Category: Equity Issues

No quick fix for universities

By admin, November 15, 2011 2:22 pm
Published On Mon Nov 14 2011
One effect of the decline in per  student funding in Ontario has been a soaring  student-to-faculty ratio.  (Oct. 24, 2007) One effect of the decline in per student funding in Ontario has been a soaring student-to-faculty ratio. (Oct. 24, 2007)

Rick Eglinton/Toronto Star

Constance Adamson

Among Ontario’s thousands of professors and academic librarians, there are scholars who specialize in irony.

We are grateful for their expertise; at times like these, their guidance is sorely needed. For it is certainly a sublime irony that, after decades of sounding the alarm bell over declining quality at our universities, university faculty are now being singled out as the cause of this decline.

A small coterie of columnists and pundits are convinced that professors are to blame for a disappointing undergraduate experience. They claim we spend too little time teaching. We focus too much on research, they say. As a result, class sizes are getting bigger, universities are turning to part-time faculty to teach, and students can’t engage with their instructors.

The critics are right about the consequences, but wrong about the cause. We need to get serious about the reasons why quality is threatened at our universities. Like most things, it comes down to money. The amount of per-student funding provided to universities by the government of Ontario has declined by 25 per cent since 1990, adjusted for inflation. Since 2001, enrolment has increased by 60 per cent. Think about what that means: universities are trying to accommodate significantly more students while receiving significantly less funding for each of those students. It doesn’t take a mathematician to realize this is a bad equation for the quality of higher education in Ontario.

The decline in per-student funding has had a variety of negative effects. Universities have simply been unable to hire enough full-time professors to meet the rise in student demand. Our student-to-faculty ratio is now 27-to-1, the worst in Canada. In 1990, it was 18-to-1. So let’s be clear: the problem is not that faculty are not teaching enough. It’s that they cannot possibly teach enough to compensate for the acute shortage of faculty in the university system. We simply need more professors.

True, research does take up a lot of time for most full-time faculty in the university system. But this is a matter of survival. Ontario’s underfunded universities have become exceptionally good at chasing dollars. It just so happens that a lot of new dollars — particularly those from the federal government — are for research. The government of Ontario has also emphasized research and commercialization through their funding policies. No surprise then that the entire reward and career advancement structure at our universities has become research focused. Many professors would like to spend more time teaching, but find the current system filled with too many disincentives.

To address this problem, critics offer the bromide of “teaching-only” professors or “teaching only” institutions. This, they claim, will allow us to teach more students without making additional public investments. Giving faculty the option to focus on teaching is not necessarily a bad idea. But let’s be clear: teaching-focused professors should not be seen as a way to deliver university education on the cheap. To be successful, our universities must always be adequately funded. And we have to recognize that scholarship is an important part of being a professor, and an important part of a university education.

Scholarship — which I define as the creation of new knowledge, the critical analysis of existing knowledge, and the communication of these insights — is central to the university. The teaching and scholarship equation is not zero-sum. Teaching is scholarship, and the two are inextricably linked. The critics will point to research that says being a good researcher does not make you a good teacher. This misses the point. You simply cannot have university-level teaching without the kind of intellectual inquiry that scholars are trained to do. If you remove scholarship from the professoriate or from our universities, you are no longer giving students the education they expect.

The critics of Ontario’s professors and academic librarians need to get real about what ails our university system. Right now, they’re only advocating for a system that offers more teaching. Meanwhile, faculty are talking about what they have always been talking about: a system that does more and better teaching. Surely our students deserve nothing less.

Constance Adamson is president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.

Solidarity with MUNACA’s members and their just demands

By admin, October 11, 2011 1:39 pm

252 Bloor Street West, Room 8-104

Toronto, ON M5S 1V6

(416) 978-2403;

September 29, 2011

Kevin Whittaker, President

McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association

L’ Association Accreditee du Personnel Non Enseignant de l’Universite McGill

3483 Peel Street

Montreal, QC

H3A 1W7

Re: Solidarity with MUNACA’s members and their just demands

Dear Brother Kevin:

The members of CUPE Local 3907 at the University of Toronto stand in solidarity with the members of McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) and their strike action. Your strike to achieve internal and external equity with other similarly-placed workers in your workplace as well as with employees in other postsecondary educational institutions in Montreal is both inspiring and encouraging to our local.

