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January 16, 2012 - No. 19

Step up the Struggle in Defence of
the Rights of All in 2012!

Step up the Struggle in Defence of the Rights of All in 2012!
Toronto Rally Against 2012 City Budget and in Defence of City Workers
All Out for London Day of Action in Support of Electro-Motive Diesel Workers!

No Lockout of City Workers! City Must Respond to Workers' Offer!
Preparation for Anti-Worker, Anti-Social Assault
False Analogies to Defend an Anti-Social Agenda - David Greig

Canadian and U.S. Workers Stand as One - Rolf Gerstenberger, President, Local 1005 USW

York Region

Transit Workers' Resistance to Monopoly Dictate - Jim Nugent

Opposition to McGuinty Government
Cuts to Social Programs Are Not Solutions for Ontario's Economy - Rob Woodhouse
Tuition Grants for Some Does Not Recognize Education Is a Right for All - Dan Cerri

Toronto Rally Against 2012 City Budget and in
Defence of City Workers

Rally for Toronto
Tuesday, January 17 -- 5:30 pm
Toronto City Hall, 100 Queen Street W.
Also attend the Council meeting all day on January 17 & 18
For further information: www.Facebook.com/RespectToronto

Final discussion by Toronto city council on its 2012 budget will begin on Tuesday, January 17, leading to a vote on January 18 or 19. The people of Toronto and their community and labour organizations have called a mass rally at 5:30 pm on January 17 at Nathan Phillips Square to oppose this anti-social budget of cuts to social services and programs and increases to user fees and to defend the city workers who are being threatened with a lockout to extort concessions from them. People are encouraged to attend all the council sessions on this issue beginning on Tuesday morning and continuing through to the vote on the budget. The people also oppose the fact the Ford budget allocates the City's 2011 budget surplus of at least $150 million to debt servicing and reserves instead of using these funds to avoid cuts to programs and services.

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All Out for London Day of Action in Support of
Electro-Motive Diesel Workers!

London Day of Action
Saturday, January 21 -- 11:00 am
Victoria Park (Wellington St. & Dufferin Ave.)
For information on buses, click here.

On January 21, workers are holding a Day of Action in London to support the locked out workers at Electro-Motive Diesel (EMD). On December 31, 456 members of the Canadian Auto Workers Local 27 were locked out of the EMD plant in London. EMD is attempting to impose a contract on the workers which, amongst other things, cuts their wages by as much as 50 per cent, eliminates a pension plan and cost of living adjustments, and reduces their benefits.

The Canadian Auto Workers Union, the London and District Labour Council, the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress are organizing buses from all over Ontario so that everyone can attend the rally. For information about buses, click here.

Ontario Political Forum calls on its readers to promote this rally amongst their peers and work out why it is important to participate in it to show  that the people of Ontario stand against the dictate of the monopolies which claims a "right" to turn the lives of Ontario workers upside down. How can workers with $35 or $40 an hour debts be expected to meet their debt payments on a sudden death cut of their wages down to $16.50? Or to zero wages in the case of workers who overnight lose their jobs or are locked out on the basis of "might makes right." How can governments at the federal and provincial levels talk about providing security based on an economy which guarantees the so-called right of the monopolies to act with impunity? These are very serious questions which concern all Ontarians. Ontario Political Forum calls on Ontario workers to organize their peers to take a stand against this state of affairs. 

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No Lockout of City Workers!
City Must Respond to Workers' Offer!

The Ford administration is feverishly preparing to lock out as many as 30,000 city workers.

To date, the city has made inflexible demands, many of which are unacceptable to the workers and disruptive to public services: destruction of job security, rules governing layoff/recall and deployment, and degradation of benefits. By its own admission the city administration is pursuing its demands in order to facilitate its agenda of privatization and elimination of about 7,000 jobs. With respect to the 6,000 outside workers of CUPE 416, the city broke off negotiations on December 15 and demanded conciliation, a move designed to hasten the moment when it can legally impose a lockout. On January 12, it requested the conciliator declare an impasse and initiate the 17 day period before a legal lockout can be imposed.

