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The Age of Austerity must end, Thomas tells budget committee


Toronto  The “Age of Austerity” that is destroying Ontario’s public services must stop immediately, the President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union told a legislative committee today.

Addressing the pre-budget hearings of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs at Queen’s Park, Warren (Smokey) Thomas said seven years of cuts to public services had left Ontario in last place among Canadian provinces.

“The impact of austerity has been brutal,” he said. “We rank tenth out of ten provinces when it comes to per-student funding for our colleges. The number of licensed residential beds for children and youth in care is down 35 per cent in the last 10 years. And as we wrap up the ninth consecutive year of real-dollar cuts to our hospitals, we have fewer hospital beds per capita than any other province.

“On the frontlines of public services, there is nothing left to cut,” he said. “My members deliver the best they can with what they’ve got, but they haven’t got the support they need in order to deliver the services Ontarians expect – and deserve.”

Thomas chastised Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa for continuing to brag that Ontario has the lowest program spending per capita of any province in Canada.

“As I’ve said many times before, this is not something to brag about – this is something to be ashamed of,” Thomas said. “There is no doubt in my mind that many Ontarians have already died as a result of Liberal austerity. More cuts at this stage will be murderous.”

Thomas said the government has many options for raising money for public services.

“If this government wants to improve its bottom line, the number one easiest way to do so is to end its obsession with privatization,” he said. “Privatization is wreaking havoc with the provincial budget. In boardrooms, on job sites, and in workplaces across this province, privatization is eating public dollars the way termites eat floor joists. Public services are collapsing.”

OPSEU represents 130,000 workers working in the public sector and employed by contractors paid by public sector entities.

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