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2009 Budget fails to deliver on building public services


TORONTO – Ontario’s public services are the chief casualty of a provincial budget that will actually cost jobs and slow the economic recovery.

"Any budget that projects a loss of up to 5,000 positions in public services doesn’t instill any confidence that this government is serious about pulling Ontario out of the recession,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, referring to the Finance ministry’s plan to eliminate five per cent of OPS positions. The job security of 1,200 employees who administer the provincial sales tax is also threatened.

“A loss of that magnitude is akin to losing three steel mill plants in Hamilton. All it does is remove public money out of local economies in communities across the province that are suffering through lost private sector jobs.”

Thomas said Thursday’s budget contains too many examples where Queen’s Park has fallen short of its stated target to rebuild public services.

“There’s a wall of silence when it comes to staffing-up the community colleges that are needed to meet the demand in job retraining. Already we see laid off workers and students being turned away because we don’t have the human resources required to get the victims of the recession back into new jobs.

“There’s nothing wrong with new buildings as long as we have the faculty and staff inside providing quality education.”

The same could be said of jobs in the human and community services sector where Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s budget had little to say about strengthening these programs that typically see their caseloads increase during economic downturns.

On the government’s plan to harmonize the PST and GST Thomas said the move threatens more than 1,200 jobs in Durham region where OPSEU workers administer the provincial retail sales tax.

“As if Durham hasn’t been hammered enough through layoffs and closures in the auto industry; we now face the prospect that hundreds of jobs could be lost in the provincial sector because of harmonizing our taxes,” said Thomas. “I have no faith that federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will guarantee that a job lost in PST administration will transfer to the new blended model.”

Thomas said he was also disappointed there is no indication that Queen’s Park is prepared to infuse major new funding in heath care and services.

“Every community should brace for more cuts to beds and social services at their local hospital.” said Thomas. “Funding is well below what is needed to simply stand still, let alone address the growing number of community hospitals that are sinking into debt.”