Provincial convention says working class must fight “in its own name, on its own terms”
PV Ontario Bureau
The Communist Party convened its 31st Ontario Provincial Convention from November 27-28, with province’s 15 Party clubs participating. Delegates called for an end to the “duck and cover” approach to the Doug Ford government, taken by much of the labour movement, and for the working class to launch an escalating campaign of mass action in the lead-up to the June 2 provincial election.
The online convention was a major step forward in terms of consolidating recent growth in the Communist Party and renewing provincial leadership.
This was the first full Ontario convention – complete with Party-wide discussion on a provincial political report – since the Ford Tories were elected. The previous provincial convention, held in 2019, was largely focused on preparations for the Party’s Central Convention that year which updated the Party Program.
Leading up to the convention, Party clubs spent three months thoroughly discussing the convention documents and preparing dozens of proposed resolutions and amendments. In addition to the political report, the convention also discussed and adopted a “People’s Alternative” platform which will be the basis for the Party’s provincial election campaign and a Plan of Work for the next three years.
This was the largest and youngest Ontario convention in recent memory, reflecting significant growth in the Party. There were 50 percent more delegates than in 2017 and the average age had descended from 51 to 43 in those four years.
In recent months, the Ford government has been trying to rebrand itself with its new slogan: “working for workers.” Ford himself has claimed that he’s “always been for the frontline, hard-working union people.” In the convention’s opening remarks, Provincial Secretary Drew Garvie tackled this myth:
“This is the same government that cancelled the $1 minimum wage increase to $15 per hour in 2018, effectively transferring $1.3 billion from Ontario’s lowest paid workers to its biggest corporations. In 2018, he also enacted the ‘Open for Business’ bill which reduced overtime pay, lowered wages for unionized construction workers and reduced reporting of toxic substances in workplaces, amongst other measures which also gave corporations more power.
“In 2019, he enacted Bill 124 which has slashed workers’ wages, benefits and pensions in the broader public sector and eliminated the right to free collective bargaining in Ontario. Yet still Ford feels emboldened enough to use populist platitudes to win workers’ votes or at least sow confusion. We should be clear: there is no question that the Ford Conservatives are the biggest danger to working people in Ontario.”
Much of the political report and discussion at the convention focused on the Conservative government’s all-sided attack on working people. The report identified the Ford government as representing “the most aggressive sections of capital in the province” and warned that Ford “looks set to double down on austerity to ensure that working people pay to recover post-pandemic corporate profitability.”
While identifying Ford as the main danger, the report notes that “the Liberals laid much of the groundwork for the Ford government’s attacks.” The report also criticizes the NDP for its failure to present a “clear working-class perspective inside the Legislature” and, worse still, for convincing some in the labour and people’s movements that they just need to wait until the next election to win a “progressive government.”
In response to this, the convention pledged to strengthen the fight against the Ford government and called for “escalating mass action” ahead of the election with “the working class taking on the fightback in its own name and on its own terms.”
Delegates also discussed the provincial Party’s recently relaunched “Housing for People – Not for Profit” campaign as an important contribution to the broader fight. As Garvie mentioned in the opening, “we are the only party consistently proposing solutions beyond narrow neoliberal market schemes. It’s time for real action to confront the housing crisis!”
The Party campaign calls for an emergency plan to build 200,000 publicly owned social housing units and to implement rent rollbacks and rent control across the province to ensure nobody has to pay more than 20 percent of their income on housing.
Other important discussions included emergency action to combat the opioid and mental health crises which have both been exacerbated since the pandemic began, the nature of labour market shortages and the corporate “solution” which includes attacks on social assistance and the need for expropriation policies targeting large private landlords.
During deliberations on Party building and the Plan of Work, the convention welcomed new challenges which have been brought on by recent growth. Half of all delegates had joined the Communist Party in the last two years, with the Party in Ontario growing by more than 50 percent since its 2019 convention. Two new clubs had been formed since 2019: the Bethune club in Barrie-Simcoe and the Tim Buck club in the Kingston area.
The Plan of Work that was adopted includes efforts to consolidate and build upon recent growth through more resources and training for clubs and club leadership and increased theoretical education at all levels.
The convention elected a new 15-member Ontario Provincial Committee reflecting both continuity and renewal, with eight comrades elected from Toronto and seven from clubs outside of Toronto. Six of those elected are new to the committee. The Provincial Committee elected from its ranks an executive of six which meets more frequently and carries out the day-to-day activity of the Communist Party in Ontario. The committee also re-elected Drew Garvie as Provincial Secretary.
The convention thanked Party members who had been members of the previous provincial leadership but who were stepping back – these included Wally Brooker, Aristide Tsemo and Elizabeth Hill. There was special recognition of Elizabeth Hill’s contributions to the committee and executive over several decades.
Delegates passed three emergency resolutions: solidarity with land defenders around the world including those facing charges for the defense of Wet’suwet’en sovereignty, a condemnation of recent calls by the Maimi-based Cuban opposition for armed insurrection against socialist Cuba and a call for immediate action on the opioid and housing crises in Ontario.
Following the convention, Garvie told People’s Voice that “the work carried out by the 31st Ontario Convention sets the Communist Party on sturdy footing to fight the big struggles emerging in the near future. As the Action Plan states: ‘The viciousness of the Ford government and the growth in our capacity both demand that we put our shoulder to the wheel.’ We are ready to respond to that demand!”
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