Pay Paula, but don’t rob Peter


After six years as your First Vice President / Treasurer, I’ve learned a few things about investments and spending. Sometimes, small investments up front pay big dividends later.

And that’s just what some new research about investing in social services shows.

Echoing what OPSEU’s social service members have been saying for years, a study done by professors at the University of Calgary has found that if we invest even a bit more in social services, we’ll all be healthier and live longer.

I couldn’t agree more, and I’m glad to see that part of this research is getting so much attention.

Unfortunately, the study only got it half right.

After telling governments to increase their investment in social services – great! – the researchers go on to advise governments to increase social service investment by reducing health care investment.


The authors obviously haven’t had to visit a hospital any time recently. Because if they had, they’d know that we’re already investing far too little in our health care system. Cutting that investment is unthinkable.

Our health care system is stretched to the breaking point.

Here in Ontario, we have huge waitlists for long-term care and home care. And our hospitals are stuffed to bursting – patients are stuck on gurneys in hallways for days at a time. Overcrowding at some hospitals is so severe that ambulances can’t even offload their patients.

OPSEU members on the front-lines of health care have been fighting for years to ensure our health care system receives the investment it needs. And if we don’t make that investment, we’ll all end up suffering in the long run.

So the last thing we need are suggestions to further cut our health care investments. We’d just be robbing Peter to invest in Paula.

But going back to the basic research in the study – what did the researchers find would happen if we increase investment in social services even by a small percentage?

They found that we’d all reap real benefits: average life expectancy would jump by up to five per cent while avoidable deaths could drop by as much as three per cent.

And while the researchers didn’t look specifically at our Correctional system, I’m certain investing in social services will help ease our crisis in corrections.

I’m a Correctional Officer by profession, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked away from a conversation with an inmate thinking: “If only they had a bit of help and support, their life could have turned out much differently, and perhaps better.”

So I’m glad this study will help us argue for increasing investment in our social services. We’ll all live longer, healthier lives if we do.

But we have to take a hard stand against the researchers’ claim that we can reduce our investment in health care. That’s just more austerity nonsense that will leave us all worse off, not better.

In solidarity,

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


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