Ontario budget generates optimism and concern

TORONTO, April 23, 2015 /CNW/ - The Ontario provincial budget tabled today includes important investments that could lead to a brighter future, but also takes risks that might lead to the lights going out.

"Some of the measures in this budget will help secure a stronger future for Ontarians, while others, namely the privatization of Hydro One, are remarkably short-sighted," said Katha Fortier, Unifor Ontario Regional Director.

Unifor welcomed the announcement that the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) is moving forward and the recognition that Ontario faces a crisis regarding retirement security. "More than 60% of Ontario workers do not have a workplace pension plan. Given the failure of the Harper Conservatives to reform the CPP, the importance of the ORPP cannot be understated" said Fortier. "To be most effective, the ORPP must mirror the CPP as a universal, defined benefit plan that is indexed to inflation. Clearly, the Wynne government understands how dire the situation is."

Unifor condemned the privatization of 60% of Hydro One. "Selling off crucial public assets is not only short-sighted because we will lose the value of that asset and the long-term revenue it generates, it is also reckless," said Fortier. "This is an asset that is essential to the well-being of the public – and it should remain in public hands."

"Today's budget included much-needed funding for transportation," noted Fortier. "But we can't finance our infrastructure needs by selling off public assets. It's time the Ontario government kick off a meaningful discussion with Ontarians about the ways in which we can generate the revenue we need to build the province we want, one that will be strong and prosperous today and for generations to come."

Fortier noted that critical to prosperity is a strong health care system. "We all know we need to approach health care differently, but we also know that with an aging population, health care costs are not going down," she said. "Keeping the health care budget increases below inflation puts lives at risk. And making decisions that will undermine hospitals' capacity to care for patients is a risk not worth taking."

Unifor also noted the renewal of the commitment to the Jobs and Prosperity Fund. "To strengthen and maintain a robust economy, government, business, labour and community must work together to find ways to innovate and build," pointed out Fortier. "The strongest economies in the world are built when all the players work together. We are particularly pleased that the Wynne government has recognized the potential of Ontario's forestry sector."

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 305,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged.

SOURCE Unifor

For further information: please contact Unifor Communications Director Sarah Blackstock at 416-949-1072 or sarah.blackstock@unifor.org.

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