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Ford's cuts agenda gets pushed back

Pam Johnson

January 18, 2012

The first significant salvo in the austerity wars in Canada, Ford’s cuts budget, received a big push-back Tuesday when a coalition of progressive and moderate councillors voted against $20 million in cuts in a 23-21 vote.

This moment was preceded by a year of organizing that included mass protests on April 9 and September 26, a fantastic campaign by library workers, round-the-clock deputation sessions at City Hall and mass meetings across downtown and in Scarborough.

Remarks by Councillor Gloria Lindsay-Luby, a sometime Ford supporter who voted with the coalition, spoke directly to the impact of this sustained pressure. She said that for every four constituents who supported the cuts, six did not. It was this that moved her to vote against the cuts.

This has not been accidental. The election of Ford and his cuts agenda sparked new alliances, revived old tactics and launched grassroots organizations. Respect, an alliance of community and labour groups, joined forces to put on several mass protests; city workers in CUPE 416 began a door-to-door campaign; the library workers’ union began a very effective petition campaign immediately following the KPMG cuts recommendations. Occupy Toronto marched to City Hall against Ford cuts. Stop the Cuts coalition of neighborhood groups held meetings across the city and co-sponsored the demonstration with Respect on Tuesday.

We also know that the impact of the Arab Spring, the struggle in Wisconsin, and the Occupy movement have galvanized people into action. It has also allowed people to see the connections between struggles, and the relationship to economic crisis and the neo-liberal agenda expressed in the 99 vs. 1%.

Thousands of Torontonians who signed petitions, emailed their councillor or came out to a demonstration can feel some ownership of this victory – but it is a partial victory. The momentum this provides urgently needs to be carried forward. City workers are still in a showdown with Ford over layoffs. Pressure needs to be kept on city councillors to show that job cuts mean service cuts.

Over the next weeks, building broad and visible support for city workers – who may soon be locked out – will be key to applying that pressure on city councillors. CUPE members are already leafleting subways and handing out buttons to build support. Unions that represent primarily private sector workers, like USW, are bringing city workers into lunchrooms and to unit meetings to talk about the issues in their fight with Ford.

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