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Ontario Budget an ‘opportunity missed’: OPSEU President Thomas

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas in the Queen's Park media gallery.

Toronto – After a decade of austerity in Ontario, the Liberal government has finally loosened the purse strings, but something bolder was needed, OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas said Wednesday.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Thomas. “But some great strides were needed rather than a baby step.”

The budget released today outlines billions of additional dollars in program funding. Described as a “sea change” after years of real dollar cuts, Thomas cautioned that much of the promised funding is not anticipated to materialize for years to come, if ever.

“This budget could have been a game changer,” said Thomas. “This was a huge opportunity to show support for our vital public services and denounce privatization, but there was no mention of this. So, while the budget is an ok start, this falls a little flat.”

OPSEU, which proudly represents 155,000 members in the direct and broader public service as well as the province’s publicly funded colleges, is calling for greater recognition that public service infrastructure demands serious investments, after more than 20 years of austerity.

“Over the next two months we’re going to hear a lot of nonsense about ‘inefficiencies’ and the need to return to austerity,” said Thomas. “But Ontarians see that our public sector is barebones – whether they’re the frontline workers or the users of public services, they know this all too well.”

In fact, according to the budget, when it comes to social programs, Ontario is still providing the lowest funding per person of all the provinces; a clear indication that the budget did not go far enough.

“Today’s funding announcements are welcome, but they aren’t groundbreaking,” said Thomas.

“The budget talked about opportunity, but this was clearly an opportunity missed,” said Thomas. “It’s important for all Ontarians to remember these promises and hold all politicians accountable in the coming months. Together we must demand better; by supporting public services, and stopping privatization.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931.