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OPSEU’s Thomas to budget committee: ‘Fix the social deficit’

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

Ottawa – The President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) told a legislative committee today that the provincial government must focus in its upcoming budget on reducing the social funding deficit that has led to an erosion of public services and a corresponding increase in inequality for Ontarians.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs and said much of the problem lies with the government’s “obsession with privatization and contracting-out.”

“Privatization is like a weed that’s choking the carefully tended garden of public services that we’ve worked so hard on. Ontarians are fed up. It’s time to stop privatization dead in its tracks,” Thomas said.

In her 2014 annual report, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk chastised the government for spending $8 billion too much on public-private partnerships (P3s) to build new public infrastructure. “Privatization has been offered as a solution to this government’s short-changing of health care,” said Thomas, “but Ontarians are paying a high price.”

Thomas said part of the price are overcrowded hospitals in which patients are sometimes being treated in hallways.  He noted Ontario was last among the provinces in terms of funding per person.

“The government should hang its head in shame at its chronic underfunding,” said Thomas.

Thomas was also concerned about the crisis in the province’s correctional service, where insufficient staffing in institutions has resulted in safety concerns for staff and offenders. He also said there is a lack of resources and infrastructure to provide proper mental health care to those behind bars.

“We need to up the ante to ensure the facilities and health care services are there to provide proper mental health care to inmates and deal with addiction problems. These problems affect half the adult offenders who are behind bars.”

In light of the recent college strike and subsequent arbitration award, Thomas took aim at government underfunding. “At the root of the problem is pressure from government for the colleges to run like a for-profit business, resulting in the colleges’ relying heavily on a cheap labour strategy, part-time support staff and contract faculty.”

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

Read the Pre-budget submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs

Read the 2018 Pre-Budget remarks by OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas