2013 Ontario Budget – Austerity will never bring prosperity

Kathleen Wynne, Premier

Dear Premier Wynne:

RE:     2013 Ontario Budget – Austerity will never bring prosperity

On behalf of the 20,000-strong membership of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 79, I would like to comment on the 2013 Ontario Budget introduced on May 2, 2013.

CUPE Local 79 is the largest municipal union local in Canada and our members provide front-line public services in the City of Toronto, Toronto Community Housing Corporation and Bridgepoint Hospital – We Take Care of Toronto.

Policy direction and funding allocations by the Province of Ontario are critical to the City of Toronto and its communities that our members serve. CUPE Local 79 knows all too well the harm that flat-lined budgets, wage freezes and cut backs can do to public services and the people who depend on them. It was shocking to hear Ontario Finance Minister, Charles Sousa’s Budget speech announce proudly that “16 out of 25 Ministries are delivering quality public services while spending less than they were allocated this year”. And it was also alarming to read in the Budget that, “growth in program spending is projected to be less than 1 per cent in 2012 – 2013 for the second consecutive year,” and that, “Ontario currently has the lowest program spending per capita among Canadian provinces”. Spending less when people need it most is not the way to prosperity and fairness.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has appropriately raised concerns about your Budget’s new proposed high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes to cover the cost of expanding transit. This is a totally unfair response to the transit crisis that working people in Toronto face when commuting to work every day. This so-called solution would be only available to those who could afford to pay, and would increase congestion and gridlock for all commuters. This won’t help connect people to accessible public transit and it will worsen Toronto’s pollution problems.

Having noted some of our concerns above, CUPE Local 79 welcomes the Budget promises of help for welfare recipients to keep more of their earnings, an increase in resources for home care health services, a desperately-needed increase to the Ontario Child Benefit, a youth employment strategy, a long-overdue review of the Minimum Wage, and a reduction in auto insurance rates. These progressive changes are good for working people and families and we support these elements in the 2013 Ontario Budget.  However, like NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, we remain concerned about accountability, future outcomes, and timelines for the implementation of these Budget proposals.

We would urge your government, Premier Wynne, to institute accountability practices to ensure implementation of these Budget promises.

Yours truly,

Tim Maguire, President

Cc:       Andrea Horwath, Leader, New Democratic Party of Ontario

            Tim Hudak, Leader, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario