April 25, 2012 - No. 33
Militant Day of Action Against
No to the Cuts! Demonstrators Tell
of Action Against "Austerity Budget"
• No to the Cuts! Demonstrators Tell McGuinty
Deal Struck Between
Liberals and NDP to Save the Government
• Fight For Political Renewal!
Health Care Is a
• Increase Funding for Health Care for All!
- Rob Woodhouse
• Health Care Workers' Demands
Funding for Child Care
• No Deals! Full Funding Now! -
Open Letter to Toronto
• Stop Gutting the School System! -
Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 4400
Militant Day of Action Against "Austerity
No to the Cuts! Demonstrators Tell McGuinty
They came in their thousands. As many as 15,000 and by
some estimates 20,000 people gathered on the front lawn of Queen's Park
to tell the Ontario government headed by the McGuinty Liberals: No! No
austerity budget! No cuts to education and health care! No to public
sector "negotiations" with the threat
of legislated contracts held to workers' heads! No to attacks on the
most vulnerable by cutting the already disgracefully low living
allowances to people on disability and social assistance. From all over
Ontario, people came to tell the government to fulfill its social
responsibility to all working people and their social programs as well
as our youth, our seniors, the
vulnerable people in society, the unemployed and the underemployed
working in precarious jobs. The government should stop paying the rich
at the people's expense.
Queen's Park was a sea of
flags. More than half of the people at the Day of Action were teachers
and education workers who responded to the call by the Elementary
Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario Secondary School
Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers'
Association (OECTA), the Francophone Ontario Teachers' Association
(AEFO) the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and other
education organizations. It reflected the deep concern of teachers and
education support staff for the damage to public education that will
result from the cuts and concessions the provincial government is
dictating and threatening
to impose by legislative means if they are not "voluntarily"
Congratulations are in order for them and the many other
union locals and local labour councils -- the United Food and
Commercial Workers Union, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, United
Steelworkers from Hamilton, Toronto and elsewhere, Canadian Autoworkers
local unions and retirees, airline workers and others who saw
the significance and necessity to be there standing up for the public
service workers and the interests of society as a whole, in the same
way they have called upon the rest of the working class to stand with
them in their resistance to monopoly dictate in the private sector.
Local community groups and organizations
defending Ontario Northland were also represented.
No Means No!
Some of the speakers were unequivocal. Fred Hahn,
President of CUPE Ontario reflected the mood of the rally when he said:
"We are not paying for a financial crisis we did not create," and
called for the "unity of workers, unity of Ontarians, for good jobs and
living conditions" so that all Ontarians
can have a bright future. Sam Hammond, President of the ETFO said that
teachers and other working people did not cause the financial crisis in
Ontario and "we are not paying for it." He called on everyone to "stand
up together for everything we have built together in this province."
Another theme heard prominently through the day was the
demand for social responsibility. Reference was made for Ontarians to
stand together and for the government to do its duty to all members of
society, particularly the most vulnerable. The Liberals were denounced
for permitting private for-profit companies
into Ontario to undermine community-based day care services and to
undermine the right of all families to daycare services. A spokesperson
for the Ontario Coalition for Childcare declared: "Our children are not
for profit." A spokesperson of the Social Planning Network of Ontario
called on everyone to "unite to
defeat this austerity budget which is an attack on the most vulnerable
Ontarians.We want no one left behind."
The Liberal budget was called a disgrace and immoral.
When NDP leader Andrea Horwath addressed the crowd chants went up
"Oppose the Budget! Oppose the Budget." Throughout the crowd the chant
could be heard: "Vote It Down! Vote It Down!"
The mass rally took its message into the streets of
Toronto as well, snaking its way past government buildings then
marching up Bay Street and across Bloor Street before winding its way
back down to Queen's Park on University Avenue. Ten abreast, people
marched to enthusiastic cheers from people in the downtown area. The
blare of truck air horns roared through the downtown core announcing
the demonstration for blocks around. The people's demand to oppose the
cuts and austerity measures came through loud and clear.
