February 19, 2013 - Vol. 2
Takes Over Where McGuinty Left Off
Legislature Opens Amidst Growing
Affirmation of Rights and Opposition to Austerity
August 28, 2012,
mass action of teachers and education workers and their allies prior to
prorogation at Queen's Park
against Bill 115, the Putting Students First
Takes Over Where McGuinty Left Off
• Legislature Opens Amidst Growing Affirmation
of Rights and Opposition to Austerity - Enver Villamizar
• Where McGuinty Left Off and What to Expect
- Dan Cerri
Public Right Yes!
Monopoly Right No!
• Government to Impose Transit Taxes
- Rob Woodhouse
• Anti-Social Cuts and New Arrangements in
Emergency Housing Supports - Sylvia Etts
Health Care Is a Right!
• Province Withholds Promised Investments to
• Rally Opposes Cuts to Medical Services in
Niagara Region - Ron Walker
• Liberals Pave the Way for Harris' Pink
Wynne Takes Over Where McGuinty Left Off
Legislature Opens Amidst Growing Affirmation of Rights
and Opposition to Austerity
The opening of the Legislature is taking place amid
continued affirmation of rights and opposition to austerity by the
workers' opposition. Since the passage of the austerity budget by the
Liberals and PCs with the NDP abstaining on March 27, workers
immediately took their own stands against the budget and the austerity
measures it put forward. This was clearly expressed with a mass rally
at Queen's Park on April 21.
April 21, 2012 mass
action of Ontario workers against austerity
Since then teachers, education workers, students, and
workers from different sectors of the economy have continued to be in
action to oppose the implementation of the austerity agenda, holding
another mass action on August 28 at the Legislature, along with many
local actions. All of this mobilization formed public opinion for the
recognition of the fact that the fight to defeat Bill 115 is a fight
for the rights of all in society and against the theft of billions from
education to pay the rich. The test of this and of the capacity of the
working class to take an independent stand in its own interest was the
resounding defeat of both the Liberals and PCs -- those who had passed
Bill 115 and staked their electoral fortunes on it in the
December 13, 2012,
Queen's Park, rally of thousands of high school and elementary
from across Toronto against Bill 115 .
The Legislature was prorogued by then-Premier Dalton
McGuinty on October 15. Prorogation was an attempt to sidetrack this
growing opposition. It was an attempt to "reset" the austerity agenda
through backroom deal-making while seeking to calm the workers'
opposition. During prorogation however, the Liberals, egged on by the
PCs, continued to use their prerogative powers to implement all manner
of anti-social attacks on Ontarians that had been passed in their
budget. At the same time, the working class of Ontario stepped up its
actions to affirm its rights and oppose these attacks. Demonstrations
were held weekly outside many MPPs' offices, large actions were held at
the Liberal Leadership debates, students held walkouts and rallied in
their thousands at Queen's Park, elementary and secondary teachers and
other education workers voted massively in favour of strike action and
held regular pickets in front of their schools. This growing opposition
showed its strength once again with a mass rally of some 30,000 people
at the Liberal Leadership Convention where Kathleen Wynne was selected
as leader and premier. Since her selection as Premier Wynne continues
to try and avoid dealing with the demand that governments affirm the
rights of the people instead of violating them. Instead she has put
forward the call for "fairness" in implementing austerity. This is to
divert from the demands being put forward by the Workers' Opposition in
No to Austerity!
Hold Governments to
Repeal the Austerity
Measures in Bill 115!
January 26, 2013
march outside the Liberal leadership convention at Maple Leaf Gardens
Where McGuinty Left Off and What to Expect
The most apparent trend in the Legislature before
prorogation was anti-worker legislation, as was passed against
teachers, education workers and those in the broader public sector. The
passing of Bill 115, the Putting
Students First Act, on September 11, 2012 by the Liberals and
PCs made clear direction the government intended to take.
There were other attempts to attack the rights of public
sector workers in the same vein as Bill 115, namely the draft
legislation introduced by recently resigned Finance Minister Dwight
Duncan, the Protecting Public Services Act. The draft
legislation sought to pass a continued wage freeze for non-unionized
public sector employees whose wages have already been frozen for the
last two years. It also sought to subject collective bargaining for
unionized employees in the same sector to greater government control,
including through changes to the arbitration system. The draft
legislation would have given the Minister veto power and the ability to
impose conditions for negotiated agreements, including wage restraints.
