The Ontario provincial government “spends more on interest than on colleges and universities”, according to Mike Crawley of CBC News, “Taxpayers are shelling out $11.4 billion in interest on the debt this year. That’s more than the government is spending in either community and social services ($11.1 billion) or colleges and universities ($7.8 billion).” Ontario’s debt is now $298.9 billion from $153 billion in 2007-08.
Does this really matter to me as a worker and an Ontarian?
I am not an economist. As a lay person that came from a developing country. I have experienced and know that there is a greater possibility in the future that the interest rate will increase which means that more tax money will pay for debt interest than spent on social services, education, and health. What will this mean to us, our families, our parents, and our children? What would happen to OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan), publicly funded education, fund assistance to college and university education, public utilities (hydro), seniors’ assistance? What about municipal services that are supported by the province? Again, there is a great possibility that the Ontario provincial government will download the services to the municipalities which may mean social services cut or increase tax to the people.
I know, it is a complex situation and it confuses simple workers like me. All we know is that we work hard to pay our taxes hence we seek accountability from the government we elected. We as workers carry the burden of keeping the economy alive. We work precarious and vulnerable jobs so all we ask is stable future for all workers and Ontarians – a safe and respectful community where people have access to safe and affordable housing, medical and health services, green and clean environment, children are publicly educated in a healthy school environment, and most of all, an Ontario that respects and value diversity. We strongly urge the provincial government to incorporate the following:
Priority 1: Apply a “Climate Change” lens to all decisions made by every Ministry. All new infrastructure must be designed to attain the lowest carbon footprint in its operation. Economic development policies and investment must help place Ontario’s private and public sectors on the cutting edge of sustainable practices and business opportunities. Money from Carbon Trading should be re-invested in green technology. Ensure the benefits of a green economy are fully shared with all communities.
Priority 2: Restore the capacity of public revenues. Instead of selling Hydro One, ensure corporations and tax evaders pay their fair share by:
- Reversing the disastrous corporate tax cuts by restoring the rate to 14%, which could generate over $2 billion annually.
- Increasing efforts to collect the more than $2 billion in unpaid taxes the Auditor General has uncovered.
- Removing the exemptions from the Employer Health Tax, which could generate up to $2.5 billion.
Priority 3: Undo the structural inequities and ideological distortions left over from the Harris cuts and downloading. Restore and extend funding for social housing, transit operation, schools and childcare. Scrap the privatization of key services and assets such as transit and hospitals. Abandon any plans to further outsource public services, and challenge any aspect of CETA and TPP that would undermine the ability to support Canadian jobs.
Priority 4: Commit to a comprehensive agenda of social, racial and economic equity. Strengthen workers’ rights in order to tackle income inequality, build on the Community Benefits process for public infrastructure, invest in a robust Anti-Racism Secretariat, address the Gender Wage Gap, update the Fair Wage policy and raise the Minimum Wage to $15.
Priority 5: Commit to pro-actively strengthening the social infrastructure needed to address growing poverty, youth violence, obesity and health, and the aging population. Reduce tuition fees for college and university, and ensure that the next generation finds career opportunities that lead to decent jobs and a secure future.