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LETTER: Province's 'snow job' needs to be stopped

'Our whole way of life is being destabilized so some big corporations can gain,' says letter writer of widespread issues resulting from provincial politicians
2019-08-22 Doug Ford in Orillia 2
Premier Doug Ford, second from left, was joined by, from left, Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop, Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MPP Doug Downey and Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin. Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters File Photo

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We are being snowed. You would think that as Canadians we would recognize it, but no, we are standing still and letting it happen — all because we failed to learn two lessons.

Our whole way of life is being destabilized so some big corporations can gain, and we’re standing still.

First, we can’t seem to understand that a public company that provides a service that we all need and therefore cannot opt out of is always going to cost us less than a private company. A public company charges consumers enough money to cover its operating costs. A private company charges enough to cover operating costs and profit. More about that in a minute.

The second thing we have failed to understand is the difference between socialist Canada and capitalist America. Yes, I said socialist, and no, it’s not a dirty word.

To my first point: If you need proof to understand the real sickening cost of privatization, look at the stupid decision that we allowed to happen not too long ago. We privatized Ontario Hydro. We believed politicians who told us that a private company would do a better job of spending our money wisely. A private company would be more motivated to trim wasteful spending and save taxpayers money.

They created a crisis by underfunding the system and then criticized it for not working. We were convinced that it would cost us less if it was privately owned. How’s that working out for you? Has your hydro bill gone down? How is it going to feel when the government stops subsidizing your hydro bill?

Do you think hydro costs are a factor when restaurants like R Cottage in Washago close because they can’t make a profit? Do you look back and wonder why we didn’t have a mass protest and revolt when the sale of Ontario Hydro was proposed?

Not only did we not understand that lesson then; we are failing to do that math again on two fronts. Hey, if we were stupid enough to fall for it once, maybe we’ll let them snow us again. If I was in big business, I’d try again, too.

Oh, they are trying again, all right. Look at hospitals. They got taxpayers all riled up about the high cost of health care. Then they capped nurses’ wages to save us money. They clawed back money from health care. Now no one wants to be a nurse because the working conditions are so terrible and the wages so bad that it just isn’t worth the low quality of life you have to accept to do the job.

Hospital staff are beyond burnt out, hospitals are underfunded and we don’t understand why wait times are so high and we can’t be seen in an emergency room without a shockingly long wait time.

Our hospitals are contending with an opioid crisis, COVID, the flu and a mental health crisis with insufficient funds. Taxpayers can’t afford the high cost of health care, we are told. Hospital workers are being required to exhaust themselves, stress themselves beyond belief and not have access to good care for mental health issues and stress-related illnesses that our system is causing.

Pretty soon it’s going to seem like a good idea to privatize health care. Then you could walk into a privately owned hospital and throw your money down and get that new knee immediately.

Do you still think it will be more cost effective that way? Operating cost, plus profit. Remember lesson one. Remember that public and private hospitals will be contending with the added cost of the profit our private hydro company now requires. That private hydro company profits from our hospital hydro bill. That private hydro company is making profits and they no longer return the excess to the consumers like they did when it was private.

Remember the rebate cheques from the Orillia Water Light and Power Commission? Remember that health care and hydro are not optional splurges that we can just decide to tighten our belts and not make.

Then there is education. The same scam is being run there. This government is actively in the process of undermining your education system so that it looks like it is broken and like it is an unacceptable burden to the taxpayer, so that it looks like a good idea to privatize it.

If you haven’t been in a school in a while you could be forgiven for not knowing that things are not like they used to be. In the Mike Harris days, principals were removed from the teachers union. Good thing, too. Otherwise they would all be on strike because of their working conditions.

You might not know that among other excessive demands, principals are staying after school to look after students whose buses are regularly an hour late coming to get them at night. Being a bus driver is such a terrible job that no one wants to do it. It wasn't a problem to hire bus drivers before.

