Once again, it’s that special time of year – New Year’s resolutions season. We’ve all made them at one time or another, and usually we focus on deeply personal goals, like improving our health and wellness.
But what if this year, we all took a different approach? What if we focused on societal wellness by challenging our politicians, fighting for social justice and building solidarity?
That’s why I’m here. This is my life’s work, and I love it. I get to lead our great union, with the most dedicated and hardworking members and staff in the province. I have more energy now than ever, because the challenges and threats we collectively face have never been greater.
Every day we are bombarded with bad news, dishonest politicians, the climate crisis, and the politics of division, fear and hate. Even the fiercest social and labour advocates can get overwhelmed. I’ve often been asked why I keep doing what I’m doing in this political climate – aren’t I tired of it all?
The truth is, I’m inspired every day by the tenacity of OPSEU members, despite what we’re up against. That is why we have engaged in a full throttle media campaign. It’s working. A recent Nanos poll shows we are shaping opinion.
Ontario’s labour movement is facing difficult times with Ford. I don’t think it can be overstated – he and his cronies have kidnapped democracy. That is why now is the time for us to stick together. We must be totally focused on the task at hand.
You know the beauty of a New Year is that it marks a new beginning, and with it, a fresh sense of hope for our future. Making resolutions is about setting concrete goals to achieve a vision, and I say 2019 is our chance to retool our resolutions and focus on not only building a better Ontario, but preserving the very fabric of our communities.
And the people of Ontario are on our side. According to that Nanos poll Ontarians don’t agree with the direction of the Ford government – not one bit. They see Doug and the deficit as the two biggest problems facing Ontario, statistically tied for first place; worse than climate change, taxes, jobs and the economy combined. And that is why headlines across the province quoted me as saying Doug Ford is the most dangerous premier ever.
It’s ironic that with his dismal environmental track record so far, Ford’s the natural disaster Ontarians fear the most.
And Doug should be paying attention. While Ontarians acknowledge the deficit as a problem, they don’t agree that it’s a crisis that requires big public sector cuts. People are worried about cuts, and 9 out of 10 Ontarians say cuts to public services would impact them personally. They’re more interested in revenue-based solutions to tackle Ontario’s deficit, like taxes and retaining public assets.
This is our opportunity to harness our collective power; to demand better for ourselves and our province and to tell Ford that he must focus on investing in the public sector, not cutting. If he wants to find savings, then he should talk to us about ending costly privatization schemes, reducing the number of high-salaried public sector managers, and restricting the use of high-priced Toronto lawyers and consultants. There are millions of dollars to be saved and redirected into frontline public services and jobs where that money rightfully belongs, but it takes vision.
As we enter Ontario’s Budget season, we must demand a PC priority shift. While we can’t control Ford’s reckless actions, there is a lot we can do. That’s why this year, tapping into First Vice-President/Treasurer Eddy Almeida’s diligent stewardship, I’ve made New Year’s resolutions focused on building a better Ontario and protecting vital public services:
- To ensure that all of OPSEU’s local leaders have the tools and resources they need to engage and mobilize every single member; strong locals are the foundation of OPSEU’s constitution and our democratic values.
- To build bigger bridges and strengthen ties with our labour and community allies by working together; and
- To fight to protect our members’ jobs and our province’s public services, every single day.
We all have our part to play, but it starts with resolution.
Together we will do this. Just ask a long line of former premiers who didn’t listen to the frontline.
Solidarity my friends,
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union