This year showed us, once again, the importance of solidarity. We end 2021 almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic; a global health crisis that made startlingly clear the dire consequences of underfunding, privatization, and cuts to public services. But we also end 2021 with hope and a renewed vision for making this province better for everyone.
In 2021, amidst some of the most difficult circumstances in a generation, as a labour movement we showed up for each other. Thank you to each and every person who joined the work of the Ontario Federation of Labour in the fight for better working and living conditions for everyone in this province.
We started this year off by renewing the call to Repeal Bill 124, which continues to severely impact those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. While COVID-19 revealed how essential PSWs, childcare workers, nurses, and educators are, these workers continue to be denied better pay and their right to free and fair collective bargaining.
We took the Premier and his government to task on their inaction that caused so much unnecessary devastation. We launched physically distanced actions and I spoke to numerous media outlets about the urgent need for paid sick days. We were so loud that Ford’s Conservatives couldn’t ignore us. In April they announced the Worker Income Protection Benefit. But we know that’s far from enough. We need permanent, employer-paid sick leave now.
Throughout this year racialized communities continued to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, women continued to bear the brunt of this pandemic, and Indigenous communities remained without access to clean water. We reached out and worked together to provide support. We launched a petition to support MPP Jill Andrew’s Motion 89 for a Provincial Intersectional Gender Equity Strategy, provided support and solidarity to 1492 Land Back Lane, and launched a digital action to support MPP Sol Mamakwa’s, Bill 286 the Inherent Right to Safe Drinking Water Act.
On the 2021 Day of Mourning, we called for a suite of workers’ protections. We compiled status updates on three reports that call for action to keep workers safe and demanded that Premier Ford commit to act on five demands that span these reports:
- Legislate permanent paid sick days for all workers;
- Legislate and enforce preventative training standards;
- Provide the highest quality and amount of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to all workers;
- Vaccinate equitably and strategically, starting with frontline workers and impacted communities; and
- Ensure all workers are covered by the workers’ compensation system.
Once again, Ford failed workers.
We know Ford’s failures extend beyond his government’s pandemic response. From his refusal to step-up and fix the crisis at Laurentian University, to his unprecedented use of the notwithstanding clause to silence his critics by ramming through Bill 307, to his government’s report on the ‘Future of Work’ that could threaten labour standards for all workers. That is why we’ve continued to update our Ford Tracker tool so Ontarians won’t forget any of it.
Time and again, Ford has hurt workers. With a provincial election on the horizon on June 2, 2022 it is critical that Ontarians don’t forget Ford’s failures – we are going to make sure of it.
Earlier this year we released our new ad, #WeWontForget to remind Ontarians that if we want to rebuild an Ontario that actually works for people, forgetting what Ford has done isn’t an option. We also launched www.DougFordDisaster.ca, including a tool for people to write to themselves about what it has been like living under Doug Ford’s leadership.
Looking ahead, we need to do better than returning to normal. Now is the time to invest in people and the services they depend on, to ensure we never have to relive this tragedy.
I know we can do it because we have the solutions. We know what we need to build a stronger, healthier, and safer Ontario: meaningful investments in public services, a commitment to decent work, and prioritizing people over profit. Most importantly, I know we have the power to win.
Together, as Ontario’s labour movement, we can reimagine this new normal, we can address the inequities that far too many people in this province face, and we can fight for safe, healthy, and just workplaces and communities for all. Will you join me?