Protecting quality public services at heart of Québec-wide strike
This past week saw province-wide rotating strikes by Québec’s public sector workers. The strikes are part of the popular Common Front movement against the austerity program being rolled out by the provincial Liberals. The government’s cut-backs threaten the availability and quality of public services for many of the province’s most vulnerable citizens. In total, more than 70,000 teachers, professional caregivers, technicians, support and administrative staff, labourers, and other civil servants walked out.
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Report shows Hydro One sale puts Ontario in weaker fiscal position
Time and again it has been demonstrated that privatizing public assets actually costs governments more money. This fact has become more obvious to many in Ontario where the budget watchdog has released a report showing that the sale of the province’s electricity transmission branch might provide some additional revenue this year, but that Ontario’s fiscal health will become significantly worse in future years as a result of the sale.
The report has put Premier Kathleen Wynne on the defensive as they contradict the Liberal government’s message box. The report makes transparent that the sale of Hydro One (and other similar privatization processes) has nothing to do with financial sustainability and everything to do with political ideology.
Despite this evidence and broad opposition, the Liberal government has put on the blinders and forged ahead with selling the first group of shares.
Community mailbox program comes to halt … for now
The controversial community mailbox program implemented by Canada Post has been suddenly put on hold this week. Despite Canada Post being an arms-length crown corporation, this is likely a reaction to the Conservative government’s loss in the recent federal election. Canada Post has been pursuing a corporate agenda for years, slashing jobs, modifying routes, and ending door-to-door delivery in an attempt to cut costs and generate profits. This agenda goes against the principles of delivering quality public services and ignores the needs and well-being of its workers.
If the cuts to door-to-door delivery stop here, some communities such as Halifax will survive unaffected. Whether this reprieve continues for the long-term is yet to be determined. Certainly, there is no guarantee that a Liberal government will make the changes needed to get Canada Post back on track. Once the dust has settled, the cutbacks could continue.
Regardless, this is a victory for the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and its activists who campaigned to save door-to-door delivery and made it an election issue by mobilizing actions and opposition across the country. It will be important for this campaign to continue to make sure the cutbacks stop for good, and further, to restore door-to-door delivery to the many communities that lost it.
Outdated labour laws leave front-line workers vulnerable
The Toronto Star continues its exploration of precarious work and its real-world impact on some of the most vulnerable in the workforce. Two pieces were published this week that bring to life the challenges posed by Ontario’s outdated labour laws. Explained in the following pieces are the problematic “contract flipping” practices adopted by some companies to rid themselves of contractual obligations to their workers, as well as the grey zone in which “independent contractors” find themselves when attempting to resolve problems related to work or pay. Both provide important insight and make the case for updating employment standards to protect this growing employment sector.
Not quite the “end of carding”
Toronto’s newspapers were quick to headline that the Liberal government had brought forth the “end of carding”. The controversial practice through which police officers stop (mostly racialized) citizens at random, without a warrant, and collect their information in a police database is deemed a widely discriminatory practice.
Although the Liberal government seems to understand that they will be required to take further action to make this permanent, the changes they have made do little to address the systemic racism that makes the practice possible. It simply regulates the ability of police officers to perform street checks. In addition, information collected with the controversial practice are kept on the record. There is much more required to end systemic racism and violence than the headlines might indicate.
Long time activist becomes Nepal’s first female president
In Nepal, Bidhya Devi Bhandari has made history by becoming the country’s first elected female president. She handily won the parliamentary election, giving her the mandate to pursue constitutional changes requiring that a woman hold either the president or vice-president position. As a member of the Communist Party of Nepal, she is well-known for a lifetime of activism fighting for womens' rights.