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The Spirit of Quebec City comes home


In

early June, antipoverty activists trashed the constituency office of Ontario

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. They overturned desks, smashed glass and threw a

microwave oven out of the building in what they called a “mock eviction.” They

were protesting the fact that 2,000 people are evicted from their homes every

month in the province of Ontario, Canada’s largest province.

Activists from the Ontario Coalition against Poverty called the action an

“office eviction.” Welcome to post-Quebec City Ontario. OCAP is planning to

bring the fury of the anti-globalization movement home. Here is how OCAP

describes their campaign on their web site (www.ocap.ca)

First of all, the underlying motivation behind this campaign is a determination

to fight to win. All challenges to Harris (Mike Harris, right-wing Premer of

Ontario) so far… have been limited by the notion that it is possible to somehow

get the Government to listen and change course. We say that such appeals are

futile. The Tories (Conservatives) can’t be reasoned with or convinced to change

their policies by means of moral pressure. To stop them, we must mobilize in a

fashion that creates a political crisis and brings the Government to its knees.

OCAP, which organized a militant demonstration that turned violent on the steps

of the Ontario legislature last June 15, is bringing those confrontational

tactics closer to politicians’ homes. They are talking about a campaign of

economic disruption that would include school and workplace walk outs, blockades

and other direct action. And they might have a lot of allies. Over the last

month in Ontario, the devastation wrought by the Harris government is becoming

clearer and clearer. The poor were Harris’s first target. Harris combined

massive cuts to social assistance with a campaign of verbal abuse and forced

workfare against poor people. Ontario is so militant about its refusal to spend

any money on social housing that it is actually refusing money offered by the

federal government.

Now

seniors are joining the poor on Harris’s hit list. A government appointed task

force conducted by those radical social activists Price Waterhouse Coopers

reported that there’s not enough money or staff for home care in Ontario and

that waiting lists are excessive. Two weeks before the report was issued, Harris

capped funding for home care at last year’s level.

Home

care is the most humane and caring of our health care services. Last year it was

home care workers who helped my father die in dignity at home where he wanted to

be and my 90 year old mother cope with his death. Putting him in a home would

have been an agony to my parents and an even greater expense to the state.

On

Tuesday, Harris told protesting seniors to shut up and be grateful they live in

the wonderful province of Ontario. `I would say to seniors in Ontario Thank God

you live in Ontario, the best province with the best services anywhere I know of

in the world.” ‘

Also

this week, People for Education revealed that Ontario is developing a two tiered

education system Parents in rich neighbourhoods are able to fundraise to replace

the cuts to education “Ontario parents raised approximately $33million this

year….parents who can afford it can augment what is missing in the system with

fundraising for textbooks, classroom supplies and library books, ” say the

group. The province can afford massive tax cuts for the rich but no text books

for public education. In Canada, the public school system still serves more than

90% of the population. The Harris Conservative seem bound and determined to

change that.

Then

in hearings on the controversial tax credit proposed for private schools, we

found out that the education minister had no research exploring the impact of

such a move on public education. Ideology and politics drive this government’s

agenda, they barely consider the social costs On June 16 youth groups are

organizing a free concert against Harris’s 60 hour work week. The new labour

legislation passed but not yet proclaimed not only increases work time, it also

makes it more difficult to qualify for overtime pay and permits employers to

schedule 12 days in a row of work without a break. OCAP may find more allies

than they think in their campaign to force Harris from office. It’s true that he

was elected. But he didn’t promise to wreck education, home care, labour

standards and public education in his election campaign, if memory serves.

The

same factors that drove thousands of youths to confront tear gas hurling riot

police could very well drive poor people, seniors, aboriginal people, high

school students, teachers, and workers in Ontario to make life for the Harris

government very difficult indeed.

Like

in Quebec City, the state came down quite heavily on OCAP protesters. OCAP

leaders John Clarke and Sean Lee-Popham have both been denied bail in their

first bail hearing. While charged with nothing more serious than mischief, both

have already been in jail for almost one month. Most labour unions came out in

solidarity with OCAP, especially once bail was denied. However, Canada’s most

militant union the Canadian Auto Workers is proposing to withdraw its funding of

OCAP over differences concerning tactics. Like in the anti-globalization

movement, confrontational or even violent tactics create divisions in the

movement.

OCAP

would argue the real violence is being perpetrated by the state against poor

people. They feel confrontational tactics are the only way to fight back

effectively. Bringing the energy and militancy of the anti-globalization

movement home is what OCAP is trying to do. If Harris keeps up his arrogant

attacks on just about everything people in Ontario hold near and dear, OCAP may

very well succeed.

 

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