It’s been said by many great leaders that peace is not the absence of war, it is the presence of justice.
If that’s the case – and we believe it is – then Ontario is at war with itself. The rich may enjoy criminal and social justice, but the rest of us don’t.
It’s a hard truth, but today — which is the UN’s World Day of Social Justice – gives us the opportunity to address it.
“We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality, or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants,” writes the UN, which has given this year’s day the theme of Closing the Inequalities Gap to Achieve Social Justice. “We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.”
How best to promote equality and remove barriers? The answer is simple: strong public services. As we’ve said many times before, they are the great equalizer.
But our public services are starved of the investment they need.
And earlier this week, Ontario’s Financial Accountability Officer (FAO) showed us the chief culprit: tax cuts.
The FAO says that since 2010, the money we’ve spent cutting taxes for the rich has “significantly outpaced program spending growth.”
Incredibly, the FAO says that tax cuts are now the province’s second largest expenditure behind health care. And it’s getting worse. In 2019-20, for example, tax cut spending “is projected to increase by 4.8 per cent, while program spending is projected to increase by 1.3 per cent.”
Who benefits? It couldn’t be more clear.
The FAO says that for the Top 20 per cent of richest families, the tax cuts are worth an average of $5,660 a year. For the poorest families, they’re worth just $1,395 a year.
In other words, we’re cutting public services like schools and hospitals and legal aid and autism services in order to pay for tax breaks to people who can afford private health care and private schools. The rest of us must make do with hallway healthcare and increasingly violent classrooms.
It’s fertile ground for a growing inequality gap, and it has to end.
A more just tax system will ultimately benefit us all, the rich and the rest of us. Because as we achieve social justice, we will achieve peace.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida