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July 17, 2013 - Vol. 2 No. 44

August 1 By-Elections

Defeat the Liberals and PCs! Make Every Vote Count! Join the 5 for 3 Campaign!


August 1 By-Elections
Defeat the Liberals and PCs! Make Every Vote Count! Join the 5 for 3 Campaign!
Windsor-Tecumseh and London West
Ottawa South
Etobicoke-Lakeshore and Scarborough-Guildwood

The Cynicism and Opportunism of the Liberals and PCs - Laura Chesnik
Bill 115 Was Not an Aberration - Enver Villamizar
Using Transit Expansion to Justify Cuts to Social Programs - Rob Woodhouse
The Other Ford Scandal - David Greig

Health Care Is a Right!
Shadow Summit and Rally at Council of Federation Meeting

August 1 By-Elections

Defeat the Liberals and PCs! Make Every Vote Count! Join the 5 for 3 Campaign!

Working people are using the five by-elections taking place across Ontario as an opportunity to make a statement against the neo-liberal, anti-worker austerity agenda championed by the Liberals and PCs provincially and the Harper government federally.

The common thread in these actions is that the by-elections are a chance to keep fighting for the rights of all and creating public opinion that can eventually turn the tide on the anti-social offensive and provide the working people a pro-social alternative.

Ontario Political Forum calls on everyone to join these efforts wherever you are located in order to make every vote possible count as a stand against the anti-social austerity agenda and for the rights of working people. Every contribution makes a difference. Ontario Political Forum encourages people to take up the 5 for 3 campaign started by teachers and education workers in Windsor-Tecumseh and London West (see below). Voting is open now at returning offices in the ridings. Visit Elections Ontario here for more information.

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Windsor-Tecumseh and London West

Teachers and education workers rally against Bill 115 outside former Finance Minister Dwight Duncan's
Windsor-Tecmseh constituency office September 14, Windsor

District 9 of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation based in Windsor-Essex calls on voters to say No! to both the Liberals and PCs in the August 1st by-election.

Defeating the Liberals and PCs will put all governments -- provincial, federal and local -- on notice that working people have rights. Governments can't get away with violating these rights.

We are launching the 5 for 3 campaign. We are asking you to call at least 5 people you know who live in the Windsor-Tecumseh, or London ridings and convince them to get 3 friends, relatives or neighbours to get out and vote against the Liberals and PCs. You can vote now at the returning office.

The Liberals and PCs passed Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act. It was used to impose contracts on teachers and education workers without their consent. It ripped over $1 billion from public education. The Labour Board then declared our withdrawal from voluntary extracurricular activities in protest an illegal strike.

The government repealed Bill 115 but left the illegitimate contracts it imposed. Hiding the weapon used to commit the crime does not make it go away. Leaving the contracts permitted the Labour Board to rubber stamp the violation of our collective bargaining rights and control what we can do with our voluntary time.

Who will be next? All public sector workers? Let's say No! today.

Defeat the Liberals and PCs!

For further information or to get involved and help build the campaign call 519-991-5516 or visit OSSTF District 9 website at www.osstf9.com

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Ottawa South

Teachers and education workers rally outside Liberal Party Annual Meeting in Ottawa, September 28, 2012.

In Ottawa-South, Premier McGuinty's former riding, teachers and education workers of the Ottawa Carleton Elementary Teachers' Federation are in action to get the NDP candidate elected. The candidate -- a school board trustee -- had been part of having the Ottawa-Carleton Public school board pass a motion on October 23, 2012 calling for the "review or repeal of Bill 115." The activists explain that they are working to elect this NDP candidate because she took a stand against Bill 115.