The Minister would also have the ability to nullify an arbitrator's
September 5, 2012,
thousands of public servants demonstrate at Queen's Park against
government's threat to
The Hudak PCs introduced their own version of changes to
the interest arbitration system with a private member's bill, the Ability
to Pay Act, 2012. They also introduced another private member's
bill, Bill 70, the Trust in Arbitration Act, 2012, which
passed first reading on April 18. It seeks to set up a commission that
will oversee all collective bargaining disputes under the Fire
Protection and Prevention Act, 1997, the Hospital Labour
Disputes Arbitration Act, the Ontario Provincial Police
Collective Bargaining Act, 2006 and the Police Services Act where
the commission's decisions will be final and cannot be challenged in
court. No doubt the program to put in place new arrangements in
interest arbitration will once again be on the agenda in this sitting.
In its March 27 budget, the McGuinty government also
announced its intention to introduce legislation to attack the pensions
of public sector workers. It called for capping contribution increases
so any future shortfalls have to be covered by decreased benefits
(making their defined benefit plans into de facto defined contribution
plans), reducing employer contributions on pensions where employers pay
more than 50 per cent of contributions (even where these ratios were
the result of previously negotiated agreements) and forcing mergers of
smaller pension plans with bigger plans.
The agenda of the Legislature prior to prorogation was
clearly preparing to extend the austerity measures of Bill 115 to all
workers in the public sector in a similar manner -- through ministerial
powers to dictate wage freezes and cuts and by eroding workers'
benefits, all within the overall aim of siphoning money from the public
purse to pay the rich. If implemented, it will lead to further
deterioration in the standard of living of non unionized employees and
the deterioration of collective bargaining to accomplish the same aim
for unionized workers to free up cash to continue dishing out huge
payouts to the monopolies, as was the case recently with Toyota and
other private interests in the name of "job creation."
What to Expect in the
The reopening of the Legislature on February 19 is being
used to give a "fresh face" to the same agenda put forward by McGuinty
and Hudak through attempting to "reset" the agenda in order to hide its
illegitimacy. It is an attempt once again to silence the workers'
opposition by giving the illusion that peoples' rights will be affirmed
in the Legislature through a new "balanced approach" based on
The new premier, Kathleen Wynne has pledged to
reconstitute all of the Legislature's committees, including those that
will oversee the continued implementation of the austerity agenda
passed last spring. The Hudak PCs have released a number of "white
papers" to further push this agenda. Horwath's NDP have taken up the
Liberals' call for "fairness", saying they want a "balanced approach to
balancing the budget." Wynne has also said she will work with the other
parties to implement their ideas in the next budget. This prepares the
ground for a Throne Speech that will put forward the austerity agenda
using proposals from both the PCs and NDP in the name of fairness.
Meanwhile the attacks on rights expressed in Bill 115 and the austerity
measures it contained will be extended to other sectors in a "fair"
The "new" Legislature is signalling no opposition to
austerity and that each party is involved in fighting over whose
methods are best suited to implementing an illegitimate agenda that
serves only the interests of the monopolies and other private interests
at the expense of the people, their social programs and society.
1. See Ontario Political Forum, October 1,
2012 - Vol. 2 No. 1.
2. See Ontario Political
Forum, October 10, 2012 - Vol. 2 No. 2.
Right Yes! Monopoly Right No!
Government to Impose Transit Taxes
In one of her first acts as the new Liberal Leader and
Premier, Kathleen Wynne announced she intends to create a revenue
stream for funding urban transit expansion by sharply increasing
personal taxes. While personal taxes are to increase, her government
will continue to impose funding cuts on education, health and other
social programs in the name of deficit reduction. This means that her
government will continue to pay the rich in the name of a healthy
economy. It is a scam.
In a press conference, Wynne said urban transit
expansion in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) is "the
number one condition that we need to get right in terms of economic
growth." She said some form of increased personal taxes and user fees
will be imposed to fund the plan of the government transit agency
Metrolinx for a $50 billion expansion of urban transit in the GTHA.