On January 13, CUPE Local 416 proposed a three-year wage freeze worth about $25 million in order to prevent a disruption of city public services threatened with the lockout, and to pave the way for an agreement acceptable to both sides.

In response, the city administration needs to abandon its inflexibility and move to negotiate seriously to achieve a contract that is acceptable to its workers. It must abandon preparations for a lockout and instead pursue talks, recognizing the concerns of the workers and the effort made by the union to reach an agreement. The city workers have repeatedly said that they are willing to discuss ways to improve the delivery of the public services. What they oppose is the privatization of the services, the deterioration of their working conditions and the weakening of their defence organizations. This stand favours the City of Toronto and its people because it helps prevent more of the city's assets from being handed over to private global monopolies, which will remove more social wealth from the city and cause public services and living standards to deteriorate.

With its rigidity, impatience and the extreme nature of its demands, the city administration has revealed a will to impose its dictate rather than negotiate in good faith. To that end, it displays its readiness to disrupt the provision of city services and programs via lockout and provocation and to break the defence organizations of the workers. Such a disruption would cause considerable difficulty and hardship for the people of Toronto, including the city workers, in addition to that already caused and existing under the Ford regime.

Instead, the Ford administration must keep talking and make a move to meet the demands of the workers.

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Preparation for Anti-Worker, Anti-Social Assault

As the City of Toronto's Ford administration pushes its destructive 2012 budget toward a final council vote around January 18, and especially as it prepares its grand attack against about 30,000 city workers whose contracts expired on December 31, along with its monopoly media cohorts it has launched a devious and manipulative onslaught to justify its course of action. An opinion piece by Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday December 2, and an editorial and columns in the Toronto Sun, among other items, present pretexts and justifications for the regime's plans to cause a disruption to Toronto's public services and programs, probably a lockout of employees, and to destroy the most important provisions of the workers' labour contracts and cripple their defence organizations.

Holyday piously claims the regime's actions are about making City Hall work for the people, about its efficiency and effectiveness, saving taxpayers' money, making city management and its labour contracts "reasonable," putting the city's "ability to pay" in first place, and they are even to "improve services for all residents." This is from a regime that has made the utmost effort over the last year to degrade or cut city services and programs and is right now finalizing many such cuts via its 2012 budget.

To bolster his arguments, Holyday cites as unreasonable a variety of provisions that provide workers a degree of security and peace of mind as they provide public services and programs. Holyday admits that what makes these items unreasonable for him is above all that some are obstacles to downsizing, cutting and contracting out city functions. The cost to the city of contracting out and eliminating jobs and the subsequent redeployment of workers outrages the deputy mayor, but one would surely ask how much cutting and privatizing would the city implement without such costs and with the Ford regime in power? Unlike the editorial and columns of the same ilk, Holyday only implicitly, not directly, mentions the job security clauses themselves, which prevent the city from laying off permanent employees due to contracting out and technological change.

So, whatever reduces the workers' incomes, benefits and security, frees city management from any restraint in its dictate or paves the way to eliminating workers' jobs, is "reasonable" to Holyday. Even the provincial arbitration process governing those workers considered essential, is "broken" and unreasonable. According to the Ford regime, "Toronto's ability to pay is in the forefront," not the rights of all to public services, programs and well-being in line with the standard of the modern society in which we live, or the rights of the workers who provide the services to remuneration, security and well-being in line with the work they perform and the Canadian standard.

Just what underlies the Holyday/Ford/Toronto Sun concept of reasonableness and putting the city's "ability to pay" in the forefront? It is the reasonableness and indeed the necessity they see of putting the whole society, including what is still public, fully at the disposal of the rich and their monopolies, of reducing as much as possible the claims of workers and people, eliminating any restriction on the operation of their markets including of course the labour market.

