Over the past year we’ve seen a bit of a blue wave wash over parts of Canada, as conservative governments have gotten elected in various places. This has made Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer very happy, as he feels this will help him in the Fall. Mind you, he’s been accused of basically following some of these provincial Conservative leaders like Ontario’s Doug Ford and Alberta’s Jason Kenney. It’s an accusation that seems to be sticking, as they have tried to keep the Ford government out of the spotlight, seemingly because of their effect on Scheer’s poll numbers.
And when you look at the policy pronouncements that have come out of the Scheer Conservatives so far, a lot of them seem to be mirrors of policies coming from those provinces. That can easily lead one to look at what is happening in those provinces led by Conservative Premiers and get a bit of a glimpse into what the Federal future could be if they won Federally.
With at in mind, lets look at a few stories from those places that might be a preview of a future under a Prime Minister Scheer. We’ll start in Ontario, where for a year now the Ford Conservatives have been cutting and slashing spending at will. Many of those cuts are starting to cause serious pain, along with serious consequences. We saw two stories with prime examples of just that yesterday that speak to the consequences of those Conservative cuts:
The Conservatives cuts to legal aide funding have been extreme, to the point where it was reported on Tuesday that these cuts would actually cost taxpayers in Ontario much more than the cuts themselves. Then yesterday though we saw this story about how now legal aide will not pay lawyers to do bail hearings. Think about that everyone and the impacts of this. Think about the impact of people not being able to get legal help at the very beginning of the legal process, which will likely lead to more people being held in detention simply because they cannot afford a lawyer for a basic process. Of course, we know that will affect certain groups of people more than others, which throws more inequity into a system that already has major issues in that way. This seems destined for a legal challenge of it’s own, but even on it’s face its just cruelty that didn’t need to happen, nor should.
The other story was one that also bothered me deeply. Thanks to the cuts from the Ford Conservatives, school boards are trying to figure out ways to make up for lost revenue. The potential solution? Charging teachers for parking at schools. The board is saying that all the revenue will be put back in the classroom, but I find it very distasteful to basically force teachers to pay $200 a month out of their own pockets to fund these cuts. And that’s on top of the thousands most teachers spend every year out of their own pockets to fund classroom resources that boards won’t and can’t already. This would basically amount to a near $2,000 pay cut for all teachers, and that’s on top of the fact that the Ford Conservatives want to freeze their wages already.
It’s insulting, but for me this idea also points to another big problem with these cuts. A big city board like Toronto Catholic is located in a place where those parking spaces are very valuable, especially when you consider what people pay to park in the city everyday. For this board, that might be an asset they can use to offset those costs, but most boards don’t have that luxury. Boards in places like Kingston, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Windsor can’t charge their teachers $10 a day for parking because there simply isn’t the market for such a thing. Also look at the basic math: Toronto Catholic believes they can raise $6 million a year with this, which can help offset over $32 million in cuts. But that’s because Toronto Catholic is a massive board, with lots of schools and staff. Smaller board simply don’t have that scale and those amounts, so there is no way that those boards could look to similar methods to offset cuts. That puts those smaller, rural and Northern boards at a huge disadvantage compared to big city boards, meaning that those boards will have to make deeper cuts. That will ensure that those students in those boards will be hurt more and will have their education affected more. In a public school system that’s supposed to ensure equity across the province, this is having the polar opposite effect. But’s that’s life in Doug Ford’s Ontario in 2019. How are things going in Jason Kenney’s Alberta? Well it was just Monday that he was celebrating Public Service Week:
Yep, that’s the Premier thanking public servants for their hard work and dedication to Albertans. I’m sure they really appreciated the warm wishes and such. So how long did that appreciation and those warm feelings last? Well less than two days it seems:
Yes folks, Jason Kenney’s Conservatives are moving legislation “allowing” them to unilaterally the collective agreements of Alberta’s civil servants. What a way to say thanks, hey? Wow, what nerve. What makes this worse is that you know this is going to court and you know that the courts are going to strike this down. How do we know this? Because this has happened before, seemingly always with conservative parties instigating it. The most famous recent case of this was British Columbia trying this with their teachers. That went to the Supreme Court where the justices smacked the BC government around, forcing them to undo everything, hire back teachers and pay them all back pay. Since then, BC has had a chronic teacher shortage because, shockingly, lots of teachers weren’t so ready to go work in BC. Hmmm, I wonder how that would be the case? But here we see Jason Kenney running full on into this same action, guaranteeing that somewhere down the line they will be smack around too. But in the meantime, he’ll get to look “tough” as he fights against unions who are only asking that the Government of Alberta keep it’s work and honour their contracts. That seems like a reasonable request, but hey, this is now Jason Kenney’s Alberta.
These three examples of what the leading lights of the Conservative party are doing are all the kinds of things that you can easily see Andrew Scheer doing himself. You can easily picture that kind of fall out from Conservative cuts in Ottawa because we’ve seen that play before. And you can easily picture a Scheer Conservative government trying to break public sector contracts because it suits their political ends. What is happening in those two provinces serve as very good previews for what we might see if Mr. Scheer managed to become Prime Minister in the Fall, a preview that people should heed. At this point, I think that both Mr. Ford and Mr. Scheer would tone it down and just law low, but as we’ve seen, it’s Doug and Jason that are the alphas in this relationship, not Andrew. As we get closer to the election we’ll see more examples of stories like these and each one will serve as a potential preview and a cautionary tale, one that might make people think twice before they elected a Conservative in their riding. Those previews are all around us, it’s now just a matter of if Canadians will pay attention to them.