“MPPs across the province regularly refer constituents to their community clinics. What do they think they’re going to do when the clinics close their doors?"— Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
Toronto (15 May 2019) — Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) says it’s time that Conservative backbenchers starting standing up for their constituents rather than buckle under the whims of the Premier’s Office. Thomas made the comments last week as he took part in efforts to fight cuts to legal aid clinics.
Broad solidarity against cuts to legal aid
He joined community legal clinic members of OPSEU Local 5118 and concerned residents in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood in picketing the head office of Legal Aid Ontario. They were joined by members of Fight for $15 and Fairness, Voices of Scarborough, Workers Action Centre, Parkdale Organize, Injured Workers Action for Justice, and the Chinese Injured Workers Group. The demonstration on May 10 came on the heels of a sit-in held by residents and OPSEU Local 5118 members the day before.
The Ford government’s 2019 budget would see legal aid funding slashed by 30 per cent this year and 10 per cent more in 2020. Picketers were seeking assurances that funding for community legal clinics would not be cut and demanded that Charles Harnick, new chair of Legal Aid Ontario, show courage and leadership in the face of austerity measures imposed by the Ford government.
New chair of Legal Aid Ontario has obligation to protect services
Thomas noted that MPPs look to legal aid clinics to help resolve residents’ legal issues.
“MPPs across the province regularly refer constituents to their community clinics,” Thomas said. “What do they think they’re going to do when the clinics close their doors?"
“It’s high time PC backbenchers found a backbone and finally stood up for the people they represent,” he continued. “This attack on the marginalized and most vulnerable — one of many — is just further evidence the government has completely lost its moral bearings.”
Thomas added that he believed that Harnick has a duty to fight for legal aid clinics.
“Mr. Harnick has a reputation for independence and standing up for fairness and integrity within Ontario’s justice system,” he said. “I trust he’ll do the right thing again and oppose these cuts, which are an affront to the very essence of justice: access to the system.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE