By Joe Grogan
Okay, the federal election is over — now what? It’s time for us to evaluate what we did and what our unions did during the election.
For example, did we support candidates whose previous record showed they can be trusted and that those running had integrity? Did we evaluate what the candidates said and check their promises against the record?
The Liberals have managed to gain another minority government. This only means that we must continue to struggle to build here at all levels the kind of society Canada needs. Now what?
The way ahead for workers and unions:
We have an opportunity next June to show Premier Ford how we feel about his record. At the municipal level in the autumn of 2022, we also have a chance to send a message.
- Has he raised the wages of the PSWs who keep our relatives alive?
- Who do we hold accountable for the over 9,000 COVID-related deaths in Ontario?
- What about the nurses in our hospitals whose wages have been increased by only one per cent, compared to the wage increases police officers and firefighters received?
- Have school boards across the province received funding to update heating and ventilation systems in all schools? Not to mention colleges and universities so that all learners and the public are protected?
- Has the province hired more inspectors to watch over long-term care facilities?
- Where are the 500 nurses the government promised would be hired for the public education system?
- When will the government negotiate contracts with college faculty instead of trying to contract out jobs using virtual learning plans?
- What about restoring the minimum wage to at least $16 an hour?
- Is it really true that his government brought in legislation that protects the owners of long-term facilities from being sued for negligence when proven in a court of law?
Remember his campaign slogan in 2018: For the people! What do you think of this partial record, never mind the contradictory, confusing, harmful closings, openings, scripted messages throughout the COVID crisis? Should Mr. Ford and his government be held to account for the horrific conditions affecting many Indigenous communities that lack safe drinking water and proper, safe housing? Should Mr. Ford be rewarded? No way.
Now, what about those politicians at the municipal and regional levels of government?
Members of Local and Regional Councils in Ontario: We can vote for our area councils at the mayoral level and also for some reps on Regional Council. The chairs of Regional Council are usually appointed/selected from those elected regional councillors. Big decisions are made by Regional Council, for example, town planning or whether to support the proposed 413 Highway, etc.
Note, what I said about the chairs of regional council. Usually, they are not elected by taxpayers. Some say this is not an example of democracy and that such gigs are cushy positions that are paid out of property tax revenues; furthermore, regional councillors receive very rich salaries and benefits packages. Also, the bureaucrats at both town and regional levels receive very generous compensation packages. In the case of one town I am very familiar with, provincial government figures indicate the number of bureaucrats earning at least $100,000 increased from 44 in 2016 to 74 in 2019. Compare that to your last pay stub. You might get really upset.
The town budgets that make this outrage possible must be presented to the public in open forum for input. Few people provide feedback.
This year such meetings took place virtually because the municipalities are following the procedures set down by Queen’s Park.
Very little opportunity for public scrutiny and evaluation in regular, public meetings is very, very dangerous. Would you give someone a blank cheque?
We must make sure that people elected to municipal councils have our interests in mind, not their own political and personal interests.
We should ask for tests to measure the quality of the air that we breathe. And the folks at the municipal and regional level make decisions about the quality of roads and street lighting.
By the way, they also have influence over the streams, rivers, aquafers and lakes through their representation on organizations like the Credit Valley Authority, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and other similar organizations throughout the province of Ontario.
They also collect through tax assessments the dollars that fund our public educational system and, in some cases, law enforcement such as the OPP and Peel Regional Police.
These people make decisions affecting our lives, our workplaces and our communities. So, don’t you think we should play our part and hold them to account?
Finally, in one town that I am familiar with, 70 per cent of property tax assessments come from homes and residences and only 30 per cent from commercial properties. Is this fair? Does this mean that residents are indirectly paying a share of taxes that commercial sources should be paying? How does that happen? Who is responsible?
Workers have very busy lives. Other people at various levels make decisions affecting us, our families, our unions and our communities. You do not need to be a political junkie to be concerned about these and other matters; it is only common sense to educate ourselves, to be involved and to hold all politicians to account. Life is demanding. If we do not pay attention, we will not recognize the society and country that we end up with. Politicians always will make decisions that suit them. Consequently, we must have strong, informed union members active in our unions and in our communities.
It is the human, rational and compassionate thing to do to look out for and to protect others. This is what our solidarity means. Time to continue to make good noise. Imagine the possible results!