The labour relations abyss and Conservatives in Canada are hardly strangers. After all, the last four decades of Conservative politics has within it the federal Harper Conservatives ordering postal workers back to work after locking them out, the Mike Harris’ Minister Tsobouchi suggesting that social assistance recipients on the receiving end of a 22% benefits cut could ‘eat more tuna’, and John Snobelen of that same Harris cabinet suggesting the way forward was to create an artificial crisis in education. In the same tone deaf manner, the Ford government brings in Bill 124 that has resulted in mass exits of healthcare and education workers.
Yet, nothing seems to change. “This week, perhaps the biggest and most profound act of legislative assault with intent to injure in Ontario has been brought to the floor of the Ontario legislature with the same sensitivity as finger to the back of the throat,” says Chris Stephen, CUPE member and Grey Bruce Labour Council VP for Grey County.
Stephen adds, “This is not about students, workers, community or any other person involved in the actual delivery or the receiving of public education in Ontario. It is about Ford and his circus of trained seals licking the boots of their corporate handlers. Corporate handlers do not want workers and unions to ever be successful.”
Kevin Smith, Labour Council President and local OSSTF OPT President, points directly to the Ford government. “Saddling this attack on CUPE and all workers by instituting the Notwithstanding Clause from the onset of this overt bullying. This move tells us all that Ford already knows that the plan is unconstitutional in every way imaginable. This is a perfect metaphor of Conservatives in Canada. Conservatism in Canada and in most of the world has now staked out a space that is only “left” of those who call for violent insurrection. I am not naïve enough to believe that Canadian Conservatives would be discouraged from right wing extremism if, for any reason, it would secure more support from their corporate handlers and ultimately what is akin to fascism as we can get.”
“History has shown that misjudging unions and workers may be the undoing of a government,” says Dave Trumble, CUPE retiree and Grey Bruce Labour Council VP for Bruce County. “The Ontario Liberals of Kathleen Wynne enacted Bill 115. It was designed to undo decades of collective bargaining progress for teachers. Teachers set the bar for all unions and workers and busted the spirit of the Wynne government in getting the Wynne Liberals to back down. Ford needs to brace for this kind of fight.”
“In 2022, the fight may be different, and it may be different people, but the need to break the back of this type of bullying by any government is a key to any hopes we have for workers and social democracy in the future,” adds Smith.