The following letter was sent by Toronto and York Region Labour Council President John Cartwright to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Dear Premier Wynne,
These are interesting times in Ontario – and time for the Liberal government to restore the confidence of working people in its approach to the many challenges before us. The Labour Council would like to suggest five new priorities that would signal a new commitment to fairness in Canada’s largest province.
- Tackle income inequality by raising the minimum wage and fixing labour law. The minimum wage has been frozen for three years on your watch. It needs to be raised immediately. But a more fundamental solution to the growth in poverty wages is to enable workers to raise their standards through collective bargaining. Too many employers intimidate workers from exercising their right to join a union – and that has to stop. Balancing the power between corporations and working people is a proven step toward economic health – and fairness.
- Adopt an industrial strategy that focuses on job creation. Unemployment levels in the GTA are unacceptable – particularly for young people. The Ontario government must actively pursue measures to create good unionized jobs, particularly through greening every aspect of our economy. Protection of employment lands in Toronto is an important immediate step.
- Reverse corporate tax cuts. Since Mike Harris’s orgy of tax cuts, the revenue stream of the province has lost billions of dollars every year. A large portion of that loss results from corporate tax cuts made by your government. The deficit would be eliminated in short order if corporations once again paid their fair share of taxes.
- Stop CETA before it handcuffs our ability to protect good jobs in Ontario. The province can put the brakes on this dangerous “trade agreement” that will undermine the right of the province and its cities to develop or maintain local jobs. Like NAFTA, this latest deal will secure corporate privilege and erode citizens’ rights.
- Restore basic labour rights in Ontario. Bill 115 was an attack on the right of Ontario’s teachers and education workers to engage in free collective bargaining. The announced intent to extend this kind of legislation to other public sector workers created the labour relations crisis your government now endures. Only by committing to respect free collective bargaining can the bridges be rebuilt with the labour movement.
I trust you will take these suggestions into account in the coming weeks and months. I am happy to meet any time to discuss the rationale behind any or all of them.
Toronto and York Region Labour Council President