Whether it be in Ontario, Alberta or nationwide a rise in progressive social movements is needed to push back against right-wing extremism and the program cuts and privatization efforts that come with it. .
As I write this column I am attending a writer’s retreat at Hollyhock on Cortez Island in B.C. The beauty of the place is awe inspiring.
“Hollyhock exists to inspire, nourish, and support people who are making the world a better place,” reads a statement on their website.
Yesterday I was in the hot tub looking out on the bay and the woman sitting next to me says “I love Pierre Poilievre.” I’m a little stunned but it is a sign of the times.
Monday is Alberta’s election and at the moment it looks like Danielle Smith, an extreme right-wing nut job, might win.
No less of a conservative than Globe and Mail columnist Andrew Coyne has written:
“It would be easy to dismiss the many odd things that come out of Danielle Smith’s mouth as the product of a disordered mind. Easy, and accurate.
“The past week alone has provided several examples. Equating the vaccine-compliant majority with Hitler’s followers; suggesting police officers who enforced public-health orders should face criminal charges; calling for doctors to be removed from decision-making roles in the next pandemic, in favour of the military. ”
A friend who was active in the pro-choice struggle back in the 80’s in Alberta tells me Smith was the most ferocious anti-abortion person in the province. Smith, like most Tories who want to win, keeps her views on abortion hidden but she recently admitted that she looks to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem as role models for Alberta.
In Ontario despite massive opposition, the corrupt Doug Ford government is privatizing health care as fast as they can. Bill 60 cuts core services including surgeries and diagnostics out of public hospitals into private for-profit hospitals and clinics. This at the same time as public hospitals are starving for funds and staff.
According to the Ontario Health Coalition this will create two-tier health care in Ontario in which patients will be faced with an increasing array of user charges and extra-billing for care when they are sick, elderly, in need and least able to pay
To drive back the privatization, the Ontario Health Coalition is organizing a massive citizen run referendum on privatizing health care. The voting takes place all over the province on May 25 and 26, as well as online. It’s a unique strategy that may or may not push the government back
The Ontario Federation of Labour is organizing a cross province day of action on June 3 that includes opposition to privatization. The combination of both actions may force Ford to take a step back and just as importantly spark some energy in progressive social movements that has been sorely lacking.
Part of the problem is our undemocratic electoral system. Doug Ford won a huge majority of seats with only 23.85 per cent of the vote. Because no matter who we vote for things seem to get worse, the turnout in the last election was the lowest in Ontario’s history with just 43.5 per cent of eligible voters casting a ballot. While gerrymandering is not as much a problem in Canada as in the U.S., nevertheless the first past post system gives way too much weight to rural and suburban voters in a country that is highly urbanized.
Partly because of COVID-19, where the left abandoned the field in supporting public health measures even though there were serious problems as described by Corvin Russell and I in an article on these pages in February 2022, and partly because of the rise in hatred against Justin Trudeau, while the NDP continues to support his minority government, the political Left is virtually absent federally. In Alberta, progressive Conservatives are actually supporting Rachel Notley as she moves right to win support away from Smith.
We seem to be seeing a bit of a shift in Toronto where left-wing Olivia Chow is far ahead in the polls. After 15 years of right-wing leadership at City Hall, and a visible deterioration of living standards for most, people are looking for an alternative. The Toronto Labour Council just released an Environics poll of 1,001 eligible voters in the city. Fifty-five percent say the city should invest in better services even if it means a tax increase. This included the supporters of right-wing candidates.
The fact of the matter is that Canada has never been as moderate as we pretend. Because of massive opposition to free trade, we implemented neo-liberalism later than many other countries but just as ferociously. We need a huge rise in progressive social movements to fight further cutbacks, privatization and increased power to the billionaires who are increasingly running our lives.