OPSEU head Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas says province needs to take lead on addressing homelessness

Ontario Public Service Employees Union President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is seen in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The head of a major Ontario union was in London on Wednesday, calling for provincial action on homelessness.

President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), Warren “Smokey” Thomas discussed homelessness, as well as mental health and addictions with the chair of the London Homeless Coalition, Abe Oudshoorn.

READ MORE: Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas to discuss social issues during London visit

Afterwards, he spoke with 980 CFPL’s Mike Stubbs on London Live.

“I think the province owns a lot of this,” he said.

“We’ve had 25 years of austerity, social programs not receiving any increase in base funding, agencies like the Canadian Mental Health Association not receiving any increase in base funding. People are relying on food banks more and more.”

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Thomas stressed that poverty is worsening.

“The Liberals talked for 15 years about a poverty reduction strategy. I actually said to the premier once, ‘I wish you wouldn’t strategize so much, you’re making it worse, not better.’ And nothing from the Tories, that they have any interest in addressing it at all.”

READ MORE: Homelessness and social housing dominate committee meeting at London city hall

He said if Premier Doug Ford is really “for the people,” then he’ll include $500 million in the next budget to address these issues.

Thomas said it sounds like a lot of money, but that it isn’t when you consider the government’s entire budget.

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