Back when I was just a young man, which is longer ago than I’d like to admit, I remember learning one of those ‘life lessons that all of us experience. It was a very short lesson, but one I will never forget.
Years before I ever contemplated a career in politics, I was enjoying a local trade show, walking around and talking to the many business owners who were happy to introduce their business, inviting me to contact them if I ever needed their services or wares. I vividly recall being approached by a vendor with who I was well acquainted. He was so very friendly, asking about family, friends and what was new. By nature, I love talking to people, always have. After several minutes of catching up, he soon brought up his business and what he was offering. I listened and enjoyed hearing about his new business. He told me about his products and services, then asked about my situation to determine if he might have a potential customer on the line.
I’ll never forget how his facial expression and body language totally changed when he determined that I really was not a potential customer. As quickly as turning off a light switch, he simply said it was nice talking to me again and walked away coldly. Being a young adult, I remember feeling kind of used and discarded. He was only interested in me as a customer. The leadup was contrived and ingenuine. He merely feigned interest in me to make a buck.
I have to admit I see similar behaviour in politics all too often. For me, thankfully, this is one of those lessons that rests just below the surface whenever I’m talking with constituents. As an MPP, it is my duty to demonstrate respect and interest in the concerns of all constituents, no matter their political views and voting preferences. MPPs have a responsibility to act in the best interest of all Ontarians, not just those who have or might vote for them.
I mention this because, with a provincial election on the horizon, I am noticing a sudden flurry of the described behaviour. This really hit home when the Conservative government is suddenly setting itself up as long-time friends to labour.
Take a few moments to think back over the last 3.5 years about what Doug Ford and his government have said and done when dealing with matters involving labour.
Among the first actions taken by Doug Ford was to eliminate the legislated minimum wage increase for workers. And at the same time, he eliminated the two guaranteed paid sick days for low-wage earners that had been legislated less than a year before. As well, when the pandemic hit and people were encouraged to stay home if they or their children were required to quarantine to see if they had COVID-19, Doug Ford said the sick days were not necessary. He didn’t care about protecting people from the virus; he cared about helping employers save a buck. Unfortunately, this meant many infected workers who could not afford to lose pay chose to go in to work and spread the virus.
Ontario is currently facing an economic crisis. So many businesses are staring bankruptcy in the face. When Doug Ford cancelled the planned $15 minimum wage three years ago, he deprived Ontario workers of $5,300 that they were counting on to care for their families. That’s $5300 that would have been injected into our economy. Instead, Ontarians have watched in horror as the cost of everything has skyrocketed. Paying for housing, auto insurance, food, and gas is almost impossible for some people to meet.
Today, a $15 an hour minimum wage isn’t nearly enough. It was barely enough three years ago. Now, after this delayed increase, workers need a bare minimum of $17 an hour in order to recoup the $5300 loss in earnings. New Democrats have never believed in Doug Ford’s low-wage policies for Ontario’s working people — we believe all working people should have a chance to build a decent life here.
Now, maybe it is just me, but doesn’t it seem that the government’s recent announcement to finally legislate a $15 per hour minimum wage, just months from an election, is just too much to be a coincidence? But, unfortunately, in life, when something seems to be just too good to be true, chances are, it is just that, too good to be true.
Since coming to power, Doug Ford has shown disdain and a deep-seated lack of respect for unions and their leaders. You might recall Ford’s comments when negotiating with Ontario teachers in the spring of 2019. After question period and debate in the Legislature, Ford emerged from the House to speak to the press referring to teachers union leaders as ‘thugs.’ He said, “This is strictly from the union thugs, as I call them, the teachers’ union, one of the most powerful unions in the entire country.” Thugs!? Really? When has resorting to name-calling ever enhanced professional negotiations?
In November, Ontarians turn their thoughts to our brave veterans who sacrificed so much for our freedom. We owe them a profound debt of service. Yet, when an injured Veteran living in Ontario accepts a Disability Award from Canada, the Ford government policy deducts the amount of the award from the basic benefits that the former soldier is entitled to for food and rent through Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). It’s a shameful failure that Ontario is honouring that debt with words and ceremonies alone while turning its back on the injured Veterans who are struggling with poverty and deserve better.
No Veteran should go to bed hungry at night or fear the loss of the roof over their head. These brave men and women were there for us when we needed them. But, just like that vendor from years ago, the Ford government no longer demonstrates appropriate respect for these veterans. Instead, Doug Ford has chosen to turn his back on them.
For some time now, the NDP has been calling on the Doug Ford government to stop clawing back provincial disability supports from injured Veterans who qualify for a federal Disability Award. It’s time for Doug Ford to make this right by ending the clawback policy for Disability Awards.
Consider the advice of author Christine Szymanski, “When someone shows you their true colours, trust your instincts, and don’t all of a sudden become colorblind.”
As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député