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Desperately seeking McGuinty’s spine, anti-poverty activists condemn budget

At news conferences in Guelph and Kitchener on April 2, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) said that for less than 0.1 per cent of the overall budget, the Liberal government stands poised to deepen the crisis of poverty in Ontario by freezing social assistance and delaying planned increases in child benefits.

Freezing welfare only saves the province about $90 million, less than 0.072 per cent of the total provincial budget,” said John Clarke, coordinator of the OCAP. “Premier McGuinty knows full well that the top one percent of income earners have doubled their income since 1980, but pay half the taxes today. He also knows that if corporate taxes had been raised back to the previous rate of 14 per cent, it could have raised $2 billion in one year alone. But he chose to attack the poor, who will have no choice but to fight back.”

This budget will only deepen the crisis of poverty in Ontario,” Clarke said. “People receiving social assistance today receive 20 per cent less than they did under the Harris government. Dalton McGuinty has stooped even lower than his dreaded Conservative rivals in his rush to abandon the poor to “solve” economic problems caused by the rich.”

Three years ago, the provincial budget was balanced – and then the economic crisis hit,” said Patti Jo Encinas, a CUPE Ontario health care worker and vice-president of OCHU. “Today, the government has no shame as it cravenly passes the buck by freezing social assistance rates, slashing public sector services and gutting workers’ pensions. Did child care workers cause the economic collapse? Did teachers? Did poor people?” 

The budget, if allowed to pass, will hurt Ontario’s economic recovery by taking billions out of the economy and making things worse for people already living in poverty,” Encinas said. “Premier McGuinty, it’s time to share a little austerity with the rich by rolling back previous corporate tax cuts. Mr. Premier, it just takes a little spine.”

Low-lights of the proposed budget include the elimination of a benefit known as ‘Community Start-up and Maintenance Allowance’, a way for people to get the funds to move, flee abusive situations, or pay for emergencies such as when the power has been cut off,” said Clarke.

This budget kicks people who are already down,” Clarke said. “More and more people will question austerity, and question those who draw up budgets like this, and confront those who stand to profit.”

The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) is the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ hospital sector in Ontario.

For more information, please contact:

Craig Saunders
CUPE Ontario Communications