The Toronto Committee of the Communist Party of Canada is calling for friends and supporters across the City of Toronto to block the right at the ballot box during the coming Mayoral by-election.

After over a decade of right wing governments, Toronto services are in crisis, and working people are bearing the brunt of the city’s austerity policies. The cessation of social housing construction has led to a housing crisis which has priced many of the city’s workers further and further out of the city. Service cuts to the TTC have pushed the system to a breaking point, with constant downtime and safety concerns for customers as well as staff as the system has rapidly decayed – all while prices at the fare box have increased for riders. For what few city services remain, Bay Street is waiting in the wings to privatize and profit off of all that it can – like carrion birds waiting to pick the bones clean.

Service cuts have done nothing to address the ever growing deficit the city is in either, with a funding gap of nearly a billion dollars slowly enlarging on the city’s balance sheet. This is caused by the province slowly downloading ever more costs onto the city, including schools and massive provincial infrastructure projects like highway repair, while withholding the progressive revenue generating tools needed to fund them. This has led to a situation where, in order to raise enough funds to close the funding gap without provincial help or alternative funding tools, the city would need to raise property taxes by double digit increments – an approach which would do nothing to help working who are already struggling amidst a cost of living crisis.

With the new strong mayor powers handed down by Queen’s Park, it’s increasingly likely that another 4 years of right government in city hall could be a death blow to city services that workers rely on. From the right, Mark Saunders and Brad Bradford, two of the six leading candidates, have reported happily on their connection to Ford and his cronies in provincial parliament. Their election would see an acceleration of the anti-worker agenda being pushed by Ford, and an expansion of police and other repressive elements of state power who will be weaponized against workers during the inevitable fightback.

There are also right-wing and centrist elements masquerading themselves as progressives, who cloak their anti-worker agenda in positive messaging, and union endorsements, like Ana Bailao and Josh Matlow. Chiefly, Ana Bailao, who has been able to scoop up a few endorsements from labour, is running a campaign which positions her as a progressive force in the city, with a history of negotiating tough deals at council which favoured workers. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, Bailao is a right-wing liberal, who happily voted alongside John Tory more than 90% of the time while in council. Further, she has publicly gone on record indicating she would use the strong mayor powers, an affront to what little democracy remains in Toronto, and has taken heaps of cash from large development firms in the city – her erstwhile employers.

To ensure that right-wing forces like these don’t continue to dominate the Toronto City Council, something made all too easy thanks to the strong mayor powers, it’s important that progressive forces coalesce around a candidate who has a viable path to victory , and can effectively block the right. It’s likely that whoever wins this election will be in the driver’s seat at city council for many years to come, and it’s imperative that we not allow the right-wing to occupy that chair at such a critical moment for the city.

Blocking the right also opens up opportunities for the people’s movements to put effective pressure for a genuine people’s agenda on the mayor that is elected. As capital’s contradictions have sharpened, living conditions for workers have quickly deteriorated, and the fightback has intensified. From the education workers strike last fall, and the largest strike in Canadian history from PSAC, to the mounting fight against privatization, working people are fighting back. With the right kept out of the Mayor’s office, it won’t just slow the decline, but open up opportunities for the people’s movements to advance their agenda in the city.

People’s movements must build on the growing momentum and justified anger at the rapid decline of their living standards. They need to ensure that they can act not only as a backstop against a rightward drift, but also as a force to push for more and more progressive policies.

Importantly, the labour movement in the city needs to take a leading role in advancing the
fightback, and intensifying the on the ground struggles they are engaged in now. Now is not
the time for more lobbying and limp media campaigns.

Critically, we need to ensure that working people are fighting for an agenda which is not just an anesthetic to their everyday pains. Working people need an agenda which is a serious redress to capitalism’s worst crimes and rolls back the power of corporations.

In Toronto, we need a platform which puts people’s needs and the planet before corporate greed. We need to fight for an agenda which includes:

A New Financial Deal For Cities
• Call on the provincial government to adequately fund municipalities through needs-based
grants or by providing wealth taxing powers to cities.
• Reduce property taxes by 50 percent, including by removing the $2.2 billion education levy
and by uploading the costs for transit, public health, housing and social assistance.
• Eliminate all development fees, which are simply passed on to tenants and home buyers in
the form of higher rents and prices.

Real Action on the Housing Crisis
• Eliminate wait lists for social housing by building 80,000 units of rent-geared-to-income (RGI)
social housing units; repair existing social housing stock.
• Provide sufficient and safe shelters for unhoused people and stop encampment evictions.
• Push the provincial government to roll back rental costs to 20 percent of income, implement
real rent controls and scrap vacancy decontrol.
• Expand and improve transitional, supportive and long-term housing to women and children
fleeing domestic abuse.

Expand Public Transit and Eliminate Fares
• Restore bus and streetcar routes that have been cut or reduced and add new ones.
• Eliminate all fares and ensure that all public transit and stations are fully accessible.
• Oppose all privatization, including P3’s.
• Increase staffing, including restoring guards on subway cars.

Real Police Reform
• Reduce the police budget by 50% and demilitarize police units.
• Expand programs that de-task police from mental health crisis calls and create communityled
crisis response teams.
• Establish strong civilian control over the police through a completely independent civilian
agency with powers to fire, hire and discipline, that is publicly accountable and transparent.

Defend and Strengthen Local Democracy
• Renounce the “strong mayor” powers which undermine local democracy and the public
accountability of an elected city council.
• Press to entrench the rights and status of municipalities and school boards in the
constitution, so that they cannot be created, dissolved or altered at the whim of the
provincial government.
• Fight for City Council and the public to be able to determine the size of city wards and the
number of elected councillors.

Create and Expand Public Sector Jobs and Services
• Reverse the privatization of waste collection and other city services, and the outsourcing of
• Expand public and non-profit childcare spaces and centres, through the $10-a-day
childcare plan, and fight for free childcare.
• Create needed new spaces at city owned Long-Term Care homes.
• Renovate and upgrade public infrastructure including making all public buildings and
services fully accessible and environmentally sensitive.
• Maintain roads and sidewalks throughout the city.

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