McGuinty Shows His Stripes

August 5, 2010

“Daddy, daddy! I thought you told me we killed all those dragons of the Common Sense Revolution?! That they were all dead and would never, ever come back again! That’s what you said, daddy. That’s what you told me!”

“Well, son. It’s true. I did tell you that. I told you that because I thought it was true. I did think we’d killed all the monsters. But the truth is, some monsters just can’t be killed. You can wound them. You can hurt them very, very badly. It’s just some monsters, well son, they’re like a Hydra.”

“A hydra, daddy? You mean like a car?”

“No, no son. Not like a car. A hydra is a monster with many—actually. You know what some monsters are like? Like those bad guys you read in you comic books. First, they’re one thing but before you know it, they’re something else entirely.”

“You mean, like a shapeshifter, daddy?”

“Yes, like a shapeshifter, son. Changing shapes all the time but their essential being, their evil core is still the same…”

Or as the Who once sang, Meet the New Boss/Same As the Old Boss although, apparently, we can get fooled again.

If there was ever any question about the politics of the McGuinty Liberal government, their Bill 68, An Act to promote Ontario as open for business by amending or repealing certain Acts, should seal the deal. These guys are Liberal if you mean neoliberal, Tory in other words. And no old school Red Tory either. They are out-and-out Harper/Harrisites sporting red ties instead of blue, smiling broadly to mask what is nothing but a pro-business soul.

Ontario. Open For Business. If that doesn’t sound like a legs open welcome to the whorehouse, I don’t know what does. We will bend over backwards (or anyway you like it) for your business. Workers’ rights? What workers rights? Treat `em however you want. Smack `em around, a bit of the rough stuff. We’ll turn a blind eye. And if they want to complain about your behaviour, they’ll have to talk to you first before we’ll even pretend to listen to their whining.

Stop and think about that for a moment. When (not if) this bill becomes law workers in this province will first to have to “confront” their employers if they feel that they have money owed them for overtime, vacation pay or just plain old wages. Or if they feel working conditions aren’t up to snuff. Employers as the first line of defense against exploitation of employees. Yeah, uh, Mr. Fox? We’d really appreciate it if you would stop stealing all our eggs.

According to an article in Tuesday’s Toronto Star, the government claims that the “… changes are part of the province’s employment standards modernization strategy to reduce the 14,000 workers’ claims in backlog.” It’s almost as if the government is blaming the workers for creating the backlog. If they would just stop complaining, there wouldn’t be a backlog.

Am I wrong in assuming that if an employee has issues about unpaid wages or poor working conditions that they’d probably approach their employers first, asking to have the problem fixed, and ended up going to the government for redress only as a last resort? The backlog exists because worker exploitation is more pervasive than we might care to admit here in 21st-century Ontario? Putting the onus on workers to demand their rights and protections will do little to alleviate the problem — except on the official paperwork, where a similar law enacted by a similarly Liberal in name only government in B.C. saw workers’ complaints drop by 46%. Huzzah! Problem solved.

There is also another view about what created the backlog here in Ontario. In the Star article, Parkdale Community Legal Services’ Mary Gellatly said that back in 2006 the province closed claims-intake offices and squeezed enforcement resources. Ahh! There’s your old neoliberal economic system at work. Kneecap an agency or ministry by cutting money and personnel to the point where it can’t function properly and then use it as an example of government not working. See? Circular logic bringing about a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It is straight out of the play book of the master, Grover Norquist, president of the lobby group Americans For Tax Reform. “I don’t want to abolish government,” he’s been quoted as saying. “I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

The mantra of neo-conservative/liberals everywhere. Killing government. Dalton McGuinty is clearly part of the vigilante group, intent on diminishing the role governments play in our lives and filling the void with free market fundamentals and taking the handcuffs from the Invisible Hand, blind to the damage it inflicts when left to its own devices.

The Common Sense Revolution did not end in 2003. Its ill-effects aren’t merely reverberating here in the cities, towns, schools and workplaces of Ontario. They are being perpetuated by a different gang under a different flag but with the same indifference and antagonism to the idea of good government. Don’t let the red tie fool you into thinking otherwise.

dispiritedly submitted by Cityslikr


Meet A Mayoral Candidate — Part VI

March 26, 2010

It’s the last Friday in March so we are going out like a lion with our next installment of Meet A Mayoral Candidate!

This week: Kevin Clarke For Mayor.

For those who’ve been following politics on the local scene here in Toronto over the last 15 years or so, you’re probably familiar with Kevin Clarke. He’s been running for office at every level of government since the mid-90s. 2010 is his 4th stab at becoming mayor of the city.

Is he any more likely to secure the job this time around? Hardly, but that’s not the point. More than any other candidate that we’ve profiled so far, Mr. Clarke is running on what might be called a one issue platform. Although it is a Hydra-like multi-headed, nasty-assed one issue to be sure that is best (or worst) summed up in one word: poverty.

In its simplest form, Kevin Clarke is an advocate for the homeless but his presence in the race is representative of so much more than that. He gives voice to the voiceless; those who have the least stake in the political proceedings and yet who suffer the most dire consequences from the choices that are made. His candidacy seeks to make concrete what many of us only see and deal with in the abstract.

At least, that’s the hope. The reality’s a little more complicated. There are times when Mr. Clarke’s advocacy for the down-and-out of our society comes across as merely political stunting, antics that make him and his fight seem even less relevant. Does getting forcibly removed from a candidates’ debate as he has been help or hinder the cause? Watching some of the impressive amount of footage that exists of Kevin Clarke – he’s even the subject of a recent documentary, Man on a Mission – it’s hard not to think that he`s as much of a self-promoter as he is an activist for the homeless.

Even his biography smacks of a certain manufactured quality. He’s a school teacher turned businessman in the auto sector who wound up spending some 7 years on the streets. So well spoken it strikes you as impossible that this guy couldn’t get his act together and pull himself up and back into being a contributing member of society again. If Kevin Clarke is so hard done by, how does he keep coming up with the $200 needed to run for mayor of the city?

It is at this point that you realize just how firmly ingrained our biases are toward the homeless, the destitute and the sea of misfortune that exists all around us. When forced to face it as we are when someone like Kevin Clarke is on the campaign trail, our shittiest instincts can be revealed. That default switch we’ve developed in order to deal with seemingly intractable social problems: it’s their fault not ours.

Whatever actually motivates him, it`s good that Kevin Clarke’s back at it this time round especially given the heavy tilt to the right that the campaign’s endured so far. The fight`s been almost exclusively about the numbers. Who`s going to cut and save more of them. Who`s going to spend less. Kevin Clarke is in the race to put a human face to those numbers.  Answering our insipid question we`ve posing to all the mayoral candidates, If the present mayor would like his legacy to be that of the Transit Mayor, how would a Mayor Clarke like to see his legacy written?, we put the words into Kevin Clarke’s mouth. A Mayor Kevin Clarke would make Toronto a better place for all.

— dutifully submitted by Cityslikr