March 29, 2011: Budget squeeze ignores key realities as corporate tax cuts drain public purse


(TORONTO)  Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s new budget ignores key realities about public services and the hard reality of life for millions of Ontarians, the President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union says.

“As the government admits, Ontario already has the third-lowest program spending per capita among the provinces and the second-lowest cost for government administration,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “The idea that we need to cut public services – at a time when we are giving away billions in corporate income tax cuts – is ludicrous.”

The Budget revealed plans to wipe out 1,500 jobs in the Ontario Public Service, starting two years from now. That’s in addition to the 3,400 job cuts already announced in the 2009 Budget.

“The fact that the government has not identified which jobs will be cut says clearly that this exercise is based on political targets, not delivering quality services,” Thomas said. “The fact that the new Commission on Broader Public Service Reform has been framed as a deficit-reduction exercise is outrageous. Putting a former bank executive in charge with a mandate to privatize at will is part of an alarming and ongoing trend toward corporate influence over democratic governments everywhere.

“How can the government identify Children’s Aid as a source of savings at a time when programs for abused and neglected children need a major infusion of cash just to keep afloat?” he said.

The only bright spot in the Budget for vulnerable people was the new focus on children’s mental health, a sector in which agencies have seen their budgets frozen for 17 of the last 19 years.

“I applaud the government for this long-awaited initiative,” Thomas said. “I wish I could say the same for the mental health system for adults. We estimate it would take $1.3 billion in new funding in mental health just to get the system up to recommended standards. Unfortunately nothing like that happened with this Budget.”

Thomas said the reduction in real incomes for people relying on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support program was “an uncalled-for slap in the face” to poor Ontarians. “Increasing social assistance rates by one per cent means a real cut equal to the rate of inflation, which has been 2.9 per cent since the HST came in,” Thomas said. “Freezing the minimum wage at $10.25 means the real minimum wage is going down again.

“When you couple this with the fact that the government’s job creation strategy is to wait for business to invest, I don’t see how poor people can draw any hope at all from this budget.”

For more information:

Warren (Smokey) Thomas: (613) 329-1931 (cell)