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Etobicoke-Lakeshore and Scarborough-Guildwood

Two by-elections are being held in the Greater Toronto Area: Etobicoke-Lakeshore and Scarborough-Guildwood. Toronto is a major front in the battle for Ontario as both the Liberals and PCs provincially seek to claim that they represent Toronto's interest in their fight over how new pay-the-rich schemes, especially over public transit, will play out. The media present Toronto as a "Liberal fortress" with the PCs ripe to "break in." The Harperties too see Toronto as a lynchpin in their strategy to win the next federal election. In this respect, using the by-elections to give expression to the working people of Toronto's opposition to these parties, their corruption, schemes and anti-worker agenda is an urgent necessity as part of preparations for stopping Harper in 2015. Harper sees Ontario, and in particular Toronto, and a divided workers' movement as his path to victory. Ontario Political Forum calls on the working people of Toronto and the surrounding area to slam the door to this path shut!

Teachers and supporters picket against Bill 115 at office of former Education Minister Laurel Broten, November 9, 2012.

Etobicoke-Lakeshore presents a compelling opportunity to hold the Liberals and PCs to account. Until she resigned, the riding was held by Laurel Broten, the former Education Minister in the McGuinty government. As minister, Broten introduced Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act. This legislation, passed with the support of the Conservatives, stripped teachers and education workers of their collective bargaining rights. Workers from all sectors fought a year-long battle against Bill 115 and are not prepared to see this disgraced Liberal MPP replaced by another Liberal as if nothing happened.

The Liberals are hoping to replace Broten with Peter Milczyn, the Liberal candidate in Etobicoke-Lakeshore. Milczyn is a leading anti-worker municipal politician who was instrumental in helping the administration of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford push through its agenda of cutting city services, cutting city jobs and attacking collective bargaining rights of civic workers and Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) workers.

Etobicoke-Lakeshore is one of several Toronto area ridings the Harper Conservatives captured in the last federal election, giving them their majority. The Hudak Conservatives are pushing to make Etobicoke-Lakeshore a beachhead in Toronto where they currently hold no seats. Establishing a foothold in Toronto for the Hudak Conservatives has become a joint project of federal, provincial and municipal Conservatives for consolidating the anti-worker, anti-social "hat trick" of the Harperites.

Hudak has recruited Ford's Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday as the Conservative candidate. Holyday has a long history as an anti-worker politician while he was Mayor of Etobicoke, before amalgamation with the City of Toronto. As the Chair of the Ford administration's Labour Relations Committee, Holyday imposed concessionary contracts on civic workers and implemented large scale contracting out of city jobs. Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford have all been out in the riding campaigning for Holyday.

With the aim of keeping working people sidelined in this by-election, the media of the ruling elite have declared that Milczyn and Holyday are "star candidates" and "frontrunners." But as working people know from their experience in the Kitchener-Waterloo by-election last year, the Liberals and Conservatives do not represent the popular will. Such declarations mean nothing when the people organize to get out the vote to defeat the Liberals and Conservatives.

In Etobicoke-Lakeshore a clear statement can be made against the anti-worker candidates of the Liberals and Conservatives with the mobilization of the workers and people in the riding to get anyone and everyone they know to vote against the Liberals and PCs. To join the mobilizing contact ontario@cpcml.ca.

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The Cynicism and Opportunism of the
Liberals and PCs

The actions to oppose the Liberals and PCs in the by-elections are of great importance as the Wynne government has done everything possible to try and eliminate any ability of the organized workers' movement, and the people as a whole, to deliberate, think about what is at stake and express a collective popular will in the by-elections.

Just as the McGuinty government called the by-elections in Kitchener-Waterloo days after school began and as it and the PCs unleashed a massive assault on teachers and education workers and their unions, so too Wynne is showing there is nothing new about her government in terms of the way it uses by-elections to undermine the ability of the people to express themselves.

The government called the by-elections as a surprise attack on July 3, exactly 4 weeks before the vote, despite knowing for months that it had to call the by-elections. In some cases candidates had yet to be selected for the parties. The quick call allowed, or forced, the parties to impose candidates in a number of ridings where they had yet to be selected locally, strengthening the concentration of power in the leader's office and attacking local decision making, disempowering even members of the Liberal Party itself, not to mention everyone else in the process.

