The Ontario PCs almost walked away from the brink this weekend.
Last year the provincial Tories introduced a white paper advocating U.S.-style labour policies that would undo the rights working people have had in this country for more than a half century.
Rather than float such radical policies as a trial balloon, MPPs defended the policy over the past year likely knowing that it would take them a far distance out of the political center. While former PC leader John Tory openly advised getting rid of it, the party convention instead formally adopted the policy this weekend, but only barely. Only 45 per cent of delegates voted in favour.
Taking a page out of the tea-party playbook, the Tories now approach a likely spring election with a glaring hard turn to the right.
The question is: will they be able to convince working people to vote against their best interests? Such radical U.S. policies have not only had a devastating effect on labour unions, but have done much to gut the middle class south of the border. As people fall down the economic ladder, it’s not difficult to convince them to resent those who are still hanging on to the rungs just above them. They can seldom see it is only those towards the top that still have room to climb.
Two community meetings around cuts to the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital drew significant crowds this week.
Cuts at the two-site rural hospital corporation are particularly severe. The Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital is seeking to find 6 per cent in savings primarily through reductions to health resources used by the community, including a cut of 12 beds, six at each site.
This is only the beginning given every hospital is struggling with zero-based budgeting from the province that is expected to impact the bottom line to 2016-17. The situation is made worse at hospitals like Perth and Smiths Falls due to the simultaneous implementation of a new funding formula that doesn’t appear to appreciate the unique demographic demands of the region.
The Health Minister and local opposition MPP Randy Hillier say services are not being cut, but are being reallocated. But is this really true?
The cuts include physiotherapy where the equivalent of more than three full-time positions will be lost at the hospital.
Numerous provincial reports have acknowledged that seniors are having trouble connecting with publicly funded physiotherapy.
Last week it was the turn of Dr. Samir Sinha, the provincial lead on Ontario’s Seniors Strategy. Sinha called for more publicly funded physiotherapy in the community, but the last OHIP-licensed private physiotherapy clinic to open in Ontario was in 1964. Health Minister Deb Matthews has been silent on this issue despite cuts to physiotherapy in about half of Ontario’s hospitals during the past year. This is one more.
Tory MPP Randy Hillier is the Rob Ford of rural Ontario. He often makes headlines for all the wrong reasons.
His hatred of unions seems to be trumping common sense these days. Hillier recently wrote an editorial in the local media aligning his views with those of Health Minister Deb Matthews. Whereas most MPPs would stand up for their local hospital, Hillier is supporting deep cuts to the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital most likely because it is the local unions that are raising the alarm. It will be interesting to see how this plays out with an election likely on the horizon for 2013.
Hillier has bought Matthew’s inaccurate assertion that hospital cuts simply represent a transfer of services to community-based providers. We see Matthews’ interest is saving her own skin amid the obvious effects of austerity on Ontario’s health care system, but what’s in it for Hillier?
Perhaps Hillier should have a conversation with his own caucus members. Last year fellow Tory MPP John O’Toole characterized the government’s “Home First” initiative as the “Home Alone” initiative during a visit by the Ontario Health Coalition. Have they had a last-minute conversion to the Liberal cause?
It is interesting that the Ontario Tories quote the Pacific Research Institute in this week’s white paper on labour.
In the paper, the Tories say the average yearly economic growth in U.S. States with voluntary union rules is 4.4 per cent compared to 3.6 per cent in those which use a system similar to Ontario’s.
Oddly, the PRI says the “calculations” are based on data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Calculations? What kind of calculations? Wouldn’t the bureau have available economic growth numbers for the States? Why would they need to be “calculated” by PRI?
The PRI is an extreme right-wing organization whose vision, according to their website, is to promote “individual freedom and personal responsibility. The Institute believes these principles are best encouraged through policies that emphasize a free economy, private initiative, and limited government (emphasis added).”
The Ontario PCs have staked out a far-right position on labour with the release Wednesday of their white paper “Paths to Prosperity: Flexible Labour Markets.”
For Ontario’s heavily organized health care sector, this is a ‘sit up and pay attention moment,’ even if the Tories chose to do it in the summer months when most are paying less attention to the goings-on at Queen’s Park.
The Tories evidently believe the path to the 21st century lies in the 19th century as they undermine the power of working people to get organized, seek reasonable wages, and expect fair treatment within the workplace.
For example, it is a head scratcher how ending source dues deductions would increase prosperity, unless they are counting the number of people Ontario’s unions would have to hire to process and collect dues invoices from tens of thousands of individual members. And the cost of all that inefficiency would be borne by the workers themselves.
Hands up those who would prefer to receive a monthly dues invoice to remit rather than having the cost simply deducted from source?
Does Hudak intend to do the same for United Way donations, Canada Savings Bonds, income taxes, employment insurance and other deductions that come off our paycheques?