In going out on strike, MUNACA is valiantly attempting to bring the Employer’s behavior in line with its expressed principles. In the terms of reference of the Principal’s Task Force on Diversity, Excellence and Community Engagement, the Employer asserts, “We will evaluate our achievement regularly and rigorously, both against our own previous performance and against that of our peers.” The practice of evaluating its operation against that of other comparator organizations is a long established way of ensuring that McGill University meets or exceeds the best practices in the university sector.

Therefore, the Employer should not treat your demands for a wage scale, substantive involvement in decisions about your members’ pension plan and workplace benefits, which are already enjoyed by workers in comparable organizations, as unreasonable and unprecedented. Internal and external equity has long been used in industrial relations to determine the terms and conditions of employment for workers and even administrators in higher education institutions.

The Principal’s Task Force highlights diversity of staff or employment equity as a major concern. If the Employer has concerns about seniority considerations frustrating the need to remove structural racist and other discriminatory barriers in fairly representing equity-seekers throughout the job classifications system, it should see MUNACA as partner and not a liability to this necessary goal. Any union that is committed to the principle of an “Injury to one is an injury to all” is going to work to ensure that equity-seekers are fairly and rapidly represented in all job categories.

CUPE Local 3907 applauds the determination of your members in standing up for fairness and equity in the workplace. Please rest assured that our members are solidly behind your strike action. A cheque is attached to this letter and it represents a donation from CUPE Local 3907 to MUNACA’s strike fund.

In solidarity,

Cristina Guerrero, Chair External                                    Yongfang Jia, Chair Internal

Cc: Dr. Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, McGill University

Group wants level employment playing field

By admin, October 6, 2011 3:44 pm

Posted on Wednesday October 05, 2011

By Jasminee Sahoye

The local chapter of an organisation that represents Africans around the world wants to see a better and more comprehensive employment equity legislation in Ontario.

The Network for Pan-Afrikan Solidarity (Toronto) is calling on the three major political parties to support a comprehensive employment equity legislation so as to create a level employment playing field for racialized workers.

It says racialized workers are not experiencing the glass ceiling. “We are faced with the concrete ceiling or steel door.”

The organization says there are no anti-racist planks in the individual electoral platform of Ontario’s three major political parties and it wants to communicate its strong objection to what it describes as “the race-baiting of Tim Hudak on the question of racist employment barriers” and initiatives to address this matter.

“Our organization has been following the responses to Progressive Conservative party leader Tim Hudak’s comment about “foreign workers” being given privileged access to job opportunities. Was he implicitly appealing to white voters who have Ontario or Canada as their place of birth? The various criticisms of Hudak’s statement have largely failed in addressing the real issue about race and access to jobs in the province.”

The organization says instead of calling for an apology or a retraction of the racially offensive statement from Hudak, critics ought to be calling for the inclusion of a comprehensive employment equity legislation plank in the respective platforms of the three major parties. “Racialized workers are confronted by discriminatory employment barriers in the workplaces across the province of Ontario and the rest of Canada. In the absence of employment equity legislation with targets and enforceable accountability measures, it will be decades before these workers are fairly represented across the job classifications system in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors in Ontario. “

The organization added that the federal government with an employment equity legislation covering the national civil service has failed in equitably hiring and promoting racialized workers.

“In 2010, racialized workers had a national workforce availability (WFA) figure of 12.4 per cent, but only 9.8 per cent of them were employees of the national government. It was very instructive that of the four employment equity designated groups (women, racialized workers, people with disabilities and Aboriginals),racialized workers were the only underrepresented group. The other groups were overrepresented as federal employees based on their respective WFA figures,” the Network of Pan Afrikan Solidarity said.

Race, Oppositional Politics, and the Challenges of Post-9/11 Mass Movement-Building Spaces

By admin, September 16, 2011 2:03 pm

Race, Oppositional Politics, and the Challenges of Post-9/11 Mass Movement-Building Spaces

Ajamu Nangwaya


In the absence of a critical race analysis that is aimed at informing and shaping political practice in the United States, the prospect for revolutionary renewal and movement building will not be able to reach its full potential in the post-9/11 period and beyond. This paper examines the race-informed developments of the 9/11 attacks, the racial politics of reparations, the spring 2006 immigrant rights protests, and the February/March 2011 protest action in Madison, Wisconsin, for illustration. In addition, it interrogates the issues of race and racism within the labour movement and the wider American society, and the manner in which they are deployed to prevent the emergence of an anti-oppression collective consciousness and a broad-based political movement.

