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OPSEU/SEFPO’s President calls for a massive investment into public services in this week’s budget

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas
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Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is calling on the Ford government to make major investments into public services in this week’s budget to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and address decades of neglect of successive governments.

“In a word, it has to be about a collective investment in the heart and soul of this province, or as the Premier likes to say, the ‘every day folks,'” says Thomas.

Front-line public sector workers have heroically held the line and carried Ontario through the COVID-19 pandemic so far, but they won’t be able to get us through the second wave without more support, said Thomas. “Previous governments have blamed front-line workers for their budget problems, but that is a myth and it’s unfair.”

A massive investment in health care, including more hospitals, long-term care homes and public labs, is vital to ensure Ontario can both cope with the current pandemic and future ones, said Thomas, who added that it’s also vital that long-term care be fully public and private operators kicked out.

“The private corporations and their greedy executives have pocketed huge profits off the backs of our elderly, the infirmed and sadly, those no longer with us,” said Thomas. “That must end now.”

Hand in hand with infrastructure, more front-line workers will be needed, and Thomas says to prepare a trained workforce, increased investments are needed throughout Ontario’s post-secondary system.

“For example, let’s use our community colleges as former Premier Bill Davis intended, as a source of a highly trained workforce certified by world class academics,” said Thomas.

OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida gives credit to the Ford government for stepping up to increase staffing and improve infrastructure in the Corrections system but says there needs to be follow up.

“More investment is needed to ensure Correctional Institutions are safe for staff and inmates, and our Probation and Parole Officers have the resources they need to ensure Ontarians are safe,” said Almeida, who is himself a Correctional Officer. “Since I’m in the process of putting together OPSEU/SEFPO’s budget, I know only too well that you need to make difficult decisions sometimes and for the Premier and Finance Minister now is the time to put people — and the public services they depend on — first.”

Thomas also called on the government to reverse course on the trend to allow private retailers to sell alcoholic beverages, and make the LCBO the engine to fund the investment essential to equip Ontario to get through the pandemic and head into a recovery.

“We must ensure that the LCBO remains the crown jewel of government revenue and stop the slow creep of privatization and tax dollars away from the public purse,” Thomas said.

Thomas says there are dozens of other areas that need investment as well, such as Children’s Aid, Children’s Mental Health and Developmental Services, legal aid clinics, homeless shelters, the Ontario Public Service, and municipalities.

“If this government is to be for the people of Ontario, paid for by the people of Ontario, then it must address the needs, wants and desires of the people Ontario,” Thomas said.

For More Information:

OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931

Click here for a video version of President Thomas’s comments.