OPSEU/SEFPO pleased to see recovery, not austerity, as top government priority

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas
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Toronto – The Ontario government has delivered its fall economic statement, and OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is pleased to see that post-pandemic recovery, and a rejection of austerity, remains top priority.

“Our economy really is a machine,” said Thomas. “And the public sector is a key part of it, and our province’s economic recovery. We’re pleased to see today’s commitment to continue investing in job training and in our health and long-term care systems; it’s a rejection of austerity, and that’s great news.”

Despite a projected $21.5 billion deficit, Ontario’s finance minister has announced a boost in health care funding, with resources earmarked for hospital infrastructure projects, for long-term care beds, staff and to double the number of long-term care home inspectors. The government has also committed $90 million toward a skilled trades strategy.

“Our economy needs big help, and the province has made some big promises to deliver it,” said Thomas. “With millions in funding to add and upgrade the skills of thousands of RNs, RPNs and PSWs, this is a positive step toward addressing some of the critical health care staffing shortages our union has been identifying for many years.”

“We have still got a lot of catching up to do, like repealing Bill 124,” said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “We see a recognition from this government that austerity and cuts don’t help: they hurt our economy.

“Doubling the number of skilled immigrants to address the labour shortage is a smart move to address shortages in healthcare and education, among other sectors of the economy,” said Almeida. “What we need to see now is a commitment to repeal Bill 124 – the best way to recruit workers is to pay them fairly.”

Thomas called it a good week for Ontario’s workers, with a positive fall economic statement coming just days after news that Ontario’s minimum wage will rise to $15 an hour on January 1, 2022. But Thomas says there’s also more room for improvement.

“I firmly believe in supporting small business by shopping locally,” said Thomas. “While I can get behind a ‘staycation’ tax credit to support travel and tourism in Ontario, it’s time that corporate taxes were raised, especially for those who’ve seen their profits skyrocket during the pandemic. It’s about time they pay their fair share and contribute to Ontario’s economic recovery too.

“If we want to rebuild an Ontario that’s better and stronger, we must all do our part,” added Thomas. “We must focus on progressing, and moving our agenda forward, together.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931
OPSEUCommunications@opseu.org