"It's not whether we're going to create a revenue stream it's which
tools we're going to use," Wynne said. The tools being considered
include an increase in sales tax, gas tax, property tax and income tax
and increased road tolls and transit user fees
In response to questions, Wynne admitted that any form
of a personal tax grab for transit will be unpopular among the majority
of the electorate but said she would push ahead anyway: "I'm not saying
we won't have to spend political capital to get a revenue stream in
place -- we absolutely will. But if people want to see new
infrastructure, if they want to see the transit that we need in the
GTHA we are going to have to raise the revenue."
A broad alliance of the rich and their political
representatives is forming around the scheme for extracting more
personal taxes from working people in the name of urban transit
funding. The parties pushing the austerity agenda are on board for
squeezing more tax revenue from working people. Wynne expressed
confidence that she has the ruling elite behind her. "You've got all
the city-builders and thinkers saying it, the people in CivicAction,
the people at the Toronto Board of Trade and those are businesspeople,"
she said. "They recognize that it's critical for their businesses that
this happen so I'm very convinced that this is the moment that we have
to step forward."
The Conservatives are also supporting transit taxes.
Conservative leader Tim Hudak has joined the call for a transit tax and
former Conservative Leader John Tory is leading an all out propaganda
campaign by the monopoly media in favour of transit taxes.
In her media comments, Wynne did a political sleight of
hand that reveals the anti-social character of the transit tax scheme.
Wynne said the rich support expansion of transit because "it's critical
for their businesses that this happen." Yet, she says the public has to
pay increased personal taxes to provide this critical support for
Wynne and all of the media reports on transit expansion
quote a Board of Trade study that says planned transit projects will
add $6 billion in value to the economy of the GTHA each year. But this
presents the questions: Why does the government have to raise taxes if
the transit expansion will produce so much wealth in the economy? Why
not just use some of the $6 billion a year of value created by transit
expansion to fund it?
The problem is that the $6 billion of value created in
the economy by transit is realized as increased profits by private
interests such as employers, retailers, commercial landlords, real
estate developers, land speculators, entertainment promoters and so on.
They will be claiming as profit value put into the economy by workers
in every aspect of transit -- vehicle manufacturing, construction,
maintenance and operation. Private interests are able to claim
increased profits from the economy because of transit expansion without
being required to put anything back in. Value created in the economy by
transit is being claimed by free riding private interests and this is
why the question comes up -- how to pay for transit?
Urban transit has been underfunded for many years in the
GTHA and expansion of transit is urgently needed. The way the
government is arranging the expansion and funding of transit though is
unacceptable. Rich free riders will be claiming all the wealth transit
creates while working people will have increased personal taxes and
increased user fees hung around their necks to pay for it.
Anti-Social Cuts and New Arrangements in
Emergency Housing Supports
October 13, 2012,
Hamilton rally and march opposes government's cuts to social
People who rely on social assistance and anti-poverty
organizations have been carrying out actions throughout the province to
oppose the Liberal government's plan for drastic cuts to funds
available to poor people during housing crises and other emergencies.
Several municipalities have also spoken out against these cuts because
of the impact they will have on the ability of municipalities to
deliver emergency housing support to poor residents.
Among the actions carried out against cuts to emergency
support funds were repeated demonstrations in Kitchener-Centre, the
riding of Liberal MPP John Milloy who was Minister of Community and
Social Services at the time. Protesters demanded that the homeless and
the poor not be treated as budget items but as human beings with rights
to livelihoods, housing and adequate food. They demanded a continuation
of the emergency funds programs.
In the 2012 austerity budget announced last spring, the
Liberal government eliminated the Community Start-Up and Maintenance
Benefit (CSUMB) effective December 31, 2012 and the Home Repairs
Benefit (HRB) effective June 31, 2012. The CSUMB and the HRB are funds
people on social assistance could access in an emergency. Each month
16,000 people accessed these funds, usually for housing emergencies.
These emergency programs had been funded at $134 million a year.
The Elimination of CSUMB and HRB funds is part of a new
arrangement the government is putting in place under the signboard of
its "poverty reduction" strategy. Under this arrangement, all emergency
housing support programs for poor families and the homeless will be
consolidated into a new program, the Community Homelessness Prevention
Initiative (CHPI). The government said that half of the "savings" from
eliminating the CSUMB and HRB--$67 million--will be put into the CHPI
program. The CHPI program will be administered by municipalities and
the funding will be delivered through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs
The government's "poverty reduction" strategy involves
extending programs available to social assistance recipients to people
who are low-paid workers. However, this extension of eligibility is
being implemented while overall funding of these underfunded programs
is being further slashed. In the case of the new CHPI program to
"replace" CSUMB and HRB, employed low-income people as well as social
assistance recipients will now be able to apply for emergency housing
support. This will more than double the number of households that can
apply for emergency housing support but the total amount of funds
available will be $67 million less. Poverty reduction is another cruel
Liberal "social justice" fraud!
As a result of the widespread opposition to elimination
of CSUMB and HRB, the government was forced to back off from its plan
for immediately chopping funding for emergency housing support. On
December 27, just days before the CSUMB was eliminated, the government
announced that it will provide an additional $42 million in one-time
transitional funding to municipalities for emergency housing.
While anti-poverty organizations and municipalities were
relieved that the funding cuts will be partially postponed for a year,
the new arrangements for emergency housing support under the CHPI
program and the details of the one-year transitional funding will
negatively impact both municipalities and low-income households.
Transitional funding will only be provided to those
municipalities that are deemed eligible for the funding by the Ministry
of Community and Social Services. Deeming will be based on the share of
households in a municipality that fall into "deep core housing need" as
defined in the 2006 Census. A formerly statutory emergency program
universally available to people on social assistance across the
province becomes a discretionary program that varies according to the
average housing conditions and prevailing policies in each
municipality. As well, a low-income household may be eligible for
emergency housing support but without the program being fully funded,
eligible households will be subjected to discretionary rationing by
local officials. Previously, applicants for CSUMB and HRB had the right
to appeal decisions of officials but appeals have also been eliminated.
The problem of poverty and the problem of people in need
of social support cannot be treated as a line on a budget. In a modern
society this problem can only be resolved by the recognition of
people's rights. Every person regardless of their situation, including
a person who cannot work or who cannot find work, has the right to live
in dignity and security because they are human beings.
The new Liberal premier along with her team and new
cabinet will be held to account for ensuring these rights, regardless
of her self-promotion as a disciple of social justice. Creating new
arrangements that increase competition for benefits among the poor for
underfunded social programs under the signboard of "poverty reduction"
is unacceptable. Diverting funds from social programs into the
countless pay-the-rich schemes being organized by the government is
unacceptable. The government should stop paying the rich and provide
the funding required for ensuring the right of everyone to a livelihood.
The Community Homelessness Partnership Initiative
(CHPI) was developed from the consolidation of five existing programs,
- Consolidated Homelessness
Prevention Program -- households experiencing or at risk of
homelessness to find and maintain stable housing and access support
- Emergency Energy Fund --
prevent homelessness by reducing the risk of households being evicted
by providing emergency assistance to deal with payment of energy
utility arrears, security deposits and reconnection fees;
- Emergency Hostel Services --
provides temporary board and lodging and for personal needs to homeless
persons on an emergency basis;
- Domiciliary Hostel Program
-- provides permanent housing with some supports for vulnerable adults
who require limited supervision and assistance with daily activities;
- Provincial Rent Bank Program
-- provides outstanding rent directly to landlords on behalf of tenants
who, due to emergency or unforeseen circumstances, are in short term
arrears and facing eviction.
Care Is a Right!
Province Withholds Promised Investments to
Twenty-four full-time and 10 part-time registered nurses
received layoff notices at the Metropolitan campus of Windsor Regional
Hospital earlier this month in response to a decision by the government
to withhold monies it had promised to pay for opening 58 much needed
new complex continuing care beds. Even though the plan for the 58 beds
was approved by the ministry years ago, the government unilaterally
announced in September that because of "funding constraints" it
would now be disbursing the funding over six years instead of all at
once as originally promised, resulting in only ten new beds opening up
per year over the next six years.