In addition, it called the by-elections on the eve of a long weekend when people are occupied trying to have time with their families. In Windsor-Tecumseh for example, it is happening right in the midst of the rotating two-week shutdowns of Chrysler and Ford, the main concentrations of autoworkers in the area, with many taking holidays during this time.

The by-elections are also taking place right in the midst of the bogus "local bargaining" the Wynne government "permitted" for elementary teachers, meaning that many of their local leaders are fully embroiled in negotiations with local school boards, trying to defend their members there.

The cynicism is such that the Liberal government has not even bothered to put out a campaign platform despite all the claims about being new and different. Clearly they do not want to be held to account in any fashion, hoping to use pretty words about "fairness" and "balance" to dazzle the workers.

The fitting response to this cynical move to keep the people from being a force in the by-elections is guaranteeing that every vote becomes a statement against the cynicism and corruption of the anti-worker Liberals and PCs. Join in!

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Bill 115 Was Not an Aberration

One of the arguments being given as to why the working people, especially teachers and education workers should support the Liberals to defeat the PCs, or at least tone down their opposition to the Liberals, is that Bill 115 and these attacks on all workers' rights was an aberration for the Liberals and that the Wynne government represents a "new" Liberal Party with better policies and a break from the legacy of Bill 115. The Liberals have even tried to sell this by scheming to have the former president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation run as the candidate in London West. Aside from the fact that teachers and education workers oppose such crass opportunism, it must also be recognized that Bill 115 is an expression of what all governments that follow the neo-liberal, anti-worker, anti-people agenda have in store.

The people who brought Bill 115 forward have all been in power in Ontario since 2003. They didn't suddenly lose their marbles and want to pick a fight with teachers and education workers for no reason. If one looks at the legislation brought in under the McGuinty government, in which Wynne was a major player, all the arrangements to usurp control over collective bargaining and to impose privatization and other schemes to pay the rich were being put in place right from 2003, following the direction set by Harris. It is now that they are being rolled out more openly.

The use of Bill 115 to undermine workers' rights was also not peculiar to Ontario, nor the Liberals either. In other provinces, and nationally, the same type of arrangements are being put in place and tested out.

For example, in Quebec there was Law 78, passed to criminalize the students' and their allies' resistance to tuition increases and the privation of universities and colleges. It sought to destroy the students' unions and university workers' unions generally who supported the students to not submit to tuition increases and privatization. More recently, the Quebec government legislated striking construction workers back to work when the workers rejected unnaceptable concessions to their wages and working conditions from the construction monopolies that employ them. In BC the government imposed contracts, and despite being found to have violated the Charter Rights of teachers and education workers, no redress for the workers has materialized some ten years later and the government continues to put forward the same agenda today. In Saskatchewan the government passed a swath of laws destroying the old arrangements for labour relations, even eliminating the eight hour day. In Alberta the government is demanding ten year "agreements" from their teachers and education workers in the face of teachers' and education workers' opposition to provincial dictate.

Bill 115 is a reflection of the deepening crisis of the economic system based on private interests at the expense of the public interest and the attempts of the most powerful financial interests to resolve the crisis on the backs of the working people, wrecking all modern arrangements in the process. Saying No! to this anti-social agenda can be done by saying No! to the Liberals and PCs in Ontario who are its champions at this time.

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Using Transit Expansion to Justify Cuts
to Social Programs

For several years the Toronto Region Board of Trade (BoT) has been carrying out a public relations campaign for the massive expansion of rapid transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area. Part of the campaign has been to create a consensus among the rival factions of the ruling elite on the necessity for transit expansion. The other part of the campaign has been to promote the use of public funds for this project. The BoT is the Toronto chapter of the Chamber of Commerce. It is a political organization comprised of 10,000 businesses, including the largest banks and monopolies and it represents their interests.

During this public relations campaign, the BoT has issued a number of studies on the need for transit expansion and how it should be financed. The thrust of all of these studies is that building transit infrastructure will create a huge amount of wealth in the Toronto region. At the same time however, they illogically present transit capitalization and operation of transit not as a social investment but as a huge cost, as a kind of overhead cost for modern urban life.

