Ontario: Wynne’s no-win whammy

January 26, 2014 marked one year since Kathleen Wynne was selected as premier by 1,115 delegates to the Ontario Liberal Party’s leadership convention. Many of these were Liberal MPs, MPPs, failed candidates and party “insiders.” They were not elected as delegates but entitled to attend the convention according to provisions in the party constitution.

Wynne’s year in power as Premier has only deepened the problems facing the Liberal Party and the province as a whole as a result of the government’s continued determination to attack the rights of working people in the name of making the province “competitive” or giving austerity a “fair” face. Whether it be through the imposition of new provincial bargaining arrangements in education, backing up EllisDon’s union busting using Bill 74, or handing over more public funds to large monopolies such as Cisco and now likely Chrysler, while others are permitted to wreck perfecting good manufacturing facilities and the jobs that go with them, the Wynne government’s year in power has continued in the same direction based on the same neo-liberal assumptions as its predecessor.

Wynne replaced Dalton McGuinty after he was forced to resign as a result of corruption scandals; McGinty failed to rescue himself by delivering a Liberal majority with which to impose austerity on the working people. Wynne was selected by the ruling circles gathered at the Liberal Convention in the hopes of delivering the same agenda but with a more “consultative” approach. The fact that she kept in place contracts imposed on teachers and education workers by the previous McGuinty government using Bill 115 made it clear that the reset was only to address to the tone of the attacks on workers’ rights, not the content.

Wynne’s selection revealed the extent to which private interests have taken over direct control of the institutions of government – since the Harris government unleashed the anti-social offensive in 1995 – so as to guarantee there is no challenge to the public purse being used to finance their faction of the rich in competition with others to dominate the market. In particular, Charles Sousa, who was not expected to support Wynne, withdrew as a candidate for leader and put his support behind her. Before joining the Legislature, Sousa was employed in senior positions for more than twenty years at the Royal Bank of Canada, one of the domestic banks that holds Ontario’s debt. Meanwhile Hoskins, a medical doctor, is Minister of Economic Development, responsible for administering pay-the-rich funds to certain monopolies.

Wynne at her selection made a big point of showing off her credentials in terms of her relations with First Nations. She highlighted her position as former Minister of Aboriginal Affairs as well as her family links with First Nations at a time when the ruling circles desperately want to get “buy-in” from First Nations for resource extraction, logging and energy projects on their lands, especially in the area of northern Ontario known as the Ring of Fire where there are rich deposits of chromite and other minerals. Since that time First Nations too have opposed her government’s attempts to get them to give up their hereditary rights to their land and resources, whether those in the Ring of Fire, or elsewhere.

By continuing to reject the austerity agenda, regardless of who promotes it, the workers’ opposition in concert with that of First Nations have revealed the Wynne’s government’s anti-social, corrupt character and its wrecking of a system which is designed to uphold the public interest. The forthcoming Niagara Falls by-election is a new opportunity to challenge the austerity agenda and hold governments to account for their willful disregard for the problems of the people. A loss for both the Liberals and PCs would be a message that any party that uses its position of power to push austerity and attacks on the rights of workers and people will be opposed.

From Ontario Political Forum, January 29, 2014

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