Deal Struck Between Liberals and NDP to
Save the Government
Fight For Political Renewal!
On Monday night, April 23, Ontarians were informed that
a deal was struck between Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and leader of
the New Democratic Party Andrea Horwath. According to news reports, the
two deal-maker items McGuinty agreed to in return for the NDP agreement
to approve the budget
and not bring the government down were: 1) a two per cent surtax on
individuals reporting more than $500,000 annual taxable income; and 2)
broadening the scope of the government freeze on compensation of
executives at hospitals, universities and other government agencies to
include incentive pay, not just their
Horwath told reporters that
although she still has concerns about the budget, "we have made the
budget fairer for Ontarians." McGuinty called the deal a "sensible"
compromise, saying every penny would be used to help his government
erase the deficit, pegged at $15.3-billion this fiscal year. "They
tax on the rich," he said. "I wanted a way to pay down our deficit
faster, so we're asking those who can do the most to do a little bit
more." In other words, McGuinty made it clear that not a penny of the
additional taxes would be invested in social programs. It is to be used
"to pay down our deficit faster."
The deal gave rise to no concessions from the government
as concerns the austerity part of the budget. It embraces the
pay-the-rich priority for society set by the banking and financial
establishment and the monopolies out to make a big score. By putting
the priority to pay down the deficit above all else, the public
interest is in fact sold down the
drain. What a farce this deal appears to be!
This newest development came on the eve of the April 24
budget vote. But there seems to be no resolution to the matter that
favours the people. From the time the Liberals tabled their "austerity"
budget on March 27, each political party has repeated their own version
of how the deficit must be cut. The Progressive
Conservatives demand that cuts be made faster in combination with a
public sector wage freeze while the NDP argues for "fair" deficit
cutting. It gave rise to a chaotic situation which included Cambridge
Progressive Conservative MPP Rob Leone accusing the governing Liberals
of placing robo-calls to his constituents
warning them that his party's refusal to vote in favour of the budget
might jeopardize funding for the city's hospital expansion. According
to media accounts, the robo-calls attempted to equate Leone's vote as a
member of the Opposition which opposes the provincial budget to a vote
against Cambridge Memorial Hospital
Leone raised the concern during Question Period in the
Legislature on April 17 to which the Finance Minister Dwight Duncan
admitted to the robo-calls. He said they were to warn constituents of a
possible election if the budget was not passed: "We are going to call
in to Opposition ridings because the people in those ridings don't
want another election," he said. Leone was quoted afterwards as saying
that the Liberals are playing political games and that a possible
election would be due to their "failed leadership." Meanwhile from the
other side, Ontarians were told that it is better to negotiate a better
deal than bring down the government because if
the government were brought down, then the Hudak Conservatives would
win the next election and that would be worse. Why the Hudak
Conservatives should win rather than the working people themselves
fighting to win is not said.
All of it shows how sharp the factional in-fighting is
getting to wield the power to decide how the money which rightfully
belongs to the people of Ontario is spent. While the workers and people
of Ontario require a resolution to the crisis which favours their
interests, the establishment political parties fight amongst
themselves about the type of austerity that will be implemented. Even
the right to health care through funding for hospitals is used to
blackmail people into supporting one faction against another!
Ontario Political Forum has raised discussion
about the budget and how workers and all Ontarians are not responsible
for the deficit. They must not get caught up in the current squabbles
between political parties who have their own versions of deficit
financing. These are really just different ways to
cover the costs of bailouts, corporate tax cuts and interest payments
to financial institutions. Ontarians must pay attention to these
developments but not get lost in the attempt to get them to line up
behind one faction or another. Instead they should discuss amongst
their peers what the problems are and how to solve
them in their favour. They must refuse to be marginalized from politics
by political parties which seek power for themselves, not to represent
the public interest. These parties never listen to the working people.
They impose their own schemes and then provide sophistic arguments
which claim their schemes represent what the people want. They hold
so-called public hearings
which just lobby for their schemes. All of it underscores the urgent
need for political renewal. The workers must work out their own
independent politics and represent themselves.
