated by reduced class offerings, forcing more students to take online education, some of which is provided by private schools.

Strike solidarity, December 2019

Teachers unions are trying to maintain solidarity and push back on the government’s attacks on education. At the table, they are trying to negotiate improved standards in services and programs offered to students across the province. The stakes are high for teachers, students and the future of public education in the province. The unions also have to grapple with the fact that the Ford government has already violated labour rights by using back to work legislation and will likely do it again. Building solidarity with the rest of the labour movement and the public as a whole is the necessary ingredient in this fight to defend public education.

The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) demands a stable, needs-based funding formula for public schools. We demand an end of public funding for Catholic schools and their merging into a single, secular public school system in Ontario.

People and climate before corporate profit!

Two general capitalist policy approaches have emerged in regards to climate change: green reformism that seek to maintain corporate profits on the backs of working people during a transition to a “green” economy, or  total disregard of the crisis and inaction. The Ford government, and several other Conservative provincial governments currently belong to the latter category of governments. 

The Doug Ford Conservatives moved quickly to gut already inadequate environmental and climate programs, in order to open the province to vastly increased corporate access, development, and profit. As part of his “first 100 days” Ford cancelled all provincial climate change plans including cap-and-trade, home and small business energy retrofit programs and the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. His government removed the requirement that carbon emissions targets be set in law and cancelled over 750 renewable energy projects throughout Ontario, including decommissioning the nearly completed White Pines wind turbine project in Prince Edward County.

In the summer, the Conservatives moved to “modernize” Ontario’s environmental protections by changing the Endangered Species Act and Environmental Assessment Act, to minimize monitoring of and control over the environmental impacts of development projects. These changes allow corporations in the areas of housing, resource extraction, and associated infrastructure nearly free rein to make huge profits at the expense of endangered species, clean water, and safe soil. 

Beyond Ontario, Ford has allied himself with right-wing premiers in western resource-based provinces in calling for immediate pipeline construction to benefit the tar sands, and in opposing even tepid, business friendly federal climate programs such as Justin Trudeau’s carbon tax.

We must also be wary of new schemes towards the introduction of new “green” technology that may in fact create new environmental and social problems. One such plan is the development of small modular reactors (SMRs), essentially small scale nuclear power plants, that are being promoted by Doug Ford, and the Tory premiers of Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. This technology is anything but a “green alternative” as it will take years to develop and a transition to green energy is needed now. This is a diversion from the Ford government’s cuts to renewable energy projects. Environmental activists are calling for the banning of these power plants because of the projected proliferation of radioactive waste across the country

The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) demands real emergency action for a 50% cut in carbon emissions by 2030 and their complete elimination by 2050. Transition policies need to be built on public ownership and those responsible for the capitalist environmental crisis need to fund the transition. We demand strict legal limits and strong penalties for pollution and emissions and a publicly owned and delivered energy industry, to develop renewable energy and phase out fossil fuels and nuclear power. We continue to call for the closure of the tar sands, an end to fracking and all related pipeline projects, combined with action to develop green industry as a part of a comprehensive just transition for workers and affected communities. In Ontario, the nationalization of GM operations in Oshawa and Bombardier’s plant in Thunder Bay would be a step toward building a publicly owned electric vehicle industry to produce cars, expanded mass public transit and light industrial vehicles.

Justice and sovereignty for Indigenous Peoples!

The Ford government is maintaining course towards the trampling of Indigenous rights and communities. During the provincial election, Ford declared that he would “drive the bulldozer himself” to fast-track the Ring of Fire mining development in Northern Ontario. This fall, Ford repeated “You will see me on that bulldozer”. 

This project is based on Indigenous lands and has faced opposition from a number of First Nation communities. The Conservatives have also repealed the Far North Act, which provided a framework for involvement of First Nations in economic development in Northern Ontario. All this as the Ontario government has sought to slash the budget of Ontario’s Indigenous Affairs in half from $146 million in 2018 to $74.4 million in the 2019 budget. Ford has made it clear that he intends to push Indigenous rights aside in his pursuit of increased corporate profit.

Indigenous peoples in Northern Ontario have every reason to worry, not only because of the ongoing history of colonialism and genocide, but also because of recent events in Northern Ontario. A prime example of recent mining in Ontario’s Ring of Fire is De Beer’s Victor Diamond Mine, 90 kilometers west of the Indigenous community of Attawapiskat. In fact, the mine was on land that was taken from Attawapiskat First Nation through an extension of Treaty 9 in 1930. The mine, which closed last year after being open a decade, had extracted $2.5 billion dollars in diamonds by 2015 while paying next to nothing in taxes. In 2014 alone, the mine took $392 million out of the ground while paying the Ontario government $226 in royalties, and of course nothing to Attawapiskat First Nation. All this while Attawapiskat was declaring a series of housing and suicide crises, one of which was the spark which started the Idle No More movement in 2012.

Industry has been responsible for the poisoning of Northern communities as well. It has been fifty years since Grassy Narrows began struggling with mercury poisoning from a paper mill. Of the 900 Indigenous people that live in Grassy Narrows, 90 per cent have signs of mercury poisoning, and still the Federal and Ontario governments have not cleaned up the rivers.

Contingent demanding justice for Grassy Narrows at Climate March, September 2019

The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) demands governments respect Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right to stop development that affects Indigenous territories and lands with Indigenous claims. The recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry must be implemented in Ontario. We demand equitable standards and funding for housing, job creation, education and health care for Indigenous people living on or off reserves and the immediate cleanup of poisoned Indigenous land and water with compensation for affected families.

Stop scapegoating immigrants and attacking 2S/LGBTIQ rights!

The rhetoric and policies of this government has shown it as a part of the reactionary movement against hard-won equality and democratic rights. The Conservative government profited immensely by a homophobic and transphobic movement which attacked the previous Liberal government’s sex education curriculum. This campaign, involving the Conservatives and religious fundamentalists, relied on lies and misinformation. Once the Conservatives were elected they scrapped the sex education curriculum as a nod to their fundamentalist supporters. A school curriculum that teaches about the existence and equality of 2S/LGBTIQ people is fundamental in fighting transphobia and homophobia.

The Ford government has repeatedly exacerbated rising xenophobic ideas in order to blame cuts on immigrants. In his first meeting with Justin Trudeau in 2018 Ford used anti-immigrant rhetoric to blame the housing crisis and inadequate social services on “illegal” immigration. Ford claimed that Trudeau’s supposed welcoming of refugees had “resulted in a housing crisis and threats to the services that Ontario families depend on.”

This spring, when trying to push forward the proposed cut to the Transitional Child Benefit ($230 a month per child provided to families that are not receiving the Ontario Child Benefit) the government scapegoated immigrants to try and gain support. Doug Ford’s Social Services Minister told Queen’s Park that “Primarily, they are refugee claimants and illegal border crossers,” who receive the benefit. This was not only racist, but also a lie as refugee families only make up 35% of the 16,000 families receiving the TCB. 

This summer, Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey, said the federal government is the cause of an increase in immigration and asylum seekers, saying the federal government should pay an additional $26 million dollars for legal aid to help with immigration and refugee claims. The federal government complied. Of course this had little to do with immigration and everything to do with the Ford government’s decision to cut legal supports for refugees and immigration as part of a much larger $133 million cut to Legal Aid Ontario, denying low income long-time residents of Ontario as well as newcomers access to their legal rights.

Ford’s so-called “Free Speech” policy towards universities and colleges came into effect early this year. It threatens post-secondary institutions with defunding if there are checks on hate-speech activities on campus, including anti-hate protests organized by students. These policies were used to pressure student groups to include the racist People’s Party in election debates during the federal election. At the same time as Ford is defunding progressive student organizations with the Student Choice Initiative, his government is opening up schools to ultra-right organizing.

The Ford government and Ford himself have also used anti-Communist and anti-union attacks, which are always an indicator of ultra-right ideology. In advocating for his anti-democratic Student Choice Initiative, he declared that student unions were involved with “Marxist nonsense”. Ford attacked teachers’ unions in the spring daring them to protest his cuts to education, saying “if the head of the unions want to hurt the children of this province by doing walkouts and everything else, I’d think twice if I were them.”

CPC Contingent at Peterborough Pride March, September 2019.

Ford’s cynical and dangerous hate mongering cannot be allowed to continue. The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) demands the immediate withdrawal of the so-called “Free Speech Policy” and an end to scapegoating marginalized communities. We call for policies that fight against oppression and for full equality: enforcing pay equity laws, and the introduction of employment equity for Indigenous peoples, women, disabled people, and people from racialized and 2S/LBTIQ communities. We demand stronger enforcement and penalties for hate crimes, the banning of hate groups and increased funding for anti-oppression and equity-seeking programs.

Defend the right to free collective bargaining!

November 7th saw the passing of the latest shameful piece of legislation by the Ford government. The so-called “Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act”, Bill 124, was rushed through Queen’s Park to put added pressure on education workers who are currently in bargaining. This legislation will slash public sector workers’ wages, benefits and pensions and seeks to eliminate the right of free collective bargaining in Ontario.

