“This is not what Ontario wants”: These protesters are demanding that Doug Ford address the affordability and health care crises
Fed-up nurses, teachers and social workers say the Ontario government is mangling policy on health care, education, housing, public service wages and more
With the cost of living on the rise, wages flatlining and an increasing private sector presence in the province’s health care system, Ontario residents are mad, and they want Premier Doug Ford to know it. On June 3, nearly ten thousand people marched from Nathan Phillips Square to Queen’s Park for the Enough Is Enough Day of Action protest, organized by the Ontario Federation of Labour. Unionized public service workers, including nurses, mental health specialists, and blood service workers, whose wages have been frozen since 2019 by the Ford government’s Bill 124, were in strong attendance. We asked marchers why they were there and what they would say if they could speak with Ford face-to-face.
Nigel Barriffe, 50, vice president of Elementary Teachers of Toronto
What is Elementary Teachers of Toronto?
We’re a union of 10,000 public school teachers. It’s the largest teacher local in the country and the third largest in North America.
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Why did you come out today?
This is the anniversary of last year’s election, when Doug Ford was re-elected by less than 18 per cent of the province. In that time, we’ve seen him reduce or defund public schools by almost $1,200 dollars per student while also taking away the Greenbelt.
What does your organization want to see change?
We’re pushing for smaller class sizes, because we know they’re better for children. We need more resources for kids with special needs, and we have a $17 billion backlog in repairs for public schools. All of those things need to be dealt with.
What message do you hope this protest sends to Doug Ford?
That the people united are stronger than his 18 per cent. We’ve got construction, we’ve got trades, we’ve got people from education, we’ve got nurses. All of us together, we know that we can beat this government.
Nelson Gouveia, 39, Canadian Blood Services worker
What brings you to this protest?
I’m here because I don’t want privatized health care. And, beyond that, our wages as health care workers have stagnated. We’ve been working without a contract with the government since we were deemed an essential service in 2019. It was done through a government mandate, behind closed doors and without any consultation with OPSEU, our union. Very shady!
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How has that affected you?
It’s difficult to provide for my wife and kids. We’ve had to cut a lot of unnecessary expenditures. For example, we can only get the bare minimum in cell and internet service.
What do you hope the provincial government will do about it?
I hope they stop appealing and accept the court ruling that struck down Bill 124, which froze public service workers’ wages to 1 per cent increases a year, as unconstitutional. I’d like to see them come back to the bargaining table with us.
Caitlen Turkiewicz, 33, recent master’s of social work graduate
Why are you here today?
Rent is way too high. I’ve worked in housing for a really long time, and seeing so many people priced out is devastating. It’s terrible for the mental health and well-being of our communities.
In what ways?
When people can’t afford housing, it’s a cascading problem. It leads to mental and physical health problems, substance use issues, and so on. Access to housing is the most important thing for a person’s overall health.
What do you think the solution is?
We need more housing where the rent is adjusted based on people’s income. Also abolishing rent altogether—but that’s a whole other thing!
Cindy Ledouceur, 61, registered nurse practitioner
Why are you protesting today?
I work at Brockville Mental Health Centre. We used to operate under the Ministry of Health, but we were privatized by the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group in 2000. We’re a shell of what we used to be.
Before privatization, our doctors were able to spend more time with patients. Each unit would have doctors who were there 40 hours per week. Now we have fewer units, and patients get maybe four minutes per month with a doctor. It’s pretty traumatic for the clients. I feel bad for them.
What would you tell Doug Ford if he were here?
Suicide rates are increasing, and addictions have skyrocketed. Where I work, we have a warming centre for people who are homeless. It’s scary to see how many of them are unwell. I used to be able to walk home from work at night, but I don’t feel safe anymore.
Chris Byford, 65, bus driver
How has the affordability crisis affected you?
My wife was injured about a year ago and can no longer work. It’s really surprising how much we’ve had to change to accommodate a single income.
What kind of sacrifices have you had to make?
I can’t remember the last time we went out to eat, and we shop at the cheaper stores with the shittier fruits and vegetables. I’d love to have a new car, but my 2007 Pontiac G5 will have to keep going. Thankfully, I didn’t drive it down here—I’m here with other bus drivers, so we took a bus.
Can you explain your “Doug Ford hates you” T-shirt?
These are done by a local artist in St. Catharines. I like it because the Ford government is always touting itself as a friend to workers, but after everything it has done, like Bill 124, it makes us think there might be a bit of hate there.
Maggie Wakeford, 67, mental health and addictions worker at CMHA
What brings you here today?
I’ve had enough of Doug Ford’s cutbacks in health care, education and other sectors. It’s hurting all of us.
Have these cuts affected your work?
Yes. We’re constantly running short of front-line workers. Since the pandemic, we’ve seen more crises, more addictions, more work, and we have fewer people to handle it.
What do you hope Doug Ford will take away from this protest?
That he should leave public sector funding where it belongs and stop privatization. When you privatize things like hospitals and mental health agencies, it gives more money to big corporate giants, and you get lower-quality service.
Toni Corrado, 75, retired
What brings you here today?
In 1990, I suffered severe brain damage. For 20 years, I couldn’t speak properly or read. When my symptoms started to go away, I was shocked to find out what had happened to Ontario. Before 1990, we were starting to be a really good province. We were caring. Now, there’s just greed.
You’ve got a sign that says, “We’re suffering more pain since you’ve got the only treatment for us.” What does that mean?
I’m in really severe pain, and I used to be able to get an infusion of lidocaine and ketamine once a month at a pain clinic near Eglinton and Bathurst. It really helped. At first, it was paid by OHIP, but last May, they stopped covering it. I don’t have any other treatment options.
What would you say to Doug Ford if he were here?
Just get out. You want to be an American? Go to the states and work for Trump. What you’re doing, this is not Canada. This is not what Ontario wants.
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.