‘In a word, it has to be about a collective investment in the heart and soul of this province’
Warren Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO)is calling on the Ontario government to make major investments into public services in this week's budget to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In a word, it has to be about a collective investment in the heart and soul of this province, or as the Premier likes to say, the ‘every day folks,’” said Thomas.
Thomas noted that front-line public sector workers have held the line and carried Ontario through the COVID-19 pandemic so far, but they won't be able to get us through the second wave without more support.
He said a massive investment in health care, including more hospitals, long-term care homes and public labs, is vital to ensure the province can both cope with the current pandemic and future ones. It's also vital that long-term care be fully public and private operators kicked out, added Thomas.
“The private corporations and their greedy executives have pocketed huge profits off the backs of our elderly, the infirmed and sadly, those no longer with us,” said Thomas. “That must end now.”
Thomas said increased investments are needed throughout Ontario's post-secondary system to prepare and train more front-line workers. Infrastructure is also needed.
Corrections and LCBO
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU/SEFPO first vice-president/treasurer, gave the Ford government credit for stepping up to increase staffing and improve infrastructure in the corrections system, but says there needs to be follow up.
“More investment is needed to ensure correctional Institutions are safe for staff and inmates, and our probation and parole officers have the resources they need to ensure Ontarians are safe,” said Almeida, who is himself a correctional officer. “Since I'm in the process of putting together OPSEU/SEFPO's budget, I know only too well that you need to make difficult decisions sometimes and for the premier and finance minister now is the time to put people -- and the public services they depend on -- first.”
Thomas also called on the government to reverse course on the trend to allow private retailers to sell alcoholic beverages, and instead focus on the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).
“We must ensure that the LCBO remains the crown jewel of government revenue and stop the slow creep of privatization and tax dollars away from the public purse,” Thomas said.
The Ford government is set to introduce Ontario's 2020 Budget, the next phase of Ontario's Action Plan on Nov. 5. And Rod Phillips, minister of finance, said it will have three pillars.
“The first is protect, making good on Premier Ford's commitment to do whatever it takes to get through the pandemic. Making Ontario the leader among Canadian provinces in terms of care for our loved ones is a vital part of the protect pillar and reflects our government's top priority ― ensuring the health of people as we continue to respond to COVID-19,” said Philips.