Tory moves suffocate social justice

Social Justice
Nobodyelected the Conservatives to Queen’s Park sotheycould put Metro municipalitiesunder trusteeship.

Nobodyelectedthemsotheycouldstripcitizens of theirvoting power on schoolmatters, whichthey plan to do by emasculatingschoolboards and cutting salaries of trustees soseverelytheirday jobs willleavethem time only to beshadows of their former selves.

No one electedthem to unload long termhealth care on municipalities, the cost of whichisdestined to grow by leaps and bounds as the population ages…and thendisenfranchisecitizensagain by creating a provincial agencywill have charge of controlling long-term care services. In otherwords, taxation withoutrepresentation.

No Conservative before the electionsaidtheyweregoing to turn over to gravelpitoperators the responsibility of monitoring theirownoperations.

 

No Conservative saidtheyweregoing to disembowelrule of lawunder the EnvironmentalAssessmentAct by expandingministerialdiscretion.

 

Theyneversaidtheyweregoing to kill the Environmental Compensation Corporation whose job was to offeradvice and, whereneeded, financial assistance to people seeking compensation as a result of a toxicspill.

 

No one guessedtheywould close the province’sinternationallyrenownedresearch centre for studyingoccupationaldiseases, largely, itappears, at the behest of multinational employerssuch as INCO.

 

I could go on and on . . . and on. The point isthat the process the Conservatives are using to bring in their changes, and the proceduresthatthey are going to enshrine in law — such as increasedministerialdiscretion, self-monitoring by gravelpitoperators, a provincial agency to control spending on long-termhealth care, denying help to victims of toxicspills — all theseprocesses are profoundlyanti-democratic.

 

Theylimit the ability of citizens to participate in decision-making, or theydetractfrom the rule of law, or theyundermine the ability of citizens to fight for theirrights.

 

As suchthey do extreme violence to the  principle of sustainability. Processiswhat’s important to sustainability, even more thanoutcome. If the processisparticipatory, if ittaps expertise from all affectedsectors of society, if it values co-operation and respect and diversity and social justice, the decisionswillbesustainable.

 

It waswiththesethoughts, in mindthat I called on the Ontario Social Development Council (OSDC), which has offices at College and Yonge Streets in Toronto. I’dhearditwasdeveloping a quality of life index and I wascurious about it.

 

You can imagine mydelight on readingtheir mission statement. It said: « Social justice and equity must form the basis for public policies.’’

 

Ah, yes. Conservatives, pleasetake note.

 

I met with OSDC acting director Diane Mandell, Peter Clutterbuck, executivedirector of the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto, and, alsofrom the social planning council, ArmineYalnizyan, program director.

 

Theiraimwassuccinctly put by Yalnizyan: « It all comes down to how wecanmeasure the well-being of people in waysthat are not relative to money.’’

 

Theirmeasurewillbe one number, similar to, but offsetting, the money measuresthatnowdictatepolicy, such as the GDP whichmeasureseconomicactivity, the consumer price index whichmeasures the cost of living, and the TSE index whichmeasures stock marketvitality.

 

« Whatour index will do ismake us much, much more aware of the impacts of public policies. Much more activist,’’ saysMandell.

 

Alreadythere are some 70 studiesunderwaythatwillfeedinto the crafting of the index. They are beingdone by different groups lookingintosuchthings as childmorbidity, poverty, mental health centres, women’sshelters, immigrant services, and social housing.

 

And thereis a Social Impacts Coalition whichis putting final touches to a web site on the Internet whereyoucanfind information from the studies and discover how youcancontribute. The addressis http;//community.web.net/act.cuts.net.

 

As Yalnizyansays, and itgives me greatheart: « They (the Conservatives) will do whatthey are going to do,’’ but there’sgoing to be a huge push for social justice comingfrom the bottom up.

 

Withfiercecriticism of theirmegaweekannouncementscomingevenfromtraditional allies, such as David Crombie and the Metro Toronto Board of Trade, that Conservatives are into damage control — promising to discussimprovements.

 

But that’s not the same as collaboration, and collaboration iswhere social justice starts.

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