This “wage restraint” is in fact a sweeping wage and benefit cut as it caps compensation across the public sector at 1% for at least three years. If inflation remains the same as in 2018, this is a cut of over 4% applying to one million workers. Public sector workers have already been struggling under the heavy hand of the previous Liberal government who did their best to impose their own wage restraint policies across the public sector from 2010 until the end of 2017. Since 2010, public sector wage increases have been below the annual rate of inflation in all but one year.

The Act tramples the rights of all workers and unions in Ontario to free collective bargaining with their employers. The legislation also sends a message to the private sector that it is open season on wages and living standards.

No more austerity!

The deep cuts across the public sector were all justified by the austerity myth created by the Ford government since they first took office. Ford first appointed former B.C Premier Gordon Campbell to advise him on how to restructure the Ontario government to “save taxpayers money” in the face of a self-declared enormous government deficit. This was in fact a coded message to slash public services that provide necessary support for the workers and people on Ontario.

It has been discovered that the Ford government lied by using creative accounting practices to inflate the deficit. The deficit is about half of what the government originally claimed. Past governments have NOT been “too generous”. In fact, more than two decades of brutal austerity in the public sector in Ontario pushed by both previous Tory and Liberal governments has meant workers today have significantly lower living standards than they did twenty-five years ago. Ontario remains the lowest per capita spender on government programs of any province. 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.

It is true that the Ford government has backed down in a couple areas thanks to increasing public resistance. One key victory is the climb down on the elimination of the Transitional Child Benefit, a meager support for Ontario’s poorest children.

However, it is truly wishful thinking to take the Ford government’s latest efforts at rebranding seriously. On November 6th, Finance Minister Rod Phillips released the government’s budget update and declared that “we listened to Ontarians.” The update painted a rosy picture with unexpected increased revenue, a shrinking deficit and highlighted spending cut reversals, rebranded as spending increases.

The government is not changing course. The overall picture remains a multi-year plan of deep cuts. Program spending growth for this year is now at 1.4 per cent, up from 0 in the 2019 Budget. Factoring in inflation and population growth, Ontario needs program spending to increase by 3.5 per cent just to maintain current inadequate service levels. The corporate austerity agenda remains the same.

We need to build the real opposition in the streets

The opposition parties at Queen’s Park are not focused on the big picture corporate agenda of the Ford government, and there is no clear working class perspective being consistently represented inside the legislature. Andrea Horwath and the Ontario New Democrats have adopted a “play-it-safe” strategy that celebrates their new status as the official opposition. They are playing the “government in waiting” until 2022.

While speaking up against privatization of health care and education cuts, the New Democrats are not offering an alternative program that challenges the power of corporations. The ONDP have rejected mass labour and people’s mobilization and instead have tried to position themselves as more responsible stewards of capitalism with a human face. This can be seen by their current policy paper “Ontario’s Green New Democratic Deal” that is largely devoid of policy besides some public subsidizing of a green transition of private industry.

While the ONDP has tried to fill the space left by the Liberal Party of Ontario at Queen’s Park, the Liberal Party itself is gearing up for a revival. As another party of Big Business and an alternative to the increasingly unpopular Tories, this revival is looking increasingly likely. Already some polls are suggesting that the Liberals have more support than the ONDP, despite the NDP having 40 seats at Queen’s Park and the Liberal Party having five. A duck-and-cover approach that waits for the self-destruction of the Ford government during the next election, will likely result in the election of the Liberal Party again, or possibly the Ontario Progressive Conservatives which continues to fundraise vast amounts of money. Even if the ONDP was able to win, their weak reformist proposals will not address the deep capitalist crises we are currently facing. It is clear that labour and people’s movements cannot afford to follow the lead of the ONDP and wait for the next election.

Organizing towards mass action for a People’s Alternative 

The Provincial Committee noted in 2018 that “the organized fightback remains emerging and tentative”, but there were examples demonstrating growing “capacity for spontaneous mobilization and resistance”. The report cites examples of the fifty rallies organized on October 15, 2018 to protect the $15 minimum wage, and the September 21, 2018 walkout by 40,000 high school students, were significant. In many ways the situation remains similar.  

The last year has seen new positive examples. A spontaneous reaction to the cuts to post-secondary student grants led to a mass march of thousands in Toronto in late January. Teachers’ unions organized a mass rally at Queen’s Park on April 6th involving tens of thousands of teachers, students, parents and community to stop the cuts to education. This action was greatly bolstered by the estimated 100,000 elementary and high school students that walked out of their schools on April 4th to protest the cuts. The Ontario Health Coalition organized another massive rally on April 30th organized a rally of at least 10,000 to fight cuts and the privatization of healthcare.