Full Text: PDF


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Migrant workers demand better conditions on community reality tour

By admin, September 8, 2011 7:02 pm

By KARENA WALTER Standard Staff

Posted 3 days ago

The dozens of migrant workers who rallied in Niagara this weekend took an enormous risk in doing so, organizers of a “solidarity caravan” said Sunday.

Many workers fear retribution or even deportation if their employers discover they have been rallying for better conditions, members of Justice for Migrant Workers said.

“It’s a tremendous risk they’re taking,” said organizer Chris Ramsaroop.

About 100 southwestern Ontario migrant workers from Guatemala, Jamaica, the Philippines and Thailand, among other countries, gathered at the British Methodist Episcopal Church on Geneva St. in St. Catharines on Sunday.

They are among thousands of workers who come to Canada to fill labour shortages through Seasonal Agricultural Worker and Temporary Foreign Worker Programs.

The church was the first stop on a tour for the group whose members came on buses from as far away as Leamington and Tillsonburg.

“You’re all here to demand justice and call for rights in Canada,” Ramsaroop said to applause outside the church. “Congratulations for the risk you’re taking to stand up for your rights.”

The “solidarity caravan” is making stops along the Underground Railroad to raise questions about whether those communities still represent freedom for all or oppression for migrant workers.

Ramsaroop said some workers are fearful of rallying in their workplace communities, but will take action elsewhere.

One of those workers who travelled from Tillsonburg said there’s no way to refuse unsafe work with chemicals for fear of being sent home.

“If you deny work, you can be penalized and lose your job,” he said.

And losing his job would mean being sent back to Trinidad, where the pay is less.

He has spent eight months every year for the last 13 years working in Canada without his family for that paycheque.

He said he doesn’t want the programs shut down, but added he shouldn’t have to live in a home with rats or have insufficient medical care.

Canadians, he said, have no idea what takes place behind the scenes.

“You get these nice fruits, farming helps develop the country, but we’d like to be treated like human beings,” he said.

Tzazna Miranda, an organizer from Justice for Migrant Workers, said health and safety is a big issue with workers using pesticides and machinery without proper training. Gender and racial discrimination, labour laws and the ease with which someone can be deported are also concerns.

“The problem is there is very little enforcement. It doesn’t matter what the law is if nothing’s enforcing it,” Miranda said.

“We don’t want to close the program, but we want it to properly work.”

Filipino Gina Bahiwal, an organizer and agricultural packer in Leamington, said she hoped the caravan would raise awareness and push the government to protect migrant workers from abuses.

She said she had to find a new employer or go home after she was accused of organizing a union.

“For three years I am here,” she said. “I see there is no protection for migrant workers and there is injustices.”

Later on Sunday, the caravan made stops in Virgil and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Migrant workers rallying for their rights

By admin, September 8, 2011 1:42 pm
Ajamu Nangway, a PhD student in adult education at the University of Toronto, handed out pamphlets along Queen Street to raise awareness about issues migrant workers face each summer when they come to work in Canada.
Click  here to find out more!

Migrant workers rallying for their rights

By Sarah Ferguson

Posted 19 hours ago

While many residents spent their Labour Day weekend enjoying the last bit of summer, migrant works marched down Queen Street on Sunday for better wages and rights.

About 100 farm workers and supporters took part in the caravan, says Chris Ramsaroop, organizer of Justicia for Migrant Workers.

It was one of three stops which included St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.

The organization promotes the rights of farm workers in the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SWAP) and the Low Skilled Workers Program.

There are many migrant workers here in NOTL which are a part of SWAP, says Ramsaroop.

It is a program which responds to the labour shortage in the Canadian agricultural industry.

Migrant workers come from places such as Jamaica, Mexico or the Carribean and they can work from four to eight months in Canada, says Ramsaroop.

The organizer says the rallies are an attempt to education people about the lack of rights, the possibility of deportation if workers speak out and fees workers have to pay to recruiters just to work in Canada.

He says both the SWAP and the LSWP face the same issues.

Ramsaroop says people on the street became receptive to what the rally was about and were willing to listen when they gave away pears, peaches and vegetables which the migrant workers help to grow and harvest.

“It’s helping to break the invisibility of migrant workers.”

