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The provincial Liberal government must be taken to task for retrenching rather than driving the economy forward during the current economic crisis, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario. Union president Sid Ryan says that the McGuinty government is going in the wrong direction with today’s announcement that it will delay and slow down new spending, and provide no increase in transfer payments to municipalities, school boards, universities and hospitals. Given a two per cent inflation rate, that will effectively mean a cut in funding for these institutions.

This is no time for the government to pull back. It is wrong for McGuinty to stall spending as this will move the province closer to a ‘rust-bucket’ economy,” said Ryan. “Already factories have closed, jobs and production have moved to other countries and key sectors like forestry, manufacturing and auto production are languishing”.

McGuinty is picking off the low hanging fruit—slowing down the hiring of new nurses and cutting back on public sector investments that were previously promised. The reality is that McGuinty has a responsibility to stimulate the Ontario economy by using the public sector as the driver until his government can develop a long-term plan to replace the 250,000 manufacturing jobs that have been lost in the province.”

It’s been proven that government investment is the only sure way to kick-start an economy when industries and financial institutions are failing,” added Ryan, who represents 225,000 workers in the public sector. “Government investments in programs keep people working and keep tax revenues flowing into the provincial coffers.”

Another policy that sorely needs to be revisited is the use of public-private partnerships (P3s) to build hospitals and other infrastructure. “Brampton and North Bay hospitals have together run $633 million over in capital costs, and at least 30 more similar projects are planned. McGuinty ought to know that we can’t afford these gifts to the bankers, brokers and developers building these projects.”

Had these two hospitals been built by the public sector, the combined savings alone arising from the private sector overruns would have negated the $500 million deficit that McGuinty is now projecting,” said Ryan.

Ryan says that the public sector—from hospitals, to schools, universities, municipal and social services—has traditionally boosted local economies in lean times. “Less money will shrink these economic drivers, particularly in towns that have lost forestry and manufacturing jobs. That is why it is equally irresponsible for the John Tory Conservatives to say that public sector hiring and wages must be frozen.” He added that, in the longer term, the provincial government needs to develop new manufacturing strategies based on the creation of green jobs and ‘Made in Ontario’ strategies.

For more information, contact:

Sid Ryan             President, CUPE Ontario     416-209-0066
Valerie Dugale    CUPE Communications        647-225-3685