Death threats, vandalism target Tory government after labour bill introduced

By The Canadian Press
October 24, 2018 - 11:15am

TORONTO — The premier of Ontario received death threats and his labour minister had her constituency office vandalized hours after a sweeping labour reform bill was introduced in the legislature, the Progressive Conservative government said Wednesday.

Government House Leader Todd Smith said the incidents were an attempt to bully and intimidate the government and would not be tolerated.

"What we want is to see ... some of these other radical groups acknowledge the fact that a line has been crossed here," Smith said. 

The proposed labour law, introduced Tuesday afternoon, freezes the minimum wage at $14 an hour until 2020 as part of a rollback of labour reforms introduced by the previous Liberal government shortly before the spring election. The measures have been met with strong criticism from anti-poverty activists, union leaders and opposition parties.

Labour Minister Laurie Scott said her office in Kawartha Lakes, Ont., was broken into and vandalized early Wednesday morning. She said the windows were smashed and the outside wall was spray-painted with a message that read "Attack Workers. We fight back. $15."

"This is obviously tied into the piece of legislation that we introduced yesterday," Scott said.  "I believe in democratic and peaceful protest and debate but we will not tolerate vandalism, intimidation or bullying.... We don't know who did this, we are just saying everyone should say that that's not acceptable."

Scott said local and provincial police are investigating the incident.

Smith said all the groups opposed to the labour reform should distance themselves from the perpetrators of violence. 

"What we're saying is that vandalism, violence and intimidation is not going to be acceptable," Smith said. "We'd really like to see the NDP and we'd really like to see the union leadership say the same thing."

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said people should engage in peaceful protest if they disagree with the government's decisions.

"No matter how much hurt this government creates, no matter how far they drag us backwards, no matter how many disappointing announcements we get ... there is no justification for violence, no justification for criminal activity," she said.

Ontario Federation of Labour President Chris Buckley said that group does not support or condone violence against persons or property.

"While we understand that the government's decision to repeal workers' rights and protections is deeply troubling and a great concern to the people of Ontario, we encourage all workers to join with the OFL and its community partners in peacefully demanding better working conditions and higher wages for all workers in this province, whether they are unionized or not," Buckley said in a statement.

Interim Liberal leader John Fraser, whose party had promised to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in January, condemned the incidents, but said he can understand the anger over the labour bill. He also said the premier and his government must set a higher standard for public debate.

"It's incumbent on the premier of this province to set the tone in here and outside," Fraser said. "All I know is that when he's here in Question Period that tone is one of conflict, and combativeness and partisanship. We need to take that down a notch. A couple of notches."

Ford did not comment on the reported threats against him, but thanked local and provincial police for investigating what he called a "very serious incident" in Kawartha Lakes.

"These actions have no place in our democracy," he said in a tweet.

Pam Frache, of the Fight for $15 and Fairness, a group which has been critical the government policy, said she learned about the incident of vandalism at Scott's office via social media.

"We don't organize in that way," he said. "We did not organize that ... that's all I can say about that, but people are angry. I think that's the scary thing about the situation. When there is this kind of a threat coming from Queen's Park, I think people are feeling frustrated."

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

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