Who could argue with any degree of logic that the modern society of Toronto and Canada does not have the ability to fully fund and provide comprehensive social programs and services to all, as a right? Or that those who dedicate their lives to providing them do not have a just claim to standard remuneration and security, a claim that must be fulfilled as well for all workers? What is indeed in doubt is whether the city or country have the ability to fulfill these just claims of the workers and people and as well sustain the continuing pursuit of greater profit and plunder in the midst of crisis, on the part of the rich and their monopolies.

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False Analogies to Defend an Anti-Social Agenda

As Toronto's Ford regime pushes its 2012 budget of service and program cuts toward a final vote around January 18, its media champions have trotted out a much used argument in defence of the indefensible. According to the Toronto Sun (editorial, January 10), the city should proceed with the Ford budget plan to use the $150 million plus 2011 surplus mainly to pay down debt rather than to reverse the array of proposed cuts to public services. "In the real world, paying down your debt with an unexpected bonus of cash is the prudent thing to do -- families do it every day," concludes the item. In the same vein, it decries a pre-Ford purchase of new street cars it says was "like buying a new car on credit when your roof is leaking."

Evoking this false analogy, the Toronto Sun would have us view the city government as an entity comparable to a family or individual of modest means.

Such a family, probably of workers, faces circumstances to a large extent beyond its own control -- the insecurities of the economy, the labour market, government policy like that defended by the Toronto Sun, etc. -- and must manoeuvre as best it can within those circumstances. To do so, it might well decide to use a surplus to pay down its debts, or alternatively go deeper into debt to fulfill its members' needs. And these people might also decide to unite with the thousands like themselves in their workplace and community to struggle for change that would provide them some control over their lives.

A municipal government on the other hand is a branch of the state and shares the state's duty to guarantee the security and well-being of the people. Likewise, it shares the state's power over society -- power to make laws, to regulate, decide policy, appropriate wealth and expend it. As in the present case and in line with the provincial and federal levels, it may deny its duty toward the people and instead blatantly dedicate itself to the well-being of the rich and their monopolies at the expense of the former and the social services and programs society needs. To do so, it may choose to borrow money from the rich for expenditures and pay them interest, instead of appropriating the wealth produced by social labour as a claim prior to those of the rich. It may also divert funds from degraded social programs and services, taxes paid by workers and the poor, growing user fees, etc. in order to repay the rich who now prefer to profit by other means -- for instance via privatization, by appropriating what has remained public.

While the family unit of workers does confront many circumstances beyond its control, these media champions of the Ford regime and the whole anti-social offensive of the monopolies dishonestly present the state and its levels of government as being in a similar situation, prisoners of economic forces that supposedly dictate there is no money for public social programs and services or for workers' standard wages and benefits. The Ford regime's option of sacrificing public social programs and services, and privatizing or selling off public assets in order to increase the profits of the rich and their monopolies is thus conveniently presented as an unavoidable necessity.

Toronto is a modern city in a modern society of immense actual and potential wealth, with the means to fulfill the rights, security and well-being of all. The Toronto Sun's false analogies and distortions cannot change that.

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Canadian and U.S. Workers Stand as One

  BBQ in support of Electro-Motive Diesel workers in London, January 7, 2012. (CAW)

As we reported last week, Electro-Motive Diesel/Caterpillar in London, Ontario has locked out its 400 workers and is demanding they submit to draconian conditions which include wage cuts of up to 50%, elimination of benefits and pensions, and threats to move production to Muncie, Indiana. Reports are circulating that the company is advertising for managers for the Muncie operation. The ads require experience in a "non-union" environment.

Meanwhile, the Governor of Indiana is trying to get right-to-be-slave-labour legislation, euphemistically called "right-to-work" legislation, passed as soon as possible. This legislation bans private-sector unions from automatically collecting dues at unionized workplaces. This right, in Canada called the Rand formula, won in the great strikes of '46, signified the de facto recognition of unions as bargaining agents of the workers which represent their interests. This recognition was essential to the post-war social contract and the equilibrium between capital and labour whereby the workers pledged labour peace in exchange for security of living and working conditions.

The right-to-be-slave-labour bill means that due to lack of funds, the ability of unions to maintain themselves as professional organizations and to organize non-union workplaces is undermined. It is a direct attack on the right to organize and the living standards achieved by unionized workers.