For Your Information
the Deal Struck
Here is the information on the deal:
* A two per cent surtax on individuals earning $500,000
a year taxable income, estimated to generate an additional $470 million
in the coming fiscal year. (By comparison the health tax the McGuinty
Liberals imposed a few years ago generates $2.8 billion a year out of
* The two-year freeze on compensation for hospital,
university and other government agency executives was broadened to
include incentive bonuses as well as base salaries.
* $80 million a year more for three years (a total of
$240 million) was committed for funding for daycare spaces, to be
achieved by redirecting money already allocated to other aspects of the
* A one per cent increase in benefits for recipients of
Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) payments. (Based on 2011 ODSP
rates of $584 basic needs and $469 maximum for rent, a one percent
increase equals $10.53 more per month.)
* $20 million to help rural and northern hospitals
the Ontario 2012 Budget
Here are some of the main features of the Ontario Budget
* Limit spending increases to 1.5 per cent on average
* Reduce the rate of growth of health care spending to
an average of 2.1 per cent annually over the next three years.
(Liberals campaigned on a 3.6 per cent cap on health care spending. The
Auditor General estimated a 3.6 per cent cap would require taking
another $1 billion out of health care spending. Ontario
Health Coalition estimates it will result in $3 billion under funding
of hospitals and of the Ontario Health Insurance Program.)
* $6 billion in government actions (read: cuts) to
restrain compensation for school boards, payments to physicians and
others in the public sector.
* $6.8 billion in cost-cutting measures across the
broader public sector.
* Cuts of nearly 1,000 full-time government jobs.
* A two-year pay freeze for all public sector workers,
including doctors, under the threat it will be imposed by legislation
if they do not comply.
* Cuts to public-sector pensions by limiting benefits,
and merging pensions into a smaller number of larger plans.
* More user fees to recover more of the cost of
providing programs and services.
* Reduce income-stability funding to farmers by $20
million a year.
* Cut transfers to school boards for a number of
programs by close to $300 million over three years.
* Cut $200 million over three years for nursing homes.
* Cut funding to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Royal
Ontario Museum and other cultural institutions.
* Delay and cancel infrastructure projects to cut
borrowing by over $3 billion.
* Privatize or close parts of the Ontario Northland rail
* freeze the general Corporate Income Tax rate and
Business Education Tax rate reductions until the budget is balanced.
* Extend the pay freeze for executives at hospitals,
colleges, universities, school boards and agencies for another two
years -- for a total of four years.
* Extend the pay freeze for MPPs for two years -- for a
total of five years.
Health Care Is a Right!
Increase Funding for Health Care for All!
During the October 2011 Ontario election McGuinty
pledged that health care and education "would not be touched" to
balance the provincial budget. That was only six months ago! Now there
is a budget that has $500 million in identified cuts to elementary and
secondary education, another $160 million in cuts
to post-secondary education and other cuts to education buried in the
overall attack on public sector workers. Health care has been put under
severe pressure. The budget proposes to cut the annual increases in
provincial health care spending by four per cent when already every
year health services are falling further behind
people's needs. Between the budget and the recently announced "Action
Plan" of the Ministry of Health, a wholesale degradation of the health
care system is underway.
McGuinty's performance in
the election was a farce but nonetheless his party captured control of
public spending and continues to use it in a way that benefits only the
tiny rich minority. A budget was produced intensifying the anti-social
offensive of the rich in precisely the sectors McGuinty promised
be touched." The only conclusion that can be drawn from the disconnect
between the election and the budget is that the political arrangements
in Ontario do not provide the electorate with the means to hold the
party in power to account or to have any say in deciding important
Public spending has a critical impact on the lives and
livelihoods of workers and all the working people. New political
arrangements need to be put in place so the working class and the
entire electorate can have a say over public spending and other
critical issues. This means workers, who create the wealth used
for public spending, need to become political themselves. The days of
being an extra-parliamentary lobby are over. Workers have to discuss
issues in their workplaces and communities and work out a political
agenda that serves their own interests and then get their people to
select them as candidates and elect them.
