Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The manifesto and lui: A response to Frank

Dear Frank,

I am, admittedly, less optimistic than you, in large part because I lived through Ontario's "Common Sense Revolution." Many of the same socio-economic changes were enacted by Mike Harris during the 1990s, including the deregulation of Hydro and tuition rates, and they were promoted using eerily similar, if rather less mellifluous language.

The result? The cost of living shot up, without, for most people, an attendant increase in real income. In other words, the majority of Ontarians had to spend a lot more time working just to get by, which led, predictably, to the weakening of provincial overtime legislation. For their part, students suffered enormously because of the changes—I know this from first-hand experience—and the poor were utterly abandoned, which is why the rate of homelessness skyrocketed soon afterward. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Reading the manifesto, I have a disturbing sense of déjà vu, and, frankly, I just can't buy it. I've seen where this kind of change leads, and it isn't nearly as pleasant as Bouchard and his cronies would have us believe. I am willing to concede that they have the best of intentions, but I am also quite certain that they don't understand what life is like for those of us who aren't members of the business elite—that is to say, the vast majority of Quebeckers.

To counter this, I would suggest that they explain, in concrete terms, how someone who makes $10 an hour will benefit from higher electricity rates, higher tuition fees, less "generous" social programs (e.g., health care, subsidized child care) and a more "flexible" work schedule (i.e., unpaid overtime). Until then, you will understand if I remain skeptical.

Please, find out as much as you can about these issues, from as many different perspectives as possible. That way, whatever conclusions you reach, you will know that they are truly lucid ones.

Kind regards,


Frank said...

Dear Vila,

I get the impression that we hold the same convictions. It seems you have a more critical eye for what is being said due to your perspective. This is all still new to me and I am still trying to play catch up in terms of history and the current state of affairs here. My viewpoint may still be a bit naïve. Thank you for the link, I will read up on it.

I guess I was caught up with the spirit of the document and naïve of what the implications could be. I agree with what I understand to be a call for people to be open-minded and progressive towards furthering Quebec. But not at the expense of the social programs in place. As I mentioned before, I am really impressed by the emphasis this place puts on peoples well-being. Whether it is through welfare, providing for the elderly and disabled, or the 37.5 hour work week which allows us to have a life away from work. I would be disappointed if there is a movement away from that.

The question is whether there is a need to start making adjustments in order to survive in todays economic climate. Do you hold to your ideals and risk losing your economic power? Or do you copy others and lose your ideals? I prefer the former because I did not like the dog eat dog world. It is one of the reasons we are here. Just because the other guy is doing it to get ahead, does not mean you have to compromise your ideals (or your population) to do the same. Also are things as dire as the manifesto makes it out to be?

Lastly, there is the Asian thing. I think that as those economies grow, the people will naturally rise up and fight for their rights as workers. The question is how long will it take if at all. And can we survive in the meantime? Plus is there some way we can facilitate or expedite that they are able to stand up for their rights.

Thank you for the discussion. It is helping me broaden my knowledge of this new place.

Frank H.

Vila H. said...

Thanks for writing, Frank, and welcome to Montreal. Bonne chance! :-)

James said...

You should see what the Ontario Tenants Rights site has to say about this.

In particular look at their Ontario Hydro and Ontario electricity news pages.