OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says it’s time that Conservative backbenchers starting standing up for their constituents rather than buckle under the whims of the Premier’s Office. Thomas made the comments last week as he took part in efforts to fight cuts to legal aid clinics.
He joined community legal clinic members of OPSEU Local 5118 and concerned residents in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood in picketing the head office of Legal Aid Ontario. They were joined by members of Fight for $15 and Fairness, Voices of Scarborough, Workers Action Centre, Parkdale Organize, Injured Workers Action for Justice, and the Chinese Injured Workers Group. The May 10 demonstration came on the heels of a sit-in held by residents and Local 5118 members the day before.
The Ford government’s 2019 budget would see legal aid funding slashed by 30 per cent this year and 10 per cent more in 2020. Picketers were seeking assurances that funding for community legal clinics would not be cut and demanded that Harnick show courage and leadership in the face of austerity measures imposed by the Ford government.
Thomas noted that MPPs look to legal aid clinics to help resolve residents’ legal issues.
“MPPs across the province regularly refer constituents to their community clinics,” he said. “What do they think they’re going to do when the clinics close their doors?
“It’s high time PC backbenchers found a backbone and finally stood up for the people they represent,” he continued. “This attack on the marginalized and most vulnerable – one of many – is just further evidence the government has completely lost its moral bearings.”
Thomas added that he believed Harnick had a duty to fight for legal aid clinics.
“Mr. Harnick has a reputation for independence and standing up for fairness and integrity within Ontario’s justice system,” he said. “I trust he’ll do the right thing again and oppose these cuts, which are an affront to the very essence of justice: access to the system.”