Steelworkers say Liberals Cut Services, Fall Short on Jobs and the Economy
TORONTO - Aside from progressive measures that can only be credited to the New Democrats, Ontario's Liberal government has introduced a budget that fails to protect public services or promote job creation and economic development, the United Steelworkers (USW) says.
"The budget's only positive measures were those specifically requested by the NDP. Beyond that, the government has no plan to pay for needed public services or create jobs," said Marty Warren, USW's Ontario director.
"The budget includes some modest investments in training for young workers, social assistance for the jobless and home care for seniors. However, the budget cuts other important public services and does nothing else to reduce unemployment," Warren said.
The Liberal budget projects a meagre 1.5-per-cent growth in annual program spending, which means service cuts relative to inflation, let alone population growth. The Liberals also project a provincial unemployment rate of at least seven per cent through 2015.
"Austerity in both federal and provincial budgets is undermining our economy and job opportunities. Ontario already has the lowest program spending per capita of any province," said Ken Neumann, USW's National Director for Canada.
"Governments must start collecting a fair share of taxes from the corporate sector to help balance budgets, rather than relying on cutbacks that hurt families, communities and our economy," Neumann said.
The USW and the NDP have proposed to recoup provincial revenue by permanently restricting HST input tax credits, such as entertainment expenses, for large corporations.
In a letter dated yesterday, Ontario's finance minister asked the federal finance minister to delay phasing in these HST credits for three years. However, this 11th-hour request does not even appear in today's budget.
The budget removes the Employer Health Tax exemption from large companies with payrolls over $5 million, as proposed by the USW in pre-budget hearings and by the NDP. But the Liberals are using the proceeds to increase the exemption for other companies, rather than to bolster provincial revenues.
USW economist Erin Weir said Ontarians should be skeptical of the Liberal budget's proposal for a much-needed review of the provincial mining tax.
"Changes to the mining tax regime are long overdue, to provide a fair public return from the extraction of Ontario's mineral resources," Weir said.
"We'll believe it when we see it. The government made exactly the same proposal in last year's budget but did not follow through."