While some unions support the Premier, a large number of others protested Doug Ford’s latest budget for focusing on property over people.
Labour unions renewed their calls for a better budget after the Ontario Legislature resumed on Monday, August 8. Numerous Ontario unions and labour organizations gathered at Queen’s Park to urge Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives to, “listen up!”
These organizations made it clear that they would be watching closely to see if Doug Ford will be implementing policies that support workers.
After the throne speech on Tuesday, August 9, the Progressive Conservatives re-tabled the budget they presented to Ontarians before the election. There have been small changes to the budget, including a five per cent increase in funding for the Ontario Disability Support Program, but many labour leaders have said that the old budget needs to be updated.
“What we saw tabled was a budget that was, despite new evidence, left unchanged since the spring,” said JP Hornick, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).
Hornick said that recycling an old budget demonstrates that Doug Ford is not meeting the current needs of workers. This criticism is one that can be heard by multiple unions in Ontario.
Doug Ford “out of touch” with workers
In a press release, the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said, “The Ford Conservatives doubled down on the worst of their instincts, like continuing the artificially and chronically-low corporate tax rate and underinvesting in the services Ontarians rely on.”
The president of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), Patty Coates, also said that tabling an outdated budget is “out of touch.”
“If Ford thinks a month’s-old budget is the solution, he has utterly failed to grasp the scale of the crises facing our province,” Coates said in a press release.
Not all unions are critical of Doug Ford’s actions, however. Some unions, including the IBEW Construction Council of Ontario and LiUNA, endorsed Ford during his campaign run.
The Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) are among the organizations that backed Ford during the election. RESCON provides administrative services for builders’ associations.
“I think what the government’s doing here is very difficult. It takes guts to do it,” said Richard Lyall, President of RESCON.
Budget focuses on things over people
Lyall said that Ford’s investments in housing will bring down development costs which he says are driving up housing prices. Lyall explained that when creating more housing costs a lot, these costs end up falling on tenants who move in.
Hornick said that profit hoarding is what is driving up prices. She said this is what she had hoped would be addressed by Doug Ford and the conservatives.
“There’s no real sense of, you know, how to address what we all know are pressing issues like, runaway inflation caused by profit hoarding,” Hornick said.
Hornick said that the proposed Ontario budget is prioritizing things over people. She said that building more things, without committing to making sure they serve the needs of Ontario’s people will not garner results.
“You can invest in more hospitals or more beds in hospitals, but how are you going to actually train and then retain the people that are going to take care of the folks who are in those beds and in those hospitals,” Hornick said. “There was no mention of repealing Bill 124 which we know is a major problem with recruitment and retention within all healthcare services, not just nursing.”
Hornick and OPSEU were at Monday’s “Listen Up!” protest. The organizations at that protest said that a people and worker friendly budget would include more investments in public health care and public education, universal childcare, universal WSIB coverage and affordable housing.
“If we were looking at a people focused budget, we’d be seeing discussions with community groups. Rather than trying to drive money over into the hands of developers, we’d see discussions with community groups and labor unions,” Hornick said.
Protesters also put out calls for 10 permanent employer paid sick days, the repeal of the wage suppressing BIll 124 and a $20 an hour minimum wage.
OFL said that Ontario’s workers know what they need from the government and it is now up to Ford and the Progressive Conservatives to listen.
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Gabriela “Gabby” Calugay-Casuga (she/they) is a writer and activist based in so-called “Ottawa.” They began writing for Migrante Ottawa’s radio show, Talakayang Bayan, in 2017. Since then, she…
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