There’s an old joke about bad bosses like Doug Ford.
Goes like this: the boss invites his workers for a pizza lunch. But as soon as the pizza arrives, he grabs all the slices except for one, piling them high on his own plate. Then he leans over to the worker next to him and says:
“I’d watch out if I were you – the union has got its eye on your slice.”
It’d be funny if it weren’t so true.
The pizza came a couple of weeks ago – it was the budget. Ever since, Ford and his clapping seals in caucus have been busy trying to deflect attention away from the fact that all of our slices are being stolen from us.
Talking to a crowd of business people, Treasury Board seal Peter Bethlenfalvy said the government is targeting the “generous compensation” that unionized public sector workers receive. “We must be honest about what we can reasonably afford,” he said.
Funny that he should use the word “honest.” The Ford Conservatives are being anything but.
According to the government’s own Ministry of Labour figures, wage increases in the public sector have been lower than inflation in nine of the past 10 years.
In other words, public sector workers have taken a wage cut in every year since 2010.
The same figures show that raises in the private sector have been bigger than in the public sector in eight of the past 10 years.
So saying that public sector wages and raises are the problem is a lie.
It’s not the only lie Ford is telling – far from it.
He told us not a single public sector worker would lose their job. That was a lie.
He told us tax relief would put more money in the pockets of minimum wage earners than a popular minimum wage increase. That was a lie.
He told us that forcing polluters to pay their fair share for contributing to climate change would cause a recession. That’s a lie.
The truth is, it’s Ford himself who’s driving us towards a recession.
And he’s doing it with his biggest lie of all, the whopper that is the beating heart of all his other lies: the lie that Ontario is on the brink of financial ruin.
He called our debt the “biggest scandal our province has ever seen.” That was a lie. He promised to do a “line-by-line audit” of our finances to get an accurate picture of our economy’s health. That was a lie. And then in the budget, he told us his only choice was to cut, cap, and privatize. Lies. Lies. Lies.
Even the Ontario Chamber of Commerce is worried. The voice of small and medium-sized businesses is on the record saying that Ontario already invests less in its public services than any other province, urging him not to continue down the austerity road.
Because the truth is, Ontario is not in financial trouble.
In fact, our economy is bigger than it has ever been. It’s bigger than when we created the entire college system. It’s bigger than when we built the 400-series highways. And it’s bigger than when we pulled together dozens of small private hydro producers into a public power system that gave us the cheap and affordable energy that helped Ontario boom for a century.
That’s the truth, and it looks pretty good. So the question: why is Ford lying about it all?
Why is he trying to cut wages in both the public and private sectors? Why isn’t he fighting for the auto jobs that are being taken from us in Oshawa and Windsor? Why is he slashing teaching jobs, capping autism and developmental services funding, and attacking journalists for doing their jobs?
Because he thinks that we won’t notice that he and his wealthy backers are robbing us blind while we’re feeling attacked, suspicious of others, and frightened.
It’s straight out of the right-wing playbook. Remember John Snobelen? He was the Mike Harris cabinet minister caught on film saying that his goal was to create a “useful crisis” in the education system in order to set the stage for school privatization.
Today, Ford is trying to create crisis in just about every sector and community in the province. And he’s trying to get away with it by turning working people against one another. In particular, by attacking working people.
But as we saw a couple of weekends ago, when more than 30,000 people gathered at Queen’s Park to protest education cuts, working people are stronger than he counted on. And with each new lie he tells, we’re only getting stronger.
70 per cent of Ontarians now say he’s taking the province in the wrong direction. Now that’s a union Ford should be watching out for – together, we’re going to make sure he doesn’t take what’s ours. Together to win, we’re united for a fair Ontario.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union