Back-to-School Beatitudes: 10 Academic Survival Tips

By admin, August 29, 2011 4:48 pm

25 Aug

Black Girl Reading

Graduate school was nothing short of an emotional and physical rollercoaster. I spent the first semester depressed and homesick, years 2-4 battling a stress-induced stomach condition that caused me to lose not only 75 pounds but also a whole semester of work. I healed just in time to begin my dissertation, wherein I gained back most of the weight I lost, and experienced a nasty case of stress-induced shingles just as I was rounding third. I love my work, and I’m glad I made it, but as we all head into a new academic year, here are a few things I wish I’d known…

  • Be confident in your abilities.
    • If you feel like a fraud, you very likely are suffering from impostor syndrome, a chronic feeling of intellectual or personal inadequacy born of grandiose expectations about what it means to be competent. Women in particular suffer with this issue, but I argue that it is worse for women-of-color (particularly Blacks and Latinas) who labor under stereotypes of both racial and gender incompetence. The academy itself also creates grandiose expectations, given the general perception of academicians as hypercompetent people. Secret: Everybody that’s actin like they know, doesn’t really know. So ask your question. It’s probably not as stupid as you think. Now say this with me: “I’m smart enough, my work is important, and damn it, I’m gonna make it.”
  • Be patient with yourself.
    • Be patient with your own process of intellectual growth. You will get there and it will all come together. You aren’t supposed to know everything at the beginning. And you still won’t know everything at the end (of coursework, exams, the dissertation, life…).
    • Getting the actual degree isn’t about intellect. It is about sheer strength of will and dogged determination. “Damn it, I’m gonna walk out of here with that piece of paper if it’s the last cottonpickin’ thing I do.” That kind of thinking helps you to keep going after you’ve just been asked to revise a chapter for the third time, your committee member has failed to submit a letter of rec on time, and you feel like blowing something or someone up.
  • Be your own best advocate. Prioritize your own professional needs/goals.
    • You have not because you ask not.  You have to be willing to ask for what you need. You deserve transparency about the rules and procedures of your program, cordial treatment from faculty, staff and students, and a program that prepares you not only for the rigors of grad school but also for the job market (should you desire a career in academia).  But folks won’t hand it to you on a silver platter. You have to build relationships, ask questions, and make demands.
    • Figure out your writing process (the place [home, coffee shop, library], time [morning, afternoon, night], and conditions [background noise, total silence, cooler or warmer] under which you work best and try to create those conditions as frequently as possible during finals, qualifying exams, and dissertation.
    • Your self-advocacy will often be misperceived as aggression and anger, entitlement or selfishness. Don’t apologize.
  • Be kind to yourself.
    • Reward yourself frequently.  Most of us need positive affirmation of a job well done, but for long stretches, especially during exams, dissertation, and the job market, the rewards elude us; and often given the time crunch, once we conquer the mountain, there is little time to enjoy the view before it’s time to trudge back down and start climbing the next one. All that hard work  in high stakes conditions for anti-climactic ends can take a toll on your psyche. So be kind to yourself. Figure out the things you really like and make sure to enjoy them as much as is possible and healthy.
  • Be proactive about self-care.
    • Figure out your non-negotiables. For me, sleep is non-negotiable. I must have it. I don’t do all nighters. I also generally don’t do weekends, so I adjust my schedule accordingly. What are your non-negotiables?
    • Take advantage of on-campus therapy services. My last two institutions have had women-of-color thesis and dissertation support groups. Consider joining.
    • Cultivate a spirit-affirming practice. Grad school/the academy is a mind-body-spirit endeavor. So meditate, pray, exercise, do yoga, go to church, cook a good healthy meal. Do whatever you need to do to keep your mind, body, and spirit in balance.
  • Be a friend/comrade to others and let them do the same for you.
    • Build community with colleagues inside or outside your department.
    • Build community with non-students/non-academics. You need folks who live life outside the dungeon. They will affirm you and help you keep things in perspective.
  • Be willing to get CRUNK!
    • If the environment is hostile, it is most probably characterized by microaggressions of various sorts.  Racial microaggressions –“brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color– are quite common for women of color, but microaggressions can be used in sexist, heterosexist, or ableist ways as well.  A microaggressive environment demands resistance of various sorts. So do you and be you. Unapologetically.  Keep a copy of Sister Audre near by so you can make sure you’re channeling your legitimate anger productively, and then, get crunk if necessary.
  • Be better not bitter.
    • Fail forward. Being the overachievers that we are, we tend not to deal with failure well. It tends to become an indicator to us of our intelligence, worth, and competence. (See #1). But failure is a part of the process. Unless you are incredibly, exceptionally lucky, you will hit a snag in a course, while writing the proposal, on the dissertation, submitting a journal article or submitting a book. Two tips: take the time to process, particularly for big issues like proposals, dissertation chapters or books. Cry, scream (not at your committee or editor), go to a kickboxing class. And then dust yourself off and try again. Look at the suggestions offered; determine their validity. Heed them or disregard them depending on your best judgment, and then proceed to the next step.  And one more thing…don’t let the resentment fester. It may be well-justified but it simply isn’t productive. Just think of it as hazing, and for your own sake, let it go.
    • A lot of anger comes from bitterness at mentors who have not met our expectations. But all mentors are not created equal. Some will build your confidence, some will give you hell,  some will go above and beyond, but a mentor is there to illumine the process and give you tools to be successful, not to be your friend. So have multiple mentors; know the difference in function; and adjust your expectations accordingly.
  • Be tight. Bring your A-game.
  • Be a light. As you make your way, show the sisters and brothers behind you how it’s done, so maybe they won’t have as many dark days as you’ve had.

A little musical inspiration for the journey…

Alright, fam. Please share your survival tips for grad school newbies and veterans and junior faculty as well.

Pilgrimage to Freedom Caravan 2011

By admin, August 29, 2011 12:57 pm

Pilgrimage to Freedom Caravan 2011

Last year, over 150 migrant workers and their allies made history by marching over fifty kilometres, an equivalent of 12 hours, from Leamington to Windsor, Ontario demanding justice, respect and dignity for the hundreds of thousands employed under the auspices of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Programs. After years of harassment, intimidation and exploitation, migrant workers organized and took to the streets to stand up to these abuses.

The march called the ‘Pilgrimage to Freedom: Breaking the Chains of Indentureship’ ended in Windsor at the Tower of Freedom that is dedicated to those who travelled the underground railroad. The monument was chosen as the ending point to reflect on the connections of past and the present to slavery, indentureship and statelessness that renders racialized peoples as non-citizens. Over the last year, thousands of people have heard the testimonies and the stories that led to organizing the march. Permanent residency and citizenship status, an end to repatriations and deportations, labour law reform, equal access to social entitlements and an end to the coercive role of recruiters and contractors has inspired many others about the realities faced by migrant workers in Canada.

Migrant workers and members of Justicia for Migrant Workers have continued to organize in rural Ontario and are once again demanding that the chains of indentureship in Canada must be broken. This year the pilgrimage continues as a form of a caravan across rural Ontario.

J4MW is requesting the support of community, religious, labour and allied organizations to join us for this year’s action. Migrant workers and their allies will be calling community meetings, and organizing meetings across south western Ontario. This year’s actions will take place across several communities.  If you are interested in further information feel free to contact Justicia for Migrant Workers. Tentative dates for stops on the caravan include

September 4, 2011
Niagara on the Lake, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls
For more details on the Niagara Action click here

September 25, 2011
Windsor, Leamington, Chatham and Dresden

October 2, 2011
Simcoe – Brantford – Hamilton – Toronto

Updates will be forthcoming in the upcoming weeks describing greater details the actions and what support we are asking for this event. We are seeking financial and in kind support but mostly your presence during these dates and communities.

Background Information

More than 20, 000 migrant farm workers from Thailand, Mexico, Guatemala, the Philippines, and the Caribbean arrive in Canada to work in our fields, orchards and greenhouses every year. Many workers pay thousands of dollars in fees to recruiters to be able to work in Canada, sometimes for jobs that do not even exist.   Once they arrive, many workers face dangerous working conditions, sub-standard housing and employment standards and human rights violations. As farm workers and migrants, they have little recourse to assert their human and labour rights and are constantly faced with the threat of deportation if they voice their concerns.

Justicia for Migrant Workers is an award winning volunteer-run collective that strives to promote the rights of migrant farm workers by creating spaces for workers to lead their own movement and articulate their own voices in a country that makes renders them invisible.

Justice for Migrant Workers!
Got food? Bought local? Thank a migrant farm worker!

