Public services hit hard by new Ontario budget | National Union of Public and General Employees

Public services hit hard by new Ontario budget

'A loss of that magnitude is akin to losing three steel mill plants in Hamilton.' - OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas. [Updated with detailed critique.]

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees UnionToronto (25 March 2009) - Ontario’s public services are the chief casualty of Thursday's provincial budget, which will cost thousands of jobs and slow the pace of economic recovery, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).

“Any budget that projects a loss of 5,000 positions in the public service doesn’t instill any confidence that this government is serious about pulling Ontario out of the recession,” says OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. The cuts are projected over the next three years.

“A loss of that magnitude is akin to losing three steel mill plants in Hamilton. All it does is remove public money out of local economies in communities across the province that are suffering through lost private sector jobs,” Thomas adds.

Rebuilding plan gone

He says the financial blueprint, tabled by Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, contains too many examples where Queen’s Park has fallen short of its stated target to rebuild public services.

“There’s a wall of silence when it comes to staffing up the community colleges that are needed to meet the demand in job retraining. Already we see laid off workers and students being turned away because we don’t have the human resources required to get the victims of the recession back into new jobs," Thomas notes.

“There’s nothing wrong with new buildings as long as we have the faculty and staff inside providing quality education.”

OPSEU says the same could be said of jobs in the human and community services sector. The budget had little to say about strengthening these programs which typically see an increase in caseloads when the economy turns down.

Harmonization hurts jobs

On the government’s plan to harmonize the PST and GST — the Ontario and federal sales taxes — Thomas says the move threatens more than 1,200 jobs in Durham region where OPSEU workers administer the provincial tax.

“As if Durham hasn’t been hammered enough through layoffs and closures in the auto industry," he notes.

"We now face the prospect that hundreds of jobs could be lost in the provincial sector because of harmonizing our taxes. I have no faith that federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will guarantee that a job lost in PST administration will transfer to the new blended model.”

Thomas is also disappointed that the budget does nothing to put new funding into heath care and services.

“Every community should brace for more cuts to beds and services at their local hospital” he forecasts. “Funding is well below what is needed to simply stand still, let alone address the growing number of community hospitals that are sinking into debt.” 

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

More Information:
OPSEU takes a closer look at the Ontario budget

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