You know, sometimes people say things to themselves or to others over and over again as much to convince themselves as others. Other times, however, they say it because they really believe what they are saying with all of their heart. They simply want to share this belief. And naturally, some are inclined to do both. This is not a good or bad characteristic; it is just something we all need to keep in mind.
However, there is one belief that I have learned and am proud to have shared with readers many times. That belief is that Algoma–Manitoulin’s greatest resource is its people. I don’t say this flippantly. I say this because I have lived my whole life in this region, and I have met so many individuals and groups who make a meaningful difference in our communities. Yes, good people live everywhere, but from my front-line experience, Algoma–Manitoulin has more than its share of such citizens.
As a long-time MPP for this region, I enjoy the privilege of travelling this riding from stem to stern regularly. This provides many opportunities to hear what people have to say face to face in places where they live and work.
Many would agree that if anyone knows about winter and snow, it is Northern Ontarians. Northerners are experts on snow and winter. As a result, I maintain that Northerners have no trouble recognizing a snow job from a mile away. Toronto winters are definitely milder than ours. However, these days it seems that Ontarians are being blown away by repetitive snow jobs from Queen’s Park. One repetitive snow job theme revolves around how Doug Ford has been the long-time champion of labour.
For example, would a champion of labour eliminate the right for all workers to access two measly sick days that Ontario workers had fought to get for so long? Yet, that is just what Doug Ford did when he came to power in 2018.
Doug Ford’s own handpicked science advisory table supported the NDP proposal of ten paid sick days annually. Eventually, under pressure, Ford had no alternative but to reverse his stand and reinstitute three sick days for each worker. However, he quietly slipped in the caveat that the reinstatement was only temporary. People were forced to stay home from work if they or their school-aged children had any symptoms of COVID-19. Otherwise, people who could not afford a cut in pay would have no choice but to go to work anyway, thus potentially exposing even more people to the virus. So it was that, or they would fail to put food on the table.
After a short-lived reprieve from skyrocketing infection rates, the virus is again rearing its ugly head. It seemed like Doug Ford had learned how vital sick days are for Ontario workers. But such is not the case. Instead of making the sick days a permanent benefit, Ford gleefully announced that he was only extending the sick days to cover a total of just 16 months. So here we are heading into flu season, and workers who have already used their three sick days have nothing to fall back on. Workers who used their sick days to quarantine or get their family vaccinated are out of luck — left to drag themselves into work or lose pay. He’s not even going to top the sick days up, so at least everyone can start at three again.
Doug Ford’s decision is a weak move, not that of a champion of labour.
We need a permanent and expanded paid sick days program — it’s a critical part of preventing outbreaks. The Ontario NDP’s Stay Home If You Are Sick Act would provide workers ten sick or personal emergency days, plus an additional 14 days during a public health emergency like a pandemic.
Also, thinking of labourers, readers will recall that Doug Ford made the anticipated increase in the minimum wage to $15 a major campaign issue.
In a recent news conference in Windsor, CBC News quoted Doug Ford saying, “We’ve always been for the front-line hard-working union people. I will break a brick wall down to support them.”
However, the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) sees things differently. OFL President Patty Coates clearly disagreed, saying, “Immediately upon taking office, Doug Ford scrapped the minimum wage increase. We knew it would hurt workers, and it would hurt the economy. We were right.”
During the 2018 election campaign, Doug Ford was dead set against the previous Liberal government’s legislated increase to the minimum wage. Speaking about labour reform legislation, Bill 148, Ford is is quoted in the Toronto Star saying, “It is worse than the carbon tax. As a matter of fact, it’s equal to the carbon tax when it comes to job-killing.” Once in power, Ford quickly moved to scrap the legislation. He froze wages at that time — putting the increase to $15 three years behind schedule. And just for good measure, he later went on to cap the wages of front-line heroes like nurses and teachers. The wage cap bill pins their paycheques behind inflation.
I’d like to hear Premier Ford explain how delaying a previously legislated minimum wage increase constitutes breaking a door down for Ontario workers.
You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in sociology to see that Doug Ford does not understand what this means for working families. All too often, minimum wage earners have to cobble together two or three jobs to make ends meet – in addition to making other sacrifices – just to give their children the basics. It’s not enough to call heroes the people who clean our hospitals or to say thank you to the workers who stock our grocery shelves. We need to show them respect by paying them a wage that will actually pay the bills.
Premier Ford has demonstrated his choice to stick with his low-wage policies that he is not here for Ontario working families. The NDP has developed a plan that would put Ontario workers on the path to a $20 minimum wage, providing stable, steady annual increases. The NDP plan also includes a fund to help legitimately struggling small and medium-sized local businesses transition to the higher wages proposed.
As I said, Northerners love winter, and they know all about snow. We recognize a snow job when we see or hear one. We are now just months away from a spring election. Something tells me that all of Ontario can expect to receive a constant barrage of snow jobs, lasting well into June this coming year. The good news is, Northern Ontarians are well prepared to handle them.
As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected] or phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député