This pandemic truly has been an unprecedented time. The decades of cuts to our health care system and public services show that the provincial governments didn’t see it coming. More needs to be done and fast. While I was glad to see in the recent budget that the Ford government has started to address the need to build our health care and public service capacity, now is the time for action.
This crisis has highlighted our province’s strengths and exposed its weaknesses. OPSEU/SEFPO has been speaking out for decades on the need for more beds in our hospitals; more staff in our long-term care homes; more investment in public services and more proactive planning like working with OPSEU/SEFPO and Ontario’s colleges to solve critical labour shortages.
The government’s recent funding announcements are small steps forward. For the first time in 40 years, front-line staffing cuts were not the main theme of the budget. And how could it be? Austerity is counter intuitive to the front-line hero narrative this crisis has inspired.
I’ve been proud to see that, in all levels of our society, showing respect and appreciation for our frontline workers is becoming “the new normal”. This pandemic has driven home for all Ontarians the value of our work and the courage of our members.
But when this pandemic is over, this progress must continue. There can be no backward steps. It’s time to declare a new era, a public sector renaissance of lasting proportion.
As OPSEU/SEFPO’s Treasurer, I know all too well the value of good investments to our collective future. Dollar for dollar, public services are not only the great equalizer in society. It’s the very difference between life and death.
Together, we must ensure that Ontario remains strong and ready to face any unforeseen challenges that arise. Building forward thinking capacity has been something I’ve fought hard for over the past 10 years. As OPSEU/SEFPO’s First Vice-President/Treasurer, and as a leader in our great union, I pledge to keep my foot on the pedal.
Building up rather than tearing down must be the new normal. It’s our future. Let’s build it better together. And to all the front-line heroes, thank you.
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida