On April 22, some 15 people from different sectors of the community sat down in a room in the Steelworkers Hall to come up with a logo for the Kingston Day of Action. Like most meetings of this kind, when people from different political backgrounds come together to plan strategy to fight a common enemy, there was spirited debate over the message to be conveyed. By the end of the evening, most of the suggestions were incorporated and sent on to a professional artist. The subsequent design was subjected to further review and discussion, with the product being the logo you see on this page.
The process for developing this logo was as inclusive as possible. It is necessary in coalition building to allow space for a whole range of political expression and to incorporate as many traditions of political protest as possible. If the Day of Action is to be a success, it must inspire mainstream Kingstonians to take to the streets, walking side by side with veteran union and social activists.
The logo you see on this page is the result of a process of political synthesis, embodying symbols that speak to a wide cross section of the community. Most citizens will be very comfortable with the stylized City Hall clock and the reference to the Kingston community. The figures in the foreground are meant to represent people of all ages, races and gender, standing together to express their desire to preserve this community. The placards remind us that a key element of this action is the ongoing struggle to maintain fair labour standards. They are also there because the Day of Action will be a good old fashioned street demonstration, and placards are the most prominent feature of such events.
The words on the placards are very important, because they were the product of that debate over differences in political philosophy and strategy every coalition must go through. The word resistance is here because the Kingston Day of Action is an act of resistance against the political tyranny of the Harris Tories and the forces of economic globalization battering communities all over the globe. The social activists in the coalition argued very strongly that this word must appear in the logo, and others, particularly the faith community, argued for the inclusion of the word justice.
As it turned out, the two terms go together quite nicely, calling on all Kingston citizens to unite in the struggle for social justice and a strong community.
Despite thousands of requests for standing at public hearings, the provincial government has routinely passed controversial legislation with minimal consultation. In November, they changed the rules of the legislature so they could limit debate and pass legislation more quickly than ever before. These changes are frightening. They reduce the ability for the least organized - the least powerful- to have our voices heard.
Days of Action draw attention to the issues we care about. Issues that affect the quality of life of every person in this province. By June 8, Eastern Ontario will be talking about the Kingston Community Day of Action. We will be discussing the issues. We will be thinking about education, health care, social services, people who live in poverty, workers. This is what the Days of Action are about.
Sixteen Losses in a Row for Democracy
In the last three years we in Kingston have witnessed:
1. unilateral provincial downloading of costs and services
2. introduction of new taxes through user fees
3. forcing of charities and municipalities to expand access to gambling
4. privatization and contracting out of services
5. public sector job losses -- 1,800 jobs in the Kingston area since 1995 -- without time for economic adjustments
6. cuts in support to our community's most vulnerable -- those in most need -- and with the least ability to have their voices heard
7. threats to health care, education and other programs that are vital to each citizen's ability to meet their full potential
8. removal of supports for people with disabilities
9. closures of women=s shelters and advocacy programs
10. threats to public transit, long-term care and child care
11. attacks on protections for tenants
12. diminished access to housing for those in need of subsidy
13. unilateral withdrawal of access to compensation for thousands of workers who have been injured on the job
- without the right of recourse to court
14. legislation to prevent people who wish to organize unions in their workplaces
15. forced labour for the poor
16. deregulation of environmental protections
Social Assistance: The largest cuts to spending have been from the Community and Social Services Ministry which runs social assistance (welfare). Mike Harris said that all recipients could earn back the difference between the old and new rates through workfare. But without any program in place, and heading into the winter months, Mike Harris cut social assistance rates by 22%. That cut means families have less money for food or are forced to move from their apartments. Mike Harris has been viciously cutting the basic needs of the poorest people in our province to provide a tax cut which, as a percentage of income, most benefits the richest people in Ontario.
Social Services: Mostly affecting women and children, many social services like daycare, and counselling for battered women, violence prevention education, community centres, drop-ins for homeless people, immigrant services and more have had budgets eliminated entirely. Eliminating community and emergency services won't save money -- in the long run we will all pay through higher policing and health care costs.
Work: The minimum wage has been frozen -- people struggling to support themselves and their families will feel the pressure of a lower wage economy in a race to the bottom. New labour legislation makes it easier for employers to interfere with the basic right for people to be represented by a union. Further more, by drastically cutting the enforcement officers at the Ministry of Labour even basic employment standards will not be enforced.
