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Of rich men and public services

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Dear friends,

It’s provincial budget time again.

It’s a ritual: Every year, a legislative committee holds public hearings to ask people what they want to see in the next budget. Then the Liberals ignore that advice, and do what they were going to do anyway.

Since 2010, what they’ve been doing is cutting the deficit. They’ve done it by attacking the wages and benefits of public employees. They’ve done it by cutting the public services we all depend on.

Year after year after year.

The Liberals say there’s no money for wages. They say there’s no money for public services. They say we’re broke.

It’s the same thing politicians all over the world have been saying since the last recession. And it’s a load of garbage.

This month, a new report from OXFAM revealed that the richest eight men on the planet have more wealth than half the world. Yes, you read that right: eight men are richer than 3.6 billion people.

It’s hard to know what to say. It’s obscene, for sure. More than 10 per cent of the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day. They struggle to get food for their families. They have no public services except the roads they walk on. They’ve got it bad.

But this kind of inequality isn’t just some far-away Third World problem: here in Canada, the two richest men hold more wealth than the poorest 30 per cent. That means grocery magnate Galen Weston Sr. and newspaper baron David Thomson now have more money than 11 million Canadians.

There is lots of money around – in Ontario, the size of our economy per person is at record levels. But you’d never know it. Right now, 380,000 Ontarians use a food bank every month. More than 170,000 are on waitlists for affordable housing. And a single person on social assistance is expected to scrape by on $706 a month.

Meanwhile, public services – the Great Equalizer – are crumbling as the Liberals at Queen’s Park just keep on cutting.

There is another way.

As the OXFAM report points out, fair taxation of those with the wealth is absolutely essential if we want to pay for health care, education, and other public services we all need. In Ontario, under the Liberals, we’ve been shovelling money up to the rich through privatization. It’s time to go the opposite direction.

We can afford public services. We can afford good jobs. What we can’t afford is more cuts.

In solidarity,

Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida,
First Vice-President/Treasurer, Ontario Public Service Employees Union

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