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Doug Ford is not the answer to working class anger

Carolyn Egan

April 2, 2018

On March 22 there was an op ed in the New York Times which asked the question, “Will Canada elect a tin pot northern Trump?” It was referring of course to the provincial election in Ontario where Doug Ford, brother of the former Mayor of Toronto Rob Ford, is running to be Premier as the leader of the Progressive Conservative party. He is way ahead in the polls and is championing a neo-con agenda reminiscent of the Premier Mike Harris days in the 1990s when social programs, labour protections, and employment equity were cut to shreds. 

He has promised to stop the increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, rescind protection for women accessing abortion facilities, attacked the sex education curriculum, promised tax cuts which will benefit the wealthy, and will continue privatization and contracting out.

People are angry at the Liberals because of the selloff of Ontario Hydro and skyrocketing costs, the overcrowding of hospitals, return to work legislation, back tracking on pensions and a whole range of other attacks on working people. The gains that have been made under the present government have come because of the strength of mass campaigns such as the Fight for $15 and Fairness, the childcare mobilizations, and the labour movement which has pushed for change. The Liberals are scrambling to remain in power but people are desperate for something different, an alternative to what is. Doug Ford is clearly not the answer.

The unions seems to have been caught flat footed without the strong mobilizations that took place in workplaces throughout the province when the Tory candidate Hudak campaigned for “right to work legislation” during the last election. There has been close to nothing happening on the ground with few exceptions, such as the Toronto and York Region Labour Council hosting a political action conference on April 14 with a switch from the original municipal election focus (taking place in the fall) to the provincial election as well.

Doug Ford has unfortunately tapped into the real anger that working people are feeling. An ordinary worker can no longer afford to buy a home in the city of Toronto, rent is getting out of control as well, precarious work is the order of the day for so many, wages are not going up and the future is looking bleak. He pretends to be on the side of those who are being left out, railing against special interests, while he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth into a millionaire’s family. He owns a profitable company and has consistently backed the interests of the elite.

The New Democratic Party has to take advantage of the anger against the Liberals and not allow the Conservatives to fill the void. It has to be bold, learning from the Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders campaigns. If a left alternative is on offer then women, racialized communities, young people and the broader working class will respond as we have seen in other countries. It has to move forward with a strong, anti-racist class perspective, defending women’s right to abortion, fighting for a $15 minimum wage and taking on systemic racism. It has to bring Hydro back into public ownership and be accountable to the working class of this province in all its diversity.

The election hasn’t yet begun and we have to push our unions and other progressive forces to organize as we have done in the past. We need workplace meetings explaining clearly what is at stake in this election and that the Liberals and Tories are both parties of business which are not working in the interests of working people. We call for a vote for the NDP understanding that it is the movements on the ground that make real change and whoever wins this election, we need to continue independent working class action. We need to build the confidence that change can take place and that we need not only defend what we have won, but move forward to win further gains. There is tremendous anger at the base of society, and we have to do all we can to organize a left alternative that truly speaks to the needs and aspirations of working people.

Register now for Join the Resistance: Marxism 2018, a two day conference April 27-28 in Toronto, including the sessions “The fight against racism”, “NDP, socialists and elections”, and “Fight for $15 and socialist strategy.”

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