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11/02/2018 14:58 EDT | Updated 11/06/2018 12:24 EST

Ontario PCs' Attacks On Workers Predate Ford

The PCs like to portray themselves as the party of the people. What people?

Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks in question period at Queen's Park in Toronto, Ont. on Sept. 17, 2018.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks in question period at Queen's Park in Toronto, Ont. on Sept. 17, 2018.

A casual observer might think that Ontario Premier Doug Ford is singlehandedly reversing labour law updates made last year by the previous Liberal government.

With headlines saying, "Doug Ford is Gutting Labour Laws" and "Doug Ford steps up attacks" and "Everything Doug Ford Has Cancelled So Far," Ford can come across as a one-man team changing the way his province operates.

Nothing, in my opinion, could be further from the truth.

The fact is, this is not just about Ford. As tempting as it is to lay all the blame for the race backwards at his feet, the reality is that Ford is merely implementing Progressive Conservative Party policy.

Don't just blame Ford, blame his party — the party that put him in power, and made a disgusting display of itself by standing in the legislature and cheering as it introduced legislation proposed to repeal the rights of working people in Ontario, the party that gutted access to education by abolishing the skilled trades college and cancelling funding for satellite university campuses.

Just to be clear, I am no fan of the polices Doug Ford is implementing. His bully style of politics and right-wing ideas are the opposite of what I think a true leader should be. As much as he seems to want to make everything about him, his party has been dead set against modernizing labour laws in Ontario from the start.

Ford wasn't even a member of the Ontario Legislature when his party voted unanimously against the Liberals' Bill 148, the first update to the province's Labour Relations Act and Employment Standards Act in more than 20 years.

The norm today is precarious work with low pay, unpredictable hours and no promise of long-term employment.

Bill 148 was meant to better reflect the changing nature of work. The laws in place before then dated back to a time that few young workers today would recognize. The nature of the job market has changed from when big employers offered long-term employment — if not a job for life, then some level of security that seems like a distant and impossible dream to many workers today.

Increasingly, the norm today is precarious work with low pay, unpredictable hours and no promise of long-term employment. A recent poll by the McMaster University and the Poverty and Employment Precarity found that 38 per cent of young people expect to be worse off than their parents — hardly surprising, with only 44 per cent saying they were able to find permanent, full-time work.

Such workers need the protections offered under Bill 148. The Conservative government of Ontario would eliminate protection for part-time and temporary workers to be paid fairly, cancel the promised minimum wage increase to $15 an hour, slash paid leave for workers who experience illness and crisis, and more.

FG Trade via Getty Images

The Conservatives have also moved to get rid of the Ontario College of Trades, set up almost a decade ago to help ensure reliable training and support for young people interested in working in the trades.

For many young people, a skilled trade is the best way for them to get out of the trap of precarious work, and can be the best way to address inequities in our society faced by women, racialized communities and other equity-seeking groups. Eliminating the college is a huge step backwards.

Similarly, the Conservative decision to axe funding for satellite college and university campuses in Brampton, Markham and Milton will make it tougher for students in those communities for get a post-secondary education.

It's as if the Conservatives don't understand the needs of suburban communities, and assume every young person has easy access to a downtown campus.

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To me, the proposed repeal of Bill 148 is part and parcel of the Conservatives refusing to see that society has changed, just as they did with the repealed the modern sex-education program.

The PCs like to portray themselves as the party of the people. What people? The people who need a minimum wage increase? The people who need time when they get sick, and to take care of their children? The people who are stuck in precarious jobs?

I don't think so.

Based on what the party has done so far, they have shown themselves to be the party of business people only, and that is a betrayal of all the people who voted for them.

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