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TORONTO, ON – Community groups and CUPE members symbolically queued up in front of Queen’s Park today. They stood in frustration, like the more than 2 million Ontarians who have been left waiting for government action on vital public services and poverty reduction.
“Last year’s budget left tens of thousands on wait lists for long-term care beds, for child care, for affordable housing, for developmental services, for home care, and more than a million Ontarians living in poverty because of stagnant social assistance and minimum wage rates,” said CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn. “For too long, corporations have jumped the queue and received generous tax cuts while Ontarians are left behind. Premier Wynne must get people off wait lists and out of poverty if she truly wants to be the social justice Premier.”
Today’s action included members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canadian Federation of Students, Freedom 90, Ontario Coalition against Poverty, Put Food in the Budget, and the Workers’ Action Centre.
The Ontarians waiting for social justice in this budget include:
- 23,000 families waiting for developmental services
- 32,000 seniors waiting for long-term care beds
- 10,000 seniors waiting for home care
- 21,000 children waiting for child care in Toronto alone
- 156,000 people waiting for affordable housing
- 881,000 people waiting for social assistance rates that ensure a life of health and dignity
- 631,000 minimum-wage workers waiting for a decent increase to rise above the poverty line
There are also hundreds of thousands more families across Ontario searching for licensed child care, First Nations communities waiting for liveable housing and safe water, women and racialized Ontarians waiting for pay and employment equity and commuters waiting for public transit. More than 300,000 post-secondary students are also waiting for Ontario to stop having the country’s highest fees and largest class sizes.
“Eliminating poverty is a moral imperative as well as an economic imperative. Eliminating poverty increases dignity and inclusion. It improves health and allows the inclusion of more people in the work force,” said Melissa Addison-Webster of the Put Food in the Budget campaign.
These 2 million Ontarians are among the most vulnerable in society. Because of their precarious employment, low wages and desperate need for services that are not being delivered, they are unnecessarily exposed to inadequate and unsafe living and working conditions in precarious jobs.
“We need to raise the minimum wage high enough to bring workers out of poverty,” said Deena Ladd, Co-ordinator of the Workers’ Action Centre. “Many Ontarians are forced to work for less than minimum wage or are not paid all their wages, which is why the province needs to invest in enforcement of employment standards.”
“We are gravely concerned that the Liberals will copy the bad British example and put thousands of lives at risk by tightening disability requirements and forcing people into sub-poverty wages and precarious jobs,” said OCAP’s John Schofield. “That would be a poor legacy for a Premier who claims the mantle of social justice.”
The groups will be watching the upcoming provincial budget carefully for real action on these issues.
“More than two million Ontarians have been waiting too long,” said Hahn. “It’s time to end the waiting and start the living.”
For more information, please contact:
Craig Saunders, CUPE Communications, 416-576-7316