CUPE healthcare workers march to April 30th rally

These reactions to the brutal austerity contained in the 2019 budget demonstrated that there is an appetite for mass action against this government and that people are fighting back. However, it is telling that it took the Ontario Federation of Labour more than eight months after Ford’s election to organize the “Power of Many: Take Back Ontario Conference” in late March of 2019. That meeting saw a series of speakers, many from social movements, calling for action against Ford. The meeting pledged “escalating mass action on June 7, to mark the one-year anniversary of our province’s disastrous decline since the election of the Ford government.” 

At that meeting, it stuck out that OFL President Chris Buckley, in his closing remarks, made a point of talking about the need to build capacity to be able to mobilize mass action. Only a week later, 100,000 students organized a mass walkout demonstrating that the willingness of people to fight was already there, far beyond what Chris Buckley was imagining. The day of action by the OFL, June 7th, turned into a series of small-scale actions by some labour councils. To this date, the OFL still has not been central to organizing any mass action, instead lending speakers from the OFL to the work of some of their allies. June 7th in Toronto turned into the organization of a few canvasses based on the narrow electoralist approach of door-knocking in “swing ridings”.

The OFL leadership’s unwillingness and incompetence at coordinating an escalating province-wide fight is a serious organizational weakness at the moment. We will make every effort to turn the discussion towards a change in direction at the OFL Convention later this month.

While June 7th demonstrated weaknesses, there were some positive exceptions. One example is Ottawa where 1,400 people rallied and marched against the Ford government. They were brought together by an Ottawa coalition against Ford, broader than the labour council and including the Communist Party. 

There are other examples of successful local coalition building. On June 5th, Parkdale Organize mobilized hundreds of community members at 8AM to protest cuts to education, healthcare and legal aid funding under the “Parkdale Fights Back” banner. On the whole, the June 7th Day of Action proved that where broad and bold organizing was attempted it was successful.

This has exposed the Power of Many campaign’s limitations. It has been used mainly as a branding of the OFL office’s statements and press conferences. So far, it has failed to bring in all of labour and social movements and have a local organized expression in communities. This is an organizational question, requiring broad and democratic organizing along with labour putting in the resources necessary. It is also a political question requiring a class struggle approach instead of a social democratic vision of outsourcing politics to the NDP. 

The OFL’s electoralism is shown both by its focus on “swing ridings” and the countdown clock on their website to the “June 2, 2022 election and a progressive government in Ontario”.

We cannot wait to defeat the Ford agenda. We need to continue to convince others of the following points:

We need to expose the class nature of the government

The corporate media, the Liberal party and even the NDP is not going to do this. We need to ensure that criticisms of the Ford government go far deeper than labeling him a mean-spirited individual with below average intelligence or education.

Facts like the Ford government’s cancellation of the minimum wage increase, transferring $1.3 billion from Ontario’s lowest paid workers to some of the biggest employers, needs to be understood. The austerity agenda needs to be taken on directly in order, not only to inspire people to organize against Ford, but also to ensure we are building a movement against the corporate agenda and not just against a single individual or government.

We can’t wait for the next election

We have only seen 1/3rd of the term of the Ford government. We can’t afford to wait, people’s lives are at stake. The failure to fightback now also lets the balance of class forces remain the same, meaning more of the same in the next election, whether that means a continued Conservative government or a revitalized Liberal party.

We need to project a People’s Alternative

Without a clear set of demands to counterpose the corporate agenda to we will not have the unity necessary for a prolonged fight. If our unity is only “anti-Ford” then we risk co-optation from another government or party advancing policies for big business. This is part of fighting for independent labour political action and against social democratic approaches. As the Communist Party, we should be fighting for our People’s Alternative Program for Ontario wherever there is space to do so.

CPC (Ontario) Labour Day leaflet, 2019

Overall, we need to continue to advance a strategy of a coordinated, escalating, province-wide fight. We need a united labour movement, including Unifor the largest union currently outside the CLC. We also need unity with social movements. We need to organize ourselves to build a People’s Coalition, guided by class struggle politics, with labour at its core, to build local and province-wide power.

The challenges before us at the provincial level are also echoed at the federal level. While we are not facing a Conservative majority in Ottawa, mass action is still necessary to block the corporate agenda of the Trudeau Liberals. There is more of a window to win immediate demands federally with a minority government, but this is reliant on an organized working class movement, the same ingredients that are necessary in the fight against Ford.

Categories: Statements Ontario