Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas has sent an open letter to all members of the Conservative caucus, urging them to defend the Charter rights of Ontarians by voting against the use of the “notwithstanding clause” to slash the size of Toronto City Council.
Here is the complete text of the open letter:
September 13, 2018
Dear Conservative Caucus Member,
I am writing to you today because Ontario stands at an urgent and historic turning point. With the upcoming free vote on the bill about Toronto City Council, you and your colleagues in the Conservative caucus have the power to decide Ontario’s future.
Will you hand over your power to Doug Ford, allowing him to veer us sharply towards the politics of chaos and fear causing so much pain and destruction south of the border?
Or will you use your power instead to stand up for the strong and principled Conservative traditions that drew you into public service in the first place?
I have no doubt that you and most of your caucus colleagues are caring people who entered politics for the right reasons. I know many of you personally and I know that you simply want to make Ontario a better and more prosperous place for all. Even when we’ve disagreed over particular issues, our disagreements have been respectful and even constructive.
But now, as we watch engaged citizens being handcuffed and expelled from the people’s legislature, it’s clear that our democracy is in danger of becoming disrespectful and destructive.
Today, I am urging you to look deep into your heart and ask yourself this simple question: is this the kind of government you wanted to be part of? Is this really what you signed up for when you made the difficult decision to run for office?
I’m sure it hasn’t been easy.
You and your party had to endure a rushed and flawed leadership race that gave Premier Ford the slimmest of majorities.
Then there was the criminal investigation over the theft of personal data, leaving many unanswered but legitimate questions about how much of that data was used to support Ford’s leadership campaign.
And now you’ve got a leader who is being advised and guided by a small group of former Harper insiders, bringing with them the cold and cynical wedge-issue politics that might have played well in Alberta but which leave most Ontarians feeling uneasy and disgusted.
What do Ford and his Harperites do when they don’t get their way? What do they do when a judge tells them it’s not fair to punish old Toronto City Council enemies by gerrymandering wards just weeks before their election? They strip away the constitutional rights of millions of people by abusing the rarely used “notwithstanding clause.”
The clause has never before been invoked in Ontario. Even Bill Davis, who is among the most respected Conservative Premiers in Ontario’s history and one of the main architects of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, says that using the clause in this case would be a grave mistake.
Fortunately, you have the power to stop this mistake from being made. The vote on Bill 5 is a free vote. That means you have the power to rein in your leader’s worst impulses. You have the power to stop him from trampling our rights and demolishing our democracy.
If you don’t take back your power now, you will never have another chance. You will show Ford and his advisors that your caucus is little more than a flock of sheep. Who knows what sort of destruction Ford Nation would reap next?
Four years may seem like a long time. But those years will go by quickly, and you will find yourself answering to your voters again before you know it. Will you be able to look them in the eye and tell them that you will use your power for good?
For the sake of us all, I hope so.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union
For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931