Dear Dalton McGuinty:
Last year about this time, your government extended its sitting in the House to ram through a substantial 27% pay increase for yourself and other MPPs. Your argument was that if this did not take place, the legislature would have difficulty attracting competent candidates. At the same time this raise was being debated, a Private Member's Bill was in the house, which if passed, would hike the minimum wage to $10 per hour. Certainly, it was no coincidence that no debate took place on that minimum wage Bill, while the rest of your Government took the raise. Personally, Dalton, I would do your job for the salary it was prior to your raise without a complaint. So would millions of other Ontarians, many of whom also are skilled, competent leaders and professionals.
You may respond to this by saying that in October 2007, Ontarians gave your Government a second mandate, somehow excusing the fact that your pay raise was "approved" by the public. I dispute that. Of the total number of eligible voters, only 52% of them bothered to cast a ballot, and among these people - only 42% voted for candidates in your Party. This is hardly a majority mandate, but then again - very few governments have been elected on a true majority basis. However, given this fact, please note that I read the polls differently, and I certainly hope that as the Leader of the Province, you do too and will govern in the interests of all, not just those doing financially well. I am referring to the Poor.
An interesting proposal came from your recent Throne Speech on your Government's plans to develop and set targets with respect to the reduction of poverty in Ontario. Some might have referred to this as the 25 in 5 Plan, which was promoted by groups like Campaign 2000. If your intent is to reduce poverty by 25% in the first five years, please tell me where I can get in line and be among your first. I am well-educated, highly literate, possess excellent organizational and communication skills, and have held senior level positions in various organizations in the past, holding titles including Executive Director, National Coordinator, Policy Analyst, Policy Facilitator, Organizational Development Consultant, Senior Moderator, President & CEO, as well as at present, Independent Paralegal.
I know the English language quite well, and can speak and read passably in French (though I am by no means bilingual). I read three newspapers a day, listen to two news broadcasts a day and read a novel or two every week. I have also been published numerous times in forums, ranging from street newspapers, newsmagazines, academic peer review journals and daily newspapers. I work with people ranging from those living on the streets to people who are presidents of their own companies. I treat everybody I work with well, as well as deal respectfully with parties my clients have concerns to address with. I also moderate several Internet forums on a range of topics; my reading audience from all of my moderated groups exceeds 10,000 readers.
I have no criminal record, nor have I ever had any civil judgment against me. The last time I checked, I had a good credit rating. I have managed budgets in the multi-million dollar range, as well as those budgets of only a few hundred thousand. The audits of these organizations have always indicated my management skills were excellent and accurate. I am also the type of person who could find a purse or a wallet, bearing hundreds or even thousands of dollars ... but my only interest would be to return it intact to its owner.
So, why Mr. Premier, am I seeing people who have poor qualifications, inadequate education and/or have some criminal record being hired in responsible positions, where they have some control over money, or worse, people's lives? Don't tell me this doesn't happen - while this is not the forum to name names or to "out" any organization, but legal actions have been filed against organizations repeatedly because of decisions the organization made that hurt somebody, or has had legal implications. In none of these actions were any of the people responsible ever fired or charged with anything; even when they have proven themselves to be serial workplace bullies, or just plain incompetent, they are still the ones that get to stay in the organization, not the person or persons they have hurt. The decisions to hire these people in the first place are purely political and have nothing to do with that specific person's actual ability to deliver. Yet, while this is going on, many people like me, as well as those people who were bullied, are sitting in the sidelines, receiving ODSP or other forms of assistance, wanting nothing more than to work in a decently paid job that we know we are capable of handling.
Most members of your caucus are university graduates, whether that be in law, medicine, education, business or social work. Pre-election jobs range from Lawyer to Nurse to Business Owner to Administrator; however, I have yet to see somebody get elected whose last job was working at McDonald's flipping burgers. At some point, when you folks either leave politics behind or get voted out, whatever happens first, I can bet my whole life that none of you - absolutely NONE of you, will be seeking work at Starbucks, McDonald's, Wal-Mart or one of the numerous call centres that are set up. Why should you? You are educated. You are experienced, and you have many other skills. I can't argue with that. But, what makes somebody like me, as well as many of my cohorts, who also have advanced skills, any different? We have the same skills, many with even a higher education than I have, but we are all shuffled off to work for Starbucks, McDonald's, Wal-Mart and many of the call centres. Why is it good enough for you folks to demand and be placed in a post-political career that suits your skills and salary needs, while it is not good enough for us to expect and want a similar career - and have help obtaining it?
If your answer is that somebody has to do the scut work, then why does it have to be us? There are many people who do not have skills, or who just need a temporary job while they upgrade their education to the point they can accept a higher paid job. There are others who have dropped out of high school, who do not have the motivation to learn or to finish their education, for whatever reason, who can probably do this type of work until they either climb the corporate ladder, learn a trade or decide to further their education. I am often accused of bias, but then again - I ask why am I being discriminated against in the workplace because I am overqualified, while the jobs that are out there that I can do and pay well tend to value somebody with a driver's license more than a university degree? It is my understanding that if driving a vehicle is not a bona fide occupational requirement, then they cannot require a candidate to have a driver's licence. This is done all the time to people with disabilities, and then study after study is done asking why people with disabilities have a lower workplace participation rate than people without disabilities. When is that going to change?
I certainly hope that it will in MY lifetime.
I note your Government is making efforts at recognizing the credentials of many newcomers who have earned various degrees and professional skills outside of Canada. However, it is time that your Government begins to recognize the credentials of people with disabilities who have earned them, usually here in this country, and will work with them to obtain work that resembles their chosen field, thus getting us truly out of poverty.
If your Government does not want to see newcomers with high level skills working at driving taxis, cleaning hotels, working at McDonalds, etc., which is a fine goal that I also agree with, why is it okay to push people with disabilities in this direction regardless of how much education, how many skills and what our career aspirations are? When are we going to be heard?
Once again, when your Government starts to reduce Ontario's poverty rate, I want to be first in line. Just tell me where to sign up.