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McGuinty axes public sector workers to fix Ontario's economy

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About 30 OPSEU members and supporters gathered outside the Marriott Eaton Centre hotel Tuesday to demonstrate against the Liberal plan to terminate another 231 OPSEU members on Thursday.

The largest cuts are expected to take place in the Ministry of the Attorney General, Transportation and Health and Long Term Care.

Inside the hotel, the premier spoke to the Economic Club of Canada about his vision for Ontario that will be heavily influenced by the report from the Commission on the Reform of Public Services chaired by economist Don Drummond, former chief economist for the Toronto-Dominion Bank.

More than 400 OPSEU members who work for the provincial government lost their jobs earlier this year, and the union expects that hundreds more will lose their jobs in 2012.

"He's going to tell senior business executives and others why it's so important for this province to cut back the services we so desperately need," said Megan Park, Senior Campaigns Officer, OPSEU. "And the jobs that go with providing those services."

Earlier today, Occupy Toronto received eviction notices from the City of Toronto. Residents have been told that they must take down their tents and be out of the park by midnight.

"We're part of a large global movement against the hurt, the pain, the cuts that have affected hundreds of millions of people around the world," said Park. "And also affect people in this city and in this province."

As part of the larger movement, OPSEU decided to cut short their rally to head over to St. James Park and show their continued support and solidarity with the residents of Occupy Toronto who have spent the last month peacefully protesting in the park.

At the Marriott, lunch-time guests of the Economic Club of Canada were herded into a side entrance to avoid having to listen to the concerns of OPSEU workers and their allies.

Meanwhile, demonstrators wearing stickers that read "Cuts Hurt Us All" occupied the sidewalk in front of the hotel. A few leafleted passersby. Many wore signs that read "I support ambulance services," "I protect your drinking water" and "I provide computer services."

"This is the work that our members do for the people of Ontario that we need to protect," said Park.

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) represents about 115,000 employees in the Ontario public service and has 20 offices across the province.

"Shame on the government for trying to make things better off our backs," said Rod Bemister, Executive Board member Region 5, OPSEU.

"They'll help out their corporate friends yet leave us twisting in the wind."

Bemister is tired of OPSEU being scapegoated for Ontario's economic problems and reminded workers of the need to stay strong as the attacks will probably intensify next year when the government attempts to strip away hard won rights.

"They need to know that cuts to us will not work," said Bemister. "They will not fix the problems."

OPSEU political economist Randy Robinson pointed that the private sector doesn't drive the economy and employment in Ontario.

From 2008 to 2011, Robinson said there were only two areas with significant job growth: public services and construction. Major infrastructure investment in Ontario, he said, funded by taxpayer dollars that supported the private sector.

"Right now Canada's biggest corporations have $477 billion in cash that they are not spending," said Robinson. "It's just sitting around because they don't know where to put it."

So, Robinson said, they're looking to Don Drummond to provide private sector investment opportunities by recommending cuts to or privatization of public services.

"If there is no strong public sector, there is no private sector," he said. "We provide the roads, the schools, the health-care, the water, the electricity. And we provide the court system that even allows the private sector to even exist."

And that's exactly what the Occupy Toronto movement is all about.

"But push back from police forces that work for the government that are working for corporations that do not want to have a conversation about inequality," said Robinson.

"Clearing out parks will not make the problem go away. And you will not stop people from fighting back."

Click here to see more photos from the rally.

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