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(en) Canada, Linchpin* #14 - Change-a-coming! + Waking up to austerity

Date Mon, 19 Sep 2011 10:45:21 +0300


Change-a-coming! ---- This october, the Canadian right is trying for a hat-trick in Ontario. With Harper’s new majority government and Rob Ford sitting comfortable in Toronto City Hall, only the provincial legislature stands between conservatives and total political power. With all levels of government under conservative control, Ontarians can expect to have the austerity agenda developed at the Toronto G20 implemented with little regard for dissident views. ---- Looking at a strong lead in the polls, Ontario’s P.C.s released their glossy manifesto “Changebook” explaining their schemes for the province if elected. While we as anarchists hold out no particular faith for any party’s electoral efforts, some aspects of this platform stood out as particularly troubling.

So austerity doesn’t mean asking for
more from businesses. It’s working and
poor people who will be the ones forced
to pay up - through cuts to our services
and attacks on our livelihoods.

Public sector wages have not simply “gotten out of step” with the private
sector. Rather, higher levels of union membership have meant public
sector workers have been able to win decent pay and benefits
through collective bargaining. Meanwhile unorganized
private sector workers have had to settle for less as manager
salaries and investor profits take up more and more of the pie.

Having declared their intention to undermine public sector
workers, the Changebook goes on to suggest sweeping changes to
the ways union dues are administered with more oversight for the state. What they
try to couch in the safe language of responsibility, a critical analysis sees as more tools
for the employer/state to de-legitimize their union foe.

====================================================

Waking up to austerity by LINDSAY HART

The economic climate gets chillier by the
day. Words like “recession” and “deficit”
are now commonplace again. Bank of
Canada Governor, Mark Carney, stated
recently that the new “age of austerity”
will entail years of restrained economic
growth and slow recovery. This era will
be characterized by deep cuts to the public
sector and crucial social services, ongoing
assaults on an already weakened trade
union movement and a massive transfer of
public wealth towards increased spending
on police, prisons and other instruments
of state control.

Synchronized calls for so-called “belt
tightening measures” are being issued
from right-wing ideologues in all levels
of government. In Toronto, Rob Ford and
his City Council allies claim that dramatic
cuts are necessary to balance the city’s
alleged $760 million dollar deficit. But
how did the city develop this deficit?

Ford did not inherit a city in financial
crisis. In fact, Canada as a whole has dealt
relatively well with the global recession.
Canada’s debt is currently 33.7% of the
GDP – far lower than that of the US or
Britain. Canadian unemployment is lower
than it was before 2008, when the crisis
hit. In fact, Ford’s deficit is a direct result
of his own policies – cutting the $60
Vehicle Registration tax (which brought
in $64 million for the city annually),
and freezing commercial property tax
rates. Ford is clear about who his priority
constituents are.

Despite campaign promises to end “the
gravy train” at City Hall, Ford has instead
taken aim at eliminating essential public
services. After spending almost $3 million
dollars (more than $300,000 per service
report) to hire corporate consulting firm
KPMG to assess priorities for municipal
cuts, the city is considering eliminating
services such as the Community Partnership
and Investment Programs — which fund,
amongst other things, AIDS prevention, the
arts, and student nutrition programs. Other
options currently being considered include
library closures, reduced TTC bus routes,
increased service fees and and end to the
“Welcome Policy” — a program that allows
people on social assistance free access to
community centres. Shelter beds are also on
the chopping block, a problem exacerbated
by a proposed freeze on public housing
development and the selling off of existing
units. Many of these cuts will require public
sector layoffs, increasing the need for the
very services being eliminated.

KPMG’s recommendations provoked
outrage from Toronto residents. On July
28 and 29 the city held a marathon council
meeting, with Torontonians lining up
to depute long into the night and early
morning. MP Joe Mihevic commented that
Mayor Ford had awakened “a sleeping
city”; anger over planned cuts has prompted
a swell in engagement in municipal politics,
motivating many people to organize and
advocate for the first time.

This political engagement is important and
encouraging. But to defeat Ford we must
grow beyond Facebook groups and City
Hall deputations. We have to recognize the
limits of bureaucratic measures and begin
directing this frustration and anger towards
building mass mobilizations. The Toronto
Stop the Cuts network aims to do just that.

Toronto Stop the Cuts grew out of a pre-
existing network of activists and grassroots
community organizations that had joined
forces to organize the “Justice for Our
Communities” day of action during last
year’s Toronto G20 summit protests.
Comprised of members from the Ontario
Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), No
One is Illegal (NOII) and Jane/Finch Action
Against Poverty (JFAAP) this network
came together to voice their shared outrage
towards the austerity agenda then being
drafted by world leaders behind closed
doors and a multimillion dollar security
fence. After Ford’s election in October,
attention shifted towards preparations to
resist his anticipated cuts.

The strength of the Toronto Stop the Cuts
network lies in an organizational model that
stresses local organizing, popular outreach
and direct action. Toronto Stop the Cuts is
composed of a decentralized network of
autonomous neighbourhood committees
and community groups; these local bodies
hold community meetings, plan actions
and carry out extensive public outreach to
mobilize Torontonians against Ford’s cuts.
By organizing in the neighborhoods we live
and work in, our network
is building grassroots
structures that will be
prepared to defend local
services in the months
and years to come.
Each of these groups
is encouraged to make
decisions that address
local realities. Joint
actions of the broader
network are developed
democratically, through
the participation of
people meeting in
neighborhoods across the
city.

On September 10,
Toronto Stop the Cuts
will be holding a city-wide mass
meeting open to all those concerned
about Ford’s proposed cuts. At this
meeting, we will develop a people’s
declaration and begin to lay the
groundwork for a series of creative
direct actions to hold City Hall to
account.

Stop the Cuts mass
meeting:

When: Saturday,
September 10; 12pm

Where: Dufferin
Grove Park

Contact Toronto
Stop the Cuts to get
involved:

tostopthecuts@
gmail.com

torontostopthecuts.
com

==========================================
* Journal of common cause anarchist organization
_________________________________________
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