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Underfunded public services can’t survive more cuts

TORONTO – Public services are already starved for funding and can’t take more cuts, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

Neither the people who need public services nor the people who provide them should bear the burden of paying down the provincial deficit, said the union in advance of Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s October 22nd Economic Statement.

“Public services have been on life support since the Mike Harris years,” said OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Patricia Rout. “During the current recession, demand for services has increased dramatically and yet our members, in virtually ever sector, have had to do more with less.”

The current funding crisis in children and youth services shows the situation is already desperate for the province’s children and families.

“More than 27,000 children and 42,000 families receive care from children’s aid societies and one in five children in Ontario need mental health services,” said Deb Gordon, chair of the union’s Community Services Divisional Council. “Further cuts would be catastrophic when we’re not getting enough funding now from government to help these vulnerable kids.”

Twenty union leaders from children’s aid societies and children’s mental health agencies will meet in Toronto Oct. 21 for an emergency round-table on the funding crisis in their sectors.

Ontario needs a long-term plan to reduce the provincial deficit without cutting public services. The plan should be based on an understanding that the public sector is vital to the recovery of the economy.

“Every dollar spent in the public sector not only provides a service that people need, but also provides income that supports families, communities and local businesses,” said Rout.

The union warned against privatizing public services as a quick fix for Ontario’s deficit .

“The track record of privatization is one of higher costs, reduced services, poorer jobs and structural deficits,” said Rout.

OPSEU represents 130,000 employees of the Ontario government, community colleges, the LCBO and more than 500 employers in the Broader Public Sector.

To learn more about the real costs of public spending cuts read the Backgrounder