Background on the Pilgrimage:
Call out for last year’s march
Message of solidarity from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers


Labour Start’s International Photo of the Year, Pilgrimage Photo Won!
Tumblr Multimedia snapshots

Toronto Star
Windsor Star

The shock Doctrine, Toronto

By admin, August 25, 2011 2:27 pm

August 15, 2011 issue #26, Local

By Simon Black

For those of you who haven’t read the book, here’s a one-paragraph breakdown: Beginning in the 1970s, Klein observes, neo-liberals and neo-conservatives (those who believe that free markets and less government is  the answer to everything) have exploited crises to advance their agenda of deep cuts to social spending, government deregulation and privatization.  Cuts have been made to health care, welfare, public pensions, unemployment insurance, tuition subsidies and about every program or benefit you can think of that makes capitalism a little bit nicer a system to live under. Privatization of things like health care, roads, public housing, and libraries has meant windfall profits for big corporations as what were once public goods get bought and sold on the market like any other commodity. As Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman notes , this “agenda that has nothing to do with resolving crises, and everything to do with imposing their (the right’s) vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.”

Crises are essential to the shock doctrine because they create a climate in which the public supports, or just passively accepts, an agenda which is counter to their interests. As Klein puts it:  the shock doctrine is about “using the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks – wars, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters — to achieve control by imposing economic shock therapy.” Starting with Pinochet’s coup in Chile in 1973 (the CIA assisted overthrow of the socialist government of Salvador Allende) and covering  the Falklands War in 1982, the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Asian Financial crisis in 1997 and Hurricane Mitch in 1998, Klein documents how economic and social crises have become moments of opportunity for right-wingers to attack the welfare state, social programs, trade unions, and the social movements that have pushed for greater economic democracy.

Take the case of post-Katrina New Orleans. In the wake of the disaster, think-tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute (Canada’s equivalent to the Fraser Institute) and Republican politicians descended on the city pushing the f*ckery of privatization of public housing and public education, dismantling what little of a welfare state New Orleanians had. This served their ‘free market’ ideology, most clearly articulated by American conservative Grover Norquist, who once said “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag in into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” But it also served the corporate interests close to the Bush administration who made millions from taking over what were once public assets. New Orleanians, displaced and distraught, or in a state of ‘shock’ as Klein puts it, had little say in the matter.

Canadian neocons have long-casted an envious eye at their US cousins. Harper, Mike Harris, and Rob Ford have sweated US Republicans like tweenage girls sweat Drake at Summer Jam. Now Toronto’s Mayor has surrounded himself with strategists and backroom players whose membership in the Conservative Party, the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation, and think-tanks like the Fraser Institute neatly overlap. The Common Sense Revolutionaries (if you’re too young to remember, they ran Ontario from 1995 to 2003 and brought us the Walkerton water crisis, the assassination of First Nations activist Dudley George and the death by heat exhaustion of Kimberley Rogers, a young single mom who was trapped in her sweltering apartment under house arrest for ‘defrauding’ welfare), many of whom cut their political teeth in the downloading and amalgamation years of the Mike Harris Tories have reappeared in urban guise, finally having won control over a much sought after prize: the left-leaning City of Toronto with its myriad social programs and ‘big government’.

Yet in adherence to the shock doctrine, Ford’s team needed a crisis to push through their agenda. With only 25% of eligible Torontonians voting for Ford, a full-scale assault on the City’s social services would not be popular. Ford’s rise to office happened within the context of the world economic crisis that left many Torontonians more economically insecure and wary of tax increases and ‘misspent’ tax dollars. From Europe to North America, governments are calling for ‘austerity’ in the name of debt reduction and fiscal balance. Ford won the election by articulating a simple narrative of what was wrong with the city: too much wasteful spending; city hall’s so-called ‘gravy train’. Ford named lavish retirement parties and councillor’s penchant for taxis, but cleverly avoided labelling the City’s social services ‘gravy’.

Why? Because most Torontonians do not see nutritional programs for low-income children or green energy initiatives as wasteful spending; many agree that such programs are the marks of a world-class city. And yet the public is rightly pissed off when councillors casually spend tax-payers dollars on crazy expenses or when a public agency is careless with its budget. But actual instances of this are few and far between; Ford’s strategy has hinged on reframing most if not all government spending as inherently wasteful. To his chagrin, potential allies on council like Mary-Margaret McMahon have discovered, “The gravy’s not flowing through city hall like originally expected.”