Local 1005 brings this legislation to the attention of its members and retirees and the Hamilton community because it reveals why EMD thinks it can hold the London workers hostage to its demands for concessions. The pressure is that workers should not think things through for themselves. It is to sow panic that even if the workers make concessions, EMD would want to move production to its Indiana operations in any case. It is also a shot across the bow for the 41,000 steelworkers in the U.S. whose contracts expire in September of this year. One of U.S. Steel's largest plants is in Gary, Indiana with the 4 facilities employing more than 6,000 workers.

In all of this, a key aim of the monopolies and their media and government spokespersons is to have us believe that we are powerless to do anything about the situation. This is not the case. By sticking to their own interests, members of Local 1005 were able to engage the fight against attempts by U.S. Steel to impose a regime where it gets to act with impunity. Its aim to create a workplace where the workers are disorganized and defenceless has not prevailed because workers defeated U.S. Steel's attempt to treat the union with contempt. The members of 1005 gave a fitting response. They stood strongly with the union. They defeated its attempts to impose slave labour conditions, up to and including the inclusion of a slave clause in the contract. They ridiculed attempts to incite a so-called dissident rebellion against the union leadership on the pretext that the union leadership is authoritarian and the workers should have "freedom of choice."

This claim to "freedom of choice" is the new pretext on all fronts to attack the organizations which enshrine a collective will, a sovereign will, a rule of law based on a definitely constituted mandate. We see this in actions which virtually destroy representative organizations such as the federal parliament, provincial legislatures and the unions in order to disempower the members. Companies such as U.S. Steel then rely on the office of the executive power -- the prerogative powers of the prime minister and first ministers in Canada, governors and U.S. president in the United States -- to achieve their aims and get the laws they want passed or impose regulations which achieve their aim. It is done in the name of "fairness," "choice" or "equity" against the "greed" of those they want to bring under their control. To hide the politicization of private monopoly interests, we are fed a steady diet of anti-union vitriol about "greedy self-serving workers!"

It is because we did not forfeit union rights that, for an encore, U.S. Steel went to the federal government to sign secret deals which got it to drop its lawsuit under the Investment Canada Act.

In Sudbury, the essence of the fight waged by the Vale Inco workers was also and continues to be against the "right" claimed by Vale Inco to act with impunity. This is also the case in Alma, Quebec where the opposition of the workers to unfettered subcontracting is also a fight against attempts to have a non-union work force. The forestry workers are up against government supported outrageous shenanigans of companies such as AbitibiBowater which has reinvented itself under the name Resolute Forest Products after a fraudulent bankruptcy process.

Another way to destroy unions is with attempts to bankrupt them. The back to work legislation against the postal workers and constant harassment and violation of their rights at the place of work have forced their union into lawsuits and huge arbitration costs, putting a severe strain on union funding. Now, in the U.S., laws are eliminating closed shop union arrangements to destroy the unions another way.

All of it puts into perspective the aim of anti-union PR carried out by those newspapers and spokespersons in private industry and government which defend the interests of the monopolies and their cartels known as oligopolies. Very narrow monopoly interests are served under the fraud and hoax that this creates a secure economy which is needed for national security, by which they mean "homeland security" -- a continental arrangement in which the Canada as we know it does not figure at all. In this "homeland," only company unions will be allowed and their job will be to deliver slave labour, including making sure they act as the security firms which prevent workers from standing up for their right to wages, pensions, benefits and working conditions commensurate with the jobs they perform, including proper standards for health and safety.

All of it shows that our fight in defense of the rights of all is a serious fight for the kind of future which will be created on the planet earth. Canadian and American workers stand as one for a bright future where they can exercise control over the decisions which affect their lives and the wealth they create.

Union Rights Yes! Monopoly Right No!

