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Ford must re-invest $1 billion in health care to fight COVID-19

March 24, 2020 - 12:00 AM

March 24, 2020

TORONTO—Unifor is urging the Government of Ontario to strengthen its COVID-19 strategy, restore $1 billion in health spending and adopt a series of policies to protect the health and economic security of Ontarians in advance of tomorrow’s economic update.

“By all estimations, the pandemic will get worse before it gets better. We need the Ontario government to abandon its piecemeal approach to this crisis,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Doug Ford’s slow-moving approach to this crisis will bring a whole host of economic perils for Ontarians that his government has not begun to address.”

The Ontario government previously cut an estimated $2.7 billion in health spending in its 2019 budget, including $13-million to Public Health Ontario which directly affected the province’s capacity to test for infectious diseases. As reports continue to show long wait times and delays for testing Ontarians for COVID-19, Unifor is calling for the province to immediately reverse health care cuts by a minimum of $1 billion. The funding must also be prioritized for long-term care as seniors are among the most vulnerable population to the effects of COVID-19 and the province has yet to address the Personal Support Worker (PSW) shortages across the province.

“There can be no doubt that the government’s funding cuts to health care made it much more difficult to adequately protect Ontarians from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director. “The Ford government is risking the health and safety of Personal Support Workers and long-term care facility residents in this province if funding isn’t restored by March 25.”

Unifor has called on the Ontario government to implement broad-based measures to protect Ontarians’ income and their health, as well as implement specific protections for seniors and health care workers. The union’s letter to the premier can be viewed here.

Unifor accounts for the dramatic economic disruption caused by the pandemic in its recommendations to government. As a significant number of laid off workers face potentially insurmountable financial pressures and a lack of relief from Employment Insurance payments, workers, especially gig economy, contract, and precarious workers, will require direct emergency income assistance. Unlike various other provinces, the Ontario government has so far provided no income support to workers that do not qualify for EI benefits and are either waiting, or ineligible, for pending federal supports. 

While the Ford government has implemented some protections already, a Toronto Star report released on Friday revealed that Ontario’s health authorities have been critical of Ontario’s COVID-19 strategy describing it as slow, incremental and ineffective.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

To arrange an interview, please contact Unifor Communications National Representative David Molenhuis at david.molenhuis@unifor.org or 416-575-7453 (cell).