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Fighting Ford’s attacks on democracy

By: 
Peter Hogarth

August 20, 2018

On Thursday, August 16, the Toronto and York Region Labour Council held a meeting to oppose Doug Ford’s plan to cut Toronto city council from 47 to 25 councilors through Bill 5. Hundreds packed the Metropolitan United Church to find out more about what could be done to fight the hastily passed, anti-democratic move.

The meeting was addressed by a series of progressive councilors, including hosting councilor Krystan Wong-Tam; Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) such as Doly Begum from Scarborough Southwest; lawyers and senators who oppose the cuts to city council. Perhaps most powerfully, a panel of speakers from the Fight for $15 and Fairness, Toronto Environmental Alliance, and ACORN, spoke to the crowd about how their organizing would be affected by Bill 5 and what they saw as next steps.

While the room was packed and filled with a palpable anger at Ford and his cuts to the planned increases to social assistance rates, changes to Ontario’s Sex Ed curriculum, stopping safe injection sites, scrapping the province’s cap and trade program for carbon emissions, and promising millions to Toronto police to “lock ‘em up,” the outlook for opposing Bill 5’s slashing of city council seats seems grim.

Hopes for reversing the cuts seem to rest on a court challenge to the legality of Doug Ford and PC Party’s Bill.  A special meeting on Monday, August 20 is being held to decide whether to instruct the city’s legal team to go ahead and take them to court. People are being encouraged to pack city council on Monday and also to sign a petition telling Mayor John Tory to vote in favour of a legal challenge. Everyone should sign and share the petition by August 20.

Unfortunately, outside of launching a court challenge, the next steps were not at all clear. While there was lots of talk in the meeting of “uniting to fight back” and “relentless community resistance,” this sentiment was not matched with operational conclusions. This matters because there is no constitutionally recognized obligation for the province to consult with cities for these kinds of changes, which means instigating a legal challenge does not guarantee victory. Relying on political change from above, either through legal challenges or from well-intentioned politicians won’t build the kind of power we need to defeat Doug Ford’s slash and burn agenda.  

For this, we must look to workers’ own self-activity in the workplaces and on the streets. That’s why Ontario teachers collectively refusing the Ford government’s shameful scrapping of the modern Sex Ed curriculum and the Fight for $15 and Fairness are so critical. If teachers can resist Ford’s curriculum change and we can protect and extend the victories won in Bill 148 which affects union and non-union workers in every single workplace across the province, workers will have more agency on the job and in their communities to fight on every other front, from protecting public services to defeating fascism. And this will raise the pressure on whoever is in city council to reflect workers’ struggles.

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