Principals also sometimes have to leave their office and go teach classes. Not too often because usually they can check their unqualified supply teacher list to find an unqualified parent to come in and cover classes. We now have these lists because there aren’t enough supply teachers left. Turns out that if you have to teach 25 to 30 kids of all makes and models with little or no educational assistant (EA) support, it’s a stressful job and a lifestyle that no one wants, not even for teachers’ wages.

The fact that we have allowed the government to portray teachers as greedy, money-grubbing profiteers isn’t doing a lot to sell the job, either. Who wants to be a teacher when no one likes teachers and they are an object of scorn?

We hear so much about overpaid teachers. Why is it OK for firefighters and police officers to be properly paid and to be compensated in keeping with inflation, but not education teachers, education workers or health-care employees?

Does the fact that most of them are women play a role in these decisions? When women are underpaid, they can’t protect their kids. Ask a police officer what the No. 1 reason women stay in abusive relationships is. At least if they stay, their kids will be fed. How many taxpayer dollars are spent on jails because we didn’t properly take care of people when they were young? Are we saving money yet?

Unions are said to be too strong. I’m sure glad I’m not in a weak union like principals, who are being required to burn themselves out and go the extra mile every day holding up an underfunded, destabilized system. EAs, you’ve heard a lot about lately. Underpaid, underappreciated and overworked. It’s no mystery why we can’t hire them, either.

You probably think that when little Johnny is having a tough time in math class and he can’t keep up to the other kids, an EA will be there to help him. Not so. EAs are only provided for students requiring attendant care. In other words, students who need to be helped with toileting, being spoon fed their lunch or restrained physically so they can’t hurt others or themselves.

Surely, then, if a student requiring feeding is not eating, that EA would be able to help Johnny with his math? Oh, no. That would be a waste of an EA. That EA won’t be left in that classroom to assist the teacher when it isn’t lunchtime. They don’t have time to be an extra set of eyes in the classroom to watch for kids who are struggling academically or emotionally. They will be reassigned at that time to another student, perhaps for toileting.

EAs are exhausted because there aren’t enough of them, and they underpaid. I wonder why there aren’t enough of them. We have unqualified parents coming in to cover for EAs who are away, too. There aren’t as many of those, though, because EAs have no short-term disability coverage and now the government wants to take their sick days.

They can’t afford to be away. Also, who wants to come work as an EA, scrambling from class to class spoon feeding, being bitten or hit, toileting and being paid peanuts when they could be paid a bit more and be a supply teacher? How about custodians who have too much to do, not enough time to do it in and are grossly underpaid? This in spite of the fact that we are in the middle of a health crisis and our schools need to be clean more than ever.

Do the math. Stress out the bus drivers, the teachers, the principals, the custodians and the EAs. Add on a crazily inflated hydro bill. Oh, yes, schools pay hydro, too. Destabilize the system. Make it look broken. Then suggest privatization and a voucher system as a way of “saving taxpayer money.” It will be cheaper that way, won’t it?

This is the rant I was having recently when someone asked: “Are you a Democrat?” Back to my second failed lesson. I’m a Canadian and an Ontarian. I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. I’m a socialist and, no, it’s not “same diff.” It’s very, very different. And no, it is not the same thing as communism.

Generations of people before us understood that and worked very hard to make sure that it isn’t the same at all. If you don’t think that they didn’t work hard to give us these social systems, just imagine for a minute how difficult it is going to be to buy back Ontario Hydro to undo all the damage its sale has done and is doing. That’s if we get out our shovels and stop the snow job now.

Paying private companies for hydro, for health care and for education is never going to be cheaper than funding public systems. For-profit companies care about profits, not consumers. Hydro, health care and education are not optional expenses. We all need them sooner or later. We are better off paying for them together. We already had this figured out. Our grandparents must be spinning in their graves. We should be loud and angry.

Maybe if Doug Ford had finished school he could do this math, too. Maybe if Stephen Lecce was living on EA's wages he would have more appreciation for public schools. He sure wouldn’t be able to put his kids in a private school then.

Take your shovel to Queen’s Park. Stop the snow job before we are in too deep to dig out.

Tammy Wilson
Ramara Township