Mikey announces once again to the working poor and the unemployed: "You are the
weakest link. Goodbye!" The question here, as one might
ask of the television show, is "What link in what particular chain?" Obviously
if the chain of command is hard core, right wing social darwinism, then
any compassion or altruistic logic would be the weakest link. Though
the other two parties fight valiantly in the legislature for ethics,
they are only there on sufferance: The only responses to their pleas
for sanity are repeated readings of the Harris party propaganda, delivered
with all the sincerety of Ed the Sock.
Like Lizzie Borden with the axe, health, education and housing got 40
whacks and, when shown what he had done, Ontario Premier Mike Harris
gave them 41. "Ontario Works", (or, as some refer to it: "Ontario
Works for Nothing") has been blasted in the House by both minority
parties for its blatant abuse of those who are conscripted, ostensibly,
to move toward jobs.
For instance, the Ministry of Natural Resources made the biggest cut in
staff of any other government department. It also hired more workfare recipients
than any other ministry. Not only is government laying off paid workers
to hire unpaid workfare, it is encouraging private business to do the same.
While free labour is shanghaied in this manner, the workfare victims are
pitted against the working poor. Any subsidized childcare which has been
available to parents working low income jobs has been turned over to those
on workfare, who are going to the top of the list. Consequently, the poor,
who have been working their way up towards the poverty line, have now been
forced to quit their jobs because their wages cannot cover private day
care. This, of course, creates a larger workfare force.
In the words of Liberal MPP Dominic Agostino, "The aim of the Expansion
of Workfare Bill is to replace professionally trained people with workfare." The
workfare staff, of course, who are compelled to "volunteer" or
not get their pittance, are never to get permanency in any job. They are
simply discarded to make way for another group of freebies when their so-called
training time is up.
Many times the sock puppets in the best little house in Ontario fervently
repeat that the Harris regime "wants to give a hand up, not a hand
out". So far, we've only seen the back of the hand. In six years of
advertised "boom", there has been no replacement, by one jot
or tittle, of the 20 per cent cut to those on welfare. Instead, they were
accused of being overpaid.
Meanwhile, Harris wanted a 42 per cent raise.
Then the poor were accused of "fraud" and a snitch line was installed.
It should have been installed on Bay Street where corporate fraud costs
us $10 billion a year. The informant ploy failed because it was proven
that welfare fraud was under 3 per cent -- such frauds consisting of a
few extra dollars made under the table.
Undeterred by fiascos, Harris next accused those on assistance of being
lazy, and workfare was spawned. This was done by a premier who has spent
less time in the legislature than any other in history. (In fact, when
he finally returned after four months on the courses, I expected to see
his seat in the House redesigned as a golf cart.)
The next degradation was to say that welfare people were drug addicted
and must be tested. Again, the testing could have been brought to Bay Street
as it is rumoured that cocaine is the favourite pick-me-up for the guys
in red suspenders.
Finally, those on assistance were accused of being illiterate. They will
now be tested in language and math. This last insult is the least of recipients'
worries as so many of them have B.A.s -- or at least managed (unlike the
premier) to make it through the first year of university.
Two questions: If the Harris crowd are supposedly interested in giving
a "hand up", where is the affordable housing? Where is the day
care for parents who must work that their children may live? These have
not been answered.
Apparently the only pertinent question to those in favour of Mikey is, "Can
he make the trains run on time?"
EDUCATION: TWO TIERS MASQUERADING AS 'CHOICE'
Janet Ecker -- She's baaaack! and doing a better demolition job on our
public education system than our previous minister, John Snobelen. He is
in the Guiness Book of Records as the only high school drop-out ever to
be appointed Minister of Education. His credentials were at least appropriate
to the task for which he was paid.
Janet, of course, will not be outdone as the Missionary of Macho. She was
Minister of Social Services and an enthusiastic promoter of fingerprinting
the poor. Rockefeller's Citibank was to supply the bio-identifying scanners
until 22 activist groups reared their heads simultaneously and fought her
for two years. Citibank opted out after considerable embarrassment at Metro
Hall where they were greeted with hundreds of cardboard middle fingers
raised on high, saying, "scan this".
True to her colours, Janet is now blaming the unions for destroying public
education. When told that most teachers were using their own money to supply
class materials, some to the tune of $2,500, Ecker replied that this had
gone on for a long time and was nothing unusual. Harris, though a stranger
to it himself, has now demanded overtime from the teachers. That's because
the government has just palmed an ace.
The putsch is now on to take public funds and hand them over to some parents
in the form of tax credits -- to the tune of $3,500 for each child they
send to a private school. It costs the province $6,800 to educate each
child. If $3,500 is withdrawn from this amount, it leaves just $3,300 for
each public school student.
It is extremely easy to establish private shcools in Ontario as they do
not have to answer to any criteria and do not have to submit financial
statements. Since Harris took office, there are some 200 new "independent" schools,
making a total of almost 1,000.
The other problem with tax credits, as opposed to grants given to private
schools, is that grants demand a certain criteria of standards, whereas
tax credits have no quality controls and they only benefit families with
an income above $40,000.
This attack on the public school system is being leveraged by a criticism
of government assistance for Roman Catholic schools, of which there are
very few in Ontario. This criticism is happily coincident with the Harris
right wing agenda. These vociferous critics do not acknowledge the historical
reason for this assistance: that Canada was founded by two groups -- the
English and the French (primarily Roman Catholic), who each made equal
contribution. This truth resulted in an ethical, long-existing bill, where
assistance for Roman Catholic schools has been part of fairness to the
Neither the historical rights of the French nor the draining of public
school funds affects Bernie Farber, the executive director of the Canadian
Jewish Congress. He stated in the Globe & Mail on May 14: "This
is such an important step for so many middle income and lower income families.
It gives them a small measure of relief." And, indeed, the measure
of relief is small. Telling people that $3,500 a year will be the means
of entering their children in private schools is an insult to any intelligent
parent, whether of middle or lower income. This voucher, for that is what
it really is, will only be useful as another tax rebate to those who can
already afford a private school. It will not benefit the lower income families
It will leave public schools crippled, taking $300 million out of the public
school system where it is most urgently needed.
A recent guest on the Michael Coren show said that it would be better if
the public education system was done away with completely -- ensuring that
Kevyn Nightingale, CPA, would be remembered, if not for his logic, at least
for his fealty to the fuedal state.
Public education has always been looked on as the foundation of civil society,
an informed society, a society that will not be herded unquestioningly
by authority -- though it be elected authority.
The solution to this government's problem of angry people asking questions
is to create a public school system that is a "special ed" for
all those who do not live in Fort Privilege.
NDP Leader Howard Hampton reminded Mikey in the House of his declaration
that he "would never use public money to fund private schools." Harris
replied, "That dealt with vouchers." Hampton countered with, "Vouchers
and tax credits are the same thing."
Dalton McGinty accused Harris of rewarding his pals with his policies.
Think back, my firends, to when you were a child at the fairgrounds, to
the barker who beckoned you into the game with a smile and whose compelling
words moved the crowd towards him: "Ya pays yer money and ya takes
Don't listen to the barker or his shills who say you'll win. The game is
HARRIS 'READY TO SLAUGHTER THE SACRED COW OF HEALTH CARE'
Two years ago, I wrote an article in this paper entitled, "Something
wicked this way comes". It dealt with the fate that is planned for
health care in Canada.
Now the battle lines are drawn and we will have to fight tooth and nail
to keep our universal health care system intact. The government has been
delisting $100 million worth of health care behind closed doors, while
MPPs like Frances Lankin are raising their voices in the House, saying
that hospitals are commonly held assets and dollars for care should not
be siphoned off in profit.
But privatized hospitals will receive bonuses for volume and for cutting
While the citizens are left out, however, a small committee decides what
procedures will be taken from the health care system and privatized. At
the same time, tax breaks are going to those who can afford to pay for
private health care.
The need for this "created crisis", which is destroying our public
education and health care, was admitted to by John Snobelen. He let the
cat out of the bag on television some time ago. This demolition has been
aided and abetted by those like David Frumm who writes speeches for George
Dubya. (That would explain how Bush's statements are both banal and aurreal
at the same time, as well as the introduction of words never heard before.)
I met David Frumm a few years ago at a university reception and questioned
his opinions. He declared me obnoxious -- one of my fondest memories. Along
with Frumm, the Fraser Institute has been busy for some time, telling Americans
that our public health care is folding. Dr. Michael Rachlis says that it
is delusional of the premier to assume that "for profit care" will
solve the problem.
What Rachlis believes is "delusion", however, is really an agenda
-- one which will enable the premier to follow the same retirement plan
as Brian Mulroney (who now sits on the boards of 25 U.S. corporations.)
Let's just take an overview of Mikey's agenda to see how it's affecting
the citizens on the ground.
In the recent Tory budget, they bragged about the money they're putting
into health care. What a scam! It's not even their money; it's federal
money. Harris added a miniscule amount to it and now takes the credit.
