OPSEU President says 'Horwath has courage'

| May 27, 2014
Photo: flickr/Ontario NDP

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The weekend newswires were alive with reports of revolt in the ranks of Ontario's New Democrats. On a slow day in the provincial election campaign, the opinion of 34 so-called party stalwarts, the majority of whom don't even belong to the party, was big news. 

I guess the media just couldn't imagine, or report on, 34 Progressive Conservatives who think Tim Hudak's rants are absurd. Or, for that matter 34 Liberals, who would voice discomfort with the scandal that surrounds their party. 

Still, the Toronto Star and other media sources focused on a handful of past NDP supporters who don't like the direction the party is heading. 

Ontario is a place where we are free to disagree. Even so, our disagreements should be based on insight and analysis. Let me clear up the confusion about where the attack on NDP leader Andrea Horwath comes from and how it should be measured. 

First, not all union leaders agree that the Liberal government is the most progressive in memory. I don't. 

Why? Well, buried within the myriad of Liberal budget promises, most of which will never see the light of day, is a $1.25 billion cut to front line public services that will begin to hit public services even before the Liberals have finished implementing the $17.7 billion in cuts over three years that were announced in the 2012 Budget. 

Add to that a scheme to "recycle assets" or auction off public assets and services through something called "complex alternative service delivery," and what the dissident 34 call a "progressive" budget turns out to be one of the most draconian ever presented with a wrapping as attractive as that of Prime Minister Harper's famed omnibus bills. In the case of both, the devil is in the details. We should not ignore those details.

Just as the budget isn't good for public services, it hurts those who support inclusiveness and income equality. Progressive? Hardly! 

That's why Horwath did the right thing when she rejected the Liberal budget. Instead of siding with "the 34," she stood with the 70 per cent of Ontarians who want a change of government. Thanks to her courage and principle, we now have that clear choice. 

On one hand, we have Hudak, with his voodoo economics. With his math, 2 and 2 equals 22. Amazingly, some media outlets call this bold. It isn't. It is old, cold and already told. It will bring disastrous results to middle class working people. 

On the other hand, we have the Liberal government with over 70 budget promises but an abysmal track record of following through on anything. Just look at their performance with the last Ontario budget. 

It is fortunate that Horwath offers a middle of the road, balanced approach. It is moderate rather than extreme. She recognizes we have to get our house in order without destroying the fabric and foundation of Ontario. Now more than ever, this makes sense. 

Too bad the NDP 34 won't put down their white wine, get back into their work clothes and come to see how average people feel about the election. 

I'm out there every day. I know more than ever that average people believe Horwath is on the right track. Workplaces are abuzz, volunteers are flocking, Ontario is changing. 

Change doesn't come easy. It's hard work. I commend Horwath for her resolve to take on her former party elite. That courage is exactly why I expect a different and exciting result for our province. Andrea's time has come. 

We should imagine what her kind of courage and determination could do if we were all that bold! 

Respectfully,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President, OPSEU

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Photo: flickr/Ontario NDP

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Comments

Warren (Smokey) Thomas writes:

"A "progressive" budget turns out to be one of the most draconian ever presented with a wrapping as attractive as that of Prime Minister Harper's famed omnibus bills. In the case of both, the devil is in the details. We should not ignore those details.... That's why Horwath did the right thing when she rejected the Liberal budget."

If this is correct, then it's unfortunate that Andrea Horwath didn't say this in saying that she would not support the proposed Liberal budget. What I've heard Horwath say is that the Liberals can't be trusted to deliver on the promises contained in their budget. The electorate makes determinations on whom to support in an election based on what they hear from the politicians.

In the right to dissent, not really compatible with being vilified, let me explain why I think the current NDP strategy is not very helpful. It is not that the Liberals and their budget are left wing or particularly progressive. They are not. And the comments by Smokey Thomas about the liberal budget are correct and understated; he misses the obvious big issues of the expanded use of P3s and the expansion of competitive bidding and market forces within public services, just to name two that are also in the liberal budget. The trouble is that the NDP also misses these.

Also central to the current NDP approach is the gratuitous use of right wing gestures that hurt progressive politics and are not necessary, even to shift to the middle. The continued attack on the high salaries within the public sector while ignoring the higher salaries of for-profit executives who make most of their money from the public purse just feeds anti-public sector feeling. Not identifying as a significant cause, if not the primary problem, with ORNG, the gas plants, and the e-Health scandals as the use for for-profit companies to deliver essential public services, through direct contracting out or P3s, says the problem is only corrupt politicians not privatization.

And what of the Ministry of Accountability to find savings of 600 million in the public sector, a policy right out of a conservative play book. When in fact the biggest savings of public money would come from the re-publication of various services – for example - 175 million could be saved by ending contracts with the multinational lab companies, hundreds of millions saved by moving to non-profit public home care delivery and billions saved by using public funding for public projects rather than P3’s and their 18% interest rates, as in the gas plant fiasco.

The timing of public criticism is always hard, but these issues have been raised by many within the NDP over the past year and ignored. It may not be the best time for a debate but at least we are having one.

Smokey Thomas feels qualified to lecture Michelle Landsberg and Judy Rebbick, anyone who does not see the sad humor in this, either just fell off the turnip truck or they drank the party Kool Aid.

The party apologists' treatment of some of our oldest and most respected brothers and sisters, is shameful.  

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