Editor’s note: This letter was sent to Parry Sound Muskoka MPP Norm Miller and copied to this newspaper.
Dear Mr. Miller,
I am writing to you to express my deep concern for the provincial government’s actions regarding Bill 115 and your endorsement of them. I am not concerned about pay freezes or benefit reductions. These happen from time to time as the economy fluctuates. Indeed I was subject to these myself when I was on the payroll of the federal government in the late 1990s. What concerns me most is that this legislation denies a group of workers access to the Ontario Labour Relations Board and makes it illegal too for them to challenge parts of this bill in the courts.
Bill 115 has eliminated some basic democratic rights. I am certain that this bill contravenes Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and I understand that this supposition is the reason Bill 115 is being legally challenged as unconstitutional. I was delighted to hear of the challenge. I am alarmed, however, that the provincial government, with the assistance of you and the Conservative party, felt that suspending the democratic rights of a group of workers was acceptable, and the reason given was “fiscal responsibility.” In other words, democracy is only important when we are flush with cash.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am all for fiscal responsibility. Individuals, businesses, and governments all need to understand cash flows, budget and spend responsibly, but none of these things need to trample over the democratic rights of any person in this country. The rights I am referring to are access to a Labour Relations Board and the ability to go to the courts for an unbiased ruling when in a dispute with one’s employer. Canada is the amazing place it is because the government and its citizens have stood firm on its democratic principles, through both tough times and good times. The federal government managed to curb spending in the 1990s without suspending democratic rights or treating any group of workers in a disrespectful fashion, and we are a stronger nation because of it.
In contrast, the provincial government has treated the teachers of this province with disrespect, removed their right to bargain with their employer and removed some basic democratic rights. This is not the kind of creative thinking I want to see from my government. This exemplifies short-term thinking and convenience. When working for the federal government I recall many hours rethinking how we did things so we could do “more with less.” We had to hash out long term solutions to create financial sustainability over the long-term. That’s the kind of hard work I expect from my provincial government. Analysing all areas of government and seeing where things can be changed, perhaps radically, to create long-term sustainability. Trampling over the democratic rights of workers should never be a part of any such plan.
Mr. Miller, I wish to reiterate that Bill 115 is unacceptable because removing the democratic rights of any Canadian is unacceptable. I cannot support any political party, which believes that money trumps democracy. That philosophy is catastrophic. You can visit many third-world countries to see how it has played out. Canadians have never shied away from hard work nor doing what is right.
We can do better than this.