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Northumberland Labour Council releases statement regarding Ontario's Back to School plan

Northumberland Labour Council releases statement regarding Ontario’s back to school plan

As usual, the school year is set to begin, but there is nothing usual about this year with Covid still a risk to the public’s health. The only thing usual is the Conservatives’ and Stephen Lecce’s apparent lack of concern for our children. The Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, was noticeably absent when Dr. Kieran Moore, the Ontario Chief Medical Officer, introduced the 2021-2022 Back to School Plan during his press conference on August 3rd.  This plan, recycled from the 2020-2021 plan, is contradictory in its details and far more permissive than the previous plan with the return of field trips, school assemblies, music programming and extracurricular activities. Cohorting is present in the classroom, but is abandoned in school-sanctioned activities such as bus travel, school assemblies, mealtimes in cafeterias, and extracurriculars, with some of these activities not requiring masking.

Lecce has had 72 weeks to make a plan that would keep all individuals in a school safe and healthy.  Instead, with a month left before the remainder of Ontario’s students return to school, there are no details regarding outbreaks in school and case management, there is no extra funding to reduce class sizes, there is no extra funding to offer the mandated virtual learning, and there is no extra funding for additional supports to help those students who have experienced difficulties in the last two school years. School boards have been tasked with designing a plan to encourage vaccination rates in the 12 to 17-year-old age bracket. The Minister of Education is putting the health and safety of the approximately 1,131,656 elementary students from JK-6 who are ineligible for vaccination at risk (Number from the 2019-2020 Ministry website).

Class sizes are back to pre-pandemic sizes as there is no funding to keep them lower this year.  Kindergarten and Grades 4 through 12 will often contain more than 30 students. Once again, teachers have been instructed to remove extra furniture so that students can sit 45 cm apart unmasked in some cases. Will these children be safe during those unmasked times?

This 'plan' is months late and millions of dollars short. This is clearly putting our kids at risk. Minster of Education Stephen Lecce has said he is listening to the experts, but is he? The Ontario Science Table in conjunction with Sick Kids, CHEO, Unity Health, Holland Bloorview, London Children’s Hospital, McMaster Children’s Hospital, and Kingston Health Sciences Centre issued a plan urging the government to lower class sizes, put proper ventilation in schools, and provide paid sick leave for parents, among many other suggestions. However, as in 2020-2021, Stephen Lecce chose to select the lowest cost items from this plan such as increasing the funding to provide more HEPA filters to deal with the ventilation issues, but HEPA filters and increased MERV filters in HVAC enabled schools are just a temporary fix. Once again, Lecce’s band-aid solutions are the hallmark of the return to school plan while a new and highly transmissible Covid variant is on the rise.

Dan Tobin

President

Northumberland Labour Council

Residential School Statement

Northumberland Labour Council

Residential School Statement

The Northumberland Labour Council is saddened to hear about the discovery of a mass burial site containing the bodies of two hundred and fifteen indigenous children at the former Kamloops Residential School in B.C. There are not enough words to express the grief and anger that our community feels. The discovery of the two hundred and fifteen buried children reminds us that we must focus on the shameful acts towards the Indigenous Peoples in Canadian history. The First Nations, Inuit and Metis community members continue to face abuse, violence and neglect from the Canadian government. We need to take action now.

The Northumberland Labour Council is urging Canadian government to move on several actions.

  • Have properly funded archaeological investigations continue to take place at all former residential school sites across Canada and publicly report on all unmarked graves.

 

  • Identify the buried children, and inform their families. Return children to their family for proper burial. 

 

  • Put an end to all litigation against the residential school survivors of St. Anne’s and properly compensate these residential school survivors.

 

  • Put an end to all litigation against the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society and pay the $40,000 as awarded by the Human Rights Tribunal.

 

  • End the water crisis that exists in our First Nation communities and provide them access to clean drinking water.

 

  • Implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action

 

  • Create National Day of Mourning for Indigenous Peoples.

 

Dan Tobin

President

Northumberland Labour Council

Northumberland Labour Council Asks for No Election

With reports of a possible spring or early summer election, Northumberland Labour Council is concerned about the health and safety of election workers, volunteers, and voters. We are asking for No Election until majority of Canadians are vaccinated against Covid-19.

Letter sent to Prime Minister Trudeau, Federal Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole, Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and local MPP Conservative Philip Lawrence.

