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May Day March protests Ford government cuts to services

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
More than 150 local residents marched in the streets Wednesday afternoon to peacefully protest cuts in services proposed by Doug Ford’s provincial government.

Organized by Prince Edward County resident Christine Renaud, the May Day March was intended to send a message that cuts to public services – including health care, library and education – are unwanted and unacceptable. Objections were also voiced on tax cuts to rich corporations.

Organizer Christine Renaud speaks to the gathering crowd at the Picton Cenotaph before the march begins.

Renaud said she has wanted to do a May Day protest for a long time and decided on May 1, also known as International Workers’ Day.

“When I saw all the people displeased with what is happening with the Ford government, as well as with all these deadly cuts to services, I thought that is the perfect day, May 1, to both celebrate International Workers Day and connect workers and health care and schools and students. It all meshes together for a better community,” said Renaud.

The large, enthusiastic crowd gathered at the Picton Cenotaph, many with signs and placards depicting clear messages of protest and some with noise makers, including a drum and a tambourine.

“How many people here are being affected, or know people who are being affected by the cuts being made by the Ford government?” Renaud asked the crowd.

“It’s great to be here today to fight for the things that are important in our community. It is a perfect day to gather to protect the rights we have: rights to education for all, health care for all, social services, including public services like libraries, services that we pay for through our taxes,” she said.

Forecasted heavy rain held off as the march proceeded down Main Street, with a brief stop outside the Picton branch library, where services were abruptly cut April 26 with the slashing of funds by 50 per cent to the Southern Ontario Library Service, which among other things, provided a well-utilized inter-library loan service throughout the province.

The light afternoon traffic didn’t seem to mind the short delay as the crowd marched down Main Street, with many vehicles honking horns in support of the protesters and their messages.

Lead by Renaud at the front of the march and Lenny Epstein near the rear, both took turns chanting using megaphones as the crowd joined in, repeating, loudly and clearly in rhythm.

“Public libraries are under attack, What do we do? Stand up, fight back!” was one chant, which also included reference to the environment, workers’ wages, public education and health care.

“Education is a right! That is why we have to fight!” continued another animated message followed by, “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Doug Ford has got to go!”

“Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives, including MPP Todd Smith in our region, have been particularly ruthless in cutting vital services that we need, attacking decent wages, health care, education, protection of the environment, and the list goes on,” said Renaud.

The cuts which are purported to be for the people, are actually against the people, she said. “Many of them are extremely short-sighted and will likely end up costing us more in the long run.”

The protesters crossed Main Street and headed to the Picton Town Hall, via Ross Street, where the Food Not Bombs group provided free bowls of chili for anyone wanting to share a meal.

Picton resident Jennifer Warr outside Picton Town Hall where marchers were invited to enjoy a free meal of chili, hosted by the Food Not Bombs group.

Picton resident and demonstrator Jennifer Warr brandished two placards. She said Doug Ford’s cuts are so widespread and mean-spirited they hurt the middle-class and poor people more than anybody.

“My huge focus for the past few years has been climate change,” said Warr. “Doug Ford is also cutting protections for endangered species, and he said let’s not plant the 50 million trees we planned, and there is no money for the conservation authorities.

“It’s shameful, and people need to stand up and say it’s too much,” said Warr. “I don’t think it speaks to our values as everyday people. We are all just human beings trying to live the best life we can.”

Lenny Epstein said he thinks the cuts are short-sighted.

“The things we are talking about – education, health care, libraries – those are the kinds of services that help prevent costs upstream, also economic costs and social costs,” he said. “I want to try to use my voice to resist as much as I can, and to let our politicians know that we think differently to the way they are acting, and it’s important they hear that voice.”

A few protestors lingered outside the Picton Branch Library after the march had finished.

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  1. Ken Globe says:

    Kim Mitchell. The federal Liberals were all about proportional representation when they were the opposition. Then it all got shoved to the back burner when they won the last federal election with the first past the post system.

  2. Eric says:

    To Fred: perhaps the provincial debt is a problem, but the governing Conservatives don’t seem to think so. Otherwise, why would they cancel 758 green energy contracts with potentially massive liability? Why did they incur a penalty of more than $100 million by meddling in Hydro One? Why are they spending $30 million on a publicity campaign against a federal carbon tax that will be neutral or positive for most Ontarians?

    Why do the Conservatives think rich people deserve a tax cut to be paid by the rest of us? Why are they ripping up transit plans in Toronto to waste taxpayer money on boondoggles (burying a transit line near the airport where there’s lots of room and extending a subway where a much cheaper solution would actually be better)? And why are they risking a billion-dollar penalty by breaking a contract with the Beer Store?

    Do you think future generations will benefit from the money thrown down these rabbit holes?

  3. Kim Mitchell says:

    Ken Globe

    If we had Proportional Representation more people would vote as they know their vote would count, and many people who did vote, would change their vote from PC to Liberal or NDP!!!

  4. Krista Slack says:

    Bravo to all who went out for this important stand. No effort is wasted effort but multiple tactics are important and making yourself heard directly by Todd Smith’s office and beyond will have impact too, assuming they care at all about what their constituents think. Right now it seems big business, developers, evangelists and right wing groups hold the power. I am sorry we missed supporting you due to my being sick. Carry on bravely.

  5. Eric says:

    Congratulations to Christine Renaud and everyone who organized and attended this march. It’s valuable to get together in common cause against Conservative cuts that seem to benefit only their friends — personal and corporate.

    To Ken Globe: did you know that the Conservatives got only 40.5% of votes cast? That’s not a majority, let alone one won “handily.”

  6. Pearl Hucul says:

    In the 2018 election, of the 58% of Ontarians who voted, 40.5% voted CON, 33.59% voted NDP, 19.5% voted LIB, & 6.34 voted for the other parties. That means 59.4% of voters did not vote Conservative. As for actual votes cast, 2,326,632 Ontarians voted CON, 1,929,649 voted NDP, & 1,124,218 voted LIB. With proportional representation, the NDP & the LIBERALS would be running this province right now. I cannot think of a better argument for proportional representation.

  7. Fred says:

    What people need to realize is that cuts will be very more deep unless the government gets control of the $350 Billion debt. No one likes cuts to services but we cannot continue to live beyond our means. In doing so,is truly a diservice to our childrens futures.

  8. Ken Globe says:

    A couple of things looking at the pics. 1. Why is the one person wearing a mask? I’m all for peaceful protest and freedom of assembly, but you should not be wearing a disguise during a protest.
    2. The person with the placard wanting proportional representation. Even if that was in place, Ford and the PC’s won the last election handily. The Liberal party went from a majority down to a handful of seats. If so many people were vehemently against Ford and the PC’s, they should have encouraged more people to get out and vote.

  9. Gary Mooney says:

    Demonstrations like this, unless many thousands are involved, are easy for politicians to ignore and are therefore ineffective. Same thing for petitions, which are completely useless.

    What is more effective is for protesters to meet with, phone or email the local elected representative, in this case Todd Smith. As a Minister and member of Cabinet, Todd has Doug Ford’s ear. If you don’t like what the Ford government is doing, make your case to Todd directly.

  10. Christine Renaud says:

    Thanks again Sharon Harrison and County live’s Sue Capon for accurate, great reporting, as always. You women rock!

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