The BoT studies say this "overhead cost" should be borne by the public without businesses having to put anything in, using the usual neo-liberal justification that if businesses in the region have to pay, this would make them uncompetitive. Some of these studies call for the government to create the "fiscal space" for carrying this cost by more rigorously slashing spending on social programs and services.

One of these studies was Infrastructure: Unleashing Ontario's Ability To Grow, which was released as part of the BoT intervention in the 2011 Ontario election. A demand the study puts to provincial politicians is to reduce spending on social programs and public services so that funds are available for transit expansion: "For the Province to be able to relieve its current fiscal deficit and invest in the transportation needs of the Toronto region, it is essential to find efficiencies in program delivery." "Finding efficiencies in program delivery" has since become well known as code for cuts to social programs, public services and to the workers who deliver them.

The document cites health care "costs" and public sector workers' wages, benefits and job security as the main places where the government will have to make reductions after the election in order to make room for transit funding: "Improving the Province's long-term fiscal health will require changes to the way many programs are funded and/or delivered."

The BoT particularly targets health care spending. The study says the government has to "bend down the health care cost curve" and that the way to "achieve cost efficiencies in health care spending is to place an emphasis on redirecting future health care dollars towards less expensive community-based care found in Community Care Access Centers, primary care provision, and home-based care." Since the study was published, the Liberal government has followed this cost-cutting advice by dumping patients out of hospitals into communities and disguising this as health care reform.

Governments around the world are cutting wages, benefits and job security for public sector workers, the study says, and Ontario should do the same: "A good place to start would be leveraging natural attrition rates to reduce the overall size of the provincial workforce, where appropriate. The long-term sustainability of labour costs and benefits, including pensions and early retirement packages, needs to be examined if the Toronto region is to move forward [with transit]."

Eighteen months have passed since the BoT infrastructure study was released. In that period the Liberals were re-elected and have heeded the call of the privileged minority they represent. The Liberal government has delivered two austerity budgets containing severe measures for degrading health care and education and a broad attack on public sector workers and public services.

The "fiscal space" has been created and the transit infrastructure projects demanded by the BoT are underway. Subway, buses and Light Rail Transit (LRT) vehicles are being built and shovels are in the ground for the subway, the Eglinton LRT and many other projects. The government has created the capacity to borrow $50 billion for the transit project being planned. As well, to assure the moneylenders that they will be repaid, schemes for increasing personal taxes are being rolled out to create what is being called "a dedicated revenue stream for transit." These transit taxes can be used to service new direct provincial debts or to provide guaranteed profits on any private-public transit partnerships that are set up.

Austerity Is a Fraud

The proposition put forward by the BoT that social program spending has to be cut in order to make transit expansion possible is a grand fraud that hides what the rich minority are up to with their infrastructure plan. Saying transit expansion and social programs are in conflict turns the truth about their relationship inside out. The deception hinges on hiding the way transit produces wealth in the economy and presenting transit investment as an "overhead cost" or drain on the economy.

The BoT admits that transit creates wealth, but it hides the fact that it is working people in every aspect of transit who create this wealth in the economy through their labour. Workers in transit at every stage of production all the way down the line have the latest equipment, work in highly socialized enterprises and produce immense wealth. After the claims for wages by workers involved in transit, and even after provisions for capital project costs, there is still a huge surplus government can claim. This claim by the government can be used to help fund social programs.

The problem is that, without putting anything in, businesses make hidden claims on the wealth created by transit. Transit expansion increases the value of their private assets and increases the amount they can take from the economy as profit. The real conflict is not between transit spending and social program spending but between the very social character of the wealth transit workers put into the economy and the very private way business takes this wealth out of the economy through their hidden claims.

Besides justifying the freeloading of its sponsors, the BoT's phony proposition that transit expansion and social programs are in conflict also serves the ruling elite in other ways. They use it in an attempt to divide the fighting unity of the Canadian working class. Workers involved in all aspects of transit -- manufacturing equipment, constructing infrastructure and transit operations -- are all told "every dollar cut from social programs and public services is another dollar to spend on transit." Debunking the frauds of the ruling elite about how wealth is created strengthens workers' unity in action against austerity measures and confidence in pushing for a pro-social direction for the economy.

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The Other Ford Scandal

At the same time Ontario's Liberal government and Harper's federal government are struggling with scandals of their own, the latter's close associate, Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto, has been the subject of a media frenzy concerning alleged illicit and possibly criminal activities in his private life. A photo has surfaced of the Mayor fraternizing with individuals, one of whom was subsequently murdered and others who have recently been arrested in police raids said to involve illegal drugs and gangs. More sensationally yet, some monopoly media reporters claim to have seen a video being offered for sale of Mayor Ford appearing to be smoking crack cocaine with individuals involved in the narcotics trade, and in a less than coherent state making uncouth and quasi-racist comments about youth in the northwest Toronto neighbourhood the Ford family has used as a base.

Such revelations are indeed scandalous, but the timing and substance of the accusations, particularly considering central features of the Ford regime the monopoly media does not present as scandalous, raise big questions about what certain ruling circles and their mouthpieces are up to. Mayor Ford and his brother councillor, in the tradition of their deceased father, a Mike Harris MPP, have been champions and promoters of the neo-liberal, anti-social austerity agenda of the first order. They have close ties to the most virulent personalities in power driving this agenda, like Stephen Harper and Tim Hudak. The municipal regime the Fords constituted at the end of 2010 has been implementing that agenda to the best of its ability. If it has not yet achieved all its aims of privatizing everything that has remained public, of destroying all municipal public services and social programmes, of driving down to subsistence the wellbeing of workers, starting with city employees, and destroying their ability to resist, this has been due above all to the people's resistance rather than any compunction on the part of Ford and his closest partners in power.

Is it not a scandal for those in power to attack, on behalf of the very rich, those who produce the wealth upon which society depends for its existence and the well-being of its members? Is it not a scandal to deprive the people of their most basic rights to a livelihood and wellbeing on the basis that private property right and the unrestricted workings of the market are all that is sacrosanct? Those in power who via their media have unleashed this other scandal of Mayor Ford's private life, not only ignore the scandal of neo-liberal austerity, they are its proponents -- either explicitly having supported its Ford/Hudak/Harper version, or else the form more identified with the provincial Liberal government of McGuinty/Wynne.

Is it an accident the Ford scandal chosen by the monopoly media for exposure, that of the mayor's private life, in no way challenges the austerity agenda of which he has functioned as a spearhead? Does this not suggest that Mayor Ford, who has performed such service for the rich and private monopoly interests by attacking workers' and people's rights, is no longer so useful and is being cast aside to clear the way for the achievement of these same interests' current projects? Ford made opposition to tax increases the justification for his agenda. But now Ontario's political and financial ruling circles are planning massive expenditures, particularly for transportation infrastructure. To make certain that the people bear the burden, while rich private interests profit, greatly increased taxation of residents is in the works. Since Mayor Ford, in line with his rhetoric as defender of the taxpayers, has not been cooperative, he may now appear as an obstacle to some powerful interests that previously supported or accepted his leadership. Such considerations would explain why accusations about the mayor's private life that have been known for some time, have at this time emerged as a grand media fomented scandal. This would also reiterate much that is already known about the modus operandi of the ruling elite.

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Health Care Is a Right!

Shadow Summit and Rally at Council of the
Federation Meeting

July 24 and 25 -- Niagara-on-the-Lake
Organized by: Canadian and Ontario Health Coalitions
Buses departing from across the province -- contact Ontario Health Coalition for
information: www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca  or call, 416-441-2502

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Read Ontario Political Forum
Website:  www.cpcml.ca   Email:  ontario@cpcml.ca