Re: Possible Spring Election

 

On March 1, 2021, Global news reported that a House of Commons committee urged Trudeau not to call an election amid COVID-19.

 

In that report developed by the Procedure and House affairs committee, even Liberal members supported a recommendation calling for a commitment that there will be no election during the pandemic, unless Trudeau’s minority Liberal government is defeated on a confidence vote.

 

Yet the Liberal government continues to try and pass Bill C-19 which is about adding a new part to the Canada Elections Act that provides for temporary rules to ensure the safe administration of an election in the context of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

 

The Liberal government is reported to be saying this legislation needs to be passed because the government needs such measures only in case the government falls, but how can we be sure of that?

 

Like other media is reporting, and since Elections Canada has called our local riding, we too feel the liberals are preparing to call an election before the majority of Canadian adults are vaccinated.  We feel such a strategy is self-serving and unnecessary.

 

After a year of regularly recommending that we stay at home unless we have to go out, Northumberland Labour Council does not see how the same Liberal government can feel it is OK to call an election.   Where is the consistency in leadership and messaging during a pandemic?  Should the desire to have a majority government be more important than the health and safety of Canadians?  Where is the compassion for the thousands of election workers and volunteers, never mind the voters themselves?

 

Until the majority of adults are vaccinated, the concern remains that we could face a third wave in various areas within Canada because of the increased transmission risk due to the growing existence of variants.  It has been said that “we have learned over this past year that preventing the rise of cases is easier than flattening the curve”. (Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, the co-chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table).  

 

So let’s continue to do everything possible to prevent a third wave of spread, illness and death.  Northumberland Labour Council asks that the federal government wait until the majority of Canadians are vaccinated before even considering calling an election.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Dan Tobin,

President

Northumberland Labour Council

 

Reference:

 

https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/ts/opinion/star-columnists/2021/02/10/trudeaus-strategic-plans-aimed-at-june-election.html (Trudeau’s strategic plans aimed at June election)

 

Ontario Needs Paid Sick Days

Northumberland Labour Council is calling on the provincial government to
provide at least seven paid sick days per year to all workers and during a public
health crises fourteen paid sick days.


Northumberland Labour Council President Dan Tobin is concerned that Doug Ford
and other Conservative MPPs are arguing that paid sick days are a prohibitive
expense, claiming that now is not the time to tack on additional expenses to
small- and medium-sized businesses.


The Ontario conservative government continues its refusal to acknowledge health
experts’ advice regarding the issue of paid sick time. Experts continue to report
that outbreaks in long-term care facilities have been particularly caused by staff
working while sick, and that existing policies aren’t enough.


Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, Barbara Yaffe, reported last
month that their “experience has been that outbreaks in long-term care tend to
be introduced by workers.”


In addition, Premier Doug Ford and his Conservative MPP’s are also arguing that
people do not need Paid Sick Days, that they can use CRSB if they are sick. Several
problems arise when CRSB requires one to apply after they are sick, CRSB is NOT
available if a person misses less than 50% of their work week, CRSB is only
temporary, and only restricted to COVID-19.


The Northumberland Labour Council and health experts are not the only ones
concerned about the lack of paid sick days. A group of Toronto and Hamilton-area
mayors have called on Ontario to take action on sick pay and to introduce further
provincial support.


As to the cost to businesses, we have to ask what is the cost of doing nothing?
Employees who are low-wage earners or are precariously employed are going into
work sick; thus, spreading illness. Without paid sick days, these employees have
no other choice but to work. Taking a day off without pay can have serious
repercussions for many. All of this is happening today and it’s happening here in
Northumberland County.

Dan Tobin states: “3.9 million Ontarians do not have access to any paid sick leave,
and most of those people are front-line, low-wage or otherwise marginalized or
vulnerable workers.” These vulnerable people who are disproportionately
impacted by a lack of paid sick days would be minimum wage earners, other low-income earners, and single parents.


In addition to limiting the spread of disease, paid sick days will lead to reducing
employee turn-over, better job security, boosting morale, and raising worker
productivity.


Northumberland Labour Council is encouraging those who support paid sick days
to contact their MPP and to demand that "vulnerable front-line workers are taken
care of now and into the future."


