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Toronto The Ontario Conservative governments social service spending cuts are a false economy leading to growing poverty and homelessness, less home care support services, fewer affordable child care spaces, and increasing labour disputes in the community agency sector, say members of a social justice labour alliance.

Many community-based social service agencies are in a deficit situation, and in an effort to stay afloat financially, are extracting wage and benefit concessions from already low-paid workers. Bitter strikes, like the one now underway at Torontos Central Neighbourhood House, a community agency that provides home support, shelter and youth services, and child care, are becoming increasingly commonplace in the sector.

Its important to connect the dots about how our crumbling social safety net is directly related to the social service policies of this government. Increasing poverty and homelessness, cash-strapped community agencies, and workers subsidizing services through wage rollbacks, are the result of eight years of detrimental Conservative social service policies and chronic underfunding, said Brian OKeefe, secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) at a Queens Park media conference held today.

Ultimately, the social and financial costs of the Conservative polices such as increasing child poverty, lack of affordable housing and child care, and a growing wage gap for immigrant workers will far outweigh the immediate money savings, said Jane Mercer, executive coordinator with the Toronto Coalition for Better Child Care (TCBCC), and Michael Shapcott, a researcher on homelessness and shelter with the University of Toronto.

“The City of Toronto has cut more than 1,600 subsidized child care spaces in the last twelve months as a result of the shortfall in provincial funding. Now another 500 are on the chopping block. Every time we turn around, we are losing more subsidies. Child care is a vital employment support for working families, and the long-term cost of not funding it properly is highly irresponsible, said Mercer.

Since 1995, the Tory government has cut $879.1 million from provincial housing programs, and Ontario has lost 23,300 affordable social housing units.

That, said Shapcott, is in addition to another 59,600 affordable social housing units that should have been built. In the Tories two terms in government, Ontario led all other provinces in cutting funding to housing. This is why we have growing homelessness province-wide. He attributes the social housing losses to the Tory decision to cancel government-funded social housing programs, and download the cost of social housing to cash-starved municipalities.


For more information, please contact:

Michael Shapcott University of Toronto
Jane Mercer TCBCC (416) 538-7630

Brian OKeefe CUPE Ontario (416) 579-8774

Stella Yeadon CUPE Communications (416) 578-8774