(Information Update #2, January 12, 2012)

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York Region

Transit Workers' Resistance to Monopoly Dictate

For more than twelve weeks now, 560 York transit system workers have been on strike against Miller Transit, Veolia Transit and First Canadian, the international transit monopolies contracted by the Municipality of York Region to operate its transit system. The workers are members of ATU Local 113 (Veolia) and ATU Local 1587 (Miller, First Canada). They have been striking to back up just demands for wages and benefits closer to the standard for the transit sector in the Greater Toronto Area. Wages of York Transit workers are currently $7 per hour lower than the GTA standard and they have almost none of the benefits and pensions that are standard in the sector.

The response of the monopoly transit contractors to these just demands has been offers below the inflation rate with no provisions at all for closing the wage gap. They also refused to close the benefit gap. Throughout the negotiations and the strike, the contractors arrogantly dictated that their unacceptable terms are "take it or leave it" non-negotiable offers. This kind of arrogant "take it or leave it" dictate has become the hallmark bargaining style of the international monopolies operating in Canada, but the York Transit workers have refused to knuckle under to it. In recent days, the workers have taken resolute actions that express their determination to have a say about their wages and benefits.

On January 6, at the request of Miller Transit, the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) forced workers to vote on the latest Miller contract offer, which the workers' bargaining committee had described as "an insulting and totally unacceptable offer." Miller's request for a forced vote was made under the hoax that ATU Local 1587 was blocking workers employed by Miller from accepting Miller's terms. This attempt to undermine the union was accompanied by Miller communicating with individual workers. The outcome of the forced vote was an 83 per cent rejection of the offer with a 92 per cent turnout. At an enthusiastic rally of transit workers following the OLRB-ordered vote on Miller's insulting offer, ATU Local 1587 President Ray Doyle said, "There can now be not the slightest doubt that the membership is in full support of the union and its bargaining committee."

Similar determination was expressed by workers employed by Veolia Transit at a meeting organized by ATU Local 113 on December 24 and attended by all 220 Veolia workers. The bargaining committee read out Veolia's offer. Workers present unanimously denounced Veolia's terms and decided that even voting on the offer would be undignified. The meeting ended in a rally with the workers standing and chanting slogans supporting their union and the bargaining committee. The OLRB has granted Veolia's request for a forced vote on the offer on January 17 but it is expected that the outcome will be the same as for the OLRB forced vote at Miller Transit.

The latest offers of Miller and Veolia, which the workers rejected, had been put on the table when negotiations were restarted in the pre-Christmas period. The unions had been trying to get the talks restarted so a compromise arrangement could be reached. During the talks Local 113 even agreed to reduce the wage demand in exchange for movement on the benefit gap, which had become the focus of many workers during the strike. It appears though that the contractors were just using the resumption of negotiations as a ploy to create confusion prior to requesting a forced OLRB vote. No serious changes were included in the proposals put forward by the contractors. The unions have come to the conclusion that in the face of the contractors' intransigence, binding arbitration is the only way any compromise can be worked out.

Prior to these latest actions, York Transit workers have been steadily stepping up their strike action against the dictate of the international transit monopolies. In November and December, pickets were set up at the contractors' garages where buses, garbage trucks and other vehicles used by contractors in York Region's privatized public services are dispatched. Information pickets were also set up at bus terminals used by the 40 per cent of the York Transit routes not affected by the strike.

York Transit workers are also taking action against the irresponsible politicians of the Municipality of York Region with demonstrations at the head office of York Region in October and in December. At both demonstrations hundreds of transit workers and supporters marched to York Region offices to demand York Region take responsibility for the transit workers and transit users. York Region politicians have taken the ridiculous position that what happens to transit workers and riders "is none of our business" because the service is contracted out. Workers reject this claim that contracting out public services relieves the politicians of their duty to provide these services and to provide decent compensation for the workers. They demand York Region either force its contractors to negotiate properly or send the dispute to binding arbitration.

At the December demonstration supporters included a delegation from the Toronto and York Region Labour Council. The Labour Council delegation demanded that York Region throw out the international monopoly contractors and establish York Transit as a properly run public service. TYRLC characterized transit in York Region as a chaotic hodgepodge of small town bus services patched together in a way that is profitable for the international transit monopolies but totally inadequate for the needs of the region. It demanded York Region create a modern public transit system appropriate for a city of one million people, one that takes into account the needs of transit users and meets wage and benefit standards for transit workers.