The second crisis opening the door for Ford’s agenda is the crisis of confidence in public institutions. The garbage strike, the media hammering of errant TTC employees and the events at Toronto Community Housing have all played into the Mayor’s hands.

In this context, the Mayor looks for scapegoats and it really doesn’t matter who fits the role; it could be graffiti artists, left-wing pinkos, the homeless, black youth, environmentalists, just fill in the blank. But with the economic crisis, TTC and garbage strike affairs, the city’s unions have become public enemy number one.

Union-busting is at the center of the shock doctrine as public-sector unions are the first line of defence against cuts, deregulation, and privatization.  As Klein points out, in post-Katrina New Orleans the introduction of charter schools (effectively privatizing public education) broke the back of the teachers union. Facing a fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, the Republican governor has rolled back the collective bargaining rights of almost all public sector employees.

This is what lies behind Ford’s successful effort – with a complicit provincial government – to have the TTC deemed an ‘essential service’ and plans to privatize garbage collection, effectively firing the city’s unionized employees.  The Toronto Community Housing ‘scandal’ has provided the Mayor with the necessary excuse to review the City’s roll in public housing, again with an eye to privatization. Look for Ford to shed the City’s unionized public child care centers in the next round of budget cuts, contracting care to non-union for-profit providers. Libraries and their unionized employees are also being considered for privatization.

For the Ford agenda has very little to do with resolving a ‘crisis’ real or perceived and everything to do with remaking Toronto in a right-wing image: A leaner, meaner city, where the market is to be free and the public sector and its unions are to be disciplined. If we don’t fight back, Toronto Inc., the city of corporate rule, will become a reality.

Stop the Cuts Network in the City of Toronto

By admin, August 25, 2011 2:20 pm

Dear CUPE 3907 Members,

Invitation to participate in Mass Meeting to Stop Ford’s Cuts, Sep 10, 1pm, Dufferin Grove Park.

My name is Lindsay, and I am writing on behalf of the Toronto Stop the Cuts Network, a grassroots alliance of community groups, service providers and Toronto residents that are organizing to stop cuts to public services by the Ford regime. Like you, we live and work in Toronto, delivering and accessing city services. For many of us libraries, community centers, employment assistance and infrastructure are essential and cuts to them would mean a dramatic change in the quality of our lives.

Like you, we’ve spent the last few months, watching Ford build a massive fear mongering campaign. Everything it seems is under threat. We’ve filled out surveys, gone to deputations, organized meetings, marches and rallies – yet Ford and his cronies show no sign of backing down.

We also know that some cuts have already happened – there are user fees in community centers, the Jarvis bike lane was chopped off, and many childcare spots have already disappeared. We also know that many in the city, undocumented people, racialized communities, poor people, those without ID are already shut out of many public services.

We know that the Executive Committee of City Hall is meeting on Sep 19, and the City voting on cuts, user fees, and anti-union measures on September 26 and 27.

Days before this, a number of groups and people in the city are calling for a Mass Meeting to Stop Ford Cuts. Over 500 people have confirmed on Facebook, and many Unions and Community organizations including city workers and health organizations have confirmed their participation. This meeting is to do three things:

1. Collect the different demands, hopes and aspirations of Torontonians to develop a concise set of people’s priorities to deliver to City Hall.

2. Develop a plan of action for September 26 and 27 if these priorities are not adequately reflected in the Executive Council discussions on September 19.

3. Strengthen relationships between community groups, service providers, labour organizations and Toronto residents to resist cuts by any level of government, to work to expand services for all people, and to end the handouts to cops and corporations.

Unions, and the labour movement, have been part of many struggles in this city – and it would be imperative for your organization to attend the meeting on September 10. We are writing today to see if you could advertise the event on facebook, on twitter and on your list-servs. Could you email or call all your members and ask them to attend? Would you be interested in developing a draft people’s declaration prior to September 10 with us?

At a time when politicians across the world seem only interested in ensuring that the rich get richer, while women, disabled people, poor, working class and migrant communities are shut out – we need to reclaim democracy for ourselves. We need to talk to each other, develop our own plans, and our own agendas, and then act on them. I really hope that you can support the September 10 meeting and will call you in the next few days to discuss this person. In the meantime, do email or call with questions, ideas or concerns.

In solidarity,

Lindsay Hart

Toronto Stop the Cuts Network

For more information or to endorse this meeting, please contact

Facebook event:

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