In October 2018, the Toronto Star published an article by York University health policy and management professor Dennis Raphael titled “Social murder and the Doug Ford government.”
In the article, Raphael references the concept of “social murder,” which was coined by Friedrich Engels in his 1845 text Condition of the Working Class in England. He includes the following quote from Engels to outline the concept, and explain how it applies to Ford’s “austerity agenda”:
When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another such that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call his deed murder. But when society places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live — forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence — knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which does not seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission. But murder it remains.
In 2018, it was fair and prescient to connect Ford’s programs with the concept of social murder. It’s now an absolute necessity. Ontario Premier Doug Ford is a mass social murderer, and working class Ontarians are his victims.
Some accuse Ford of having made mistakes throughout this pandemic. This isn’t true of his most destructive policies, because while they’ve certainly been responsible for mass death, the outcomes were expected. Ford was repeatedly told they would happen, saw them happen and yet changed nothing. He did this because he’s not concerned with the well being of the people, but rather corporate profit margins. Ford hasn’t made mistakes; he has made informed choices to commit social murder.
Perhaps the best example of this is Ford’s stance on paid sick days. In January 2019, Ford repealed the government policy that provided workers with two paid sick days. The move was opposed at the time, including by health care workers, one of whom said at a November 2019 protest, “Workers need to be able to stay at home if they are sick. But right now, we know that workers are going to work sick because they cannot afford to take the day off work (…) And this is going to be a huge risk especially for the flu season that we know is going to be quite harsh.”
When the pandemic kicked off, calls for the reinstatement of paid sick days multiplied. The reasoning was simple: If sick workers can’t afford to stay home, they may go into work and potentially cause COVID-19 outbreaks. This is exactly what has happened, with workplaces becoming the primary driver of the third wave, and yet Ford has refused to budge.
In February, just days after the co-chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table admitted Ontario would be facing a disaster due to the government’s policies, Ford called paid sick days a “waste of taxpayer money.” He claimed that implementing paid sick days would be “unacceptable,” “not fiscally prudent” and “totally irresponsible.” Ford has outright stated that workers’ lives aren’t worth the taxpayer money it would take to save them. His actions can’t be labelled as anything other than social murder.
In the last few weeks, things have spiraled completely out of control. Positivity rates have skyrocketed, the ICUs are close to overflowing and the latest projections estimate that we may hit 10,000 new cases per day by the end of May. And yet, Ford has kept up the same line, despite the fact that almost everyone — the general public, workers, activists, front line doctors, public health experts, his science advisory table, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, etc. — has been begging for paid sick days.
Today, the Conservatives again refused to implement paid sick days, as well as paid time off for workers to get vaccinated and the closure of non-essential workplaces. Ford didn’t even show up to the vote. And with the NDP claiming Ford wants to shut down the legislature, there’s a strong chance these measures may never be passed. Ford’s deadly decisions don’t begin and end with his refusal to implement paid sick days, but it best illustrates the absolute disregard he has for our lives.
Ford is an active danger to us all, and any valuable opposition to him will start with treating him as a mass social murderer that needs to be stopped, no matter what. It’s the least we can do for the more than 7,000 people whose lives have already been prematurely ended.