May 5, 2012 - No. 34
Liberal Scheme for Majority
Oppose McGuinty's Political Opportunism!
Oppose Attacks on Injured Workers!
Injured workers participate in Toronto
rally for public services, September 26, 2011.
• Oppose McGuinty's Political Opportunism!
Oppose Attacks on Injured
• McGuinty's Choice of WSIB Chair a Betrayal of
Injured Workers - Ontario Network of Injured
• Show McGuinty and Co. What Working People
of Ontario Think
of These Shenanigans - Rolf
Gerstenberger, President, Local 1005 USW
• A Slap in the Face to Ontario's Injured
Workers - Ontario Public Service
• Notes on By-Election for Kitchener-Waterloo
Austerity No! Stop the
• Families of Autistic Children and Youth
Rally to Save Thistletown Centre - Rob Woodhouse
• Now, It's a $292 Million Surplus?
- David Greig
• Doctor Fee Negotiations and Degradation and
Privatization of Health Care
Liberal Schemes for Majority Government
Oppose McGuinty's Political Opportunism!
Oppose Attacks on Injured Workers!
Ontario Injured Workers'
Day, June 1, 2011 at Queen's Park.
On April 27, a day before the Day of Mourning for
Workers Killed or
Injured on the Job, in a cynical opportunist move, Premier Dalton
McGuinty nominated Progressive Conservative Elizabeth Witmer, MPP
Kitchener-Waterloo, as Chair of the Workplace Safety and Insurance
Board (WSIB) of Ontario.
With the nomination, Witmer resigned her seat in the Legislature, thus
triggering a by-election. The Liberals form a minority government with
52 seats excluding Speaker Dave Levac, who only votes in the case of a
tie vote. The PCs have 36 seats, following Witmer's resignation and the
NDP have 17 seats. This
means that with the resignation the opposition has a combined total of
53 seats, one more than the governing party. There is no doubt in
anyone’s mind that since the last election the Liberals have been
scouting to find a Conservative or NDP MPP that could be bought out so
as to change its minority government
status into a majority. If they win the by-election the numbers of
seats will be even
and this would allow the Speaker to cast deciding votes in the event of
split. This would create a majority-government situation once again.
Elizabeth Witmer is known as the hatchet woman due to
job she did during her term in the Mike Harris government. Her
nomination to head the WSIB is seen as an all-out attack on injured
workers and an insult to the working class of Ontario. Witmer was Mike
Harris' Minister of Labour, appointed
in June 1995 at a time when Harris launched a brutal assault on the
rights of workers on all fronts. She subsequently served as Minister of
Health in 1997 under the Harris regime of cutting health services in
order to pave the way for privatization. She remained Minister of
Health until 2001 when she was named
Minister of the Environment. With the election of the Ernie Eves
government she was appointed Deputy Premier and Minister of Education.
She was also part of the onslaught against teachers and the entire
public education system under the Progressive Conservatives, in which
teachers and education workers were
targeted for attack; similar to what the McGuinty government is doing
The WSIB is currently undergoing "transformations" in
the name of
eliminating its "unfunded liability." This unfunded liability is the
result of the cuts to company contribution rates made by the Harris
government in the 1990s, in which Elizabeth Witmer was a key player.
The WSIB recently contracted the consulting
firm KPMG to propose ways to eliminate the liability. KPMG's proposals
are aimed at finding as many ways as possible to prevent injured
workers from receiving compensation as well as reducing the
compensation that injured workers currently get, and finding ways to
force injured workers back to work despite
the harm it causes them.
According to Premier McGuinty, all this makes her
"exceptionally qualified to Chair the WSIB."
According to the Office of the Premier, "As a full-time
appointed for a five-year term, Witmer will bring stability and
leadership to that process."
The workers of Ontario should give a fitting reply to
political opportunism and his declaration with this nomination of
stepped up attacks on injured workers. Ontario Political Forum calls on
workers and people across the province to oppose this
political opportunism and attack on
Say No to McGuinty's
Program for injured Workers!
