TORONTO- Infrastructure, industry and health care investments are welcome in the Ontario budget, but government needs to take the next step and translate spending into good jobs and a stronger public health care system, including workforce development strategies.
"The Ontario government has put much needed money on the table - now they have to finish the job by ensuring that the work is done here in Ontario by Ontario workers. If we are going to build the transit of the future, let’s build it in Ontario,” said Lana Payne, Unifor National President.
The 2023 Ontario provincial budget makes mention of a variety of infrastructure spending, much of it previously announced. The budget contains transit investments, including Ontario Northland and municipal transit, health care infrastructure, schools and child care spaces, and Ring of Fire development funds.
Workforce development initiatives fell short of addressing retention issues plaguing key sectors, instead relying on highly targeted initiatives to fast-track high school students’ entry into the workforce, expand enrolment for nursing programs and introduce additional training and accreditation efforts.
“New health care funding is needed, but it must be used to expand public health care and invest in workers, not for further privatization. You can train as many workers as you want but if you continue to cap wages workers will be syphoned off to for-profit care. We need a full commitment to public health care, and instead this government is driving forward with privatization through Bill 60,” continued Payne. “Paid sick days are essential to achieving decent working conditions. The Ontario government has failed workers by cancelling paid sick days.”
The union highlights this budget as a missed opportunity to show health care workers respect by announcing that the government will not appeal the Ontario Superior Court ruling striking down Bill 124.
Unifor’s analysis of recent Ontario government spending reveals a government that is squandering windfall tax revenue and, according to the Financial Accountability Office, not spending enough to meet the government’s own health care programming goals.
The union proposed a series of investments and targets to the Ontario government during pre-budget consultations. In addition to calls for investment in health care, including long-term care, the union also demanded a full repeal of the recently struck-down wage-suppressing Bill 124 and introduce true permanent paid sick days to replace the government’s expiring WSIB-funded program. Unifor is also calling for made in Canada investment in transit vehicles of the future.
These and other recommendations are outlined in Unifor’s pre-budget submission.