Ontario fiscal update fails to provide direct financial support to workers affected by COVID-19

March 25, 2020

TORONTO—The fiscal update provided by Ontario Minister of Finance Rod Phillips today failed to enact adequate measures to protect Ontarians from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“As this deadly and costly pandemic unfolds, Ontarians deserved to see far more from their government in today’s update,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Minister Philips spoke at length about protecting the cash flow of businesses but had shockingly little to say about the cash flow of Ontarians and that’s completely unacceptable.”

Unifor has been demanding urgent action from the Ford government, including immediate relief for workers affected by the pandemic or the broader economic effects of the government’s public health response. These measures should include instituting a minimum of 14 paid sick days and establishing direct, emergency income assistance measures. The full recommendations from Unifor are outlined in a letter to the Premier here.

The government announced only small one-time payments for families with children and limited other measures to offer minor relief with utility costs and student loans. With record-numbers of layoffs and Employment Insurance claims in recent days, the federal government and other provincial jurisdictions are providing greater direct support measures than the government of Ontario.

Minister Philips also announced a $3.3 billion funding increase as part of the government’s health care response to COVID-19. While greater detail is needed on the government’s planned deployment of the funding in the short-term, health care workers must see a more substantial investment to address chronic, long-term underfunding of health care in Ontario, with a clear plan to reopen and staff shuttered hospital beds.

“Today’s announcement leaves countless thousands of Ontarians out of what should have been the most ambitious and substantive direct income assistance plan we’ve seen in generations,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor’s Ontario Regional Director. “Instead, this government is failing in its responsibility to provide direct emergency relief to Ontario workers, as so many other provinces and countries have already done.”

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.