CUPE Ontario Joins Thousands to Demonstrate at Conservative Policy Convention

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On Saturday, February 22, the Ontario Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) joined thousands of labour and community allies for a rally outside the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontarios policy convention in Niagara Falls.

Organized by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), members and leaders from a range of unions as well as community members, both local and bussed in from across the province, demonstrated against Conservative cuts to public services.

This is a government which has pushed an agenda of cuts to services across the board and cuts to taxes on corporations and the wealthiest, says Fred Hahn, CUPE Ontario President and one of the rally speakers. Were here because every community across the province is impacted by the Ford Conservatives attacks on the services Ontarians depend on and our members provide. People from all these communities came together today to put an end to cuts and to demand investments.

Referencing Wednesdays Financial Accountability Office of Ontarios report on Tax Expenditures, Hahn points out that cuts to health care, education, and social services, among others, could have been avoided.

The report details the 149 tax breaks in the province, most of which benefit higher-income individuals and corporations, amounting to $44.4-billion of lost revenues.

The reality is were suffering from a revenue problem in this province, continued Hahn, noting that merely matching the corporate income tax rate of provinces like Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island would bring Ontario an additional $5 billion in revenue. That could go towards funding our schools and universities, our hospitals, our social services, and our municipalities to finally serve all Ontarians.

Instead, CUPE Ontario says the Ford Conservatives are scapegoating workers to distract from the governments self-inflicted revenue problem. As the union representing 280,000 public sector workers in the province, CUPE Ontario has been at the forefront of challenging the governments Bill 124, legislation which violates Charter rights to free and collective bargaining by freezing public sector wages to a maximum of 1% annual increase.

This government created a crisis and is looking for workers and communities to pay the price, says Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario. Luckily, all the protests were seeing across this province, and this governments plummeting popularity, tell us that people see through this. We didnt cause this crisis and we wont allow this government to violate our rights, restrict our wages, and cut our services when its their policies that got us into this mess.

The Niagara Falls rally, CUPE Ontario says, is just one of many demonstrations in Ontario of a growing movement in opposition to the Ford government. Right here in Niagara, weve seen an increase in paramedics waiting to off-load patients because of cuts and staff shortages and students at all our four school boards arent receiving the supports they need, says Keith Levere, Niagara and District CUPE Council President. Some of the details might be different, but the same basic story is happening everywhere else in this province. The thousands of us gathered here are just a small cross-section of this broader movement.

Were proud that so many of our members joined community members and people from other unions to oppose this governments agenda, says Hahn. We came here to send a message to this party and to all the Conservative MPPs: nows the time to listen to Ontarians.

Lets remember that it doesnt have to be this way, Hahn says. The policies of this government took us in wrong direction by cutting services, blaming workers, and giving huge tax breaks to the richest folks. Its upside down. Instead we could invest in communities and actually support the most vulnerable Ontarians.

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Daniel Tseghay, CUPE Communications, 647-220-9739, [email protected]