It means resisting the self-serving agenda of the rich and organizing a
Workers' Opposition with its independent politics which can then become
Health Care Workers' Demands
To support the discussion
of McGuinty's anti-social budget among Ontario workers, Ontario
Political Forum is re-producing below demands presented by Ontario
health care workers regarding the budget. The possibilities for
ensuring the rights of all to health care arise from the work and
of health care workers, but they are entirely excluded from
decision-making about the operation and funding of the health care
system. Health care workers' defence of their livelihoods and working
conditions is also at the centre of resistance to the anti-social
offensive in health care. The demands are taken from
a press release by the Ontario Health Coalition, an organization made
up mostly of health care worker unions.
1. Ontario has a 98% hospital occupancy rate -- far
higher than other jurisdictions. Long waits in emergency departments
for hospital admissions and extraordinary hospital overcrowding show
that Ontario has cut hospitals too deeply. We are calling for a
moratorium on bed cuts and a proper, evidence-based bed
1b. Services in small and rural hospitals are at risk.
In the past few years, emergency departments, acute care beds and core
services have been closed in Burk's Falls, Shelbourne, Port Colborne
and Fort Erie. Changes to the hospital funding formula will put more
strain on the available funding for rural hospitals.
We are calling for a moratorium on closures/closure of major services
in rural hospitals.
2. As hospital beds have been cut, long-term care and
home care increases have never kept pace. Wait times have tripled since
2005 for long-term care facilities, and home care is more severely
rationed than ever. We are calling for adequate funding to maintain
existing services and address wait times in the public
system: across the continuum (long term care, home care, hospitals).
3. Each round of restructuring has been accompanied by
privatization of the ownership of new health care services. The
majority of home and long-term care are now controlled by for-profit
companies. Community laboratories, rehabilitation and outpatient
clinics have been/are being privatized. There is a serious
risk that new funding mechanisms and restructuring will lead to
for-profit privatization of clinical hospital services. We are calling
for a commitment to stop privatization of health care services,
including long-term and home care.
4. The government has proposed a new funding formula for
hospitals that includes the movement away from global funding to a
market-based funding per procedure mechanism (fee-for-service funding).
This system has been used in Britain and has resulted in serious
financial instability, removal of services from
local hospitals, privatization, and increased administrative costs. We
are calling for open public consultations on this plan that will have
serious consequences for vital health services in our communities.
1. The full Ontario Health
Coalition press release, "Four Demands to Protect Public Interest," is
available at http://www.web.net/ohc/mediareleaseapril022012.pdf
Funding for Child Care
No Deals! Full Funding Now!
Among the thousands of workers who rallied at Queen's
Park on April 21 to say No!
to the McGuinty government's austerity budget were working people
demanding the government meet its obligations to fund child care. There
were women carrying placards such as "Child Care is Our Right!"; "Full
"Low-income Child Care Subsidies!" and "Increase Funding for Child
Care!" It is totally unacceptable that the budget continues the
underfunding of child care. This continued underfunding results in a
crushing burden in fees for families using the child care system and
results in most families being completely excluded from
It is also totally
unacceptable that Premier Dalton McGuinty used child care funding as a
bargaining chip to keep his minority government afloat through the vote
on the budget in the legislature. According to media reports, McGuinty
proposed increasing funding for child care centres by $240 million over
years, conditional on taking another $240 million out of education and
transferring these funds to child care centre funding. This is a
The sum of $80 million a year is not nearly enough to
meet the needs of working people for child care. This amount would not
even be enough to repair the damage done to the child care system by
the government's haphazard introduction of full-day kindergarten. It
would not be enough to change the situation
where there is only one child care spot for every five children. It
would do absolutely nothing to solve the underfunding of child care fee
subsidies for low-income families who without fee subsidies are totally
excluded from quality child care.
