NEWS

Protesters invite Duncan to 'walk a mile in their shoes'

03/26/2012 01:24 EDT | Updated 05/26/2012 05:12 EDT

Dozens of public sector employees dropped old, worn shoes at the doorstep of Liberal finance minister Dwight Duncan on Monday afternoon.

The move was made in protest of an Ontario budget that many expect will come with deep cuts when it's delivered Tuesday in Queen's Park.

Traditionally, the finance minister dons a new pair of shoes before delivering the budget.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees organized the protest. The union said "the last thing Windsor/Essex needs is more job losses." It is concerned Duncan's budget will cut jobs from a region already boasting Canada's highest unemployment rate.

"Many of us are expecting some drastic cuts to be announced in the next few days," said Andrea Madden, a child welfare worker and Windsor District CUPE council president.

Madden said seven of the Windsor region's top 10 employers are public service employers.

"If we start seeing massive cuts we’re going to see cuts to staff. These are people who invest in our community and provide a very important service to members of our community," Madden said.

The union also said Ontario's social services are "under-resourced" and that cuts put people and jobs at risk.

CUPE is urging Duncan not to cut funding for public services like child care, child welfare, developmental services, mental health and employment and re-training programs.

Child care already affected

Premier Dalton McGuinty announced on the weekend that the $200 increase to the child-care benefit his party promised during last year's election will not be fully implemented during this year's budget. Instead, it will now be phased in over two years.

Madden said when the economy is down, it increases work in the child welfare sector.

Windsor's unemployment rate is the highest in Canada at 10.7 per cent. There is also a well documented shortage of long-term health-care beds in the region.

Giancinto Simonetti, a resident in Duncan's Windsor-Tecumseh riding, brought a pair of shoes to the protest. Simonetti's 90-year-old father relies on several social services.I’m not pleased about the budget.

"I’m concerned about the budget cuts. As far as public service is concerned, it’s very important to people," Simonetti said. "Citizens are being asked to shoulder the burden of these cuts ... and I don’t think that’s fair. It’s working people being asked to make the cuts."

'Folks can't survive on part-time jobs'

Clara Couvillon is a former employee at the Ford foundry. She brought her old work boots to the rally. She said she's been working part-time jobs since she was thrown out of work in 2007.

She said family budgets don't have enough money for childcare or care for the elderly.

"Folks can’t survive on part-time jobs," she said. "We should all be standing up for this because it’s going to affect everyone."

Staff at Duncan's office were not pleased with the protest. They were disappointed they were not notified of the rally ahead of time.

The shoes, staff said, will stay at the office for now, but will be eventually donated.

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