McGuinty's Choice of WSIB Chair a
Betrayal of Injured Workers
The Ontario Network of
Injured Worker Groups (ONIWG) held an emergency
meeting today as a result of Premier McGuinty's choice of Elizabeth
Witmer as the new Chair of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
ONIWG is the umbrella organization representing local injured worker
groups across Ontario.
"McGuinty has betrayed injured workers for political
gain." said Karl Crevar, Treasurer of ONIWG. "Elizabeth Witmer is
responsible for the mess our workers' compensation is in today and
McGuinty put her in charge of the WSIB? I feel the Premier has betrayed
the injured workers of
Ontario." Witmer was the Minister of Labour during the Harris
government which reduced employers' WSIB rates by about 30% between
1996 and 2001. During the recent WSIB Funding Review by labour
arbitrator Harry Arthurs, the WSIB acknowledged that if employer rates
had been left at 1996 levels, the
WSIB's unfunded liability would have been eliminated by 2006. The
unfunded liability is now about $12 billion. Although this is solely
the result of employers not paying enough premiums, injured workers are
now being forced to pay through benefit cuts.
As Labour Minister for the Harris government, in 1997
Ms. Witmer brought in major changes to the workers' compensation system
known as Bill 99. At the time, Liberal MPP Dwight Duncan called the
bill "draconian" and "a backward step." Symbolically, the bill removed
"compensation" from the name of the Board and brought private insurance
industry practices into the system. Benefit levels were reduced, cost
of living adjustments were virtually eliminated, compensation for
workplace stress was eliminated and the formerly independent Workers'
Tribunal was required to apply WSIB policy.
"Bill 99 privatized
vocational rehabilitation" said
Peter Page, ONIWG President. "From then on, all the money went to
private service providers. Injured workers got second rate training in
fly-by-night schools and employers would not hire them." A 2009 study
by KPMG of the WSIB Labour
Market Re-entry Program found that one and a half years after
successful completion of a WSIB training program, a little over 50% of
the graduates remained unemployed although their WSIB benefits had been
cut on completion of the training. "We fought Witmer's privatized
system for more than 10 years.
We finally convinced the WSIB to cancel the privatized services last
year, and now she's back!"
"Since Witmer brought in Bill 99, poverty has risen
dramatically for injured workers. We did a survey of injured workers
recently and we found an 80% drop in full time employment after injury,
nearly half had to give up their home and 30% were relying on food
banks. All this comes as a
result of the changes brought in by Witmer and Harris. You can imagine
how injured workers feel to see Elizabeth Witmer appointed to head up
the WSIB" said Steve Mantis, Secretary of ONIWG.
For further information contact:
Peter Page, President (905) 745-1003
Steve Mantis, Secretary (807) 767-9633
Karl Crevar, Treasurer (905) 517-0831
Show McGuinty and Co. What Working People of Ontario
Think of These Shenanigans
Speaking to a May Day rally of some two hundred workers
community members in Hamilton,
Local 1005 USW President
Rolf Gerstenberger denounced the McGuinty Liberals for throwing injured
workers to the wolves in a callous attempt to gain a majority
Gerstenberger said "the political opportunism to stay in power is so
great at Queen's Park that McGuinty just named Tory MP Elizabeth Witmer
the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board. His scheme is to skin the ox
twice -- to hold a by-election to get out of minority government status
the attacks on injured workers the Tory MP is known for when she was
Minister of Labour under Mike Harris. "Besides the crass admission that
can be bought, the cynicism is beyond the pale," Rolf said.
"It must not
"We must do our best to make sure that neither a
Liberal nor a Tory get elected in Kitchener-Waterloo. We must show
these enemies of democracy
the meaning of the rule of law and what the working people of Ontario
think of their shenanigans. Even if the by-election is not in your
riding, all Ontario
workers should defend the injured workers and not permit the attacks
against them," Rolf concluded.
A Slap in the Face to Ontario's Injured Workers
Dalton McGuinty's appointment of Tory MPP Elizabeth
Witmer to head the
Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) is nothing more than a
calculated political decision that results in a slap in the face for
injured workers in Ontario.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says that the
transparency of McGuinty's appointment to gain a Liberal majority will
come at a
huge expense to workers who depend on the WSIB.
"When she was Labour Minister in the mid-90s, Witmer
made changes to the WSIB that hurt workers and benefitted employers,"
"She privatized vocational assistance, reduced benefits and put
measures in place that forced injured workers to return to the
workplace before they had
Thomas says this move is a clear indication that
McGuinty's Liberals are continuing a shift to the political right that
belies everything that the
party once stood for.
"The Liberals opposed the changes to the WSIB under the
Harris Conservatives, and 15 years later appoint the architect of those
to head the WSIB," Thomas said. "It's clear to me that this is nothing
more than a political power play to gain their majority, and they have
ideals, beliefs and their morals in the trash. It's sad to watch, and I
fear it will be injured workers who will pay the ultimate price for
Notes on By-Election for Kitchener-Waterloo
A by-election to replace MPP Elizabeth Witmer will be
held in the riding of
Kitchener-Waterloo at a date yet to be set by Premier McGuinty. It
includes the city of Waterloo and the northern
section of Kitchener. There are two other
ridings in the area: Kitchener Centre currently held by Liberal John
Milloy and Kitchener-Conestoga currently held by PC Michael Harris
(gained from the
Liberals in last election).
Elizabeth Witmer held the riding for the Conservatives
years since 1990. The Liberals held the riding pre-1990.
The other parties
which challenged Witmer in the 2011 election have
not fielded the same candidate in consecutive elections since 2003. In
2003, Liberal candidate Sean Strickland, who also ran in 1999, received
votes less than Witmer. In the most recent election in October 2011,
Liberal candidate Eric Davis finished second with 17,837 votes (36 per
Witmer's 21,356 votes (43 per cent). The other candidates in the 2011
were Isabel Cisterna for the NDP (8,259 votes), J.D. McGuire for the
(1,307 votes), Peter Davis as an Independent (316 votes) and Melanie
Motz for the Freedom Party (124 votes). One report indicated that voter
the riding in the October election was about 50 per cent.
McGuinty has not yet announced the date for the
by-election. An April 27 article in the National Post speculated that
Witmer's son, Scott, would run in
the by-election. He is currently a city councillor in Ward 1 in
Waterloo. He is currently employed at the Ontario Medical Association
as a Regional
Austerity No! Stop the Cuts!
Families of Autistic Children and Youth
Rally to Save Thistletown Centre
against McGuinty Government's plans to close
Thistletown, April 20, 2012.
Families of children and youth receiving treatment for
severe autism and with other mental health needs held a rally on the
grounds of the Thistletown
Regional Centre on April 20. They are demanding that the government
abandon its plan to close Thistletown, a world-renowned centre for the
children and youth that serves 400 children in day programs, provides
overnight respite for families caring for autistic children, provides
and has a small number of residential patients. The 260 professional
staff and support workers at Thistletown have made breakthroughs in
children, that have resulted in the centre becoming a leading research
and clinical training facility.
This was the second rally in the month of April
organized by the
families of Thistletown patients to stop the closure of the facility.
The rallies are in response to the
announcement in by Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Children and
Youth Services, that Thistletown would be closed as an "efficiency"
Hoskins said the care of the children and youth would be transferred to
In comments to the media, family members of patients
denounced the claim that the children and youth could be treated in the
community as irrational.
"What we've tried to tell the minister is that it's a ridiculous thing
to say," said the parent of an autistic child, "The reason these
children are here is
because community agencies can't serve them. They have complex and high
needs problems. They can be aggressive, self-injurious." Another parent
confirmed, "You end up there because community programs can't serve
you. They haven't been able to serve you. It's the last hope of service
The Thistletown families know that with his ridiculous, thinly-veiled
fraud about community care, the Child and Youth Minister is really
telling them "fend
Thistletown Regional Centre opened in 1927 as the
Thistletown Hospital, a convalescent branch of the Hospital for Sick
Children for children with
polio and tuberculosis. It was built in the countryside on a huge tract
of land north of Toronto near what are now Kipling and Finch Avenues.
