LONDON: For years the non-partisan group Fair Pensions For All has been raising the alarm over public sector wages, benefits and pensions. The group has continued to prove that our public sector costs are unsustainable and if things don’t change, we could be headed towards catastrophe. However, this crisis can be averted if the politicians and public sector unions can get their act together. This isn’t about austerity; it is about balance. One where, we the public, are served in a way that provides a positive result for society and is a lure for business investment, not a deterrent.
In Ontario, we have never collected more revenues from our people than we have in 2012. Very simply, we the taxpayers are tapped out. However, the cries from the public service of increased taxes on the rich and the corporations are as loud as ever. The truth is that the rich and the corporations have options, and they certainly are not going to pay for the ever-expanding salaries and pensions of our public service. We need to clean up our own financial house before we can expect much in the way of major investment in our province. At Fair Pensions For All we have realized this and have offered some solutions to our financial problems.
There is no question that part of the solution will be to layoff a significant number of people. However, a massive amount of terminations will not benefit society. We would still be an overtaxed group but with less services. At Fair Pensions For All we believe that the government needs to collectively bargain a major reduction in salaries. Our public sector salaries far exceed the amount paid for similar jobs in the private sector. Their unions need to remember that collective bargaining is a two way street. In addition, we also believe that the public sector needs to move from a defined benefit pension to a hybrid pension system. This pension change should be fazed in over a number of years, and should not effect those already retired. These changes would have a significant impact on the sustainability of our public service. If these changes aren’t made, other, more aggressive changes will be forced upon our public service.
Fifty cents of every tax dollar that we spend in Ontario goes directly into health care. With an aging population, this is only bound to increase. As this cost, and other fixed costs such as pensions increase, so decreases our ability to pay for other programs. In the near future, public education becomes an unaffordable luxury. As does road repair and maintenance. We can expect our fire services to be provided by a private institution. Those abused, neglected or abandoned will find little help, as they have nothing to pay. In short, if we don’t return to fiscal balance, we will have a society that most of us can’t imagine today.
I’m sure that our solutions will be met with extreme veracity by the public sector unions. But they are as much part of the solution as they are the problem. They need to become partners with us and collectively bargain in the best interest of our society. If they don’t, if they resist, they will not like the results.