On the same day that both Mike Schreiner and Andrea Horwath announced that COVID-19 had temporarily knocked them out of in-person campaigning, Guelph hosted its first visit from a provincial party leader that’s not based in this riding. Communist Party of Ontario leader, and former Guelph Communist Party candidate, Drew Garvie stopped by, and he told Guelph Politico that he’s got concerns going into the last few weeks of the campaign.
“[Doug Ford]’s been smart leading up until now with the whole license plate sticker refund, but a lot of people have forgotten the really harsh 2019 austerity budgets,” Garvie said. “Because of the economic situation, Ontario has been able to dole out a bit more cash this year, but working people should know that the economic future does not look certain, and it could quite easily be that next spring he’s passing harsher austerity budgets.”
Also concerning for Garvie, as well as local Communist candidate Juanita Burnett, are recent endorsements from unions for Ford and the Progressive Conservatives even while strikes are now underway around Ontario by the International Union of Operating Engineers and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.
“I hope people are paying attention to the strikes. I made it down to the picket line yesterday before work and was talking to a couple of the people on strike and they’re very firmly not in support [of Ford],” Burnett said. “I don’t know how many people are paying attention, but I know that in Guelph, and all over the place, the Conservative candidates aren’t showing up to talk about what they’re going to do, so people imagine what they want to imagine.”
“There’s a bit of a contradiction there because some of those unions have members have voted down contracts brought by their union leadership, so there’s some complex politics there,” Garvie added.
“It’s grossly overstated that Ford is somehow representing a new kind of Tory that is pro-working people or something, this is just a smokescreen,” Garvie explained. “He’s made some backroom room deals with a select few minority in the labour movement while Bill 124 has kept all public sector wages well below inflation, and that’s a majority women sector. He delayed the increase to $15 an hour for two years, took billions out of the pockets of the lowest paid workers in Ontario, so when you look at the big picture, there’s no truth to Ford being working for workers.”
Burnett said that she would like to get more chances to talk about the Communist platform and the ways that it will make life better for Ontario’s workers. “Things like giving workers 32 hours of work per week with no loss in pay means you have time to do things like look into politics, and pay attention to politics, and figure out what it is people really want,” she said.
The Communists are running 12 candidates around Ontario, so Garvie knows that they’re not going to form government, but from now until June 2, he says there’s a particular message he wants his candidates to spread as loud as they can.
“We’re going to do everything we can right now to try and get the message out there that Doug Ford needs to be defeated, and to try and cut through some of his cynical messaging that says he’s working for workers, and take that smokescreen away,” Garvie said. “If he is elected, if we get some majority or minority, we’re going to have to fight even harder, much harder than then we had to in the last four years.”
Garvie was stopping over in Guelph on Thursday as he was making his way to a campaign appearance in Hamilton. More stops in St. Catherines and Waterloo are coming in the next week as Garvie and Communists are trying to get leaflets to 60,000 store steps. The goal? To make people demand better from the main parties.
“There’s just a lot of talk about housing, but barely anything about tenants, reducing rents and the need to build social housing and really promoting the idea to make housing an actual human right in this country so that nobody’s homeless,” Garvie said.
“Our platform is anti-capitalist, and it seriously puts people before profit,” Burnett added. “It did make me laugh at one debate where Mike [Schreiner] actually said that they were putting people above profit. He stole our line, which helps get the message out. So I think we’re making a difference even if we’re not elected yet.”