Welcome to Ontario in 3D, with Don, Dalton and Dwight. It is amazing how the plot can twist when Liberals campaign from the left and operate from the right. This plot has worked, time and time again. Dalton calls this leadership.
This kind of leadership had the Premier turn over the powers of MPPs to a retired banker. Really? Bankers like Drummond were responsible for bringing the world to the brink of financial collapse. But Drummond understands big numbers….numbers like the recent ones that collapsed and destroyed the lives of millions by taking billions from pockets of working class people to pay for the sins of the rich. What other system but capitalism allows those who engineered this crisis to get away with theft without facing criminal charge or punishment? What other system, in fact, provides these people with the legal protections?
Drummond knows the law that he and those like him crafted, through the politicians they advise. They also know that common people’s losses can be gains for bankers and lenders. This is what happens when they grab people’s resources after they reach their debt limits and fail to meet obligations.
We should also not be surprised that PC leader Tim Hudak has wholeheartedly endorsed Drummond. Tim says he’d like even deeper cuts, thinking that austerity will lead to prosperity. Based on the laws of capitalism it can, but only for those who are rich already!
The single-mindedness of the right is astounding. Tim Hudak constituents and supporters should take notice. Drummond’s report puts an end to support for the horse racing industry, reduces casino sites in Niagara Falls and calls into question the preference given to Ontario wines at the LCBO. These measures attack many people in Hudak’s Niagara riding. By placing his support behind Drummond, the PC leader shows that these people as expendable. Rural Ontario, a base of support for the PCs, will also be hard hit. In rural Ontario costs are already high; user fees recommended by Drummond will hit these communities.
This attack is based on pessimistic assumptions about Ontario’s future economic growth. He has set very low assumptions, challenged by many economists, providing a base for his attack mounted in many ways: fewer teachers, more slot machines, reduced hysterectomies, knee surgeries and C-sections. It features greater privatization and download of the ODSP to cash strapped municipalities. It is supported by higher sin taxes, road tolls and fees for rural kids to ride the bus to school. It focuses on closures and downsizing.
His attack ignores any attempt to raise revenue through higher taxes or at the very least a fair tax system. Currently those who can afford to pay are left alone with their tax loopholes, special arrangements and tax shelters. To be clear, the wealthy would still be rich even if such exemptions were voided.
Drummond states his report must be implemented in whole? Through this statement, Drummond silences the Legislature and “our” representatives. This is a roadmap to disaster, not success.
Many programs across the province will end. The worst of these will affect the young for whom education is important. A strong high school education is the start towards a college or university degree, a career in the trades, or some other valued contribution to the community.
Success is best achieved when the system can accommodate the student. Instead of flexibility, Drummond emphasizes efficiency. He recommends an added payment for students who, to improve their academics, decide to spread the current 4-year program over 5 years. The question is what if that youth (or their parents) cannot pay? In addition, Drummond wants to end the current fee limits applied to post-secondary education.
Compare these cuts to the hands-off approach he takes to friends in the upper levels of the Government bureaucracy. No one should be surprised that he and the politicians have left the bloated ranks of upper management alone, even after seeing the huge disparity between numbers of managers compared to front line service providers.
Drummond has failed to learn from the past attempts at privatization. One recently publicized example is Ontario’s air ambulance and its transition to ORNGE. Now we see the results; money for front line services was diverted to management compensation and perks.
We must see Drummond for what he is, a retired banker with a generous pension. He is not part of the middle class or poor. He has posed and been positioned as an expert on everything. A few parts of his report make sense, the vast majority does not. The sensible nuggets are lost in his all or nothing approach.
The Ontario economy faced challenges, free trade and globalization which resulted in huge, negative effects. Throughout these changes, unions and community groups sounded alarms. Their calls were drowned out in the media by corporate special interests who stated that unions just wanted to save union jobs, get more money and increase benefits for workers. They claimed it was unfair that, through this collective process, better working conditions could be achieved compared to those or workers with no union.
To that I say; Guilty as charged!!! Imagine that, people protected by a collective agreement, bargaining for the good of all, rather than the interests of a few. What a concept!
Even with these warnings, we find ourselves in a collective pickle with Drummond doing what bankers have always done; protect the interests of the rich. It is amazing that our political leaders put him into this power position. They made him responsible for resolving the problems he and his peers helped create.
I believe that the plans for recovery should not come from any one person or one group. We should listen to various voices including that of the Occupy Movement. Contrary to the claims of some, their message was crystal clear. They identified the 1 percent and 99 percent divide. That idea did a lot to clarify where we find ourselves today; a place of haves and have nots.
People need meaningful work with fair wages and benefits which they can use to provide the necessities of life. Aside from basics, in Canada, this should, once in a while, include a movie and a restaurant meal – life should provide for joy as well as challenge. Through the actions of people like Drummond and lack of action of some of our MPP representatives, the joy of life is shrinking fast.
Ontario can do better. It is time for sectors of the economy to have an adult conversation about the future. Without this discussion we will be forced to repeat the volatile past. This means meetings of business, labour and government. Many other countries are taking this approach. Together, working in a respectful manner as equals, a course to prosperity can be found. If we are in this together, then we should collectively have a say on the way forward.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
First Vice-President/Treasurer, OPSEU