Most importantly, it is unacceptable that there be any
bargaining about taking funds out of one essential program to fund
another. The education system is already underfunded and this fact is
being used to assault the wages and working conditions of teachers. The
budget has $660 million in education cuts and
now McGuinty is proposing another $240 million in education cuts and
the NDP has agreed by the looks of it!
Child care is a right! Education is a right! Funding to
ensure these rights is not a matter of a policy objective or bargaining
tradeoffs. It is a duty of the government to provide the funding
required to ensure the rights of all.
to the Austerity Budget!
Increase Funding for Social Programs!
Full Funding of Low-Income Child Care Fee Subsidies!
Open Letter to Toronto Parents
Stop Gutting the School System!
The following letter sent by Canadian Union
of Public Employees Local 4400, which represents education workers in
Toronto schools, calls on parents to take action to oppose the massive
cuts caused by the McGuinty government's austerity budget and followed
through by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). While
some of the cuts have passed others still are to be determined at so-
called budget meetings in June. Trustees opposing the cuts in past
meetings have stated that the cuts will cause serious disruption to the
learning environment in Toronto classrooms. As elected representatives,
trustees have a duty to ensure that chaos
and disruption in the school system be stopped. This means the cuts
must be stopped. Say No to Cuts!
Open Letter to All Parents at All Schools in Toronto
District School Board
ALERT: MAJOR IMMEDIATE LOSS OF SERVICES & PROGRAMS
DUE TO MASSIVE BUDGET CUTS
There is no way to talk about the loss of our members'
jobs without talking about the programs and services that no longer
will be available for your child(ren) due to the overwhelming cuts that
are being rolled out NOW to meet the needs of the budget, not the
You may choose to believe "the Union" or not, but we
feel ethically obligated to let you all know about some 'hard truths'
about cuts that have been made without consultation with anybody.
The 430 Regular Program Educational Assistants'
positions and 134 full time equivalent positions in the school offices
(more than 200 people, most of whom are women) are just the first step.
To meet a budget that has to be trimmed by at least $110 million, a lot
more services and programs will be gone. This
first round only accounts for about $50 million.
It is our job to protect our members the best way we
can. Of course we highlight what our members do and what will be lost,
something we've done in the past three weeks with the Trustees and in
the media. As parents, you likely know more than most what is at stake.
That is why we appeal to you to speak out on behalf of
the services your child(ren) require to accomplish their educational
Many trustees have been honest in saying that they don't
want to resist because they fear that the Liberal minority government
will place a Supervisor in charge -- something they apparently fear
more than the consequences of making the worst cuts since the horrible
They've either forgotten (or never learned) that the
resistance of the TDSB Trustees (some of whom are in government now)
led to the downfall of the Harris government, and that the Supervisor
could not and did not make all the cuts that are on the agenda today.
CUPE 4400 was able to negotiate a deal that, as of this
moment, would appear to offer re-training for some of the Regular
Program Educational Assistants who choose to go back to school. But
make no mistake -- the support formerly provided by EAs in the half day
kindergartens, working with primary students
who are not diagnosed (and therefore have no special needs help
allocated), or doing supervision, will not be available next September.
The services provided by the staff in the school office
will also not be the same, since those who continue to work will be
expected to cover their own job plus the work of those who have been
All have agreed that the loss of more adults in the
system will NOT be positive for student achievement nor for safety. We
have been through this dance too often for anyone to argue otherwise.
These budget decisions are finance-driven, not by the needs of the
And look for other cuts to come -- including (but not
limited to) closing up to 100 neighbourhood schools next year. Please
voice your concerns to your elected representatives: first of all, the
Trustee for your school.
Ask them to refuse to gut the school system. Then speak
with your Member of Provincial Parliament. Remind him or her that the
extra funds allocated to school boards only cover the (excellent)
initiatives such as All Day Kindergarten and lowering class size.
The structural flaws in the funding formula have not
been addressed, in spite of the promises made.
Please help us defend what is, up until now, an
excellent education system. Our children -- and our communities --
deserve no less.
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