Ontario: Not suitable for children

The good news is that Ontario is running out of problems to solve. We can turn our attention to the province’s license plate slogan. For about 37 years now, Ontario has been ours to discover. It was, in 1982, an ironic choice of a slogan.

Our license plates were telling us to keep Ontario  beautiful. Then the Great Lakes Paper Products Company was caught killing people in Grassy Narrows First Nation by dumping Mercury into northern rivers. We were also learning that Dow Chemical was dumping waste into the St. Clair River. The Sarnia Blob showed us the government wasn’t having much luck keeping Ontario beautiful so they changed the license plates to encourage us to discover even more corporate irresponsibility.

Now the Premier wants to immortalize one of his campaign slogans by putting it on our license plates. Ontario: Open For Business will, if it does nothing else, make me hang on to my car for another 40 years. Thinking about class sizes and families dealing with autism, I am leaning towards Ontario: Not Suitable for Children.

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The news still isn’t good for Justin Trudeau and it’s entirely his own fault. He has done the worst job of crisis management in recent memory. As it stands, there are two things to take away from the latest twists in the SNC-Lavalin mess.

The first is that the Conservatives, given a chance, would have done the same things as the Liberals did, or are doing, or will do. The second is that Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott are not victims.

Any political party with enough elected members to form a government is going to look after the major corporations that do business here. That’s a given.

Just like almost every other country in the world, we live and breathe and work and play under the umbrella of a capitalist economic system. When the government bailed out General Motors during the 2008 recession, it was not an indication that the system was breaking down. It was a sign that the system was working exactly as designed.

It doesn’t matter which party is in power. They will all do it.

A Conservative government will step up and save corporations from themselves without blinking or blushing. A Liberal government will, as we are seeing, hide behind veils of secrecy and subterfuge. An NDP government will provide services to make our lives more tolerable without challenging the right of corporations to rule the roost.

We haven’t seen a Green Party government in Canada yet, but there is no indication they would be any different. Here in Guelph, our MPP is the leader of the Green Party of Ontario.

In a report delivered to our doors last week, Mike Schreiner talks about supporting small businesses and, at the same time, supporting workers by raising the minimum wage. How does he intend to square this circle?

“My proposal,” he writes, “is to support workers by raising the minimum wage and to help small businesses by reducing payroll taxes.” The net effect of this is that tax-payers will subsidize businesses by helping them meet their payroll obligations.

In Alberta, Rachel Notley used the authority of her NDP government to help the oil industry weather the global decline in oil prices. At the same time, she developed new economic strategies to reduce the province’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Conservative governments, whether led by Mike Harris, Stephen Harper, or Doug Ford, consistently bail out the corporate sector by reducing services workers and their families need. We can reasonably expect that, given the opportunity, Andrew Scheer will do the same.

When they stretch the rules almost to the breaking point the defence is always that they do their jobs so that workers can keep theirs.

While we are justifiably outraged by some corporate rescues, we shouldn’t be shocked or surprised. We know Justin Trudeau, Gerald Butts and Michael Wernick were anxious to see SNC-Lavalin get the Deferred Prosecution Agreement it asked for. They were so keen to help make it happen that they persistently asked the Attorney-General if she had agreed to it yet.

They took “no” to mean “not yet” and repeated all the reasons why they thought she should. They were so persistent that eventually an anonymous person went to the Globe and Mail with the whole sordid story. The rest, as they say, is history.

We should not take from this that the former Attorney-General, Jody Wilson-Raybould, and her caucus colleague and supporter, Jane Philpott, are victims. They are both strong, confident women who have spent a lot of time in the political arena. You don’t rise to their level of power without learning that politics is a full body-contact sport. They know how to use their elbows. They know when a hip-check into the boards will get their point across. They know when it’s time to risk a tripping penalty.

They must have known that when they tripped up the Prime Minister, they would get a game misconduct and they did.

This nonsense will not end until we fundamentally change the way we do business. There are better ways to organize the economy. We need to encourage the growth of the co-operative sector. As the United Nations declared in 2012, co-operative enterprises build a better world. They invest surplus profits into their communities rather than into off-shore tax havens.

It can be done. We just need to find the political will to do it.

1 Comment

  1. When Doug Ford refers to teachers and students protesting educational cuts by saying, “This is strictly from the union thugs, as I call them, the teachers’ union, one of the most powerful unions in the entire country. There’s finally a government with a backbone that wants our kids to start learning math,” that gives every indication as to where the Tories stand with regards to unionised labour and the right of assembly and protest. That is priceless coming from an undereducated, uninformed high school drop-out.

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