CUPE Ontario delivered a stinging assessment of the Ford government’s provincial budget, as the union charged the government with deliberately underspending on vital services and failing to address the staffing crisis it has created in the hollowing out of the province’s public services.

“Starving our public services has been an intentional choice of this government, and this budget only confirms that choice,” said CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn. “The Progressive Conservatives’ budget doesn’t provide above-inflation funding for the vital services Ontarians rely on, as once again health care, social services, long-term care, child care, universities, and other sectors are being made to do more with less.

“Today we are living with the results: threadbare public services, and the workers who deliver them – in hospitals, schools, long-term care homes, child care centres and elsewhere – are leaving these jobs in droves. Their employers can’t even recruit enough staff to replace them and tens of thousands of jobs in the public sector are going unfilled.

“It has led us to a crisis marked by long wait times and fewer services for the people who need them. We need a workforce strategy to restore the quality and levels of service that Ontarians deserves, but this budget doesn’t even begin to address the problem.”

CUPE Ontario Secretary-Treasurer Yolanda McClean echoed Hahn’s statement by emphasizing that, even after it helped create a generation of workers whose wages have not kept up with inflation, the Ford government still stubbornly refuses to pay workers what they are worth.

“The government is driving workers away from public sector jobs, even though we desperately need to attract people by providing better wages and working conditions. But this budget has utterly failed to make that happen, and the failure is robbing Ontario families of the relief and support they need to cope with the soaring cost of living and falling purchasing power.”

She called on the Ford government to show its good faith by dropping its appeal around Bill 124. Before it was struck down, this legislation was responsible for $2.1 billion in lost wages by public sector workers.

McClean also dismissed the government’s claims of sound fiscal management because its budgets project surpluses.

“Budget surpluses are part of this government’s mythmaking: each time, they tell us they’re spending more on programs and services than any government in Ontario’s history. Then they underspend what they’ve promised and use the unallocated funds to claim a budget surplus.” McClean pointed out that Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office consistently reports that the government is underspending by billions, most recently on health care, education and municipal infrastructure.

“Budget surpluses are money that belong to Ontarians. Surpluses represent all the services that are being denied to us. Funding better services is the best, fastest, and most effective way to support those who need it most. But that can only be done if there are enough workers to deliver those services.”