Housing: Mike Harris has cancelled numerous non-profit and co-op housing units that was already being built stating the private sector will fill the gap. But the private sector will never build affordable rental housing. The government also intends to privatize existing public housing, remove rent controls and reduce tenant protections putting millions of tenants at risk for skyrocketing rents. In combination with cuts to social assistance, many people, including children, will be homeless.
Equity in Ontario: Employment Equity implemented measures for less discrimination in hiring for people with disabilities, women, First Nations people and people of colour.
Law and Order Agenda: Closing halfway houses and creating prison chain-gangs are policies that will cost Ontario. Our legal system must be a combination of punishment and rehabilitation. With the Harris government policies, money cut from social services will need to be shifted to policing as the social fabric wears away. Mike Harris has also attacked the legal aid plan that provides legal services for people who otherwise could not afford to be represented in court.
Health Care: Health care has been cut along with other ministries even though Harris promised that health care would be protected. The government has cut drug benefits, services and intends to close as many as 30 hospitals in Ontario.
Municipalities: Municipalities and municipal services like public transportation, libraries, recycling and waste reduction, arts and culture funding and more will face "an amputation" as Mike Harris down loads his cuts to municipalities. In order to make up for this, municipalities will raise property taxes and user fees for services we now take for granted.
Education: After eliminating funding for junior kindergarten, Mike Harris will cut millions from our public education system and at least $400 million from colleges and universities. In the next few years, tuition and debt for college and university students will grow so much that many qualified students will be unable to afford an education.
The Tax Cut: The more money you have -- the more money you get. The tax cut will greatly benefit the richest Ontarians. Average taxpayers in Ontario will see a few hundred dollars -- easily eaten away by increased property taxes and user fees. What Ontario needs is tax reform and a fairer system of progressive taxation. Property taxes and user fees are regressive taxes where, as a percentage of income, average taxpayers already pay proportionately more.
User Fees: To make up for lost revenue from taxes, Ontarians will see user fees for many services, especially on the municipal level as cash-strapped municipalities look for more money. As government services are privatized, costs will rise to pay for private profit. Services once provided by government and paid for through a progressive income tax system will be subject to user fees. Ironically, while you have to pay $25 to prove you are poor in order to get legal aid, the new government eliminated a $50 filing fee for corporations in Ontario.
Jobs: Mike Harris has no credibility on job creation given his plans to throw between 13,000 and 20,000 government workers from their jobs. The loss of a quarter of all government workers will mean a huge difference in service for everyone in Ontario and simply push more families onto social assistance. Competition among the unemployed for any type of work will push down wages. Once wages start to fall at the bottom the wages of everyone in Ontario will feel downward pressure. Cheaper labour costs may benefit business but increased poverty and falling wages does not benefit the people of Ontario.
The Big Business Premier: The Mike Harris agenda is the same agenda of a very powerful business lobby that wants to increase it's profits by taking over services that the government currently delivers. Privatization won't be cheaper -- now Ontarians will simply pay profit-making companies to deliver services that were once run by the government on a non-profit basis. Private health care companies, insurance companies, big landlords and even private prison operators from the United States are lining up to run public services for profit.
Trickle Down Economics is Bad Economics: In the 1980's Ronald Reagan policies of trickle down economics gave big tax cuts along with cuts to social services. During his time as President, the debt of the United States quadrupled. The tax cuts didn't mean more jobs, it just meant less money for the government. So the debt rose. While the poorest in our communities spend virtually all their money in local stores on food and basic necessities. That means jobs in your community. The richest people (who get the largest tax cut) take trips overseas, buy personal appliances or cars or invest in international mutual funds and the stock market.
The Causes of the Debt: A Statistics Canada study on the Federal deficit noted only 2-4% of the deficit could be attributable to social programs. The major reason the debt has grown is a the high interest rates policies of the Bank of Canada. Interest rates are high to keep inflation low. Money markets and bank pressure for low inflation to protect the value of bonds and investments. High interest rates all mean big profits for banks. Unfortunately, high interest rates also discourage job creation. Until the Bank of Canada lowers interest rates, our debt will continue to climb. Our debt has also increased because corporations pay little or no tax. At the Federal level corporate income tax has fallen from 20% of all revenues to only 7% in the last thirty years. Finally, unemployment contributes to the debt because people do not pay into the tax base but are forced onto U.I. or Social Assistance instead of working. Mike Harris's policies will increase unemployment.
How Does the Federal Debt Affect Ontario?: The federal government is down loading debt to the provinces by cutting transfer payments to the provinces. If Mike Harris wants to fight the deficit, he must fight the causes of the debt. The most recent federal budget will cut nearly $7 billion dollars from provinces in the next three years.