TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 15, 2011) - On behalf of 230,000 CUPE members in every community all across Ontario, we write this letter as an open and clear declaration of support for the Occupy Movement across the globe and right here in many communities in our Province.
Today, Toronto's city manager handed out eviction notices to the protesters in St. James Park. This follows the actions of some other mayors across Canada who have recently chosen to work against public interest by interfering with the Occupy movement and forced peaceful protestors out of public parks. By doing so, they are stepping on our collective right to free expression, but more importantly, they are ignoring both the international importance of the movement and its huge accomplishments.
For some, there seems to be confusion about that last element: the accomplishments. But they are both real and tangible.
For years, corporate leaders, many columnists and media outlets, and right-wing politicians have tried to hoodwink the public. They have used past and current fiscal crises, every one of which they created, to enforce a climate in which public services, responsible democratic government, fair wages and supporting the economic well-being of the majority of people have been made into things to attack.
In a few short weeks, the Occupy movement has successfully changed the public debate. Corporate attacks on the majority of people continue, aided by Stephen Harper and Dalton McGuinty, who continue to blindly insist that corporations and the rich must get tax breaks in order for our economy to recover. This is simply untrue. The truth is our current economic system is broken and needs to be fixed. And now people are talking about the real problems of a society that empowers only a rich and powerful one percent, and leaves everyone else behind.
This change in public debate is necessary, healthy, and long overdue. It is one we at CUPE must support and encourage. A healthy democracy is one in which all citizens participate on a level playing field. It is not one in which a handful of billionaires have exclusive, back-room access to power. It's more clear everyday that our democracy is also broken and needs to be fixed.
Just weeks ago, Ontario went through an election. The vast majority of people voted for political parties that promised to preserve public services and move Ontario forward. A huge number of those voters, a number not seen in a generation, voted for the NDP, a party which called for fair taxation and an end to huge and deeply damaging corporate tax cuts. Yet a minority Liberal government is now talking about massive cuts and "tough medicine," saying that we have "no option" but to endure.
The people had an option – had they wanted massive cuts and "tough medicine" they would have voted for Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservative Party, whose platform was based on this plank. They did no such thing. And Government has options – legislate tax fairness to raise public revenue, create real, permanent, full-time jobs with good pay, make investments to not only sustain but strengthen public services, protect our children's future by protecting our environment and reform our electoral system to enhance and safeguard our democratic future. What the Occupy movements have created and nurtured is, in part, very real feelings of hope. The first step to solving any problem is to name it and to accept that it truly is a problem. Occupy movements have achieved a monumental victory by bringing to the forefront the unfairness and inequality inherent in our current economy and models of governance.
Some say these protests are messy and muddy. They are also peaceful, they are productive and it's worth keeping in mind that real democracy is actually not tidy. Change can be difficult and painful when juxtaposed with a dominant corporate machine that has held all the cards for some thirty years. We can no longer wait until our economy and social system collapse further into chaos before discussing what needs to be done. This is indeed a small price to pay for a better Canada.
To mayors and councils across Canada, we say let the occupations continue. They are a clear manifestation of the will of the people to find a better way of running our society. And while you may not completely understand their consensus-based decision-making processes or their no-leaders approach, let the camps continue to explore ideas, and to discuss and debate.
At a time when voter turnouts and citizen engagement have suffered, particularly among youth, the Occupy movement is engaging people (and young people in particular). The occupiers are engaging in healthy democratic debate. They, in short, are doing precisely what you purport to want more people to do.
We call on you to do the right thing and let the camps stay. Visit them. Talk to the people in them. Together, we can build a better society.