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OPSEU tele-town halls tackle the ‘Doug-tator’ Ford budget

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas speaks into a microphone during a telephone town hall.

Thousands of OPSEU members took part in the free-wheeling and hard-hitting conversations that took place during the three OPSEU “Budget Watch” tele-town halls on April 16 and 17.

“Based on some of the terrible things in this budget, we should be calling the premier the ‘Doug-tator,’” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

“Ford promised he wouldn’t cut the frontlines. But now that he’s in power, he’s using that power to do anything he wants … and that’s cut, cap, and privatize,” said Thomas.

“But with our Together to Win campaign and by working with our allies, we’re going to fight back.”

Thomas is joined by two economics experts from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – Sheila Block and Randy Robinson – and also by OPSEU’s General Counsel, Eric O’Brien.

Much like a call-in radio show, members ask questions and make comments during the tele-town halls.

“I survived the Harris era and I never thought I’d see anything worse,” said one member. “But this is worse. I’m glad we’re committed to building stronger alliances, because everybody is going to get hurt.”

Block and Robinson said that, from an economics point of view, the Ford budget is a disaster.

“This isn’t a budget about economics, it’s a budget about cutting services and opening the door to privatization,” said Block. “Just to maintain the services we have right now, funding would need to grow by 3.5 per cent a year to keep up with inflation and population growth. But in this budget, funding grows by less than one per cent a year.”

Most of the people who called in – including correctional officers, paramedics, developmental service workers, hospital lab professionals, and college faculty — all joined the conversation to ask how the budget will effect them.

Unfortunately, many details about the government’s plans still aren’t yet known.

“The sad truth is that, for the moment, we’re going to have to wait for the government to release more details about its plans,” said Thomas.

But Thomas said OPSEU isn’t waiting to start fighting back.

“The goal of the Together To Win campaign is to build the capacity in our locals to fight back,” he said. “In the short term we’re going to fight and campaign like crazy to expose what Ford is really up to.

“And in the longer term, we’re going to go after the Tory MPPs in their constituencies. They don’t like questions they can’t answer. And then, we’re going to defeat them at the polls next time around.”