As part of announcing the layoffs, the hospital also
announced it is closing approximately 30 acute care beds and is seeking
approval to open the same number of complex continuing-care beds at its
Tayfour Campus which houses a combination of complex continuing care
beds, rehabilitation beds and specialized mental health beds.
It is reported that the RN layoffs will be partly offset
by 17 full-time and 13 new part-time Registered Practical Nurse
positions. The changes are projected to "save" the hospital $1
million annually, according to the hospital's CEO.
Referring to the cuts and layoffs, Sue Sommerdyk, the
president of Local 11 of the Ontario Nurses Association stated:
"Ontario is not putting the money in health care." She added that
Ontario has one of the lowest per capita populations of nurses in
Canada. Katha Fortier, co-chair of the Windsor-Essex Health Coalition
and CAW Director of Health Care, said the cuts will be felt by the
whole health care team.
"We certainly recognize the province is in a deficit but
quite frankly, when we're in a deficit, eliminating good jobs from our
communities and our tax base doesn't really benefit anybody in the long
run," Fortier said. "We've got a bigger problem, which is underfunding
of hospitals right now." Fortier said hospitals, including Windsor
Regional, are already working to generate more "savings" through wage
freezes and other forms of "cost control."
According to reports, about a quarter of Windsor
Regional Hospital's acute care beds are currently occupied by
"alternate level of care" patients -- those who really should be in a
nursing home but are in hospital because of a shortage of long-term
care beds in the community. Clearly the closure of hospital beds,
whatever the use, is anti-social given that, as the hospital points
out, there is a long waiting list for long-term care beds in the
The layoff of nurses and shuffle of beds at Windsor
Regional Hospital to make up for money the hospital expected to receive
from the province is a consequence of the removal of millions in public
funds from health care to use for payments on the deficit. In
addition to the millions the government has now gotten off the hook for
providing the hospital, it will be reducing the base funding provided
to the hospital by more than $4 million as of April 2013 because of
changes to the provincial funding formula used to determine its annual
budget. No doubt this shortfall caused by underfunding will be used as
the "constrain" to force more cuts and “consolidation” as well as to
create the conditions for more use of privately built and run
facilities in the name of focusing on the best service delivery
In a modern society, health care must be considered a
right which means it must be provided with a guarantee. Until this is
the case, then access is denied to those in need based on the claim
that there is no money to fund healthcare which is simply not true.
There is plenty of money but it is siphoned off to serve priorities
which are not based on providing human rights such as the right to
health care and education with a guarantee. This must be changed so
that society's path to progress can be opened instead of being kept
firmly shut to pay the rich.
Rally Opposes Cuts to Medical Services in
On Saturday January 19, 150 community members from the
municipalities of Niagara Falls, Welland, Port Colborne and Wainfleet
gathered at the Welland Arena to demand the Niagara Health System (NHS)
delay its plan to cease the delivery of obstetric and pediatric care in
the Niagara Falls and Welland Hospitals as of March 19. The NHS will
"temporarily" consolidate these services with those offered at a new
St. Catharines Hospital due to open on March 19. This move would see
the 430,000 residents of the sprawling Niagara Region all serviced by
this new hospital located in the north western corner of the region,
more than an hour's drive from Fort Erie and Port Colborne, and almost
an hour from Wainfleet in southern Niagara. The claim is that these
services may potentially be relocated to a more central location in ten
years, if a new hospital is built then.
Mayors Jim Diodatti of Niagara Falls and Barry Sharpe of
Welland spoke to the meeting about the obvious inefficiencies of moving
these services and all the support services. Sharpe also pointed out
that it certainly did not make sense to shut the existing services
before the real capacity of the St. Catharines site is determined and
tested. The community members at the general assembly voted unanimously
to demand a moratorium on considering any decision to cease the
delivery of services at Niagara Falls and Welland before next
September. Sharpe also appealed to the government-appointed NHS special
supervisor, Kevin Smith to immediately reconstitute the tripartite
committee of the NHS, Local Health Integration Network and elected
Niagara officials to allow for consultations on all future decisions
which impact the residents of the Niagara region.
