Even under the best of circumstances, the Ontario Public Interest Research Group and the Government of Doug Ford would be on opposite sides of any policy debate. But a few weeks ago, it was announced that changes were coming to university funding that would put the existence of groups like OPIRG at stake. It’s almost enough to make you want to rebel…
The annual Rebel Symposium hosted by OPIRG takes place from February 8 to 10 at the University of Guelph. This year’s theme is “The Fight Against Ford: Resisting the Tory Attack.” Provocative, right? Who could give voice to this push to rebel against the Ontario government? Perhaps an old adversary of PC governments of the past.
Enter John Clarke. He started his career in anti-poverty activism when he helped to found the Union of Unemployed Workers in London, Ontario in 1983. Seven years later, he moved to Toronto to become an organizer with the newly formed Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. It was just a few years after that when Mike Harris and the Progressive Conservatives were elected to deliver a “Common Sense Revolution,” and then things got heated.
What happened next? Well, that’s all still fairly easy to Google despite the fact that it happened at the turn of the century, but the point is that Clarke has found himself again having to gear up to fight a PC government to protect the poor. Already the Ford government has cancelled the Basic Guaranteed Income pilot, rolled back previously announced increases to social assistance,stopped the minimum wage from going up to $15, and, most recently, proposed changes to OSAP that would turn grants into loans.
So is Clarke ready for a fight? He seems to be, and this week on the podcast he talks about that, plus how activism and protest strategies have changed in the last 16 years, and how the fight against Ford is different from the fight against Harris. He also talks about what he wants people to take away from his speech at the symposium, how he’s going to try and encourage people to get out of their comfort zones, and there’s even a little chat about the best way media should cover poverty issues.
So let’s talk about rebelling with a man that knows how on this week’s Guelph Politicast!
John Clarke will be speaking at OPIRG’s Rebel Symposium on Saturday February 9 at 12 pm in room 442 of the University Centre. You can find out more about the Symposium by clicking here.
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