Why we must vote Ford out if we want to tackle climate and inequality
In the last provincial election, Doug Ford’s campaign slogan was “for the people.” But four years of a PC majority government begs the question: Who are “the people” Ford is working for? Photo via Doug Ford/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
From Canada’s National Observer, April 22, 2022
By Claire Gallagher
In the past four years, Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government has failed to listen, failed to plan, and failed to care.
With many of us struggling to make ends meet, our loved ones getting sick, and an escalating climate crisis on our doorstep, regular Ontarians have been left behind. But on June 2, voters will head to the polls. The outcome — and what happens in the weeks leading up to election day — has the potential to change Ontario for the better, but only if we seize the opportunity.
There is a lot at stake. The climate crisis is affecting our communities, as southern Ontario warms twice as rapidly as the rest of the world. In 2021, the province had its worst wildfire season on record, displacing several Indigenous communities and darkening the sky. And this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) most recent report was clear: governments must urgently and drastically reduce emissions or increase suffering for us all.
Too often, politicians (and even advocates) talk about climate change in isolation from the other challenges we face as a society — like the mounting wealth inequality crisis. As rent and food prices climb, food bank use is also on the rise. A report revealed that half a million of Ontario’s kids live in poverty. It is no surprise that recent polls indicate 78 per cent of Ontarians think Ford is doing a poor job of tackling poverty.
Meanwhile, since the start of the pandemic, Canada’s 59 billionaires have increased their wealth by $111 billion. Ontario’s own Galen Weston scrapped pandemic pay bumps for front-line workers while his profits soared — in part thanks to handouts from the Ford government.
Climate change and inequality are driven by the same roots: a corporate class that relentlessly pursues profit by sacrificing people and the environment. Our political leaders have an opportunity and obligation to connect these issues, to mobilize public support for transformative climate action. But will Ford do that? The answer is a resounding no.
In the last provincial election, his campaign slogan was “for the people.” But four years of a PC majority government begs the question: Who are “the people” Ford is working for?
Ford has attacked and undermined Ontario’s environmental protections. He ripped up the province’s cap-and-trade program without public consultation, plowed ahead with plans to build new highways through protected Greenbelt areas, and ignored key environmental laws.
He left low-income communities behind by slashing programs like the basic income pilot that helped Ontarians buy food, find and keep jobs and pay their bills. He scrapped planned increases to social assistance and cut protections for precarious workers. Meanwhile, he helped Ontario’s wealthiest line their pockets by doling out tax cuts and subsidies for big businesses like Loblaws and Amazon.
Ontario desperately needs political leaders who will set aside their differences and work together to protect our environment and build an economy that works for all of us, not just a wealthy few.
As Canada’s most populous province, Ontario has the opportunity and responsibility to lead the way in a just transition. This means investing in our communities and creating secure, low-carbon jobs and powering our economy with clean, affordable energy sources. It means providing funding and support for Indigenous nations to lead their own transitions. And it means supporting a basic income, which would provide a no-strings-attached income to support everyone who needs it through the energy transition and beyond — and we have evidence that it works.
Opponents of the kind of economic transformation we’re facing often ask how we’ll pay for it. But very few question the cost of inaction.
For a start, poverty costs Ontario up to $33 billion every year, according to a 2019 report by a collective of hunger-relief organizations. A do-nothing approach to climate change could cost the province up to $116 billion. We could make the rich pay their fair share into the public purse by taxing Ontario’s wealthiest. We have the resources and technology to build an Ontario where no one is forced to subsist in poverty, where our kids have a chance at a livable future. But not under the leadership of Ford’s PCs.
So on June 2, we need to vote with a better Ontario in mind. Vote for candidates who commit to tackling climate and inequality and have a track record that supports their commitments. Get involved with local campaigns working to drive these issues onto the political agenda. Speak to your friends, family and neighbours and encourage them to vote for candidates who will co-operate to build a better Ontario.
One thing is key: we must not forget how Ford has prioritized big business and wealthy elites ahead of everyday Ontarians. Our future depends on it.
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