Sincerely
Dan Tobin
President
Northumberland Labour Council

Official Statement on Order of Ontario Awarded to Former Premier Mike Harris

“The Order of Ontario is the province’s highest honour. It is reserved for Ontarians from all fields of
endeavour and backgrounds, whose excellence has left a lasting legacy in the province, Canada and
beyond. Members of the Order are a collective of Ontario’s finest citizens, whose contributions have
shaped – and continue to shape – the province’s history and place in Canada.” (Ontario Government Website)


Northumberland Labour Council joins countless others in calling for the retraction of the Order of
Ontario to former Premier Mike Harris. While there is no doubt that Mike Harris’ tenure as leader of this province left a lasting legacy of sorts, the idea that his reprehensible record reflects excellence does not pass muster. The damage his leadership has caused, and continues to cause, in this province is beyond compare as it continues to reverberate throughout many of our public institutions and the lives of the most vulnerable in this province. Mike Harris does not deserve to be included in the Order of Ontario based on this legacy.


For so many in Ontario, this ill-advised recognition of Mike Harris by Doug Ford’s Conservative
government, exposes the true values and attitudes that Doug Ford holds towards public services. The memories of the heartless and insensitive behaviour of the Harris administration are still being felt by Ontarians in all sectors. The 1995 “Common Sense Revolution” was the start of the Harris legacy of destruction, marginalization, the erosion of rights and safety, and the decline of the province of Ontario. This hardly describes a legacy of excellence.


The words of Mike Harris haunt Indigenous groups and others as they were the words that set into motion the events that led to the OPP killing Dudley George. This is not reconciliation in any way, shape, or form. In the words of Alderville First Nation Chief Dave Mowat, “This will remain forever a bad decision and a stain on the selection process by this advisory council.” At a time when the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s 94 “Call to Actions” are just starting to be implemented, to reward Mike Harris for these actions is repugnant. It flies in the face of any progress we have made with the First Nations of our Province.


Mike Harris’ legacy is one of slash and burn – he did not lead for all of us, but for the select few. A few examples of this include his massive cuts to welfare rates and social housing which saw homelessness rise dramatically. We will never forget the Harris government shutting down the Anti-Racism Secretariat and repealing employment equity legislation all while disparaging unions and what they stood for. His attacks on workers’ rights and public services demonstrated the disdain he felt towards unions. Unions are self-funded and powerful enough to disrupt his messaging, so they needed to be shut down. The Days of Action – general strikes in cities across the province were staged to protest his agenda. Every year, new attacks on collective bargaining were brought forward and insults hurled towards the public servants that allow Ontario to function. Massive cuts to healthcare arrived along with the closure of hospitals. Through John Snobelen and his “Create a Crisis in Education”, Mike Harris began to attack and decimate Ontario’s public education system. The effects of his changes to the funding formula alone is another legacy still in play today.


The privatization of public services was a priority item for Mike Harris. He lowered the standards of care for seniors, along with expanding the corporate for-profit industry into long-term care homes as well as homecare. COVID-19 has revealed what those working in the sector know too well: these companies are making an immense profit from his business model that is based on poverty wages, precarious work, and cutting corners. Sitting on the board of Chartwell making six figures a year for a part-time position haunts the families of all those losing their lives.


The undermining of workplace safety by reducing regulations was another trademark of Mike Harris. When Mike Harris cut safety standards and inspections, the water system in the town of Walkerton was put into peril with over 2,000 residents sickened and seven fatalities occurring. Tainted water is only one of his legacies for now, with his addition to the Order, that he is being rewarded for.


One must question how a supposedly neutral advisory council on the Order of Ontario can make a recommendation like this. Political payback comes to mind. Ford’s appointees to this committee reek of privilege and many are proud donors of the Conservative party.


The suffering felt by Ontarians because of the Mike Harris Legacy continue on a grand scale today: long-term care homes devastated by illness and disrepair; healthcare workers exhausted and many underpaid; students, parents, educators abandoned as they strain to make a broken system work; workers that are unable to quarantine with no paid sick days; mass evictions and increased homelessness; local businesses destroyed while corporate donors increase their profit margins. Our current Ford government has opened Chapter 2 of the Mike Harris legacy.


Circling back to the criteria of the Order of Ontario: “whose excellence has left a lasting legacy in the province”, “collective of Ontario’s finest citizens, whose contributions have shaped – and continue to shape – the province’s history”


Mike Harris has fulfilled the lasting legacy in a disastrous and catastrophic manner. His contributions have shaped and continue to shape the province’s history in ways that Ontario may never recover from. Somewhere along the way, the advisory council missed the words “excellence” and “finest citizens”.


We, Northumberland Labour Council, call for a retraction of the Order of Ontario to Mike Harris.