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Thomas: Ford’s dead wrong on affordability


The Toronto Sun published the following op-ed written by OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas on February 4, 2019.

For most Ontarians, life is getting harder and much less affordable. Nearly 50% of Canadians are $200 or less away from financial insolvency, and after 25 years of austerity and deep cuts in Ontario, we’ve reached a full-out affordability crisis.

It’s no wonder tax has become such a taboo word. People need relief, not another cost, right? It’s why the Progressive Conservative Party’s rinse-and-repeat messaging has worked. They don’t get bogged down by facts, they just repeat their mantra: Cut taxes, save money.

But when it comes to making life more affordable, they’re dead wrong and their message is dangerous.

Take Doug Ford’s latest misfire on the carbon tax. He may not accept the word of the many economists who disagree with him, but it’s even harder for people to believe that Ford has any idea what he’s talking about.

Because no matter what he believes, climate change denial isn’t going to save us any money. There will be costs, and they will catch up to us one way or another, whether it’s in our lifetime or passed on to our kids and grandkids.

Climate action will cost us, but a carbon tax is our most affordable option. It’s like preventative medicine for our climate; pay a little now to avoid disaster costs later.

But what about this carbon-tax recession? It’s just another Ford fear tactic.

Carbon taxes don’t cause recessions; lower incomes, higher unemployment and less consumer spending do, though. It comes as no great surprise that when people have less money, they spend less money, and the negative effects snowball.

It’s why growing income inequality is our greatest threat.

Ford is more concerned about a carbon tax than decent jobs and wages because of ideology, not facts. Ford’s latest shot at economists is so laughable precisely because of the longstanding marriage between PC ideology and economic theory.

For generations, PCs have been guided by the invisible hand, free market economics and the trickle-down theory. These are not scientific, they’re as imaginary as unicorns.

Economics isn’t a science, and it’s definitely not foolproof. But it can offer useful insights.

Like the time progressive economists said a minimum wage increase wouldn’t destroy Ontario’s economy and then, well, it didn’t.  During the election campaign, economists also predicted that Ford’s fiscal plan would do more damage than any other party, and we’re seeing it unfold.

They’ve cut $2.7 billion in tax revenue, but only shaved $500 million off the deficit. That money went straight into the hands of the wealthy, and at a great cost to the rest of us.

So if Ford is really concerned about recessions, he should focus on making life more affordable in ways that actually matter to people: Stand up for good jobs, wages and quality public services. It is frontline workers who fuel our economy by buying and selling all the goods and services produced.

These people have more money to spend when they aren’t forced to pay whopping out-of-pocket costs to visit the emergency department or pay down their student debt.

Ford should stop the fear mongering and focus on making life truly more affordable for “the people.” His partisan political drivel is something none of us can afford.

Ontarians expect better.