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We’re citizens, not just consumers

OPSEU Vice President Eddy Almeida
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The federal election campaign has officially kicked-off and as the rhetoric ramps up, Ontarians have a minefield of messages to navigate.

It’s easy to buy into the selfish individualism of “getting ahead.” More money in your pocket might mean you can buy more “stuff” but definitely not a higher quality of life. Politicians promising a few extra bucks are trying to distract us from the real scam – the whopping corporate tax cuts and devastating public service cuts that come with them.

It’s like the Stompin’ Tom lyrics: “the consumers they call us, we’re the people that buy.”

That’s exactly how Andrew Scheer and his provincial cousins like Doug Ford see us – as consumers, not as citizens. They think our votes can be bought with the promise of “a few bucks,” and they tell us cutting taxes, spending and public sector wages is good for us – that it’ll spur economic growth.

I think it’s clear that experiment has failed. We’re losing more than we’re gaining.

We’ve had nearly 20 years of deep corporate tax cuts in Canada. We now have among the lowest corporate tax rates of all G8 countries, and we’re even below the OECD average. We’ve also seen a quarter century of deep public sector cuts and privatization.

And what have we got in return? Definitely not higher investment and booming economic growth. We’re not getting ahead because life has become less affordable and fair for everyone.

At the same time, we’ve seen corporate cash surpluses of $700 billion. Contrary to popular propaganda, that money doesn’t create jobs or stimulate the economy, it’s sitting idly at the top or in offshore bank accounts as ‘dead money.’

And with the election of Doug Ford, it’s been more of the same in Ontario. In his first budget, he doled out $3.8 billion more in corporate tax cuts while crying foul about Ontario’s finances. It means even higher income for the richest, and service and wage cuts for the rest of us.

But gutting public services so that corporations can hoard millions of dollars isn’t worth the table scraps they promise us. Like Stompin’ Tom said, “some tax deductions later and we still wind up in the hole.”

We’re getting robbed, and we’re tired of governments and so-called “think tanks” that are complicit in this scam. Take the Fraser Institute – it’s funded by corporate interests to push a public policy agenda to enrich its wealthy donors.  They’re the sort of folks with a race-to-the-bottom mentality about taxes, spending and public sector wages that pits economic growth against the public interest.

It doesn’t have to be an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ economy. Public sector workers don’t live in some alternate economic universe – they share households with private sector workers, as families. And when workers and families make more, they spend more. Good jobs support our province’s economic growth, not tax cuts.

Tax cuts don’t make life more affordable, and we’re not just consumers looking for a few extra bucks. We’re citizens who want to build a better economy and society. But in order to do that, we need to flip the current political discourse on its head.

Ontario isn’t the high-tax hellhole they’d have us believe and it’s time to turn the table on those who call for more tax cuts, less spending and lower public sector wages. It’s time to accept that Canada’s experiments with corporate welfare and public service cuts have failed.

The solution is fair taxation and smart investment. Our economy flourishes when people have good jobs and access to public services like health care and education. Our society flourishes when people are treated like citizens, not consumers.

We’ve got a choice to make; let’s choose a bold new vision for a better future, not more of the same old.

In Solidarity,

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

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