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Dear Chrystia Freeland: Ask Ford About the $6.4 Billion

Dear Chrystia Freeland,

I hope the pandemic finds you well. Covid numbers are low in University-Rosedale, as they are in my neighbourhood, Leslieville. I find it’s entirely possible to forget about the pandemic some weeks, just another day in sweats, and isolation! However, I do find myself obsessed with a number: $6.4 billion. Given that you and Doug Ford are pals now – yay for those long nighttime phone calls!– I thought perhaps, as Finance Minister, you’d give it a mention tonight when you speak with Doug.

6.4 Billion! According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ report, “six out of 10 provinces — Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and P.E.I. — are holding onto billions of unallocated COVID contingency funds that are built into their budgets”.

In his latest (February 3) press conference, Education Minister Stephen Lecce gave no indication that any of that funding is being spent on schools. Schools, spins Lecce, are the safest place to be! And yet, there have been over 7,000 school related cases of Covid. In addition, while the Conservative government has been sitting on those funds, more than 3,000 Seniors have died – that’s 50% of the total 6,300 Covid dead in Ontario. Class sizes are, dangerously, as big as ever. Paid sick leave, for those frontline and essential and migrant workers who have no choice but to go to work, is non-existent – trashed by your plutocrat pal Doug when he came into office. And don’t get me started about ODSP (Ontario Disability payments). Ford has made it harder than ever to qualify, and has increased the government clawback. In other words, people with disabilities who earn over $6,000 from employment will only receive 25 cents for every dollar they earn. The average monthly support is $672, if you qualify. That’s why you’re seeing so many people with disabilities living in tents in below zero weather. OK well maybe not in Rosedale. Or Leslieville.

Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy says the $12 Billion has been allocated but neglected to tell us where, and how. (Fun fact: there have been no sightings of the 600 nurses Ford promised to schools!) But as Doug, said, ““We’re being prudent fiscal managers with taxpayers’ money.”

And yet, here are some things that that chunk of dough could buy:

· Paid sick days

· Rent relief for small businesses

· Testing and contact tracing

· Smaller, safer classes with decent filtration

· Greater hospital capacity

· Expanding, rather than cutting, disability payments

· Funding homecare so seniors can stay safely in their homes

· Increased supports to longterm care homes

· Harm reduction for Opioid addicts

Oh and guess where the unspent money goes? To our Doug’s slush fund. Or as CUPE President Fred Han put it, “these dollars aren’t actually being spent on the front-line and will remain in the piggy bank for the Ford Conservatives to possibly use, to their political advantage, in the lead up to the next election. Yet again, Ford would be putting politics before people’s lives.”

Chrystia, do the right thing. Tell your “close friend’ and ‘therapist’ Doug Ford to spend the 12 Billion on pandemic relief for the people.

As NDP Finance critic Sandy Shaw has said, ““You cannot put a price tag on the lives lost […] the strain now on our hospitals, the jobs lost, the businesses shut down — those things and more are costing us far more than Doug Ford has managed to save.”

Call Doug tonight. Tell him if he doesn’t allocate the $12 Billion to direct Covid relief, he has blood on his hands.

Yours sincerely,

(Dr.) Marusya Bociurkiw

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