Focused on austerity, the government appears to be ignoring tax policies that have the potential to bring in billions to the provincial treasury.
The ruthless slashing of public sector funding – including the current freeze on base funding to Ontario’s hospitals – appears to be more ideologically based than on sound economic policy.
As we have previously noted, cutting public spending also creates a fiscal drag on the economy. Public sector workers spend their earnings in the community, generating economic activity. When government puts the squeeze on them, it puts the squeeze on everybody by reducing economic growth.
We have seen how both the Harris and McGuinty governments reduced revenues by slashing the corporate tax rate. Less discussed are substantial exemptions to the Employer Health Tax (EHT), introduced in the late 1980s to replace the previous OHIP premiums.
When the EHT was introduced, it featured a graduated rate structure – the only one of its kind in Canada. For employers with annual payrolls of less than $200,000, the rate was 0.98 per cent. For employers with more than $400,000 in payroll, the rate increased to 1.95 per cent.
The Ontario Health Coalition is holding its annual Action Assembly and Conference on the weekend of November 17-18 at the University of Toronto’s Hart House. The Action Assembly plans the Ontario Health Coalition’s actions and priorities for the coming year. It is also an opportunity for caregivers and patient advocates to network and share concerns. A block of rooms has been set aside at the unionized Bond Place Hotel on Dundas Square. To get the reduced rate of $84 per night, call 416-362-6061 or 1-800-268-9390 and tell them you are attending the Ontario Health Coalition conference. Watch for more details coming soon.
A coalition of community and labour organizations is hosting a local summit in Kitchener-Waterloo in time for the September 6 by-election.
The by-election will determine whether or not the McGuinty government can pick up the seat vacated by former MPP Elizabeth Witmer and regain a majority government in Ontario.
Many community groups are fearful that a majority government will take off the brakes from the McGuinty government’s austerity plan and bring greater hardship to Ontarians who can least afford the cuts.
Ontario already has the fastest growing gap in income inequality in Canada, much of it fueled by the current austerity plan. The coalition argues we need a clear economic plan to restore jobs and build our community in a way that benefits the people of Ontario.
Concerned citizens are asked to come to the Royal Canadian Legion Polish Branch, 601 Wellington St. N., Kitchener at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, August 29. A light supper will be provided courtesy of the coalition.
This event is being sponsored by the Ontario & Waterloo Region Health Coalitions, the Waterloo Regional Labour Council and the Ontario Federation of Labour.
CAW economist Jim Stanford and Algoma University professor Dr. Gayle Broad speak at the last two Ontario Health Coalition forums this week.
Broad speaks tonight in Sudbury as part of a panel with SEIU VP Cathy Carroll and OHC Director Natalie Mehra at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 76, 1553 Weller Street.
Tomorrow night Stanford speaks in Windsor with Mehra at the CAW 195/2458 Union Hall at 3400 Somme Avenue.
Both forums begin at 7 pm.
The Ontario Health Coalition heads north this week, hosting community forums in Matheson (Monday), Sault Ste. Marie (Wednesday), Thunder Bay (Thursday) and Kenora (Saturday).
The forums discuss the impact of the provincial spring budget on the future of health care delivery in Ontario.
Trish Hennessy, a director with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, joins OPSEU’s Mary Cory, ONA’s Diane Parker, CAW’s Kari Jefford and OHC Director Natalie Mehra Thursday night in Thunder Bay.
A former journalist, Hennessy is director of the CCPA’s income inequality project, which specializes in research on the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us. She has a BSW from Carleton University and a Master’s degree in Sociology from OISE/University of Toronto.
Ontario’s deficits have more to do with unsustainable tax cuts than they do with public spending says Dr. Reuben Roth, a Laurentian University sociologist.
Roth was speaking Tuesday night in Oshawa as part of a province-wide series of town hall meetings hosted by the Ontario Health Coalition.
“Ontario is no Greece and no Spain,” says Roth, “but we inherited two structural deficits from the Harris government.”
Laurentian University’s Reuben Roth with Natalie Mehra
Roth explains that tax cuts and high unemployment have contributed to the current deficit – neither of which are the result of spending on health care and public services.
Roth says the government even brags that Ontario spends the least on program spending than any other province in Canada.
“If we are the lowest, then why cut more?” he asks.
While the media have portrayed health care as one of the winners of the spring budget season, the reality is the 2.1 per cent average increase in health funding over the next three years will represent major restraint on services. Last summer the Auditor General of Ontario described the previous target of 3.6 per cent as “aggressive” in his pre-election report, suggesting it would lead to a choice between hospital deficits and cuts to services.
The situation is particularly clouded for hospitals, which not only face a zero base budget, but are contending with a new funding formula that could see them receive even less than they did last year.
The Ontario Health Coalition is holding a series of town hall forums across the province in May and June to talk about the impact of the budget on the delivery of public health care.
Confirmed speakers include economist Hugh Mackenzie (Hugh Mackenzie and Associates), Dennis Howlett (Coordinator of Canadians for Tax Fairness), Trish Hennesey (Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Income Inequality Project) and Natalie Mehra (Director, Ontario Health Coalition).
Speakers from OPSEU so far include Sara Labelle (Chair, Health Care Divisional Council), Sandi Blancher (Vice-Chair, Hospital Professionals Division) and Marlene Rivier (President of Local 479, Royal Ottawa Health Group and Chair of the Ottawa Health Coalition.)
Speakers will vary by location.