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Prepare to fight the Tories

Poster for June 16 rally for decent work
By: 
John Bell, Sid Lacombe and Michelle Robidoux

June 8, 2018

Doug Ford’s hard-right Tories have won a majority, receiving 40% of the popular vote. While the NDP has made significant gains, almost doubling its seats, it is nowhere near what was hoped. Many were predicting that the Tories might get a majority of seats, but the NDP might get a bigger slice of the popular vote. That did not happen.

Why?

Anger at the Liberals was sky-high in the months leading up to the election. But the NDP took precious weeks to roll out its platform. While the platform was light years better than the sad document the NDP produced for the 2014 election, it was very late in the day.

Imagine if the ONDP had not spent the past 4 years in hibernation, and instead had been campaigning for what is on its current platform.

Imagine if riding associations had been turned into hubs of activity and campaigning instead of empty shells.

Imagine if an Ontario Federation of Labour mobilizing campaign had started 8 months ago, instead of the last minute non-campaign we were given.

Even a slight whiff of any of that would likely mean we wouldn't be talking about anything but an NDP sweep.

Unfortunately, the sweep did not happen. Instead, we have a dreaded Ford victory.

One thing we know for certain: Ford is coming for us. He has said he will cancel the raise in the minimum wage to $15 that was scheduled for January 2019. He has said he will allow harassment at abortion clinics and allow doctors to deny women referrals for abortion. He has promised to reintroduce the racist Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy.

We need to take him at his word.

Harris Years

One of Doug Ford’s role models is Mike Harris, who was Premier from 1995 to 2003. Harris’ motto was “hit them hard, hit them fast, don’t blink”. He cut welfare by 21.6% right after his election victory. He instructed the OPP to raid Ipperwash Provincial Park, leading to the murder of Indigenous land defender Dudley George.

But within days of Harris’ victory, protests began. First, several hundred people from the LGBTQ community protested the day after the election, burning a copy of the Tory election programme. A mass protest was organized on June 26 to protest at Harris’ swearing in. Then daycare workers staged a wildcat strike against a proposed 15% wage cut. And on the day the legislature opened, September 27, 10,000 rallied at Queen’s Park. It was the first time that a government faced such opposition on the opening day of parliament.

There are lessons to be learned from the Harris years about how the Tories operate and how we need to organize. There is no time to waste. Ford’s win will embolden employers across the province to push back on workers’ hard-fought gains.

The Fight for $15 and Fairness and the Ontario Federation of Labour have called a demonstration on June 16 at the Ministry of Labour. We need to build this protest as big as possible to show Ford and the Tories that they will be met with resistance at every turn.

Ford’s Tories may have a majority, and we can expect them to work quickly to bring in drastic cuts – but they can be pushed back. If we are able to bring large numbers of people into the streets and, crucially to build deep resistance in workplaces, we can blunt his ambitions.

The Tories do not have a mandate to rip apart social programs and cut jobs. Indeed, since they didn’t offer a detailed platform, it is impossible for them to claim that they campaigned on specific cuts. We can use this to our advantage. Working people in Ontario will be angry when the cuts start to come down. His promises to end hallway medicine will be shown to be a lie when he starts closing hospitals and firing nurses.

We must answer it with “hands off our services, hands off our jobs and pensions”.

And we must be prepared to take on the bigots who have been buoyed by Ford’s victory. The far right will claim the Ford victory as a vindication of their hatred. Anti-choice bigots will be emboldened and it will require us to build networks to counter their attempts to roll back access to abortion.

All of these will be important struggles in the coming days. The crucial first tests will likely be around the Tory plan to roll back the gains of Bill 148.

End of the Liberal Party?

After 15 scandal plagued years, Ontario voters have turned their backs on the Liberal Party. From a majority of 58 seats, they have been reduced to 7 seats. That means they lost official party status in the legislature. The whole OLP caucus can now meet in a couple of booths at Tim Horton’s.

As it became clear that her party was headed for a loss, Wynne swung her campaign hard to the right, dropping any pretense of being “progressive”. Liberals spent all their time attacking the NDP for its connection to organized labour, running anti-union ads that rivaled anything the Tories could have dreamed up.

Added to that was Wynne’s bizarre last minute ploy, conceding defeat in the election but imploring Liberal voters to stick with the party, to weaken both the Tories and the NDP. Observers were worried that the move would only end taking support away from NDP candidates and delivering a bigger majority to Ford.

Unfortunately, that is what happened.  The Liberal vote held up, not strong enough to win seats but strong enough to split the vote and wreck the NDP’s chances.

Ford owes the size of his majority government, in no small part, to Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals. The Liberal strategy confirmed what insiders were saying – that they would rather see a Ford majority than an NDP victory.

For the next four years, we should make sure the Liberals wear their share of the blame for what is sure to follow.

 

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