During the strike, the actions of the York Region politicians have shown that their claim of "neutrality" is a fraud and that they fully support the aggressive "take it or leave it" dictate of the international monopolies. Acting on behalf of its contractors, York Region went to court for an injunction criminalizing the picketing of the contractors' garages and the terminals. York Region also bought media space to circulate slanderous, lying propaganda about the workers, their union and their strike. Other bankrupt politicians have also come down squarely on the side of the international transit monopolies, including Progressive Conservative MPPs from York Region ridings who tried to bring in legislation to remove the York Transit workers' right to strike.

While the international transit monopolies have the support of the bankrupt politicians of the rich, York Transit workers standing up to their dictate have broad support among the working class. This support among the workers is not only because the York Transit workers' demands for standard wages and benefits is just, but also because their struggle is an expression of the viewpoint of the working class on the question of public services. For the working class, services needed to live in a modern society are a right of all and government is duty-bound to ensure this right. Contracting out services in no way relieves governments of this responsibility, nor does contracting out relieve the government of responsibility for ensuring the livelihoods of workers providing these public services.

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Opposition to McGuinty Government

Cuts to Social Programs Are Not Solutions
for Ontario's Economy

Workers of Ontario and the rest of Canada have an expectation that a significant amount of the vast wealth they create be used to provide the social programs and services required by people living in a modern society. Despite the clamouring by bankrupt politicians of the rich and by the monopoly media about the need for austerity measures, people are demanding increased -- not reduced -- spending for social programs.

For example, public opinion testing in poll after poll has shown overwhelming support for significantly increased government health services. People want medicare expanded to include dental and drug benefits. They want an end to the disgraceful treatment of seniors and other long-term care patients by the health system. There is broad support for the demands of parents, youth and adult learners for improved no-cost quality education opportunities. There is almost universal support for the expansion of quality child care/early learning, for efficient, sustainable urban transit and the expansion of many other public services.

These expectations arise from the requirements for a decent life in a modern society and from the knowledge that a modern economy has the capacity to provide these services for all. Rather than doing their duty of organizing the economy and society so that the required services are provided -- provided for everyone not just the rich -- governments at all levels are telling workers and others to reduce their expectations. Workers are very well aware of the immense amount of wealth they create, so to them it is just not credible when the rich assert modern social services for all are "unaffordable luxuries" beyond the capacity of the economy. If government is unable to provide for the social programs and services workers rightfully expect, then this is another clear indication that a new direction is needed for the economy.

In Ontario, the McGuinty government has assigned Don Drummond and the Commission for the Reform of Ontario's Public Services the task of leading the propaganda campaign of the rich about the need for workers to reduce expectations for public services as well as for the need for workers providing services to accept reduced wages. Since his appointment in March, 2011 Drummond has been promoted everywhere in the monopoly media saying that Ontario faces a debt crisis because of the 2008-09 recession and that the only way out is to slash social programs -- especially health and education spending -- and to slash the wages of workers in the broad public sector. At the beginning of the New Year, ahead of the release of the Reform Commission report, Drummond held a series of press events to push this campaign further.

In these press interviews Drummond has been gradually leaking some of the 400 recommendations for cuts he says he has prepared. Among them are recommendations for a broad program of privatization of services, job cuts and user fees across all government ministries, for the expansion of class sizes in elementary and secondary schools and for deep reductions in health services. In health care Drummond is singling out chronically ill seniors for attack. Ill seniors, Drummond complains, "are 1 per cent of the population but account for fully half of all hospital spending, or about one-third of total health expenditures."

