I welcome ‘Premier Yes,’ but let’s switch the questions
For many of us, gratitude was the theme for this past Thanksgiving weekend. I drove past lineups at bakeries where people were getting their pumpkin pies for family gatherings. It was nice seeing many embracing a seminormal, post-pandemic life, after we had to cancel Thanksgiving and Christmas last year.
I am truly grateful for this small sense of normalcy. But as much as I am thankful, I am deeply troubled about what is transpiring around me.
The post-pandemic recovery is in full swing. However, the global economy is struggling to keep up. Store shelves continue to remain empty as companies do their best to stock up.
We are starting to see increases to the cost of living: over the long weekend, gas prices hit an unprecedented $1.45 per litre. Inflation rose in July at a rate not seen in more than a decade, and Canadians are shelling out more for food and housing.
And yet, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been seemingly missing in action lately. In a Sept. 22 press conference, Ford said been “all over the province every single day.” Apparently, he was meeting with constituents and “dealing with the pandemic.”
Well, he’s back now, the legislature has resumed — and so has the campaigning, with windy ads already starting to air. The Conservatives are “the party saying yes,” claims Ford in one TV spot. “Yes to building highways you can drive on so you don’t sit in gridlock. Yes to building homes more families can afford.”
Frankly, I am surprised that Ford has taken the “yes” approach. If only this “yes” came sooner, when Ontarians asked for paid sick days and a vaccine passport.
But you know what Ford is saying no to? A living wage. The premier has repeatedly rejected a meaningful increase in baseline pay, freezing the minimum wage throughout his first 27 months in office — only to increase it by 25 cents an hour a year ago, and recently by an additional 10 cents.
Once again, it is racialized communities that are being left behind by these bad decisions. A February report by the Public Health Agency of Canada says these communities have been disproportionately represented in jobs with greater exposure to COVID-19, the same jobs that we pay minimum wage for. Hate crimes are on the rise, and the cycle of poverty continues, yet we repay these workers for sacrifices with precarious employment and no health benefits.
Sadly, good policy and programs have continuously been stripped by this government.
Another example dates back to March 2016, when Ontario announced the Basic Income Pilot Project to help combat poverty in a sustainable way. The pilot was cancelled by Ford in 2018, just over a year into the experiment that was supposed to run for three years, even though great results had been seen in Hamilton and other regions.
That year, over 100 Canadian CEOs, representing more than $2.3 billion in combined annual revenues, asked Ford to bring back the basic income project. Fast-forward to 2021, and we are still fighting for this pilot to be brought back. The need for it has only grown, but this too has been ignored.
Ontarians have continuously voiced concerns about the need for direction in their post-pandemic lives. We have heard from single parents who have lost their jobs due COVID-19, families with elders who need support in long-termcare homes, and others looking to the hope of a fixed basic income to help them climb out of poverty.
I welcome “Premier Yes” to the table, provided he also says yes to smaller class sizes. Yes to paid sick days. Yes to reinstating the universal basic income pilot project, and to creating a better plan to combat hate and racism.
I hope Ford’s yeses will include those at risk of falling through the cracks, and not just his buddies. This is the only way to cultivate a better and more inclusive future for Ontario.