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NIAGARA FALLS, ON – Next week’s provincial budget will deal a blow to Niagara’s economy, Fred Hahn, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, said at a press conference this afternoon. He warned that if recommendations from the Drummond Report are adopted, they will increase unemployment and hurt the local economy.
“Niagara is struggling. Most of the good manufacturing jobs are gone and are being replaced by low-wage service jobs with no benefits or job security,” said Hahn. “Three of the region’s top five employers are in the public sector. They’re what’s keeping the local economy afloat.”
Over the last decade, Niagara lost 39 percent of its manufacturing jobs, which gave the region Canada’s second-highest unemployment rate during the economic slowdown. In February, the Niagara Region jobless rate remained at 8.5 percent, well above the provincial average.
“If we’re going to get people working, part of the plan has to include stable, long-term funding for social services,” said Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam, chair of CUPE Ontario’s Social Services Workers Coordinating Committee, which is meeting in Niagara Falls this week. “These services are already under tremendous strain. There are nearly 1000 people with developmental disabilities on waiting lists for services and supports in this region already.”
When unemployment goes up, so does pressure on social services, as more people suffer from problems such as increased alcoholism, domestic violence and depression.
“We need a budget that will not only preserve public social services, but especially during times like these, we need to strengthen them. People need help getting through tough times and getting back on their feet,” she said.
Public services are particularly vital now that manufacturing has dropped to one-tenth of local employment, agreed Dan Peat, President of the Niagara District Labour Council.
“In order to reverse the decline in Niagara’s economy, we need a budget that maintains services for workers who need retraining and families who never thought they would need to rely on other social services,” he said. “We need a budget that creates hope in Niagara, rather than cuts to public services and more no-strings-attached corporate tax cuts.”
CUPE Ontario’s submission to the government budget committee includes proposals for $10 billion in new revenue that would not increase taxes for regular Ontarians, a call for a provincial strategy to create good jobs, and preserving and enhancing public services.
“Niagara doesn’t need a plan to kill more jobs. It needs a plan to create good jobs and build its economy,” said Hahn. “MPPs like Kim Craitor and Jim Bradley were elected to do that, not to cut the services people rely on. They have a duty to their constituents.”
For more information, please contact:
Craig Saunders, CUPE Communications, 416-576-7316
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications, 416-559-9300