What Comes Next for Ontario After COVID-19?
This is an excerpt from Ontario Majority, our brand new newsletter covering Ontario politics.
What Comes Next for Ontario After COVID-19?
COVID-19 didn’t come alone. It brought with it an unprecedented economic crisis that is unfolding around us.
If you watch the national news shows, you would think that Alberta has been the hardest hit by this crisis. The truth is Ontario has seen the sharpest decline in employment among all Canadian provinces.
Since the vital COVID-19 shutdowns were implemented, employment has dropped 15.3 percent in our province. Some 1,200,000 Ontarians have lost their jobs and the unemployment rate sits at a record 13.6 percent.
We are living through the biggest decline in jobs in decades. While the COVID-19 health crisis deserves our utmost attention, governments will soon start turning their attention to the economic recovery.
How do our leaders plan to rebuild our economy and society after this historic period?
So far, the Ford government has been hesitant to discuss their plans. Their idea of recovery appears to be tied entirely to “re-opening” the province. However, merely restarting our shuttered economy will not bring back all the jobs lost. The government needs a plan to rebuild.
If the Ford government’s past policy approaches are any indicator, we are in trouble. It’s no secret that Ford views “cutting red tape” as the best approach to spurring economic growth. Deregulation, privatization, and corporate tax cuts will likely be rolled out as the job creation strategy of choice.
The COVID-19 crisis has also meant a ballooning deficit. Ford, as we all know, will be inclined to slash spending and cut social programs to manage this deficit. The Premier came to power promising to slash the province’s deficit and debt. What followed was broad funding cuts for everything from healthcare and education to legal aid and municipalities.
This is all assuming that Ford’s economic creed remains unchanged. And there is no sign that this is not the case.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis and now during the re-opening phases, Ford’s government has prioritized the interests of businesses over those of workers. Between January and June, workers reported 280 work refusals in Ontario – the Ford government rejected all but one. Just this week, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour announced that workers cannot refuse to work until COVID-19 appears in their workplace.
What’s the alternative?
Economists, advocacy groups and certain politicians have been calling on governments across the world to use the COVID-19 recovery as an opportunity to radically rebuild their economies.
Regardless of the approach, any recovery will be costly. It took a $47 billion stimulus package to get Canada out of the 2008/2009 recession. This economic slowdown is much larger.
Our governments can spend big to rebuild our economy by investing in infrastructure, renewable energy, and healthcare. A wealth tax or higher corporate taxes can finance a bold recovery like this. This vision for a recovery, which is supported by a majority of Canadians, can restart our economy while addressing climate change and economic inequality.
The conservative vision would implement cuts to corporate taxes and regulations, giving corporations free rein to maximize profits, and hope that those profits “eventually” trickle down to average workers. This vision would result in a campaign of austerity, with funding for healthcare, education, and other social program subjected to cuts. Moreover, this approach will entrench our pre-COVID status quo and accelerate the runaway economic inequality we’ve witnessed these past decades.
The Ford government, as their record shows, is more inclined to follow the austerity approach. It is imperative that every one of us speak out and advocate for a recovery that helps everyone, not one based on program cuts and tax cuts for the rich.
Tell us what you think!
Every week we’ll be including a question for you. We want to hear about your thoughts on the issues we’re discussing. The top responses will then be included in next week’s newsletter.
What is your ideal vision for a COVID-19 recovery?
While you weren’t looking.
The over-looked news of the week.
- Families of dead nursing home residents rallied at Queens Park this week in protest of the Ford government’s Bill 175. They say the legislation will make it harder for them to hold nursing homes accountable. Families are also worried about Ford mulling the idea of granting immunity to nursing homes from class-action lawsuits. Join our campaign and tell the Ontario government to stop Bill 175!
- In the lead-up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ford government was asked for additional funding for long-term care. New reporting reveals that the Ford government rejected these requests not once, but twice.
- The Official Opposition recommended a number of amendments to Ford’s Bill 175. They asked for the removal of profits in home care, disclosure of annual financial statements, and executive compensation by home and community care providers, as well as public meetings of Ontario Health. The Ford government struck down all of these amendments.
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