Monday, August 03, 2009

Mayor Miller’s Lastman

After over a month without many of the services major urban centers take for granted, Canada’s largest city is slowly starting to resemble what it once was.

The public parks are gleaming clean of trash, the lawns are being trimmed. And once again line ups are forming at the various city-run permit and licensing offices.

On June 22, all 24,000 inside and outside workers for the City of Toronto walked off the job, as both their respective unions called a legal strike. Until late last week, that meant there wasn’t any garbage collection, parks or recreation services, even emergency medical services were on a work-to-rule campaign, delaying ambulatory care across the city.

Much has been said in the press about how the long and brutal labour disruption has created a rift between the city, its unionized workforce, and the union leaders.

Toronto Strike - Garbage out of serviceImage by nyxie via Flickr

But the real victims during all of this are on an even bigger war path - and rightly so. We’re talking about the over 2.5 million residents of Toronto, whose lives were put in disarray for over a month.

Without garbage collection, residents had to haul their own trash to temporary dump sites, only to be met by angry striking workers, who had setup picket lines and intentionally were blocking their access. Some of these confrontations even turned violent, with picketers jumping in front of moving vehicles, or simply attacking innocent residents with their signs.

In this world of two income families, many had to suddenly find someone else to take care of their kids, as all of the city’s daycare centers were immediately shut down due to the strike.

Even celebrations for our nation’s birth, Canada Day, on July 1 were cancelled due to the strike, because there was no one around to manage and run them. I guess Canada’s largest city employs people that just aren’t real Canadians - because if they were, they would have been patriotic enough to put aside their differences for their country for a couple of days. It wasn’t as if we were asking them to put their lives on the line, as we do our soldiers - who are among the most patriotic Canadians. Our city’s employees can learn a thing or two about patriotism and being Canadian from our military members.

Paramedics cut their services in half, as they worked-to-rule. An investigation is already underway as to whether their own arrogance has cost the life of a Toronto man, who may still be alive today, if the ambulance had arrived a few minutes earlier.

And just as the strike began, conveniently just as schools ended for the summer, all the public parks, playgrounds, splash pads, and community centers were forced to close and cancel all of their summer programs, leaving thousands of kids out in the street.

The real victims during the civic employees strike are those who live, work and play in Toronto, which is sad, because the residents of Toronto had no say whatsoever in the whole collective bargaining process.

Or maybe they do.

Last time the city’s staff went on strike, back in 2002, none forgot, especially when it came to the municipal election. Toronto’s Mayor at the time, Mel Lastman, was the running favourite, but he lost the election. Although many things contributed to Lastman’s outing, the strike was probably the biggest sticking point which ultimately pushed him out of the mayor’s chair.

History has an unfortunate way of repeating itself, and we’re bound

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - MAY 19:  Chair of C40 Cli...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

to see current Toronto Mayor David Miller take some heat from this strike during the up-coming municipal elections in 2010.

If history repeats itself as in the past, Mayor Miller won’t be the mayor of Canada’s largest city after the next election.

Is this fair? Is this right? Is Mayor Miller to blame?

Who knows? We aren’t privy to what goes on in the backrooms during the negotiations between the city and its staff.

But what we do know is this year’s summer was a washout for the 2.5 million people that call Toronto home. Not because of the weather, and not just because of the economy, but mostly because the city where they choose to live, work and play wasn’t there when they needed it.

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