The recent fall economic statement from Ontario’s Conservative government came straight out of the ring-wing playbook, and should serve as a warning across Canada about the dangers of populists who pretend to speak for working people, but serve the privileged.
The statement, made by Finance Minister and one-time Conservative interim leader Vic Fideli, contained goodies for the rich, including cancelation of a planned tax increase on the very wealthy, and slaps in the face for those struggling most. Ending rent controls on new units and cancelling the planned minimum wage increase will hurt the province’s most vulnerable people.
I can’t honestly say I am shocked. This is the sort of behaviour I have come to expect from Conservative, right-wing governments, whoever the leader might be.
Not just in its policies, but in its behaviour, Conservatives who talk about respect for others and looking out for the little guy reveal themselves for what they are – intolerant, privileged and uncaring.
Consider that the same week the government was rolling back labour legislation, stopping the minimum wage increase, cutting a tax increase for the wealthy and restricting rent controls, Fideli was forced to apologize for calling another member of the Legislature an “idiot.”
If a senior member of the government can be so disrespectful to a young woman of colour he shares the legislature with, I can hardly expect that he will be showing much respect for working people he has never met.
It is also worth noting that the issue that prompted the Idiot comment was a request to identify the company operating the government’s cannabis warehouse – which he refused to do, calling the opposition member an idiot for thinking he would reveal such basic information.
Think about that. This government that promised transparency is refusing to say which private company it hired. What are they hiding? Days later, Fideli announced the closure of independent oversight offices for children, the environment and Francophones.
Clearly this government does not want anyone looking over its shoulder.
We’ve seen this instinct to hide from accountability before from this government, such as when it had its own staffers applaud at press conferences to drown out reporters asking questions, and its use of standing ovations to eat up time during Question Period.
The savings from closing advocacy offices will be minimal, but the impact could be huge. Children face a future of precarious and low paying work (and yet the province is rolling back labour laws and stopping a minimum wage increase), skyrocketing housing costs (and yet the province cut rent controls) and record suicide rate, particularly among Indigenous children.
The Conservatives simultaneously ditched the province’s plan to deal with climate change, and killed the office of the environmental commissioner – another attack on accountability from a government that likes to talk about openness and accountability, but does the opposite.
If you disagree with these thugs in the Conservative Party, you’re branded an idiot by a party mired in scandals over allegations of sexually explicit texts by cabinet ministers and staff. So much for integrity. So much for inclusion. So much for listening to the voice of others.
This economic update revealed for all to see the true colours of the Conservative movement in Canada, bent on austerity and cuts despite the province’s economy doing better than average on job creation.
For working people, a rise in the minimum wage and updates to labour law to reflect the modern workplace are good things. The fact that the Conservatives in Ontario are dropping in popularity as they repeal these measures shows just how disconnected the Conservatives are from average working people.
The Conservatives weren’t given a majority in Ontario to drive the province into the ground or to roll back the clock on workers’ rights and wages. It is the responsibility of all progressives to remind them, and Conservatives across Canada, of that fact.