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The Council of Canadians Ontario-Quebec-Nunavut Region

Spring 2023 Chapter Update: Ontario-Quebec-Nunavut Region

Chapters in Ontario have had an eventful spring fighting Premier Doug Ford’s corporate-driven agenda, from the sprawl-driven Bill 23 to health care privatization. As always, our chapter activists are active in the community, resisting Ford, building the community we want, and standing in solidarity with our allies.

Resisting Ford’s sprawl agenda

The day after the 2022 municipal elections, Doug Ford and his government put forward Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, and announced their intention to develop within the Green Belt. The bill is part of an all-out attack on environmental protection, climate action, and democracy, all to line the pockets of wealthy developers, conservative donors, and the premier’s friends and allies.

Ontario chapters immediately understood the threat posed by this sprawl-driven agenda and sprung into action. Members of the Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Ottawa, and Northumberland chapters helped organize and participated in pop-up rallies across the province. In Kitchener-Waterloo, the chapter contributed to the local radio ads raising alarm about the attack on the Green Belt, and distributed hundreds of lawn signs across the community. In Hamilton, the chapter participated in countless pop-up rallies, calling attention to the fact that the Green Belt is part of the Dish with One Spoon treaty and that the government acted without consultation with the Indigenous communities. In Northumberland county, the seat of the Environment Minister David Piccini, the chapter co-hosted a 200-person rally outside his office, sharing their opposition in signs, songs, and chants.

Kitchener-Waterloo Chapter
Kitchener-Waterloo chapter at stop sprawl rally

As leaders in their community, chapters also work with municipal government to build up opposition to the destructive legislation. In London, in addition to attending rallies, the chapter also sent in letters and collected petitions, pushing the City of London to oppose the legislation. In Ottawa, the chapter urged their councillors to vote to oppose Bill 23, educated councillors of the Bill’s impact, and held them accountable for their vote. Many chapters are working with the Alliance for a Livable Ontario to identify ways for municipalities to resist the bill.

Hamilton rally against the Greenbelt land grab

The priorities of the Ford government have never been clearer, and it is to let corporations and developers write the rules to maximize profit, no matter the cost to communities, the environment, democracy, or our future. Chapters are committed to working with local allies and one another to understand the full impacts of Bill 23 and other legislation, and build a broad-based alliance to oppose the sprawl agenda.

Defending and expanding public health care

In another broken promise from the Ford government, the administration moved ahead with their plan to privatize diagnostic and surgical procedures. Council of Canadians’ chapters have been working closely with local members of the Ontario Health Coalition to oppose the latest attempt to dismantle our public health system through Bill 60 and the announced millions of dollars in transfer payments to private clinics. Having been this fight for decades, the chapters understand that the latest health care crisis is many years in the making. The Ford government followed a classic playbook: to defund public health care, let services deteriorate to a critical level, then introduce privatization as a solution. The Ford government is sitting on over $2 billion in budget surplus, yet it has frozen funding to public health and continues to try to depress health care workers’ wages through Bill 124, which was recently ruled unconstitutional. 

Chapters and the Council of Canadians joined the province-wide efforts to educate the public about the threat privatization poses to our health care system, and the solutions we already have. Chapters attended rallies in Ottawa, Toronto, Waterloo, and Windsor, and joined the Ontario Nurses Association on their picket lines calling for fair wages for health care workers. The London chapter hosted Natalie Mehra, Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition, at their AGM. In February, as the premiers met in Ottawa to discuss health care, the chapter helped organize and attended the rally against privatization and in support of pharmacare.

Ottawa chapter members at Profit Doesn’t Care rally

Chapters in Windsor, London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton, Peterborough, and Ottawa are supporting the Ontario Health Coalition’s citizen-led referendum on privatization of public hospitals. From building connections with key allies to arranging the logistics for the referendum on May 26-27, the chapters are busy working in their community to secure a million votes rejecting privatization.

We understand that defending the public health system and expanding medicare must go hand in hand. This spring the Council of Canadians launched the campaign for Public Pharmacare Now, and local chapters are playing a key role in building public support and bringing the fight for pharmacare to every city and town. The Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Hamilton, Guelph, Ottawa, Northumberland, and Kingston chapters have been hard at work organizing local pharmacare town halls in their communities. Stay tuned for information about a town hall near you.

Advocating for local solutions in response to the climate emergency

As leaders in their community, Council of Canadians chapters have also been engaging residents, allies, and decision makers to advance local solutions to the urgent climate crisis. In Hamilton, the chapter emerged from a successful municipal election campaign with commitments from five councillors and the mayor to explore free, frequent, and electric transit. The chapter supported the Hamilton and District Labour Council in their push for free transit for students and residents on Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program, and will soon come before Hamilton City Council to call for a committee exploring the proposal for free, frequent, and electric transit. The chapter is also revisiting their campaign to call on the city to put solar panels on the roof of municipal buildings.

Climate justice has always been a key pillar for many chapters. In the rural area of the Ottawa Valley, the Kitchissippi-Ottawa Valley chapter has embarked on an online public education series called “CLIMATE MATTERS” to engage valley residents about the multiple facets of climate change. These monthly sessions cover wide-ranging topics from science and climate modelling to the feelings of climate anxiety and grief, from day-to-day impacts to large- and small-scale solutions. Young students and residents are also participating in the second annual Earth Day Art Show, culminating in an Earth Day parade in Pembroke.

The Peterborough-Kawartha chapter, working alongside the Peterborough Alliance for Climate Action, is calling on the city to electrify their city fleets. In 2023, they successfully advocated for funding allocated to electrification to be included in the municipal budget.

Addressing the housing crisis

Housing and homelessness are critical issues facing multiple municipalities across Ontario. In London, the chapter launched a campaign calling on the city to declare a housing and homelessness emergency with a petition and a letter to council calling on the city to do more, and to ask other levels of government to step up. As they navigate this campaign, many other chapters with similar demands contributed their perspective and advice on tactics, framing, and strategy. The chapter was invited to delegate before the London City Council, but ultimately, despite the support of many sympathetic councillors, council resisted an emergency declaration.

Other communities, meanwhile, are thinking creatively about ways to address the housing and homelessness crisis. In Peterborough, the chapter works with Peterborough Alliance for Tiny Homes to set up small homes as a way to address the homelessness crisis. They are pushing the city to expedite the process of approval of these homes. In Guelph, frustrated by government inaction, community groups are coming together to discuss building affordable housing themselves using a democratic, cooperative model.

Protecting water and standing in solidarity with Indigenous peoples

As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action emphasize the need to build relationship with Indigenous peoples, the Ottawa and Kitchissippi-Ottawa Valley chapters have been working with the Council of Canadians staff to build relationship with Algonquin communities in the Ottawa River (Kichi Sibi). The chapters have been opposing the proposed nuclear waste dump at Chalk River and calling to attention the lack of free, prior, and informed consent from Algonquin First Nations around the project. The chapter network also signed on to a statement in support of grassroots Anishnabe who rely on the moose for their livelihood and helped promote the call to action calling on the Quebec government to protect moose in La Verendrye Wildlife Reserve.

The London chapter continues to do incredible work on water protection and conservation. Two years after the city of London became a Blue Community, the chapter supported the creation of three other Blue Communities in the region and is working with allies throughout the watershed to advance water protection and promote water as a human right. Most recently, the chapter supports Oneida First Nation during their drinking water crisis by sending letters to the local MPs and minister calling for adequate funding of their water facilities.

London Blue Communities table

Staying active on international issues

On top of the local, regional, and national advocacy they do, Council of Canadians also contribute to a strong international solidarity movement in support of free trade and peace. Ahead of the Three Amigos summit between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico in January 2023, the Northumberland chapter penned a letter to Justin Trudeau and cabinet members, calling on Ottawa to support Mexico’s ongoing efforts to ban imports of GMO corn while phasing out the use of glyphosate. The letter was co-signed by 28 other organizations, including chapters across the country. The chapter recently released a second letter, criticizing Canada International Trade Ministry’s claim that Mexico’s policies related to GMOs and glyphosate are not “science-based.”

As we crossed the one-year mark for the war in Ukraine, the London chapter renewed their commitment to peace. The chapter hosted a screening of the film A Bold Peace: Costa Rica’s Path of Demilitarization, followed by a Q&A featuring Álvaro Cedeño Molinari, Costa Rica’s Ambassador to the World Trade Organization, filmmaker Matthew Eddy, retired Colonel & former U.S. diplomat, CODEPINK activist Ann Wright, and Tamara Lorincz of the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF Canada). Following a second screening of the film in Sparta, the chapter collaborated with the People for Peace London and the Sparta Quakers to host a rally for peace and to call for the end of the war in Ukraine.

London rally for peace

Local chapters across the country have long been a political home to a network of local activists committed to resisting corporate power, strengthening democracy, and working for social, economic, and environmental justice. Chapters are leaders in their communities as they engage with Council of Canadians campaigns on water, just transition, or pharmacare, as well as regional and local issues of importance. As we continue to hold our government accountable, expose the corporate agenda, and push for policies that put people, planet, and democracy first, it has never been more important to get involved in your local community, engage in the critical work of public education and engagement, and build back power together. Join the fight by becoming a member of the Council of Canadians and joining a chapter near you

Vi Bui

Vi Bui is the Ontario, Quebec, Nunavut Regional Organizer at the Council of Canadians.

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