I am Canadian


A popular brewer hit pay dirt a few years ago with their catchy slogan, "I am Canadian." That cheeky statement became wildly popular with hockey fans, ball teams, back yard charbroil lovers and a lot of other average folks.

That said, we have to recognize our history is far from perfect. We have witnessed colonialism and tragedy. This regrettable legacy continues, like the relationship between Canada and its aboriginal peoples. Even so, "I Am Canadian" bypassed this by linking to a sense people have that they are fortunate to live here. Most Canadians love this land, just as many Ontarians love their province. This matches the relationship working people and their families share with their communities.

Emotion aside, I think we are losing our way, tempted from the path by those who will sacrifice all for personal gain. Who are these deceivers that refer to us as taxpayers rather than Ontarians or citizens?

The term "taxpayer" reeks of money and greed. It is diminutive and mocking, referring to what we pay rather than what we contribute to society. Just look at how it's used: "I am a taxpayer, tired of paying for public sector wages and gold plated pension plans."

Or: "I pay my taxes and get nothing for them." My favourite is: "Lowering my taxes will create jobs."

All three statements are false. They place a wedge between government services and the members of the public that elect our politicians. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., a frequently-quoted American Supreme Court Justice said: "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society." I agree.

While right-wingers squawk about financial deficits, other debts are growing; two of which are Canada's infrastructure deficit and democratic decline. Taxpayers care little about either one. Citizens thoughtfully fret about both.

Look at our roads, bridges and sewers. Look at public services ranging from how we care for the sick and disabled to how we regulate the transport of oil and hazardous products. As Canada's GDP and wealth quickly grows, why do we choose not to invest more in these services?

The state of our democratic deficit is no better. Prorogation, scandals, secrecy, deregulation and back room deals abound. In this arena, money-based politics triumphs over people-focused politics every time.

Are there solutions from bankers, corporations or those politicians who worship at their altar? Their simple-minded solution is to cut taxes and layoff public sector workers as they transfer power from citizens to the affluent.

It's time we ended this. Sept. 2, 2013, is Labour Day. OPSEU will mark the day with several worthy initiatives.

We will promote actions to get OPSEU members and their neighbours to reclaim their citizenship by gaining a greater say in their communities, province and country. We will support volunteers, letter and email writers and those that ask pointed questions of elected officials. We will encourage our members to participate in election campaigns and even run for office. If you need us, OPSEU will be there.

We will unveil our "Toss the Boss" campaign. I have told cabinet ministers, politicians and the heads of Crown agencies like the LCBO that so-called 'problems' with public sector costs do not start with front-line workers. I remind them front-line workers provide services. That problem starts with the bosses who manage and control the system. They protect their positions at the expense of workers, services and citizens.

Front-line workers take it on the chin with each downsizing. With staff reductions services are reduced or ended. With their families, workers leave behind communities which, in turn, reduce local prosperity.

Our system has too many bosses taking resources from public services and citizens. With limited budgets, as they gain, others lose. Look at the Ontario Public Service (OPS). The OPS includes front-line staff providing services and employees who manage and create policies. OPSEU represents the front-line workers. Since 1990 the service providers — the 'doers' — have been cut by about 60 per cent. This has happened while the total staff in the OPS has grown. The numbers in AMAPCEO, a group representing management and senior policy staff, have exploded. The number of management (excluded) staff and consultants have also increased a lot.

Another example is the LCBO where full-time work is undermined by lower paid part-time workers.

In the Broader Public Sector (BPS) and community colleges we're also witnessing a trend of more and more managers and fewer front-line workers. We know many executive directors and senior managers in the BPS receive huge salaries. Some receive more than twice the income of the Premier as they operate relatively small non-profits and community agencies. This is just plain wrong.

Community action promoted by OPSEU's action campaigns will expose these abuses. Community voices will demand change. Why? Citizens support their neighbours, communities and social organizations. Citizens care for one another. Happy Labour Day!

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas

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