Drummond has also been using these press interviews to hype up the alleged urgency of these austerity measures. He now says the situation is much worse than he first thought, that his earlier "the sky is falling" pronouncements about the debt crisis resulting from the recession understated the problem. In a report on its interview with Drummond, the Globe and Mail says:

"Mr. Drummond's assessment of the need for sacrifices owes largely to his belief that slow economic growth, widely assumed to be a consequence of global economic turmoil, is in fact Ontario's new normal. Because of low increases in both labour force and productivity, he argues, the province can expect annual growth of only about 2 per cent -- not the 3 or 3.5 per cent on which its finances have long been predicated."

Lack of job growth and low productivity in Ontario are impotently presented as the "new normal," as Ontario's long term prospect. Nothing can be done about this according to Drummond, so the only answer is cuts to social programs and cuts to public sector payrolls. Workers, however, do not share Drummond's impotent point of view that lack of job growth and productivity growth in Ontario are inevitable. Workers in many economic sectors have presented solutions for reversing the decline in jobs and productive output, solutions which involve restricting, in one way or another, the wrecking and looting of the economy by international monopolies. Furthermore, most workers realize that cutting social programs and public sector jobs will only make the economic situation worse.

In the Globe and Mail interview, Drummond is quoted as saying "The structure of the government programs in Ontario right now does not fit with the longer-term economic prospects in Ontario." This is exactly the point, but Drummond has it upside down. In this misfit between Ontario's economic direction and people's expectations for government services, it is the economic direction that has to be changed, not people's expectations. Cutting social programs and public sector wages will not solve the debt crisis or improve job growth and productivity -- they will only make the situation worse. A new direction has to be found for the economy so that the economy fits with the government programs people need and expect.

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Tuition Grants for Some Does Not Recognize
Education Is a Right for All

On January 5, the McGuinty government announced a new tuition grant of 30 per cent for some, but not all, university and college students. The grant excludes graduate students and those in part-time programs, those out of high school more than four years and international students.

The Globe and Mail report on the government announcement informed that the grant would be funded by cutting expenditures in other areas, and not with new money. The cuts will include the elimination of the Textbook and Technology Grant, the Trust for Student Support and the Queen Elizabeth II Aiming for the Top Scholarships. According to the Globe and Mail article, for those students not eligible for the new grant, cuts to other programs will mean a real loss. For example, the elimination of the Textbook and Technology Grant will mean a real loss for some students in the amount of $150 less per academic year to pay for textbooks and computer costs, according to the article. The government has also recently announced cuts in the amount of $42 million to research grants at universities, although they have not indicated whether these cuts will be used directly to fund the new grants.

How are we to make sense of this? Should we applaud the tuition grant which is tied to cuts in other areas of education spending? We don't even know what the full impact is on other aspects of students' lives or on education in general because nothing is transparent. Rather, the announcement is totally arbitrary and continues to create a chaotic situation in which post-secondary education in the province is not planned in any coherent way and, instead, money is allocated at one time in one area and simultaneously taken away from others. This is particularly true for those students who now do not qualify for grants under the new system. It is disruptive for everyone at post-secondary institutions who rely on guaranteed funding for their work and studies.

Workers at Ontario colleges have discussed and expressed their concerns with arbitrary decisions which impact their abilities to deliver quality education. The lack of guaranteed funding from one year to the next impacts budgeting plans in different programs, contributes to larger class sizes, lack of space, less full-time faculty positions and overall threats to existing programs. This unplanned and arbitrary approach creates instability for workers and students at post-secondary institutions and definitely cannot be described as a way to build a consistent system over time so that it contributes to building a modern society.

The new grants focus only on tuition fees (and then only of those who qualify) rather than the overall post-secondary system which requires adequate funding at all levels. College workers in Ontario have called on the government to increase investments as Ontario continues to be the lowest funded college system in all of Canada. The consequence is that students and workers at the colleges face deteriorating conditions. The exclusion of some individuals from the new grants also demonstrates its fraudulent character.

The crux of the matter is that the rights of people to be educated in a modern society are not guaranteed in the current economic, political or educational system. College and university education must be adequately funded without exception. Education is a right to which every member of society should have equal access, regardless of ability to pay, or how much debt they are able to incur. Governments have a responsibility towards the collective as they are in place to look out for the general interests of society, not just some individuals now and then.

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