Dear sisters and brothers:
A few days ago, Premier Dalton McGuinty told a group of Ontario road builders that now is not the time to be cutting back on public spending.
“If banks are reluctant to lend and the private sector is not doing that much spending and consumer confidence isn’t where it should be,” said McGuinty, “we’ve got to be very careful about moving too quickly in government to remove public dollars from the economy.”
This is a change in tone for the Premier. A few months ago, his big theme was how big the deficit was. All he talked about was the need for cuts.
Now he’s talking as if he’s realized something important: The public sector is part of the economy.
This is what we’ve been telling his government for a while now. Back in January, union leaders met with Dwight Duncan, the Finance Minister. We told him that when he’s spending $32.5 billion over two years on infrastructure – specifically to create jobs now – it hardly makes sense to be cutting billions from public services. Cuts don’t provide economic stimulus, they remove it.
The Minister agreed.
To drive home our message, the unions in the Ontario Federation of Labour decided to sponsor radio ads on stations across the province. We set up an interactive website at www.communitiesthatwork.ca. And many of us made a presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.
Our message has not changed: Saving and creating jobs – good jobs – must be the government’s top priority in the next budget. Cutting the deficit won’t create good jobs (it will eliminate them), but creating good jobs will boost tax revenues and thereby bring down the deficit.
If you go to the Ontario Legislature web site and read my Feb. 1 presentation to the budget committee, and then read the presentation from the United Steelworkers, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the Ontario Federation of Labour, you’ll notice one thing right away: We are all singing from the same songbook.
We want good jobs. We want public services. Those are our top priorities.
There will be things in the next budget that we won’t like. There always are. But the labour movement is getting its act together at a critical time. And together we represent over one million Ontario workers.
Maybe that’s why it’s starting to sound like the Premier just might be listening.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President