The revolution you ask for

Pharmacare, a living wage, an old leaf. One of these things reminds me of the Liberal governmentWhen I was in high school studying European history we studied revolutions and explored the age-old hypotheses of whether they are brought on by rising or declining expectations.

Did people come together to make change because they feared things were getting worse, or because they saw that things could get better?

Take, for example my beloved home province of Ontario. The ruling Liberal Party, whether under Dalton McGuinty or Kathleen Wynne has been not dreadful. Compared to the Harris/Eves Tories. They’ve taken the boot of power and privilege off the neck of the working poor. Or at least they’re not quite leaning in as hard. That’s laudable.

And they’ve done some good things. But each of these initiatives has always made me ask, ‘well why not something better?’

For example: full day kindergarden. Great idea. Long overdue. Their own report recommended it ages ago. But it also recommended wrap-around care for working parents. Why did the McGuinty government jettison that? It made the addition of a few extra hours of learning almost meaningless to working parents.

Another example: the minimum wage. It’s long past time it went up. And the Liberals did increase it and weathered the storm of business backlash. Good for them. But why $14 an hour? Where is that a living wage? Not many places in Ontario I’d wager. If the sun still sets and rises after the boost to $14, why not do it right?

And pharmacare for under-25s. Indeed. It’s good that young people will be able to actually follow treatments mandated by their doctors. But on what planet do drugs stop costing money when you turn 26? Not this one. And in what way are over-26ers less worthy of health care coverage?

It’s nice that the government has come out with a new standard lease for landlords and tenants. But do they have any plans to re-regulate rents after the Harris government un-hinged them?

One could ask the same question about social assistance rates. The Tories cut them dramatically. Have the Liberals repaired them?

And through all this there’s the classic wheeler dealing on public assets like Ontario Hydro, air ambulance service and other infrastructure. Every time they touch this it has a whiff of nonsense which gives credence to the feeling that someone is making a fortune off of this.

Maybe they need to do this because it’s the nature of politics and it’s how they have to play.

But I for one want to do politics differently. The problems we face — environmental, economic and social will not be solved by half measures and horse trading. I want a government that stops thinking about how it can skate around the rich and powerful and starts doing what needs to be done.

Which is why I’m supporting Joel Harden for the ONDP in Ottawa Centre, my riding. And which brings me back to my original point. Politics have gotten so bad — especially south of the border — that asking for these things: actual pharmacare, child care, a living wage, actual action on climate change — seems revolutionary. To me they just seem to be common sense.

But the one thing I learned from the people who got behind Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn is that if you don’t ask for a revolution, you won’t get one.


  1. Similarly, when I see another middle-aged, straight, wealthy, white man running for office, I say “why not someone who isn’t drawn from the privileged elite?”

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