Doug Ford has made his view of workers entirely clear. Crystal, as Tom Cruise told Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. Their opinions are too uninformed or incompetent to spend his time on.
Wednesday, at Doug’s weekly pandemic policy reversal press conference, he addressed the sick-pay issue. His government doesn’t need to act, he said, because the feds already provide it. He was adamant. There’s piles of dough lying there if you need to take sick time. All you have to do is go on Justin’s website. Here it is, and here’s the phone number for those too dim for the website. He said it twice, though he didn’t bother putting it onscreen. Finito.
The point here isn’t that Doug doesn’t know why the federal program isn’t available or useful to many workers, particularly essential ones. The point is he’s not curious enough to even wonder why they don’t plunder it.
What might he make of them? They say they have to keep working to support families but won’t go online and get free money? Must be stupid, lazy or don’t really care. Who the hell knows? But it gives you enough to deduce his basic view of workers. At best, it’s sheer condescension.
If Doug’s developer buddies weren’t accessing pots of money and reams of regulations just lying there for them to get rich off of — as they do — wouldn’t he wonder why? Wouldn’t he at least ask them? Why doesn’t he ask workers? Instead he’s perplexed, he doesn’t get it — the way he was on Easter weekend when he drove past the Yorkdale mall and was stunned to see people there after he told them they could go. Maybe he needs a break from this premier stuff.
Folks, this isn’t rocket science. Justin’s program only covers four weeks, at less than minimum wage. It’s built on the EI model, which is a federal program. If you’re working more than one job, as many do, it may be hard to get and you may not qualify. It’s complex: you have to apply each time and the money doesn’t come till later, maybe too late. Sick days, on the other hand, automatically attach to your paycheque. It’s two different breeds.
People don’t keep going to work because they’re stupid; it’s because they’ve thought their way through this thicket and are trying to make the best of it. Doug hasn’t bothered to put in the mental effort they have. At bottom, he lacks interest in their plight. It makes his head hurt and he just wants them to stop whining. (Actually, there’s no whiner like Doug Ford.)
As philosophers like saying, the problem with the puzzle is that it’s overdetermined. It’s not that there’s no answer. There are too many.
In fact, not even businesses say they oppose provincial sick pay. They know it’s good for them, even if Doug cancelled the sick days that Kathleen Wynne created. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce say their members can’t afford it “at this time” — thus accepting basic responsibility, although they want governments to cover costs right now. Hey, here’s an idea, how about cancelling Highway 413 — which Doug found time to launch, even if it’ll only save drivers 30-60 seconds per trip, although it’ll be a bonanza for Doug’s developers, who happen to own parcels of land along the route — and use the savings to pay for sick pay?
But the key isn’t that Doug doesn’t know this stuff. It’s that he doesn’t care enough to learn it. Why? Maybe because the real essential workers for him aren’t in food processing, delivery, health care or education.
Please note that Doug’s latest decrees don’t even define what work is essential and what isn’t. That’s how much he cares, or understands, about the real world of work. Besides, all work is essential if people need to support themselves and their families — unless there are supports to tide them over.
So let’s be clear on what refusing to protect essential workers with sick pay essentially means in the Ford lexicon: it means refusing to protect workers, period, with sick pay or anything else.
This is an anti-worker government, but it probably doesn’t bother them because, to them, the truly essential workers, definitional niceties aside, are developers and party donors. End of rant.
Rick Salutin writes about current affairs and politics. This column was first published in the Toronto Star.
Image credit: Premier of Ontario Photography/Flickr