Any parent of a child with special needs should be concerned about Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak’s campaign promise to cut 100,000 public sector jobs if elected. As it is now, there is a distressing shortage of teachers’ assistants for the growing number of students with exceptionalities. It has been reported that in some schools in this province, because of the shortage of supports, some parents are being asked not to bring these students to school, or in other cases their school hours are reduced.
To make up for cutting teaching assistants there would be larger class sizes under the Hudak plan. Additionally, despite a growing need for healthcare workers in an aging population, the number of those positions could also be reduced.
The education sector would come in for special attention in Hudak’s plan to cut public sector jobs, and therefore earns him the title of Mike Harris Redux. After he was elected in 1995, PC leader Harris rained terror on teachers, who then fought back in numbers not seen before on the grounds of Queen’s Park.
Now, Hudak wants to do the same thing again in this questionable strategy to reduce the province’s deficit, which this fiscal year is projected at $12.5 billion. Conservatives love to talk about cutting jobs to save money while promising to create jobs as Hudak is doing with his other show stopper, his eight-year Million Jobs Plan. Talking in nice round numbers catches the public’s imagination better, however closer scrutiny always shows otherwise. Hudak’s position is that the private sector will fill the need. But there is no guarantee of that happening.
Hudak also promises that his party can bring the deficit to zero a year sooner than his nearest contender, the Ontario Liberals, led by incumbent premier Kathleen Wynne.
If nothing else, the PC leader is offering a clear choice between his party’s plan and the Liberals who, while talking deficit reduction as all parties are wont to do, are emphasizing boosting the economy by shoring up services that would increase public sector employment, in-home healthcare workers being a prime example.
Frankly, Hudak’s plan is contradictory. He wants to satisfy those who want reduced spending by cutting jobs and at the same time those who want to see jobs created. And he is hoping no one will notice that cutting 100,000 jobs is the opposite of creating jobs. He says he would not cut police or doctors and nurses although half of the province’s annual budget is on health. Obviously he means to decimate just about everything else.
In the last go round with the PCs, as well as attacking education they cut nursing positions without mercy.
This jobs cut talking point fits neatly into the Conservatives’ goal of smaller government. But, that also means fewer or a shrinkage of services and larger classes in schools, for example. And, yes, that will mean 100,000 fewer people paying taxes and purchasing goods and services. Where Hudak is on stronger ground is in his support for skilled trades, but he has not offered any strong incentives for apprenticeship aside from calling for one-to-one mentorship. Any movement on that front would have to come from the private sector, so promises of results such as one million jobs should only be considered as speculation on Hudak’s part.
Interestingly, Hudak first made these announcements outside of the urban centre, which tells us where he feels secure that he will find support. But it bears knowing that it is already being dubbed the Commonsense Revolution 2.0.
So far, the PC base at least appears to be buying into it, and why not since Hudak’s mentor, Harris, was elected twice. Furthermore, with less than a month to the June 12 Election Day, Hudak is currently leading in the polls.