I posted yesterday about the election we’ve got in Ontario right now, and was pretty critical of Andrea Horwath’s NDP. I figured I could leave it there, not talk any more boring politics… and my good intentions went right out the window this morning when I read this: Tim Hudak Would Cut 100,000 Public Sector Jobs if Tories Win Election.
I was literally speechless. And that’s not hyperbole: I actually sat in front of my computer with my mouth open for a moment or two, wondering what the hell I just read.
Yep: To open his campaign, Tim Hudak announced he will cut one hundred thousand public sector jobs out of the Ontario economy. Good jobs, too: solid, middle-class, taxpaying jobs like teachers, civil servants, hydro workers, and so on. Apparently, by taking a hundred thousand people off the public payroll, it will create a million private sector jobs. Hudak did not, it is worth mentioning, specify exactly how this magical multiplication would take place, but that’s what he claims.
And he did it all in front of his “One Million Jobs” campaign banner.
The derisive howling from the internet started immediately.
First of all, I’m not sure how taking one hundred thousand well-paid, highly-skilled workers and dumping them into an already over-full employment market is going to help create jobs in the long run. This province’s economy quite simply cannot afford that kind of hit, because it’s not just a question of one hundred thousand families not having an income, it’s a question of one hundred thousand families not paying taxes, not buying consumer goods, not making their mortgage payments, not sending their kids to college. There are 13 million people in this province: putting our unemployment rate from 7.3% to 8.1% does not strike me as a productive start to a government’s term.
Second, even if this plan does somehow magically create jobs, I guarantee that those jobs are not going to be good jobs. Politicians are fond of saying “any job is a good job”, and let me tell you, they are fucking wrong. I spent about six years of my life working in various call centres, and a call centre job is not a good job: You’re underpaid; overworked; in an extremely high-stress environment; there’s no long-term job stability; and you don’t make enough to even pay taxes, much less buy a house. A call centre job pays the bills — maybe — and leave you just enough money to crawl along to your next paycheque without saving anything up… so when the call centre you work for inevitably loses its contract in favour of a cheaper site in Kuala Lumpur, you’re screwed. There may be “good job” call centres out there, but I’ve never seen one, nor even heard of one; In my early thirties I worked in three different call centres (two for IT, one for an airline) and the only thing I can say in their favour is that I didn’t quite starve to death while I was there. But I certainly had no opportunity to get ahead in the world. We don’t need a million call-centre type jobs in this province, we need a million solid, middle-class, pay-off-the-mortgage type jobs. Blue-collar jobs, white-collar ones, it doesn’t matter: what matters is a living income and stability for workers. And I don’t see that happening with Hudak’s proposal.
Third, Tim Hudak’s plan, even if it were a sure-fire success (and it ain’t), isn’t what Ontarians are going to want to vote for at the moment. This province is sick to fucking death of “austerity” and “tightening the belt.” I’m not saying we should be demanding pie-in-the-sky, but we’ve been cut to the bone already. Just as Rob Ford’s “gravy train” turned out to be an illusion, it’s disingenuous to claim that there’s some sort of fat in the public sector that can be trimmed for the benefit of us all. Our services have been cut, our infrastructure is crumbling, and unemployment is on the rise… and the Liberals have put forth a plan to try and address that. You can trumpet the need for “hard choices”… and people simply aren’t going to want to hear it. The majority of us have been making hard choices since Mike Harris got elected, and sometimes that hard choice is whether we pay the bills or eat tonight. As a province, as a people, we’re sick of it. We don’t want another Harris government.
There are very few people that Tim Hudak’s plan is going to appeal to. Cutting public daycare and teachers is going to alienate young families (not to mention the families of day care and education workers generally); cutting the Ontario Power Authority and the College of Trades is going to alienate blue-collar workers (and his anti-union stance is already a millstone around his neck with that demographic) and cutting Local Health Integration Networks will alienate healthcare professionals.
Ten years ago, Hudak might have gotten away with this plan. Hell, even five years ago. But the discourse changed when Occupy Wall Street went viral: people are no longer talking about austerity, they’re talking about income inequality. It’s been twenty years since Mike Harris took office and started his neoconservative “common sense revolution”, and things have not improved in this province. Quite the opposite, in fact. Tim Hudak is trying to position himself as Mike Harris 2.0… and doing so quite successfully. But he has woefully misread what Ontarians want: they want prosperity and jobs. They don’t want hard choices and belt-tightening; they don’t want the kind of upheaval and trouble that Harris brought to this province.
Tim Hudak himself is actually quite an unmemorable politician: Katherine Wynne, some wags have pointed out, is running against Harper, Harris and Hudak… in that order. And so far the only thing Hudak has done to make himself stand out in that company is promising to cut one hundred thousand jobs as soon as he’s elected.
I have the sneaking suspicion that, with this one photo-op, Tim Hudak has handed the election to Katherine Wynne on a silver platter. If not outright, then certainly he’s given her the kind of talking point that she can hit him with again and again and again.
He tripped coming off of the bench: it’s a rookie mistake, and ya hate to see it.