THUNDER BAY -- A member of the Ontario Public Sector Employee Union’s Northern Ontario executive branch says she’s not sure how the Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak’s plan to cut 100,000 public-sector jobs won’t have devastating effects in the region.
Mary Cory said the plan, which would also freeze government worker wages and lower government spending in every sector but health care, said Hudak has promised to create a million jobs as part of his election platform.
The budget-balancing promise was announced on Friday, with Hudak saying he’ll put Ontario back in the black by 2017, a full year ahead of the Liberal’s already announced plan.
The cuts would be particularly damaging in the North, Cory said.
She pointed to communities that rely on the public sector for high-paying jobs in natural resources, the environment and the Ring of Fire, particularly in the Geraldton area. Who’s going to police those areas, she questioned, if the cuts are made?
“I can’t imagine how he’s going to do it, how he’s going to justify it to voters in the North,” Cory said, reached by phone.
Conservative candidate Harold Wilson, seeking to unseat Liberal Bill Mauro in Thunder Bay-Atikokan, said Hudak’s plan is more about pulling back the public-sector workforce to 2009 levels, adding the government has added 300,000 workers in recent years.
While the cuts, which won’t affect health care, would certainly be felt in Northwestern Ontario, they’d likely impact southern Ontario, Wilson said.
“We’ve already had our cuts,” he said, referring to the Liberal paring back of Ministry of Natural Resources staff.
“I don’t see this as having an impact here.”
Wilson did say he’d like to see the majority of the Conservative cuts aimed at middle-management and not service providers.
Liberal candidate Michael Gravelle, fighting to keep his seat in Thunder Bay-Superior North, said the plan makes no sense.
“I think Mr. Hudak need to understand you cannot create jobs by killing jobs,” he said. “He’s talking about 100,000 jobs. Those are services people absolutely rely on.”
Gravelle went on to say the plan could hurt the North in other ways, specifically reducing the size of cabinet, which he said could jeopardize the future of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, the portfolio Gravelle held before the election writ was dropped earlier this month.
Meanwhile Thunder Bay-Atikokan NDP candidate Mary Kozorys called Hudak’s plan a travesty.
“I am shocked by Mr. Hudak’s approach. This isn’t the time to be cutting jobs,” she said.
“We need to look at plans that create local jobs and reward those companies that do create jobs by making investments. You don’t create strong communities by cutting jobs.”
Hudak maintained Friday his plan will save taxpayers $2 billion annually, and claimed government is growing bigger than Ontarians can afford.
“We’re spending more and more with money we don’t have and piling up enormous debt,” he said in a release.
The more government spends, he added, the longer the province will stay in an economic rut and the more jobs will be lost.
Ontario voters go to the polls on June 12.