Our provincial government is killing public services.
Forget about the new spending in the 2016 budget, released February 25. All if it will be paid for by cuts in other areas.
Sure, the new spending is highly visible. It’s designed to catch the attention of reporters and create a “good news day” for the government. The cuts, on the other hand, are buried deep in the budget. And they are wrapped in language no one can understand.
For example, the budget doesn’t say that the Liberals at Queen’s Park plan to keep on freezing wages right across the public sector. Here’s what it says instead:
Over the coming year, the government will continue to work with sector-level partners to assist in identifying possible opportunities to support mutually beneficial bargaining outcomes that are consistent with the government’s Program Review, Renewal and Transformation priorities and the Province’s fiscal plan.
Hard to understand? Sure – it’s meant to be. But make no mistake: that is the sound of inflation eating your pay.
Overall, provincial program spending, compared to the size of our economy, is dropping like a stone. In 2009-10, spending was 17.9 per cent of the economy. In 2015-16, the fiscal year just ending, it was 16.2 per cent. This year, that difference is a $13.2 billion gap.
It’s a huge amount – it’s more than we spend on all social services and support payments combined. And it’s gone. That money is coming out of your wages, and it’s coming out of the services you provide. So where has it gone to?
It’s gone into the private sector.
The most significant new spending in Ontario today is spending on public infrastructure. Over the next 10 years, the Liberals say, government will spend $137 billion on new transit, roads, bridges, and buildings.
These days, all big projects like this are public-private partnerships (P3s). With P3s, construction bosses and bankers gorge themselves on public dollars, some of which are recycled back to the Ontario Liberal Party in the form of political donations. It’s a corrupt system, and all Ontarians are paying for it.
Those with the Liberal connections get rich. The rest of us get cuts. The 2016 Ontario budget was written on the tombstone of public services.
But there is hope. Down in the U.S., a guy named Bernie Sanders is speaking out against exactly this kind of corruption. In his run for the White House, Sanders is calling for a “political revolution” against a wealthy status quo.
We need a revolution in Ontario, too – and it's up to us to build one. It’s the only way we’ll save our public services.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union