The people of Ontario were looking for stability, and assurances that vital public services like health and long-term care, and social assistance received funding increases that would meet the demands and pressures of COVID-19. In this rapidly evolving crisis, it is not clear that today’s economic and fiscal update has risen to meet those needs.
“There are not enough protections for workers in this action plan,” said Ontario Federation of Labour President Patty Coates (photo). “Decent work must be legislated. Health and safety must not be left to the whim of individual employers. Instead there should be support for all Ontarians battling this crisis.”
“Ontario’s Action Plan needs to put decent work laws in place that will allow low-wage and precarious workers to stay home when they are sick without financial hardship, and to protect front line workers who are providing vital services for Ontarians,” said Coates. “This plan needed to focus on the safety of all workers, and the health and well-being of everyone in this province.”
“The government’s efforts to mitigate the effect of the COVID-19 crisis are a start, but the plan should have included paid emergency leave days for all workers, greater income supports for social assistance recipients, and meaningful funding across all the public services that Ontarians depend on now more than ever,” said Coates.
Ontario has continuously spent the lowest amount per person on public services of any province in Canada, reducing the service capacity that Ontarians need during COVID-19. The strain on public services that is being felt in this crisis is the result of years of deliberate chronic underfunding.
“This government has wasted billions by cancelling the cap-and-trade program, green energy contracts, and paying for costly court cases, while they should have been investing in public services,” said Coates.
“Ontario’s working people provided recommendations on how to best mitigate the effects of this crisis, and while some of those recommendations have been adopted, many have not,” said Coates. “Systemic barriers mean that racialized, Indigenous, women, immigrant, and migrant workers, as well as workers with disabilities are less able to access protections, and face a greater risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
“Instead of relying on federal government supports, Ontario must provide a living allowance that does not need to be repaid. Families need immediate income support to pay their bills. Rent may be deferred but will still come due,” said Coates.
The Power of Many is a campaign by the Ontario Federation of Labour and its allies in communities across Ontario, working together to protect and win decent work laws, strong public services, along with equality and justice, as well as safe and healthy workplaces and communities for all.