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This budget is murder

Banner at Sudbury Pride 2018
John Bell

April 22, 2019

Recently a friend initiated a game, asking where and when in history people would rather have been born. Almost without exception people opted for living in the present, citing their reliance on technology. A few chose rewinding a few decades so they could live in capitalism’s salad days, but that’s it.

I chose a different tack: “Orkney Island in the Neolithic village of Skara Brae, circa 3,000 BCE. All the evidence tells of a communistic settlement, living surrounded by natural abundance, with enough security and leisure time to produce beautiful ‘luxury’ artifacts (items without immediate usefulness). Surely many aspects of life would have been difficult but others would have been easy. Fishing, whaling and hunting, and basic agriculture ensured steady food supplies and materials for manufacture. Also all evidence points to equality internally, trade with the outside world, and no evidence of war. Sounds pretty good all in all.”

I admit to a sentimental attachment to Orkney, but I wanted to make a point: for long stretches of human history our ancestors lived in harmony with nature and with each other. The high level of comfort and evident equality at Skara Brae, lasting for generations, was a puzzle to conservative archeologists. One even postulated that the village must have been exclusively inhabited by a “theocratic elite”–it was easier for him to imagine a stone-age gated community than the original communism described by Marx and Engels.

The tired old idea of “human nature” being brutal, violent and greedy is refuted by a mountain of scientific evidence of early societies. While there is no doubt that human existence has often been hard and driven by shortage and inequality, these occasions only become the “norm” after the division of societies into classes, a relatively recent historical development.

Unfortunately, this false idea of “human nature” has been hammered into our consciousness. What is advertised as the heart of darkness of humanity is in reality a mirror image of our society–an historically specific capitalist nature, not an eternal human one. And as capitalism dodders into its decrepitude, it becomes meaner and more evidently cruel.

Cold blooded reptiles

Which brings me back to Doug Ford and his Ontario government. Some say these Tories don’t care whether we live or die. This is a mistake. If we are poor, weak, vulnerable or struggling they would rather see us dead. Ford’s budget cuts allow no other conclusion. They are killers: cold blooded reptiles. Let’s count the crimes.

Intimidation and uttering threats: Cuts to services for families dealing with autism provided early proof of their moral depravity. Not only did budget cuts deprive thousands of people of necessary therapy; remember Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod threatened autism service agencies, saying they faced “four long years” unless they publicly cheered government cuts.

Theft: when DoFo rolled back the minimum wage increase and replaced it with a tax cut he stole an average of $400 per year from every minimum wage worker in the province.

Misogyny: Ford cut all funding for the Ontario College of Midwives. Limiting reproductive choice in all forms is a Tory priority.

Child abuse: part of Ford’s cut of a billion dollars over 10 years from Toronto’s Social Services payments means hungry children (the loss of hundreds of school meals for kids in need); it means fewer inspections of day care facilities; it means an end to diabetes prevention programs; and it cuts into infectious disease control. Remember, the goal of Tory education is not to teach critical thinking or problem solving, but to toughen up our kids. It might, if they survive.

Animal cruelty: In 2018 there were four nesting pairs of piping plovers breeding behind a fenced area at Wasaga Beach on Georgian Bay; the endangered birds are down to fewer than 75 pairs on all the Great Lakes. South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson thinks they are wasting valuable beach property and says Doug Ford agrees with her. He proved her right by announcing reactionary changes to the Endangered Species Act, that will allow developers to pay a fine rather than obey “onerous” regulations meant to prevent extinction. This amounts to taking out a contract to murder a species.

Public endangerment: funds and regulations safeguarding our drinking water, restaurant and food inspection are gone, effective immediately. Corporations will take advantage of deregulation and cut corners and people will die. These are the policies which led to poisoned water in Flint, Michigan; the lack of potable water long faced by Ontario’s Indigenous communities will become more common. Toronto Councilor Joe Cressy summed it up: “People will die. People are going to die.”

Manslaughter: Tory cuts and restructuring of ambulance and EMT services will also kill people. Ford is going to convert 52 municipal services into 10 regional hubs. This means first responders may no longer have the local knowledge to get to you fast, and get you to needed health services. And if and when they come, they are no longer required to take you to a hospital. They may deliver you to a walk-in clinic, or a private facility, or maybe just hand you a phone so you can call telehealth. And if you end up dead, well you’re just doing your bit to end “hallway healthcare” like Doug Ford promised.

I could go on, but you get it. This is not government “for the people.” It is the modus operandi of gangsters, who use violence to cement their rule. These are crimes committed by bullies who truly believe services should only be available for those who can afford them, and the rest should toughen up or die. These are the primitive thugs, not my stone age ancestors.

In spite of all the evidence, millions still support Ford for two reasons. First, the blood trail has not yet come to their door. More importantly, they see the crumbling edifice of capitalism and are terrified because they cannot even imagine another way to live, a better way of life that has room for people and plovers.

As we organize to fight Ford’s cuts let’s remember the secret of the popularity of a Ford, or a Kenney, or a Trump: they are terrorists who manipulate our economic fears to keep us at each other’s throats. Until we can inspire people with the possibility of a society that really does protect the vulnerable and serve all equally–and we glimpse that future if we know our own past–the gangsters will continue to rule.









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