Ontario at International Women’s Day 2012


Premier Dad, Dalton McGuinty, really thinks he knows best. With his inner thoughts confirmed by favorite son, retiree/banker Don Drummond, he feels strong enough to again scold his family, the Ontario public.

He blusters that we should not expect health care, education and quality public services for our contributions to the family bank account. Talk about an authoritarian! These are the things that give the family equality and civility. Dad has forgotten that his Liberal Party, in past, said they stood for these very principles.

Instead, he says we are getting fat and slow, even though Uncle Dwight (the Finance Minister) proclaimed Ontario’s public service is the most cost efficient in Canada.

While Dad and Uncle Dwight admit the family is in a bit of trouble, they say the Harper government is at fault for not giving their Ontario family a large enough allowance (through equalization payments).

They say it is Jim Flaherty who has pulled the rug out from the Ontario family. Uncle Dwight notes Ontario agreed to harmonize the PST with the HST, like Harper wanted. We also provided temporary financial support for the construction and infrastructure jobs (most commonly performed by men) during the initial stages of the recession. Now Uncle Dwight claims the bad federal government is not helping us so we will have to pay for everything from our household budget.

Oh no! It sounds like Uncle Dwight and Dad are getting set to cut the allowance Mom gets for running our provincial household.

Dad and Uncle Dwight also say the world has too much government. Government just gets in the way of corporations. They say the private sector will create jobs if the Ontario public service is reduced even more. This is really scary logic for our family.

We need to consider its effect. Where will the next set of cuts fall? Cuts will most affect women and individuals from equity seeking groups. If the objective is less government, these groups will pay the price.

We can also look at how some have to pay for the problems caused by overall government policy. An example is Health Minister Deb Matthews, who has suffered for the government’s privatization and divestment policies. Given the bad record privatization and divestment has had, it should have been no surprise that problems would soon face ORNGE (our air ambulance service) when it was transferred to the corporate sector.

This divestment resulted in less not more financial control. The divested organization adopted poorly monitored, ego driven policies. This is not uncommon when private sector profit motives take over. Instead of better patient care, ORNGE spent tax payer funds on leather couches and new, high-priced Italian helicopters. Is it any wonder that nothing rhymes with orange?  

What of Health Minister Deb Mathews? Will she weather the storm?

If she doesn’t then Dad and Uncle Dwight will simply replace her to preserve the appearance of responsible government. After all, people like it when someone pays with their job. What they will not do is admit the failure of the government’s approach towards divestment and privatization.

Ontario should not be run by just Dad and Uncle Dwight, in this way. This is a minority government trying to dictate the future, even though the public failed to provide them a majority. Evidence is easy to find. They have not, until recently, called back the Legislature, appointed Legislative Committees or entered into discussions with other parties and groups. Ontario politicians have been in the Legislature for just a couple of days since elected in October, 2011.  

This is not the way it should be. It seems to follow the right wing’s belief that government should get out of the way of corporations. They say less government increases efficiency. Democracy, through our elected representatives and public service, is something we can no longer afford. It is simply overrated.

As we approach International Women’s Day, the effect of this on women is evident. Even the media is catching on to what OPSEU has already said about pending public sector cuts. These cuts transform the recession into a full tilt “she-cession”.

When, in 2008, the economy tilted against male dominated occupations in construction and manufacturing, governments did the right thing by supporting these occupations with billions of tax payer dollars. This prevented an economic catastrophe. The same governments will now try to pay for this with cuts that will fall hardest on women and equity seeking workers.

When the cuts proposed by Drummond are implemented, they will hit these two groups hardest. Why? Simple. Women make up the vast majority of the public sector. Almost 67% percent of OPSEU members are women. While women make up the majority of the OPS, their positions are also found at lower levels in the workforce hierarchy. In the same way, when equity seeking groups were included in greater numbers into the OPS, they also came into lower work force echelons.

This is why, all across North America and Europe, as austerity measures kick in, women and equity seeking groups have had to exit the workforce in droves. In Ontario, the layoffs this past summer impacted most on women at about a 4 to 1 ratio. Drummond himself targeted women by limiting c sections and hysterectomies to get spending under control. What’s the deal with his attack on women?

Is this the price for handing over our democracy to the one percent that control the world’s economy? No! This kind of economics cannot be tolerated in a modern, progressive society.

Study after study shows how the private sector lags behind the public sector in the advancement of women and their workplace concerns. The private sector has not provided a level playing field for women to advance their careers. Flexible hours, child and family care, harassment-free workplaces and employment equity are widely ignored by many influential and powerful corporations.

They see these rights as red tape, standing in the way of efficiency, competition and a fatter bottom line.

This is not the way we have structured our Ontario family. Ontario society, built over generations is about more than the bottom line. It’s about fairness, equity, and making sure no one gets left behind. There is plenty of opportunity for prosperity in our fair and compassionate society.

Sadly, on International Women’s Day 2012, women around this province are bracing for an all out attack by premier Dad and Uncle Dwight, thanks to the advice of Don Drummond. As we face this threat, we will remember that this is not just a women’s battle. This is a fight for all. 

OPSEU women and men have fought long and hard for equity, human rights and human dignity. Corporations and their puppet politicians have no such cares or history. Greed and self preservation are their primary values. With this contrast there is a tough battle coming. Together we will make it clear they picked a fight with the wrong people.

View all Presidents' Messages: 2009 to Current

Recent messages