With Ontario breaking two records this weekend, and logging more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario is calling on the Government of Ontario to commit to funding immediate and significant actions.
The record-setting spike in cases follows budget consultations hosted by Ontario’s Ministry of Finance, which CUPE Ontario says could have been an opportunity to fund the services Ontarians need during a crisis.
“We’re in an unimaginable crisis and this government isn’t recognizing that penny-pinching is only making it worse,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “Spending saves lives. Instead of recognizing that, the Ford Conservatives are sitting on $9.3 billion of unspent collective resources – money we could use to fund measures that will keep us safe.”
They include reversing the cuts to public services the Ford Conservatives previously ushered in; augmenting testing and contact tracing capacity by hiring more people in the public sector to do this critical work; requiring the private sector to report cases in workplaces; funding our schools so that all people using them can be safe; acting quickly to stop the devastation of a second wave by putting a moratorium on any more for-profit long-term care (LTC); and ensuring that a daily minimum of 4 hours hands-on care in LTC is the law.
CUPE Ontario adds that the government should provide additional funding to municipalities to ensure there are no cuts to public services; increase funding and supports to community agencies like developmental services and shelters; move to establish real affordable housing and making evictions during a pandemic illegal; and order private industry to produce N95 masks.
“There are so many more measures this government should and could take,” said Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario. “This health crisis is not completely outside of our control. How we deal with it is entirely up to us. We should finally choose to bolster the public services that are proven to protect people.”
According to the union, which represents 280,000 public sector workers, the Ontario government has passed the buck to other levels of government. The province’s Financial Accountability Officer (FAO), for instance, recently reported that 97% of all government spending in Ontario is actually federal money.
Additionally, revenue in the province has dropped, in no small part because of massive tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy instituted by the Ford Conservatives, with the FAO reporting that corporate tax cuts have reduced it government revenues $6.6 billion.
“Instead of reducing revenue, it’s time for the provincial government to increase taxes on those who can well afford to pay their fair share: on profitable corporations and the wealthiest in our communities,” said Hahn. “And even with these devastating and short-sighted cuts, they are sitting on billions of dollars they could be spending today to help stem the tide of the second wave. Now, especially with cases topping 1,000, it’s time to side with people over profits.”