When Ontarians from all walks of life took part in a ‘general strike’ to oppose cuts made by the PC government under Premier Doug Ford recently, Dr. Steve Oldridge of the Bobcaygeon Medical Centre was among them.
The physician is a champion for rural health care and the Ontario Basic Income Pilot program quashed by Ford’s government.
“With the rising gap between minimum wage and the living wage, you have a situation where people can’t afford to eat,” Oldridge says. “Poverty is the greatest determinant of health.”
The strike action consisted of concerned citizens and workers banding together to show their dissatisfaction with the new budget and its implications for education, public health care, autism support, flood prevention and relief, and welfare.
The general strike was proposed by film-maker Dakota Lanktree and Florence O’Connell — a business owner — who had been inspired by the walk-out students held against budget cuts to education. The pair had planned strikes in Hamilton, but with the spread of information, the strike grew to 26 different communities.
The call to action played out on social media, asking people of Ontario to take an hour on May 1 and not contribute to work done in Ontario. The purpose of the event was to demonstrate to the province that the people of Ontario stand in solidarity and are willing to put services to a stop. Queen’s Park was ground zero for the largest demonstration, but protesters were also present in front of MPP Laurie Scott’s office in Lindsay.
Scott, minister of labour in Ford’s cabinet, was once a supporter of basic income but has since helped end it. She was seen entering from the back of the building to avoid protesters.
Without the basic income program, this wage gap is not being served and the rural population is at greater threat. The Kawartha Region now now has 20 food banks from Apsley to Sunderland that serves almost 10,000 citizens, according to the doctor.
“These people are put in the difficult position of choosing between essential bills and food. Something has to give,” Oldridge says.
Oldridge has experience in using collective action to seek change with the government, having been involved in a push during the Harris-Rae days to help get defibrillators in ambulances.
Oldridge and others were able to use the media to draw attention to the issue and effect actual change. “Everyone has to rally to make change.”
The Facebook group that organized the rally has noted that there will be future measures in this movement.