TORONTO—The Ontario government released its fall economic update Nov. 26, bringing next year’s deficit projections following the controversial partial privatization of Hydro One up to date.
The province anticipates it will have a $7.5 billion deficit for next year, $1 billion less than the $8.5 billion it predicted earlier. The government still says it can eliminate the province’s deficit entirely by 2017-18.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees was not encouraged by the update, however. The union said the announcement fails to combat damage done by years of Liberal “austerity and misplaced priorities.”
“People will squabble about whether or not this government is on target to eliminate a deficit, but that’s all a distraction from the real problems facing this province,” CUPE Ontario president, Fred Hahn, said. “The Hydro One fire sale means there will actually be hundreds of millions less in funding for public services every year, at a time when we’re already seeing schools and hospitals closing across the province.”
CUPE was a vocal opponent of the Ontario government’s Hydro One IPO, and continues to fight against the utility’s further privatization.
The union said “years of successive cuts” have decreased Ontario’s corporate tax rate to its lowest rate since the Great Depression, which has “taken billions away” from public services.
“Those handouts to profitable corporations have a cost, and that cost is real cuts in services that Ontarians rely on,” said Hahn. “As families struggle to get by without those services, it amounts to a pay cut for the working poor, all to give corporate tax cuts to the rich. It’s a harsh reality for Ontario’s increasingly precarious workforce.”
Pointing to a Ontario Common Front report released last week, which showed nearly one-third of Ontario’s workforce now earns within $4 of minimum wage and that income inequality within Ontario is rapidly widening, the union said the Liberal government’s economic approach is “failing Ontarians.”
CUPE said it wants to see the government focus on restoring revenue by keeping Hydro One public as well as through investing in good jobs and vital public services.