It is late Spring, feeling and looking like summer, a few days after I returned to Ontario after being away for a week on vacation in Jamaica (yes, I voted in the advance poll!). I came home to a province of mixed political and emotional sentiments - A Progressive Conservative majority government which some find concerning, wondering and worrying if the public policies and programs that they’ve worked so hard and long to bring to fruition will be done away with.
Policies and programs like the robust focus on Gender Based Violence and other women centred programs, including the creation of Ontario’s first Ministry of Status of Women. The Anti-Racism legislation – a first for Canada - and the Directorate set up to implement the province’s antiracism action plan. The significant refresh of our employment standards and labour laws- everything from a promised $15 per hour minimum wage, to pay equity. An historic investment in refugee resettlement including services, and a secretariat set up to research and evaluate the province’s work with refugees including how the Syrian refugee initiative was managed.
On the other side is a sense of cautious joy that the social democratic party, the NDP, now holds the official opposition having almost doubled their seat count; and a hopeful confidence that they will be able to maintain the progressive gains made over the last few years while they find common ground with the government and Liberals and Greens to advance parts of their fairly progressive agenda. The Greens are also celebrating their historic breakthrough in electing their first MPP in Ontario. And as for the Liberals, the disappointment is palpable. But Ontarians are gracious for the most part and many have reached out to publicly congratulate and thank the outgoing Premier for her commitment to creating an equitable Ontario, leading with intelligence, and showing grace in the face of a devastating loss for her party.
As the provincial Council, OCASI plans to stay the course. We released our response to the elections the morning after the vote, and plan to continue to work closely with all the provincial ministries whose mandates impact the settlement and integration journey of immigrants, refugees, migrant workers and international students. We will continue to advocate for resources for agencies that provide support and programs for newcomers, and will continue to propose and engage in public policy discussions and debates that impact on these communities.
We will continue to advance the issues raised through the United Way of Greater Toronto convened Ontario for All platform that outlines social policy priorities including access to childcare, housing, and social welfare reform.
We will continue our coalition advocacy work with Colour of Poverty/Colour of Change (COP-COC) with our focus on racial and economic justice, the increasing racialization and gendering of poverty, the overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous individuals and families in the criminal justice and child welfare systems and the growing precarity of work for racialized people, particularly immigrants and refugees. I hopefully will be able to continue to co-chair the province’s anti-Black Racism subcommittee.
At a recent meeting two of our sector leaders put out the same message - invite our new and returning MPPs to visit our agencies and community events. I agree. We have to undertake an education program about our sector with our elected representatives, the importance of our work and the significant contributions newcomers make to Ontario.
We woke up last Friday morning to the realization that our policy advocacy work continues. Good. This would have been true regardless of who was readying to form the next Ontario government. Here’s to the coming four years.