The shortfall for hospitals is $750 million in the new budget, meaning
hospitals will have $750 million in deficits. Now a new law disallows hospital
deficits! People will be turned away from their own hospitals in every
single community -- if not this year, next year and the year after. Surgeries
will be cancelled. Nurses will be laid off. Wards will be closed. All public
assets which we have paid for over the years are being sold off to Mikey's
The largest part of the budget was a $2.4 billion tax break to corporations
- this despite the fact that 93 per cent of the tax burden is paid by individuals
and only 7 per cent by corporations. This new tax break should reduce their
taxes to zero.
While health care is being dismantled, our health risks are increasing
• A new form of tuberculosis, seemingly immune to drugs, is rampant in
the homeless population.
• In Walkerton, seven died and 2,300 suffered from lengthy illness and
debilitation; and now that the enquiry is headed into the home stretch,
there is little doubt the Harris cuts to inspection services will be
declared the chief culprit.
• AIDS patients have been raided for their therapeutic marijuana while
prescribed drugs kill 10,000 people a year (100,000 in the U.S.).
• The milk allowance of $16 per month was taken from single mothers -
while Mikey sought a 42 per cent pay raise.
• The disabled have had no increase in their meagre allowance in the
last six years of the so-called "boom". At the same time, we
paid for Harris to take Sharon Dunn as a "guest" to China.
• Seniors are now worried about living too long and cannot stay in their
small homes; many have not yet received their small heating allowance.
• As far as your lungs are concerned, nine of the largest air polluters
are right here in Ontario -- coal burning plants spew five million kilograms
of carcinogens every year. The budget for the Ministry of the Environment
has been cut in half. But you don't need inspectors when there are no
regulations to enforce.
Aside from direct attacks on the public health care system, there are
many indirect attacks on our health. Privatizing Ontario Hydro makes
it exempt from access-to-information laws. If nuclear plants are risky,
if labour is not properly trained, or if the environment is being destroyed,
we will not be able to find out. We will not learn anything about radioactive
spills, malfunctions or emissions.
But as usual, we will foot the bill for mistakes.
As Howard Hampton remarked, "Harris's dirty deals to sell off our
Hydro-electric system" has resulted in another $120 million to be
charged on municipal bills.
We once had an abundance of cheap energy, which was also good for business.
Now, living just 90 miles from Niagara Falls, we could soon be having
rolling blackouts. Privatization in California raised prices there 650
per cent, sending that state to British Columbia for energy on the cuff.
Californians have just been told that they could have as much as 20 hours
a week without power.
Apparently a feudal monetary system can produce feudal times. Astute
monitors of the "chaos theory" say that this energy shortage has been
created, like any other shortage, so that Canada will knuckle under to
the pressure for the sale of our energy and water to the U.S. Under NAFTA,
once we send our water supplies south, we must keep up the same volume,
whether or not we are suffering a shortage. At the same time, the media
are stating that water levels in the Great Lakes have never been so low.
Coincidence theorists ask, "Is illegal siphoning going on?"
In Harris Hell, university presidents are fund raisers; corporations
are directing what is taught; professionals are replaced by untrained "volunteers" from
Workfare; public school funds are being handed over to families who can
afford private schools; health services are now capped and delisted;
workers have lost benefits, wages and pensions; the environment has been
trashed; water has become dangerous; air is unsafe; and the poor are
scapegoated to distract society from the real perpetrators of this pillage.
Our property is being stolen from us so that a very few can have an incredible
standard of living: Mikey's pals and mentors.
As the Harris regime dives further into the rabbit hole, we are told
that democracy means "choice". But as David Christopherson said in
the House, the only choices we will have will be "whether to go to
the hospital, or not; whether to send my kids to school, or not; whether
to sit in the dark, or not." The real choice will be whether we
can pay or not.
But the barker on the fairground is holding up the bottle of snake oil
and still reeling them in. The fact that Mikey swung through the door
a second time is proof positive that Barnum and Bailey were right: There's
one born every minute.
People are still demanding that Harris allow a public enquiry into the
murder of Dudley George; they are still waiting. Many others have died
in the last six years -- and just as unnecessarily. Mikey's crowd genuflects
in front of their bank books every night and congratulate themselves
that we do not have proportional representation. When the only electoral
system is outdated and tarnished, any knuckle-dragger can be shoved through
the door, by any power-made group with enough bucks.
Time to batten the hatches and lay up supplies. It's going to be a long