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Ottawa-Gatineau mobilizes for May Day

Shane Sadorski

March 27, 2012

Over the past three weeks, a fast-growing group of approximately 50 residents and local activists in the Ottawa-Gatineau area have set the wheels in motion for a community-wide ‘day of action’ against the sweeping austerity programs launched by both the federal and Ontario governments this Spring.

Appropriately, the as-of-yet unnamed group has chosen May 1—International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day—to be the date of their first major large-scale community action to defend the interests of workers, the unemployed, seniors, children, students, low-income families, and pretty much everyone else in the 99% under attack by the greed of the 1% and their government enablers.

The growing group draws its membership from a wide and diverse range of progressive community groups, labour unions, Occupy Ottawa participants, national and local NGOs, student unions, various issue-based activist organizations, and political parties. All of the individuals and groups have one main thing in common: the desire and the need to stand up and shout NO! to the politics of ‘austerity’—a buzzword that is code for brutal cutbacks in essential community services like health, education, public works, income support, and action on climate change.

The people of the Ottawa-Gatineau area will be hit particularly hard by government austerity, with expected heavy reductions in the federal public service causing significant economic disruption and hardship in a community where the public sector is the biggest employer. With an expected 10 per cent budget cut across the board, the layoffs and job losses from the federal government will likely number in the thousands. And that’s before factoring in the local fall-out from the province’s austerity budget.

Although the details of the May 1 day of action are still being worked out, there is a clear consensus that the objective will be to make it a real ‘day of action’ that goes beyond a single mass rally. In addition to a planned mass demonstration near Parliament Hill against the federal Conservative government, organizers are hoping to see a number of smaller, yet powerful workplace actions, neighbourhood actions, and direct actions throughout the day from sunrise to sunset. Educational workshops around austerity are being considered, a central ‘open house’ hub is planned for participants to gather around, and a large evening cultural event is in the works.

Watch this space for updates as the working class of Ottawa-Gatineau continues to self-organize.

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