Social Services In OntarioSocial services in Ontario help out many less fortunate people and employ a large number of workers. When employed in a government position, job security should be an essential part of your contract. There are a large number of social service positions getting cut that will affect the economy as a whole. In order to fight Ontario’s deficit, cutbacks have already been made, people are affected by these cutbacks, and a lot more will take place, however, at the same time, you and I are being punished. At least 15,000 jobs have already been eliminated and cutbacks are making work very scarce in Ontario. The new NDP government has made a choice that affects us all in cutting back programs. The programs that have been cut so far include: Eliminating photo radar, chopping welfare rates, downsizing of the public service through department amalgamation and program cuts, cutting some health-care services and school boards, pulling back on public housing, highway and subway construction, and eliminating several NDP bills, including Bill 40 which bans replacement workers during strikes and the employment equity legislation. Cuts to the personal income tax rate will not arrive until the first budget and by that time voters will also get their first indication of how much pain the health-care, education, and social service system will have to bear in order to meet the balanced budget within five years. Many innocent people are suffering because of these slashings. The most important social service program that is being cut is the Children’s Aid Society. The employees now have to take off one hour a week, eliminate 40 vacant positions, and lay-off 10 contract employees to cut $817,000 from its budget this year. 16,000 in home calls were made from children last year and the Children’s Aid Society of Durham Region has had to discontinue a sexual assault treatment program, forced to terminate a support program for high risk families, reduce services to disabled children and adopted persons inquiring about their birth parents, lay off 14 staff members, and cut back adoption and after-hours emergency service all because of the plan to eliminate the deficit in five years. The damage in children’s lives will be enormous and they will be involved in very serious and dangerous environments because of the unavailability of workers. These children should not have to suffer to help Ontario fight the deficit. Kerry McCuaig of the Ontario Coalition for better Child Care said, “This is the day that non-profit child-care in Ontario got murdered”. The largest single cut of these slashings have innocent victims is the 21.6% cut in welfare benefits. If parents can not feed their children as a result of the cut, the Children’s Aid Society will have to step in. For a single parent on welfare with one child, the monthly welfare cheque will fall from $1,221 to $957. 220,000 single parents on welfare look for part-time work to make up for the difference in new and old welfare rates and the traditional full and part-time jobs that people rely on to support their families in times of need are disappearing. We, as a province, have all suffered in some way because of the cutbacks. Even the most innocent victims, like our children, are having to pay for government mistakes. Premier Mike Harris is cutting back on services that puts us all in tough positions. Almost all of the 10.8 million residents of the province will feel the pinch of the budget cuts. In reaction to the pay freeze and 13,000 expected job cuts, a public service strike took place. Starting at 12:01am February 29, 55,300 provincial public servants launched their strike. The action affected everything from snow clearing, to house purchases, to court operations. Many people are affected by these social service cutbacks in Ontario. If you are a government employee or just any person enrolled in the workforce, you have already been hit pretty hard. Here are just a few of the cutbacks: The Community and Social Services Ministry said it will close its Oxford Regional Centre in Woodstock for people with developmental disabilities, funding for the province’s Institute for the Prevention of Child Abuse will be ended, needy university and college students will receive loans instead of grants for their education, low-income earners who currently pay 25% of their income in rent under government programs will have to pay 30%, the money given to local conservation authorities will be cut by 20%, and road repair and construction grants to municipalities will be cut by $27 million. For the 13,000 to 27,000 provincial employees whose jobs may be cut, it is considered more “humane” for laid-off workers, offering better buyouts, training pension and seniority protection. Nearly a year into the cuts, the federal Liberals have eliminated more than 15,000 jobs. Mike Harris vowed to treat the government more like a business in an attempt to lower the size and spending of governments. The election gave him a strong mandate to act, but the Liberals were elected to create jobs, not slash the public service. Statistics Canada reports that the number of part-time jobs in Ontario has declined from 934,000 in January, to 787,000 in July. The bottom line is there are fewer opportunities for people with a lower education and skill levels who have traditionally worked at part-time, low-pay jobs, ceteris paribus, than those that have a higher education.
As if Premier Mike Harris has not done enough, there is still more. Many economists are sceptical that the Ontario economy, already technically in recession through the first half of the year, will allow Harris to meet his targets. Premier Mike Harris’s strategy to create an economic climate that will produce more than 725,000 new jobs over the next five years is almost impossible. But in the first eight months of 1995, the number of people with jobs has fallen by 41,000. By far the most controversial plan is the one to cut income taxes by 30% over three years. By the conservatives’ own calculations the cuts will put more than $4 billion into consumers’ hands to be spent or saved. Economists are very sceptical. “The federal government is cutting transfers to the provinces, and the provinces are cutting transfers to the municipalities, which means you are going to take your reduced taxes,” says Stokes. Liberal Leader Lyn McLeod said Harris has broken a number of key election promises including commitments to protect health care, and NDP Leader Bob Rae said the Tories have spent the last three months cutting services without a word of consultation with the people he is hurting, “and we intend to hold his government accountable”. As of July 1, the government intends to prepare the economy to maximize job creation as follows: Elimination of the employer health tax on the first $400,000 of payroll, reducing Workers Compensation Board premiums by 5%, and abolishing the annual corporation filing fee, reviewing ways to abolish red tape regulations. Other cost-cutting measures outlined include reducing funding to lobby groups and interest groups, cutting the number of MPPs from 130 to 99 by the next election, privatizing some government operations, and eliminating the MPP “goldplated pension plan” and terminating politicians tax-free allowances. If Ex-Finance Minister Michael Wilson and is partner in crime, Bank of Canada Ex-Governor John Crow, had reduced interest rates to their current levels five years ago, the 1991 deficit would have been $5 billion less and $18 billion less in 1996. But because of this mistake, the people of today are paying for it through higher taxes, no jobs, and the limited amount of social programs available. It does not make sense that the government workforce, the less fortunate people on welfare, and the children of today are suffering. Mike Harris has made some outrageous cuts that are very tough, but he is the government and whether we like it or not, this is reality and we have to face it!