We live in a province awash in wealth, yet 335,000 Ontarians are forced to rely on food banks every month. In our own city, the capital of the world’s 10th largest economy, you’ll find people sleeping rough on the streets every night. While wages stagnate for the many, our province’s two richest families, the Thomsons and the Westons, own as much wealth as the bottom 11 million Canadians. Students are graduating with record debt levels and entering a job market where part-time, precarious work has become the norm.
We need an MPP who will be fearless in taking on the vested interests who are responsible for and have profited from this broken system. At the Canadian Labour Congress, Joel championed the cause of retirees whose employers rewarded their hard work by bilking them out of their pensions. At the Canadian Federation of Students, he has helped expose the entitlement culture at the top of universities, where senior administrators take home larger pay packages than the Prime Minister. At Queen’s Park, he will work to reverse the decades long transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top. Here’s how he’ll do it:
Higher wages, decent work
The provincial government’s commitment to a $15 an hour minimum wage by 2019 is a victory for the $15 & Fairness movement and a testament to the power of grassroots organizing. While organized people have pushed the Liberals to support this demand, they can’t be counted on to put the interests of workers ahead of their wealthy donors’ organized money. We need to go much further in expanding workers' rights than the Liberals are willing to. This starts with making it easier for workers to join unions, and comprehensive reforms to improve working conditions including at least seven paid sick days, three weeks paid vacation after one year of employment, restricting employers' ability to call long-term employees "contractors", and no exemptions to the minimum wage.
In addition, Joel will fight for:
Anti-scab legislation. Allowing bosses to bring in replacement workers during a strike or lockout tips the balance decisively in favour of the employer, and results in longer disputes.
Job security for workers when business ownership changes hands.
Scheduling predictability. Require employers to provide shift schedules at least 2 weeks in advance, giving workers more control over their lives.
Defending migrant workers from employer reprisals by adding new protections to the Employment Standards Act.
Education is a Right
Successive PC and Liberal governments have starved public education in Ontario. Today, less than half of post-secondary institutions’ operating budgets comes from public funding. Ontario has the highest average tuition fees in Canada, and students are graduating with record debt loads, owing over $28 billion to all levels of government.
In a time when 70% of all new jobs require some form of post-secondary education, this is unacceptable. The ONDP has proposed giving students a “debt free start” and eliminating interest rates from Ontario student loans. These measures will provide welcome relief to thousands of students and their families. However, we can’t stop there. In 1972, a report commissioned by the William Davis PC government said that “faced with the imperative need of education for survival, universal access should seem not a benevolent dream but a categorical necessity.” We should follow this advice, and the example of 18 countries around the world, by eliminating tuition fees for all students.
The low taxes mantra of the last 40 years hasn’t delivered its promised economic growth, but it has meant underfunded public services and growing inequality. It’s time to replace trickle down economics with one that works for real people, and that means asking the Thomsons and Westons of this province to pay their fair share. The ONDP’s vision document offers real leadership in this regard by cancelling the planned Liberal corporate tax cuts, addressing tax loopholes that benefit the wealthiest, and asking them to pay more for our shared prosperity.
We must also act to rein in the bloated salaries of senior executives on the public payroll. Whether it’s university presidents earning more than Justin Trudeau, or the whopping $4.4 million taken in by Hydro One’s CEO, Joel supports tax dollars being used to strengthen front-line services, not lining the pockets of a cosseted elite.