Ontario election: Conservatives’ divisive attack on public services and the workers who provide them

Ontario Political Forum (May 23) – IN THE current election campaign the Ontario Progressive Conservatives (PCs) under leader Tim Hudak have been following a strategy which borders on hate mongering and has no place in the political arena of a civilized society. Using divisive proposals and crude, inflammatory rhetoric, the PCs are blatantly attempting to divide working people into allegedly conflicting groups and to incite one group of workers against another.

The phony “Million Jobs Plan” being used as an election platform by the PCs is based on this strategy. Most of the elements of their “plan” involve measures for redistributing existing jobs from one group of workers to another group or to unemployed workers. The most egregious example of this is the anti-social and irresponsible PC proposal for eliminating 100,000 public sector jobs which Hudak announced during the first week of the election campaign as part of the PCs’ “Million Jobs Plan.”

A PC government, Hudak said, would eliminate these jobs through severe cuts throughout the Ontario Public Service, to Crown corporations and through cuts across the entire broad public sector. He specifically mentioned teachers and other school board employees as targets for further cuts and said municipal service workers’ jobs would be eliminated through reduction of provincial funding for municipalities. The only occupations in the broad public sector exempt from the PCs’ cuts would be police, doctors and nurses, who Hudak describes as “front line workers.”

Hudak has offered no explanation of his incoherent claim that he would create jobs by eliminating jobs, other than vague suggestions that this would result in “increased confidence” among investors. Instead of an explanation, the PC leader offers crude, inflammatory rhetoric, repeatedly slandering the hundreds of thousands of working people in the public sector as “bureaucrats” and “pencil pushers” who are a cost and a drain on the economy. “If I have to trade off 100,000 jobs in the bureaucracy for one million new jobs in the private sector creating wealth, that’s a trade off I would do in a second,” Hudak said.

The childish purpose of such statements is to set up a false dichotomy between private sector workers as wealth producers and public sector workers as a burden dragging the economy down. This is a complete distortion of the way a modern socialized economy operates. How can it be said that the hundreds of thousands of people working hard every day to deliver and administer health care, education, transit, urban and other services are not creating wealth with their labour?

Shortly after Hudak announced the PC proposal for public sector job cuts, the PCs released a document outlining their full “Million Jobs Plan” platform. This document revealed that their distortions about wealth creation are deliberately deceitful.

Much of the Million Jobs Plan document is the outline of a sweeping program for handing over the delivery of public services to corporations which would have the effect of converting many public sector jobs into private sector jobs. Increased privatization of public services is a constant demand of the global monopolies and rich minority. Why would private interests be interested in capturing delivery of public services if the workers in that sector were not producing wealth? Hudak and the PCs pretend to be concerned that public sector workers do not create wealth but their real concern is to drive down working conditions and wages by eliminating unionized jobs in the public sector so as to seize a greater portion of the wealth created in the public sector as profit for private interests.

Furthermore, the PCs’ anti-worker schemes for attacking the public sector workers and their working conditions go beyond the immediate jobs they wish to eliminate or privatize. They are a profound attack on the rights of all and a modern society in which rights belong to people by virtue of their being human. Public services, such as health care and education, are the means through which people’s rights are realized. The Hudak PCs’ call to attack public sector workers is meant to disinform working people that they should “cut off their nose to spite their face.” Ontario Political Forum calls on everyone to defend public services and the workers who deliver them.

Working people and their organizations throughout Ontario have denounced the divisive proposals and inflammatory rhetoric of the PCs with the contempt they deserve. The attacks of the Hudak PCs on public sector workers has increased the resolve of all workers to ensure that the Hudak PCs do not get their hands on the levers of political power in Ontario.

Facts About Employment Growth in
Ontario’s Public Sector

– Rob Woodhouse –

The vicious attack the Ontario Progressive Conservatives (PCs) unleashed against public sector workers in the general election campaign has included allegations about an out of control ballooning of public sector employment over the past ten years. As part of this crisis-mongering PC leader Tim Hudak has repeatedly slandered public sector workers as “bureaucrats” and “pencil pushers” who are sucking the life out of the economy. All of this is partisan demagoguery without any basis in fact.

As shown in the table below, employment in general provincial government services and government owned enterprises has been increasing at exactly the same rate as the growth of the labour force in other sectors, at slightly above population growth and far below economic growth.

The fastest growing component of the public sector under provincial jurisdiction is the delivery of post-secondary education which is directly tied to the economy’s increased need for a workforce with greater levels of knowledge and technical skills and to the huge increase in the productivity of the workforce that has come about in recent years.

Broad Public Sector Employment in Ontario
2002 2011 Change 2002-11
 Increase % increase
Ontario demographic and economic data
  Population (number of people all ages) 12,093,299 13,263,544 1,170,245 10%
  Labour force
(number of workers all sectors)
6,491,600 7,303,200    811,600 13%
  Employment
(number of workers all sectors)
6,028,60 6,731,100 702,500 12%
  Gross domestic product ($ billions) 478.8 612.6 134 28%
Provincial public sector
  General government 81,831 92,710 10,879 13%
  Health and social service
institutions
195,905 236,448 40,543 21%
  Universities, colleges, vocational
and trade training
114,084 139,619 25,535 22%
  Government business enterprises 36,693 41,274 4,581 12%
Local public sector (municipal, regional)
  General government 213,673 274,644 60,971 29%
  School boards (shared provincial/local) 226,595 265,811 39,216 17%
  Local government business
enterprises
33,267 56,536 23,269 70%
 Source: Statistics Canada; 2011 last year available for all data in set

 

Since 1990, the number of working people with university degrees has doubled from one-in-ten to one-in-five. In the same period, the number of workers with college and trade certification has increased from one-in-five to one-in-three. Employment in other parts of the educational system has also grown but at a slower rate than in post-secondary education. This growth has been in response to population growth and to the needs of the economy, including the expansion of early childhood education in step with advances in pedagogy and increased childcare services so both parents of young children can work.

Employment in provincially-funded health services has increased by 21 per cent in the past 10 years. This is a greater rate of increase in the number of health care workers than the rate of population growth but is a much smaller rate than the growth in the number of people over 65 who have increased health care needs (24 per cent increase in senior over the last 10 years). The need for health services has far outstripped the services being provided despite significant increases in the productivity achieved by workers in this sector.

The table shows that the fastest growth in employment is in the part of the broad public sector under local government jurisdiction. Employment growth in this sector exceeds growth of the general labour force but matches economic growth. This is to be expected in a modern economy and society because there can be no economic growth without an expansion of transit, roads, water, public health, garbage collection and other essential services provided by municipal workers.

Urban services are also one of the areas where global monopolies have made the greatest inroads with privatization schemes for capturing public assets and for appropriating the wealth created by public sector workers. Municipal business enterprises which includes such services as transit and electrical power distribution have been the fastest growing area of public sector job growth during the past 10 years (70 per cent increase in employment). It is exactly these services that global monopolies are fiercely competing to capture in order to exploit the labour and wealth creation of this growing workforce.

 

 

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