Prior to 2000 many different hospitals operated in the
Niagara region. Then the Ontario government created the Niagara Health
System as one consolidated hospital. Not included in the new NHS was
the Lincoln Memorial Community hospital and a private Catholic
hospital. Later the NHS transferred the Shaver Rehabilitation Clinic to
the private Catholic Hospital Board, while taking over the hospital as
Right from the start the Ontario government made efforts
to reduce and consolidate hospital services in the region but the
communities resisted. In 2009 however, using the excuse of an operating
deficit created by chronic under funding, the NHS drafted a so-called
Hospital Improvement Plan or HIP which declared the necessity of
closing the emergency rooms at the Port Colborne General Hospital and
the Fort Erie Douglas Memorial Hospital. They were reduced to "urgent
care" centres and only a vigorous struggle by these communities has
kept the urgent care centres operating 24/7.
When the NHS announced plans to build a new hospital to
serve the residents of St. Catharines, Thorold and Niagara-on-the-Lake
in 2005, it was not presented as a "regional" hospital. Later it was
announced there would be a new cancer facility and heart centre at the
new hospital. After the announcement of the "cost saving" HIP in 2009
it became obvious that many of the NHS services provided at other
hospitals would be consolidated into the new one. Many hospital
employees, including doctors, and community members pointed out the HIP
was in fact an imminent threat to the viability of the existing
hospitals. This is why it was not a surprise when the Ontario
government-appointed supervisor Kevin Smith made his final
recommendation to close all existing NHS sites outside of St.
Catharines in return for the vague promise of building an another
additional hospital somewhere in Niagara in ten years to serve those
430,000 Niagara residents unable to make it to St. Catharines for
hospital services. Coincidentally, the new hospital was the last
private-public partnership (P3) model hospital approved in Ontario; and
while it claims to be, and may be state of the art, it will also
generate significant additional profits for the private developers
while being unable to meet the needs of the region's whole population.
Liberals Pave the Way for Harris' Pink Flowered Car
On November 6, 2012 former
Ontario Premier Mike Harris and his spouse Laura announced that they
were launching a Nurse Next Door franchise in Toronto. The official
vehicle for this business is a pink car painted with yellow daisies
that transports nursing staff to homes of seniors. Nurse Next Door,
which began in Vancouver, has over 50 franchises all across Canada and
two in the United States. This company provides a list of private
health care services around the clock to seniors, a fast-growing
demographic in Canada. It is projected that in 20 years, 25 per cent of
the population will be over 65 years of age. Nurse Next Door reported a
20 per cent increase in profits in 2011. According to Harris, he and
his wife are "excited" to bring this service to seniors who make up 15
per cent of Torontonians.
At the news conference announcing their plans, Laura
Harris, a former nurse who will be running the day-to-day operations of
the franchise, notes: "It's no secret that our population is aging and
it's our responsibility to make sure our seniors continue to thrive,
not just cope." She also said that "Nurse Next Door is unique in its
approach to health care. We focus on not just the clinical tasks but
what exactly brings happiness to our clients. We want to get our
clients back to doing the things they love." Laura Harris owns several
businesses, including Stadium Hostessing Services Inc., "which today
provides over 200 hosts at the Rogers Centre to VIP areas and clients
in corporate suites."
It was during Mike Harris' time as Premier that health
care in Ontario was gutted. Harris put into motion the Health Services
Restructuring Commission (HSRC) that was given statutory powers from
1996 to 2000 to expedite hospital closures and mergers, reduce medical
services across the board, fire thousands of nurses and the list goes
on. According to CUPE, the HSRC wound up spending four billion dollars
to achieve one billion dollars in "savings."
The Liberals, egged on by the PCs, have carried on where
Harris left off; further privatizing health care and jeopardizing the
health and well-being of Ontarians, especially the most vulnerable:
seniors. According to the Ontario Health Coalition 30,000 people in
Ontario are on a long-term care wait list -- a three-fold increase
since the Liberals came to power. The government-appointed Drummond
Commission on the Reform of Ontario's Public Services has recycled some
of Harris' proposals to find "efficiencies" in health care, including
further aggressive privatization of services.
It is this crisis in health care, wrought through
systematic privatization and cuts that Mike Harris kick-started in
Ontario, that Harris and his wife are now exploiting like a couple of
vultures in their pink flowered car.
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