Bill Walker walked into the room with a big smile but his body language gave away his discomfort of being a Tory MPP in a union hall. He constantly fidgeted with his purple scarf and never strayed far from the door.
The MPP from Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound was asked to come to a media conference OPSEU was holding in his community. We were pleading the case of 35 low-wage VON personal support workers that were likely to be on strike the following week.
Walker arrived late – about 20 minutes after the media had left.
When asked point blank whether he would join the workers on the picket line, he didn’t hesitate in saying “no.”
Walker said it wasn’t his place to interfere in the bargaining process. Yet barely a moment later he made it clear that it was his party’s position to interfere.
Walker said he supported his leader’s call for a two-year across-the-board wage freeze for everybody in the public sector – no exceptions. That includes these 35 part-time workers who are struggling to make ends meet for their families on a wage that for most falls below $14 an hour.
These workers have already had their wages frozen for six years.
It’s one of the reasons they chose to unionize.
Walker shrugged off the six years, noting as an MPP his wages had also been frozen. Of course, Walker didn’t get to the legislature until October 2011, meaning he himself has only sustained a wage freeze for a little over two years.
2011 is also the year that MPPs gave themselves a $22,000 pay hike – almost enough to cover a full year’s wages for one of these women. Nor is Walker likely to struggle to pay rent on an MPP’s salary of $110,775 a year.
Walker pleaded he was powerless as an opposition MPP to do anything about the situation – this despite claims on his website that he would make the voices of his constituents heard at Queen’s Park. When we suggested he raise this issue in Question Period, he practically laughed.
The Tories these days are definitely a two-note party. After it became clear he wasn’t going to support his constituents, it was all ORNGE and gas plants, as if these two scandals had accounted for the deficit and not the massive world-wide contraction of the economy in 2008. We’re not sure how the provincial Tories square their belief that the Liberals are responsible for the deficit when their federal Conservative cousins in Ottawa also cannot balance a budget.
Walker’s predecessor, another Tory known affectionately as Wild Bill Murdoch, at least had empathy. While he certainly had differences with us, he had no problems walking into a union hall or even participating on our panels. He also was willing to stand up for his constituents and sometimes buck his own party.
During the meeting Walker failed to express any sympathy for the plight of these women.
Earlier there had been some confusion whether we were holding a press conference at the Owen Sound office or a picket in front of Walker’s office. As an opposition member, we thought a picket at the MPP’s office would be less effective and opted for the conference instead. We also wanted to give Walker the opportunity to show he cared about these women. Clearly he didn’t.
Talk about gas plants and ORNGE had no relevance to this situation. Why did he show up? Was it to do his job as an MPP, or was it to campaign knowing a spring election is likely?
On this day he got no new votes.
Don’t be surprised by the brazen hubris shown by this talking head. He’s known for his flip-flop attitude and is a sellout.
I myself am a PSW working for another company in Owen Sound. Although we do make more per hour, some of us get run ragged by the sheer volume of help needed in the community. We have new PSWs right out of school come to work for us, then leave because they can make more money in a nursing or retirement home. Our wages have been frozen for years, and we also struggle to make ends meet. At this rate, retiring at 65 will not be an option as we live paycheck to paycheck. We know eventually we will be requiring the services of the VON, CarePartners and PSWs. Change needs to start at home, and the government needs put more money into community support for the elderly before there is a shortage of help, and people end up in the hospital constantly or worse.
As a PSW working for another company. I find Bill Walker’ behavior unacceptable. I will remember this come election time. He will certainly NOT get my vote. We are at the bottom of this wage freeze (we make very little) why not go after the big guys that get $ !00,000 bonuses a year!!!
I also work as a PSW in the community, we travel in all types of weather to deliver service to mostly elderly clients, often travelling in snow storms, putting ourselves at risk. Our new staff only stay until they can move to a facility to work, and make a better wage. Many of us have had to take on extra jobs, which are hard to come by, and barely make ends meet. Freezing our wages for another two years will create great hardship for many families, our government needs to look at the substantial raises and bonuses they enjoy, we do not get a bonus, more money has to be put into community support our elderly deserve better. Bill Walker your behaviour and lack of empathy were unacceptable and true glimpse into your lack of support for the constituents of the riding you are supposed to represent. I for one am very disappointed in your performance, and a further freeze will result in bankruptcy for many. Is this the legacy you want to be remembered for?
As a mother of three children who is struggling to make ends meat as it is, this disgusts me. Politicians should be forced to live on what we do for a month pay ALL your bills still buy groceries without asking for handouts from anyone , cause I have been denied help myself. And then tell us that you give a rats ass about child poverty, how many nights have you had to wonder what you are going to feed your children for supper Mr. Bill Walker or how many times have you gone to bed hungry yourself to ensure your children do not. Take a good long look at the cost of living increases in the past 6 years and then tell me that a wage freeze of another 2 years will not bankrupt countless people struggling to survive. You claim to care about poverty and abolishing it but all you care about is lining your wallet to hell with everyone else. I know I am not the only one who feels this way and I refuse to stay silent about this injustice. When wages were frozen bread was .99 cents it’s now sitting at 3 dollars a loaf. Milk had also gone up in price how exactly are we to provide healthy meals for our families when the pay we get barely covers the bills.
I was at this meeting also and this is exactly what happened. To paraphrase Mr. Walker, “I don’t know the issues. I can’t do anything. I wouldn’t if I could. You should have another two years frozen. No, I won’t join you on the picket line. ORNGE, ehealth bla bla bla….” Appalling. He is clearly representing Tim Hudak to us — rather than the reverse, for which he was elected, to represent the voters of Grey Bruce.
Who will care for Mr Walker when he can not wipe his private——-which is not private any more when you do not know who is coming in your door for 12.00 an hour.lol