KINGSTON, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 12, 2012) - For less than 0.1% of the overall budget, the Liberal government stands poised to make poverty worse in Ontario by freezing social assistance and delaying planned increases in child benefits while ignoring recent polls showing widespread support for progressive taxation, said the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE at a Kingston news conference today.
"Freezing welfare only saves the Province about $90 million, less than 72 one-thousandths of 1 percent (0.072%) of the total provincial budget," said John Clarke of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). "Premier McGuinty knows full well that the top one percent of income earners have doubled their income since 1980, but pay half the taxes today. He also knows that if corporate taxes had been raised back to the previous rate of 14 per cent, it could have raised $2 billion in one year alone. But he chose to attack the poor, who will have no choice but to fight back."
Patti Jo Encinas, a CUPE Ontario health care worker and Vice-President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE), agreed that it is time for the provincial government to share a little austerity with the rich - by rolling back previous corporate tax cuts.
"Three years ago, the provincial budget was balanced - and then the economic crisis hit," said Encinas. "Today, the government is acting as if the public sector and poor people caused the economic collapse. But poor people did not cause the crisis, especially those on social assistance who are receiving 20 percent less than they did under the Harris government."
"The budget, if allowed to pass, will hurt Ontario's economic recovery by taking billions out of the economy and making things worse for people already living in poverty," Encinas said. "Premier McGuinty, it's time to share a little austerity with the rich by rolling back previous corporate tax cuts."
Anti-poverty groups and trade unions are working together to carry this message, Encinas said, because "cutting public services hurts workers from delivering the services that the community needs, and the community needs those services more when poverty increases. This is a lose-lose budget."
The proposed 2012 budget ignores high levels of popular support for progressive taxation. Polls indicate that most Ontarians support tax increases on wealthier people to ease budget deficits. A new Angus Reid poll commissioned by CUPE found 76 per cent of Ontarians support increasing taxes on individuals earning more than $250,000 if it allows for a cost-of-living increase for people on social assistance.
"This budget kicks people who are already down," Clarke said. "More and more people will question austerity, and question those who draw up budgets like this, and confront those who stand to profit."