This land is
surrounded by high density development and soon will be serviced by
rapid transit. People at the rally expressed the opinion that one of
government's aims in closing Thistletown is to grab the valuable
Thistletown lands and sell them off to developers.
Families of patients know from previous struggles that
there is widespread public support for the rights of their children for
proper care and they are
speaking out to mobilize this support. In 1995, parents were able to
defeat a similar plan to close the centre. The Rae NDP government at
attempted to close Thistletown as a cost cutting measure using the same
hoax that the children could be "transferred to community care." Then,
as now, the
government was prepared to sacrifice very vulnerable children and their
heavily burdened families to the demands of the moneylenders for cuts
Fend for yourself. This is the outlook of those pushing
retrogression in social programs -- from child care to pensions for
seniors, to abandoning injured workers and everything in
between. In health care, "community care" is the catchphrase of choice
for retrograde politicians because it enables them to pretend that they
are part of the
progressive approach among health care providers who are investigating
possibilities for using community care for improved health outcomes.
catchphrase lets these politicians prey on the desire of seniors to
stay in their homes or the hope of parents of disabled children to see
integrated with other children. But self-serving political parties turn
progressive approaches and sentiments upside down when they place cost
cutting at the
centre of policy rather than the rights of all to the best possible
care. The result is people with high levels of need being dumped into
community treatment is not appropriate or where adequate supports do
The renewed struggle of the Thistletown families
demanding a rational approach by the government and defending the right
of their children and youth
to proper care is totally just. It has the support of all who are
resisting retrogression in social programs and standing up for the
rights of all.
1995 rally against
Rae government's plans to close Thistletown.
Now, It's a $292 Million Surplus?
The main argument presented
by all levels of government
in the service of private monopoly interests to justify the anti-social
cuts to public social
programmes, services and jobs amounts to this: there is no money, so
there is no alternative, such cuts are essential and inevitable. This
position is repeated
as gospel truth in spite of the abundant wealth evident especially in
the hands of large private corporations and the small minority that
controls and benefits
administration took power and has wielded it using just such spurious
logic loudly proclaimed by the mayor, his cohorts and monopoly
media champions. First, they claimed Toronto had a spending problem, by
which they meant funding for public social programmes and services and
remuneration of the workers that provide them must be slashed, not the
benefits big private interests receive from their financial, commercial
relations with the city. They were acting in the name of Ford's
abstract taxpayer, a rare being with no need or concern for public
services and programmes,
jobs or adequate levels of pay and benefits, or the well-being of
others and society, and who just could not be expected to pay for such
things. The only
reality this abstraction approaches is precisely the very rich minority
that gains from the anti-social direction being imposed on society.
Then for most of 2011, the Ford administration
brandished the spectre of a financial disaster, a supposed $774 million
dollar deficit looming for 2012,
due to the wastefulness of previous administrations and the dire
situation that had created for 2011. This no money scenario drove the
Ford agenda of cuts,
privatization, sale of public assets etc. as the year wore on. Popular
resistance to this agenda grew, helped limit these anti-social measures
and raised the
prospect of defeating them. And as the year drew to a close, it turned
out the gigantic deficit was really more of a category of expected
required allocation of funds and that done, a balanced budget emerged
and was approved in January 2012. In the process, the dire 2011
situation came out
as, surprise, a preliminary $155 million operating budgetary surplus!
The fiscal emergency was in fact a construct of
deception and disinformation used to drive the Ford regime's
anti-social agenda. It helped effect that
agenda to the extent the people's resistance has still been unable to
bring it to a halt. In the 2012 budget, some cuts were avoided thanks
to that resistance,
but it was launched with others intact just as the regime pushed on to
degrade the city workers' collective agreements.
