Ontario Budget Should be Approved, say CAW and CEP
TORONTO - The 2013-14 Ontario budget represents an important shift in emphasis by the provincial government, and will make a positive difference in the lives of many Ontarians, according to the leaders of two major unions in the province - CAW and CEP.
CAW National President Ken Lewenza praised the budget's new policy initiatives in youth employment, infrastructure spending, and welfare reforms.
"These investments in our social and economic fabric are both badly needed, and appreciated," Lewenza said. "Creating new jobs and protecting the well-being of our families should be government's top priorities, and this budget starts to acknowledge that."
Dave Coles, National President of the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP), said "Ontarians have suffered badly from both private-sector recession and public-sector austerity. It's high time government started to reinvest in important social programs."
The two union leaders also endorsed the budget's measures aimed at strengthening the province's manufacturing industry, including the extension of accelerated depreciation measures to stimulate capital spending in Ontario factories.
The leaders acknowledged the work of the Ontario NDP, led by Andrea Horvath, in influencing the content of the budget and leveraging the new social investments. "This is proof that minority government can work to the advantage of working people," said Coles. The two leaders encouraged legislators at Queen's Park to approve the budget and implement the new policies.
The two unions are now reviewing the detailed departmental spending targets, as well as the government's plans to implement the new measures to ensure that Ontarians' interests are well-served.
The budget confirmed that the deficit for 2012-13 was one-third below official projections (at just $9.8 billion). Future deficits will almost certainly come in far below official targets, and the union leaders suggested the deficit could be eliminated as early as 2015-16. "There is no fiscal justification for continuing austerity," Lewenza said. "This is the time to start turning our attention to Ontario's pressing social challenges."
The union leaders were disappointed by the government's failure to announce an increase in Ontario's minimum wage, which has been frozen for three years. "Ontario's lowest-paid workers need and deserve a raise," said Coles, "and they need it now."
Coles warned of the possibility of a harshly right-wing Conservative government, if the budget was defeated and a premature election is called. "Tim Hudak's vision for Ontario is divisive and destructive, and he is even challenging the right of unions to exist. We must not give Tim Hudak the chance he is looking for."
The CAW and the CEP are presently engaged in a process of forming a new national union, which will encompass over 300,000 members and will be the largest private sector union in Canada. The process will culminate with the launch of the new organization at a founding convention this Labour Day in Toronto.