JULY 24, 1995 – Mike Harris has joined Ralph Klein and Paul Martin in the war against the poor.
Within days of taking office, Harris announced cuts totalling $1.9-billion. Fully $500-million of these cuts come right out of the pockets of the poorest in the province, through a 21% cut in social assistance (welfare) payments.
Harris is accumulating a war chest from the pockets of the poor to give to the rich next year. He intends to cut taxes 30%, and those tax cuts will disproportionately benefit the richest in the province.
There is a concerted attempt by governments across Canada to make the poor pay for an economic crisis caused by the rich and the corporations. In province after province, this has been met by anger and protests.
In Toronto, more than 1,000 daycare workers went on an illegal walkout, the day before Harris’ budget announcement, to protest the planned cuts to daycare subsidies and attacks on daycare workers’ wages. This was the first illegal walkout by Ontario members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) since the 13,000 strong hospital strike of 1981.
Today the front is against the poorest and the least organized, those on welfare, those needing daycare subsidies. But make no mistake, the attack on the poor is just the first blow. Harris hopes to win support for his attack on “welfare scroungers”, and then use that support to assault the rights of workers by repealing the anti-scab legislation introduced by the previous NDP government.
Workers at ADM-Ogilvie in Quebec know how serious such an assault would be. They have been on strike for more than a year in part because their employer has been allowed to use scabs to replace them.
Harris, Klein and the right are targeting the poorest in society because they know that the poor have few organizations, and little economic clout. They hope that the leaders of the union movement don’t notice this attack, because they also know that it is the millions of organized workers in Canada who have the power to mobilize massively against the cuts.
We need solidarity against the cuts. When the poor are attacked, we are all attacked. We need to fight every cut to every sector of society. Only solidarity can win. And if necessary, we need to do what drywallers in Toronto did in July, when they didn’t wait for permission, but wildcatted against their employer.
© 1995 Paul Kellogg. This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license.
 Laurie Monsebraaten, “Day-Care Cuts Called an Attack on Children,” Toronto Star, July 21, 1995.
 Ron Rosenthal, Where Is CUPE Going? Lessons of the 1981 Ontario Hospital Strike (Toronto: Workers’ Action Books, 1981).
 Mike King, “Mill Strike Hits One-Year Mark,” The Gazette (Montreal), June 6, 1995.
 Tony Van Alphen, “Striking Carpenters to Vote on New Deal,” Toronto Star, July 14, 1995.