This past week, further proof of the Ford regime's
deception surfaced. The aforementioned preliminary 2011 surplus of $155
million was, according to
final figures, really $292 million! And instead of being held to
account for dishonesty in the service of city wrecking and big private
monopoly media instead repeats the
administration's claim that it is evidence of sound financial
Doctor Fee Negotiations and Degradation and
of Health Care
Negotiations between the
Ontario Ministry of Health and
the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) over a new fee schedule for
doctors have broken off.
The collapse of negotiations is a result of the Ontario government's
agenda in health care. This agenda is to degrade health care by
public health care funding at a time when health care needs of the
people are steadily increasing and to create as many opportunities as
possible for the rich
to profit from health care as a business.
Before the talks broke off, the OMA had requested some
form of third party arbitration, which the government rejected. The
government also rejected
an earlier proposal of the OMA for a two year freeze in the schedule
used to set fees paid to individual doctors. The government wants to
freeze the total
provincial spending on doctor compensation, not just the fee schedule.
The position of the
government amounts to a major cut to health care. In the four year
time-frame of the negotiations, Ontario's population is expected
to increase by 634,000 and the number of people over 65 will increase
by 400,000. The OMA calculation is that the volume of services required
will increase by 16 per cent over the four year period.
The government has made the ridiculous claim that
freezing total provincial expenditure on doctor compensation at a time
of massive annual increases
in the volume of services is not a cut. In media interviews after the
talks broke down, Health Minister Deb Mathews said covering the
estimated $1 billion
compensation shortfall would just require "eliminating a little bit of
waste and duplication."
In the same interview Mathews threatened the OMA with
unilateral action, saying, "My strong preference is to work with the
OMA to get it right, but
if they're not at the table, we'll have to move forward on our own."
This is the style of "negotiation" that was set out in the 2012 Ontario
negotiations under the threat of legislation and regulation if the
government doesn't get its way.
As the negotiations between the government and the OMA
were taking place the government launched a campaign of vilification of
populist Occupy-style rhetoric to cover up the government's
underfunding of health care. This campaign includes the publication by
the Ministry of Health
of selected statistics on the outrageously high incomes of various
specialists in short supply.
This greedy doctor theme was taken up by Mathews in the
media. After claiming that the average doctor makes ten times the
average wage, she said, "I
cannot look someone who needs home care in the eye and say, 'Sorry,
you're not going to get the home care you need to stay out of the
hospital because I
need to pay an ophthalmologist $700,000.'" If Mathews were to tell the
truth, she would have to admit, "Sorry, you are not getting the care
because the moneybags I represent have decided Ontario needs more
degradation of public health care so as to have more privatization of
Playing on people's sense of injustice over the high
incomes of doctors isn't going to fool any serious person about the
government agenda in health
care. People understand doctors' high incomes are part-and-parcel of
the way the capitalist labour market operates, creating huge wage
occupations. Moreover, it is not hard to see that the government stance
is completely phony. Under the cover of populist anti-doctor rhetoric,
government is pouring money into the pockets of those insurance
companies and "businessmen in
white coats" who are setting up private for-profit clinics as hospitals
dismantled. As well, the Ministry of Health vault is wide open to
health care monopolies operating private labs, home-care agencies,
long-term care homes
and to monopolies in pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and hospital
Workers have contempt for the way the labour market
operates to create hardship for the many and privileges for the few,
one of many scores the
working class needs to settle with the system of buying and selling of
labour. But workers reject as a cover-up the government's PR campaign
compensation. The issue at hand is the anti-social agenda of the rich
and bankrupt politicians in health care: the wholesale reduction of
services to patients
in the public health system and the further opening of opportunities
for the rich to profit from health care services. The task of the
working class is to resist
this anti-social agenda and to organize for its own agenda, a fully
funded, universal, public health care system that guarantees the rights
of all to the best
possible health care.
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