While CBC-TV fatuously reported that only 500 demonstrated, in fact nearly 2000 people rallied and marched on June 13 in downtown Toronto at the call of the regional labour council to demand "Good Jobs For All" and to Fix E.I., Protect Pensions, Strengthen Public Services and Put People Before Banks. After a selection of labour activists addressed the crowd at Metro Hall, the assembly paraded through the financial district, rallied briefly at the corner midst the tallest bank towers, and continued up Bay Street for a concluding rally outside the Delta Chelsea Hotel on Gerrard Street, the scene of a bitter labour dispute with hotel management.
Participants carried the flags and banners of many different unions, that of the NDP, and those of a handful of small political organizations.
The only party banner that expressed political slogans directed specifically to the current economic crisis and which offered socialist solutions to it was that of Socialist Action. The SA banner read: "No Corporate Bail-out! Make Capital Pay for the Crisis. Nationalize Auto, Steel & Big Banks -- Under Workers' Control!"
A core of 14 comrades and supporters consistently walked with this banner, joined intermittently by scores of labour activists who identified with the message inscribed on it. Although quite modest, this was the largest SA demo contingent in a long time and is representative of the recent growth of the group locally. Members and supporters augmented the presence of the organization by selling 37 copies of SA newspaper, and distributing hundreds of copies of a leaflet for Socialism 101 (a weekly Toronto SA study group that began on June 23), along with free copies of Turn Left, the tabloid publication of the NDP Socialist Caucus.
Event organizers urged participants to continue to press politicians for E.I. reform and to punish the Conservatives at the next federal election.
Meanwhile, the local labour scene is heating up. OPSEU activists appealed for support to Ontario Liquor Control Board workers who faced a showdown with management over job security concessions and achieved a tentative agreement just days later. Toronto is presently seized by a major civic workers' strike, which includes the suspension of garbage collection, over management concession demands. A similar strike has been underway four hours south-west of Toronto in Windsor, Ontario, now going into its third month. Workers barricaded entrances to an auto parts manufacturing plant slated to close in Ajax, just 40 minutes east of Toronto, demanding severance pay and salaries owed. CAW members at Ford Motor Co. face another round of demands for roll backs to match the horrendous set backs at GM and Chrysler -- which hopefully the Ford workers will spurn.
Clearly, we cannot afford to wait for the next federal election, or to limit workers' solidarity action to important battles with individual bosses. The need to step up the struggle against the employers' offensive on a wide scale, and indeed, to put the failed system of global capitalism on trial is sharply posed.
That is precisely what the NDP Socialist Caucus endeavors to do at the federal NDP convention in Halifax in mid-August. Support for SC resolutions is increasingly evident amongst NDP riding associations, youth clubs and affiliated unions across the six time zones that span this huge country. An important debate about the ruling economic order, and the socialist alternative, is taking shape.