by PV Ontario Bureau
The Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) met on March 15‑16, to discuss the situation in the province and prepare for a widely anticipated spring election. The minority Liberal government of premier Kathleen Wynne is expected to table a budget in April, and most indications are that the opposition parties will vote it down.
The CPC(O) meeting was held against a backdrop of the highest provincial unemployment rate in Canada outside the Atlantic region, and youth unemployment as the highest in the country. The deepening jobs crisis has been exacerbated by several recent announcements of plant closures. Among the high profile closures are Heinz (740 jobs), Kellogg’s (500 jobs), automotive supplier Faurecia SA (650 jobs), and US Steel.
As CPC (Ontario) leader, Liz Rowley noted, “All of these jobs have been lost, all of these operations closed, because Canadian plants are being moved outside of the country, or because the parent companies are consolidating their enormous wealth and capital. Faurecia, for example, is the world’s sixth largest automotive supplier, employing 94,000 people in 34 countries. Its sales in 2012 were $22.5 billion, with $6 billion in North America. There is no reason, apart from unbridled corporate greed, that this company and others have closed their Ontario plants and ruined hundreds of working people’s lives and communities. It’s shameful that the Ontario government has sat on its hands and watched this happen, time and time again.”
As in other parts of Canada, and throughout the capitalist world, the provincial government has continued to inflict drastic austerity measures on the working class, while ensuring that corporations have all the assistance needed to enjoy a “jobless recovery.” Alongside attacks on wages, pensions and benefits, the working class in Ontario faces huge increases in household debt, costs of utilities and services, tuition fees, and housing costs.
Right in step with the profit interests of their corporate masters, the provincial government is driving to privatize healthcare, sell off public assets such as public school lands and buildings, and contract out public services and social programs.
The CPC(O) noted that the working class currently has no champion in the Ontario legislature. The Liberals are proving that they can deliver the “create a crisis” strategy, initially proposed by the Mike Harris Conservatives, for privatization of everything from health care to government services to public education. The NDP, once regarded as the conscience of the legislature, is now widely seen as unwilling to strike hard as it continues to shed its ties to labour and adopt a pro‑austerity, pro‑business government‑in‑waiting stance. It speaks volumes that NDP leader Andrea Horwath was not only unwilling to support the $14 minimum wage campaign, but actually linked her pathetic $11.50 minimum wage proposal to a 30% cut in business taxes.
The Tim Hudak Conservatives continue to be the main danger to the working class in Ontario, with an aggressive platform based on massive privatization, deep tax cuts, and drastic attacks on wages, pensions, labour and democratic rights. The Tories are framing their reactionary, “right‑to‑work” policies in the language of right‑wing populism, in an effort to appeal to severely marginalized and alienated sectors of the population; this coagulation of discontent on the right has all the makings of something much more sinister.
The absence of a strong progressive block, including Communists, in the legislature means the absence of voices who will challenge corruption and the attacks on the working class. It means the absence of voices who will advance policies to address people’s needs and curb corporate power. It means the absence of voices that can expose the systemic nature of the economic crisis, and project a socialist alternative.
Ontario Communists are preparing to confront this problem directly, by looking to run more candidates, in more areas of the province, than in the previous election.
The platform will be based on the party’s “10‑Point Prescription for a People’s Recovery“, a program of concrete, progressive reforms to confront corporate power, reverse the austerity attacks, and open the door to further progressive reforms in Ontario. Campaign demands will include a full‑employment plan, massive housing and infrastructure construction, and progressive tax reform that puts the burden on corporations and the very rich. Communists will also campaign for increased public transportation, public auto insurance legislation, free post‑secondary education, and expansions to public healthcare, education and childcare programs.
“We are heading into a campaign,” said Rowley, “where widespread insecurity and deep anger exist right across the province. Working people have seen their lives destroyed so easily, and so quickly, by the privileged and powerful. These are some of the people we’ve been talking to, along with all those who are fighting back against austerity. Our message of real and progressive change, as an urgent priority, has to ring out in this election campaign!”
(The above article is from the April 1-15, 2014, 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, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)