Sunday, November 06, 2022

Breaking Down The Breakdown

 I've said some uncharitable things about the Premier of Ontario. 

I have been far too kind.


There once was a time -- it wasn't all that long ago, really -- when our society lived by certain norms. If a judge rendered a verdict, you could appeal it, eventually up to the highest judges in the land (if you had almost unlimited funds, of course, and that's part of why our norms are breaking down)...and if you were rebuffed there, you were S.O.L. 

There was a time -- and this was just a few years ago -- when if you lost an election, you went back to your party and brainstormed what policies might win you the next one. 

There was a time when, in the exceeding rare event that a politician, let alone the spouse of one, was attacked by a home invader, the country would almost without exception and regardless of politics rally around the people most closely affected. 

There was a time here in Canada where the idea that thousands of people might occupy a city for a month, terrorizing residents 24/7 and breaking innumerable laws in the process, would never have even been thinkable, let alone garnered widespread ardent support.

There was a time in Canada when we had this quaint thing called the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It wasn't a perfect document: contrary to extremely popular belief, Canadians have no Constitutional property rights, for instance. But it was the law of the land, to be superseded only in times of grave emergency, and most Canadians (the ones who even knew it existed, anyway) had few beefs with it. Certainly nobody outside Québec would ever consider overriding it.  (I don't want to get into why Québec is a special case, as it's completely outside the topic of this blog.) 

Time marches on. Catabolic collapse continues apace. One of the inevitable facets of civilizational decline is an erosion of social, political, and judicial norms. You are starting to see this play out at present. In the United States, the Supreme Court has gone rogue and intends to erase the last sixty years of progressive victories for women and minorities; there is a very real risk that if it follows through, more than half the population of the country will lose faith in it. A question to ponder: what happens when a majority of people decide the Supreme Court in their country is full of ka-ka?

There were sixty two court challenges seeking to overturn the last election in the United States. Sixty one of them failed; only one verdict could be considered a tiny victory for the insurrectionists. Those guardrails held, for the time being.  Completely unhinged conspiracy theories still circulate, thanks to a hermetically sealed conservative echo chamber impervious to challenge.

That same echo chamber has amplified ludicrous and offensive statements about the attack on Paul Pelosi (no, I'm not linking that toxic slime: if you don't trust me, go find it yourself). A third of the country seems to find a fractured skull hilarious. Given that fact, increasing political violence is assured.

Neither the sore loser of the last American election nor the lucky winner of the last Ontario election had anything resembling a coherent platform. Just empty slogans, because both the  American Republicans and the Ontario Conservatives have no wish whatsoever to govern, only to rule. 

The so-called "Freedom Convoy" that occupied Ottawa earlier this year spun its own web of lies about what it was and what it stood for. I'm still wondering how people luxuriating in a hot tub drinking donated beer can in any way be referred to as "oppressed", but they and their supporters insist we live in a "fascist tyranny". They want to "fuck Trudeau" (must be the hair)  but are virulently opposed to "man dates". Methinks they are very confused. 

Now let's talk about the monstrous authoritarian power grab that Doug Ford, the Premier of Ontario, is trying to get away with. It's a bloody big deal: international news, in fact, because governments outside of banana republics simply do not act this way. 

Let's first clarify that this education workers' strike is fully legal. Or at least it was, until the government declared otherwise. The government has spun this as concern for students, who have faced unprecedented chaos since March of 2020. I do get that, and I sympathize with parents and students. That said, the unprecedented chaos affected educational workers too. As one protest sign rightly noted, "our working conditions are their learning conditions."

I know some of my readers probably still look at compensation for teachers -- for what they very erroneously believe is a six hour day in a ten month year. (I always ask people: if you think teaching is such a cushy job, why aren't you a teacher? I've asked probably close to a hundred people that over the years, and I have yet to receive even an attempt at an answer.)

But this strike is not a teachers' strike. 

These are educational assistants, librarians, janitors...and they make, on average,  $39,000 a year. That may seem reasonable to you, until you consider the average one bedroom rental pushes $30,000 a year in many cities. You may say well, I don't make that much and I'm not getting a fucking raise. It's one of many strange blind spots people have been conditioned into having: it's always they make too much, never I don't make enough, and the one thing that tends to at least help make sure you DO make enough -- it's called a UNION -- is spit on by the same people who bitch about unionized people making money. Don't like it? Unionize. 

So anyway. Union in a legal strike position. Demanding, at first, an 11.3% wage increase, and of course the media seized on that. Outrageous! How dare they demand so much money?  Greedy little fucks! Don't they realize that figure, um, wait a second, barely covers inflation? Uh...shit, I just shot myself in the foot.

I hear you getting restive again. I haven't had a raise in five years. Do you have a union? No? Ahem.

The thing is, I have no problem if you disagree with the strike. It's a free country, after all, or at least for now. Even if you are vehemently opposed to strike action from education workers, you should still shudder at how far the government is going on this. They have invoked something called the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution. For people who fall asleep at the very notion of politics, please wake up for this, because the notwithstanding clause is meant for times of massive civil unrest or disaster. It suspends your Charter rights as a Canadian citizen, overriding sections 2 and 7-15 of that document. Wanna know what's in those sections? Oh, nothing much. Just your rights to

  • freedom of religion, thought and expression;
  • life, liberty and security of your person
  • freedom of movement, including the right not to be arbitrarily imprisoned
  • and oh, you can't use a court or a legislature to challenge any of this. Ever.
But hey, you can still vote. This will be in effect until the government drops it or is tossed out in a constitutionally guaranteed election. Our next one of those will be in 2026. Maybe in 2026 the next majority government elected by 18.1% of voters will be less diabolical.

(You read that right: Ford was elected to a majority government by just 18.1% of those of voting age. You millions of Ontarians who did not vote, this is YOUR doing as much as it is Doug Ford's. 


Even if you hate these people, do you hate them THAT much? And if the government is allowed to get away with this, who's next? I have opinions regarding Doug Ford. Is there a point in my future where those opinions might not be legally permitted to be expressed? That sounds crazy, but until it happened, I would have said this was crazy.

Crazy, but expected. We are deep into what Robert Heinlein called "The Crazy Years", and I'm afraid we have a long way to go. I can assure you the people will eventually win this war of many, many battles. History proves it. But the victory may well feel Pyrrhic, because the forces of business as usual will not give up easily, and they will, given the chance, strip us of all that is right and good in the world. 

In the meantime,  there is strength in solidarity. The union involved here is being supplemented by other, more powerful unions across the land. CUPE is calling for a general strike starting a week tomorrow. There hasn't been one of those in Canada since  the infamous Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. That was crushed, incidentally, after 40 days. It achieved nothing in the short term, but it did unite workers across the country into prolonged activism.

Let me tell you something, and please remember it.

There are many of us and few of them. They have all the power of the State behind them, and they intend to use it. We have our own power: a power much, much greater than theirs. We must only choose to exercise it ourselves. 

I have no idea what's coming over the next little while in Ontario. I'd like to think Ford will back down: he's a bully, and he's threatened to use that notwithstanding clause already, before a court granted his wish anyway. Remember: that clause makes whatever the government does unchallengeable. 

There is one clause stronger than what Ford invoked, called disallowance. It hasn't been used since 1943 and legal experts doubt it would survive a court challenge today. I don't expect Trudeau to go that far. His father might have, but Justin doesn't have Pierre's steel. 

Too bad. 

Buckle up, Ontario. And let's stand together.


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