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April 27, 2017

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) President Chris Buckley is calling the provincial budget a somewhat positive news story for Ontario families, but raised concerns that the needs of Ontario workers are still not being addressed.

“It is not possible to build a strong economy without first addressing the growth in insecure work,” said Buckley. “If the government is committed to making life fairer for working people, it must introduce a $15 minimum wage and legislative changes immediately.”

Buckley called the budget a missed opportunity to raise the floor for Ontario workers by introducing a higher minimum wage. A higher minimum wage is a fundamental issue of equity – it is women, racialized workers, immigrants and young people who are most likely to earn low wages and be stuck in precarious work, he said.

The OFL was pleased to see the reference to the Changing Workplaces Review, but is concerned about the lengthy delays in the process which has meant workers continue to suffer with woefully outdated laws. Buckley pressed on the need for the government to introduce and pass legislation this year.

Buckley said that the announcements around pharmacare, childcare and healthcare were heartening, in that the deficit can no longer be used as an excuse not to invest in stronger public services and bold new ideas to help Ontarians.

“Pharmacare for children and young people will help many families who struggle without workplace benefit plans,” said Buckley. “This is an important first step in introducing a plan that could cover all Ontarians – which ultimately should be the end goal.”

Buckley said that the universal pharmacare plan proposed by the Ontario NDP earlier this week would go much farther though in helping Ontarians, in that the plan introduced today would still exclude a sizable portion of the population – adults between 25 to 64 years old.

Buckley also welcomed the new investment of $200 million for child care spaces. “Ontario parents desperately need more quality, affordable child care options,” said Buckley. “Even with these changes, Ontario parents will still pay the highest child care fees in the country.”

“It is encouraging to see the government listening to parents and advocates with the introduction of subsidized child care spaces. But subsidized spaces don’t replace the need for a universal, affordable, public child care system.” The dearth of child care options continues to be a barrier to women in the workforce, as recognized by the Gender Wage Gap Review in 2016.

Investment in child care must also translate to good jobs for early childhood educators, Buckley said. More than 20 per cent of registered early childhood educators and more than two-thirds of other program staff make less than $15 an hour.

Similarly, the new investment in health care of an additional $7 billion over the next three years is positive news for Ontarians but must translate to a longer-term commitment to health care services and an investment in more front line workers and better conditions for patients and staff.

Buckley raised concern that the government has wrongheadedly remained steadfast in its commitment to privatize public assets, including Hydro One. “This could have been an opportunity to correct a past mistake,” said Buckley, calling the decision to sell-off Hydro One “wildly unpopular.”

The OFL represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow @OFLabour on Facebook and Twitter.

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For more information, please contact:
Shannon Devine, OFL Assistant to the Officers
Cell – 416-302-1699 Sdevine@ofl.ca

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