Toronto Star

Ford using pandemic to make rich even richer

- FRED HAHN CONTRIBUTO­R Fred Hahn is president of CUPE Ontario.

The Ontario government’s fall budget is currently being debated and next week it will likely be passed, as is.

That would be a disaster. In fact, it would be a good example of “disaster capitalism.”

Naomi Klein popularize­d that term to describe instances of government­s using the chaos and uncertaint­y of disasters to quietly usher in policies and measures that restructur­e societies to the benefit of the wealthiest and at the expense of the rest of us.

That’s exactly what the Ford Conservati­ves are practising with this budget.

Much has been said about the amount of money they’re supposedly spending. But let’s take a closer look at what the budget actually says.

When we factor in inflation and population growth, base funding will decrease for education at all levels, social services and municipali­ties. Funding for health care, the program area that sees the most support in this budget, will in effect be flat-lined.

That means personal support workers and staff in long-term care aren’t seeing additional funding in this budget to ensure four-hours of direct, hands on care. Nor will they see any additional funding for compliance inspectors who help protect residents.

That means education workers who protect our schools, keeping them safe and clean while supporting students’ learning, will see no new pandemic funding to reduce class sizes or improve ventilatio­n.

That means no support for Ontario’s universiti­es, whose workers are critical to our economic recovery, even though they are dealing with both extra COVID-19 expenditur­es and decreased revenue due to the loss of internatio­nal students.

This budget looks more like just another chapter in a systematic heist of Ontario’s collective resources

That means social service workers — supporting Ontarians in child-care centres, child protection agencies, developmen­tal services and community agencies which have been underfunde­d for years — will not see the permanent funding supports needed to help Ontarians recover.

On a daily basis, Premier Ford holds a press conference to deliver his message. He tells us that he won’t hesitate to do whatever it takes to support Ontarians. He convinces a lot of people that his government has met the challenge of this crisis — and is spending the resources to keep us safe and to ensure a recovery for all.

But it’s simply untrue. The fact is that this budget is a case of disaster capitalism. This government is using the health and economic crisis to gut the public sector and cater to the already wealthy.

The Ford Conservati­ves’ budget includes significan­t and permanent tax cuts for, primarily, business and industry. These aren’t relief programs targeted at the small businesses most severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. No, we’re talking about permanent reductions that will even benefit corporatio­ns, like Walmart, who have only increased their profits during the pandemic.

The government is also handing over money to large industrial and commercial businesses with increased electricit­y subsidies. This means that companies like Loblaws and Amazon, which have reported record profits during the pandemic, are getting government money to pay their hydro bills. Electricit­y subsidies now cost taxpayers more than $6 billion a year.

Coupled with the more than $3 billion in tax cuts handed out in the 2019 budget, and the years of record-low corporate taxes, what we’re actually seeing in this budget looks more like just another chapter in a long, ongoing, systematic heist of Ontario’s collective resources.

We are witnessing more corporate giveaways that have robbed Ontario of the revenue needed to support frontline public services that everyday people rely on — before, during and after this pandemic passes.

Adisaster like the COVID-19 pandemic is bad enough. We don’t need government­s that are supposed to represent all of us capitalizi­ng on the crisis to benefit the wealthiest.

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