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____ Friday February 26, 2016 ____


Ontario Budget

Wealth transfer in budget is "biggest unreported story in Ontario," OPSEU's Thomas says

Toronto - The 2016 Ontario Budget continues a massive multi-year transfer of wealth that is "the biggest unreported story in Ontario," the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union says.

"Liberal budgets since the recession have focused on cutting public services and pouring money into privatized infrastructure projects," Warren (Smokey) Thomas said today. "Today's budget is no different. The cuts continue. The privatization continues. A Niagara Falls of money is pouring out of government and into the private sector."

Program spending in Ontario has plunged from 17.9 per cent of GDP in 2009-10 to 16.2 per cent today, the Budget states. The difference equals $13.2 billion a year – a number that will climb as program spending's share of GDP drops to 15 per cent by 2018-19.

"The $137 billion the Liberals plan to spend on physical infrastructure over the next 10 years will all be paid for by sales of public assets and cuts to services for people," Thomas said. "All that infrastructure will be built using public-private partnerships, which are essentially cash machines for construction companies, corporate lawyers, and Bay Street financiers."

The budget contains other wealth transfers as well, he said.

"By moving billions out of the female-dominated public sector and into the 88-per-cent-male construction sector, Kathleen Wynne is widening the gender wage gap," he said. "By selling beer and wine in grocery stores, she is moving alcohol profits from public coffers to grocery chain profits. By making us all pay more to drive to work while giving corporate polluters a free ride, she's fighting climate change on the backs of those who can least afford it.

"Ed Clark wrote every page of this Budget," he said, referring to Premier Kathleen Wynne's ex banker adviser. "What we needed was a Budget in which people matter more than bankers. What we needed was a Budget written by Bernie Sanders."

Modest spending increases in the Budget for some public services are paid for by cuts to others, Thomas said. The spending plan includes $800 million in as-yet-unidentified spending cuts. It also aims to continue wage restraint across the provincial public sector.

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