Labour Views column for June 25, 2014

Written by Mary Lou Cherwaty, President of the Northern Territories Federation of Labour

Last Thursday, the Public Service Alliance of Canada hosted a barbeque in front of its offices in downtown Yellowknife. On behalf of the Northern Territories Federation of Labour, I was proud to join them in highlighting the federal government’s dismal record on protecting public services.

Cuts. The ongoing mantra of the Harper Conservative Government has consistently been about cuts. Cuts that are placing not only our cherished public services on the line, but also the very safety and health of Canadians that they are meant to serve.

Following are some examples of the devastating cuts that have already occurred:

  • Statistical research funding has been cut so deeply that economists and policy makers will not have any reliable data on which to make evidence-based decisions.
  • Fisheries and Oceans staff in British Columbia have been cut in half in the last ten years, eliminating the very workers who could have assessed the impact of the Northern Gateway pipeline on our fish habitats.
  • The closure of nine Veterans Affairs offices and the elimination of 25% of their staff, mean that veterans are not able to access the services they should be entitled to.
  • Our military’s civilian staff has been cut, along with funding for their missions abroad, leaving Canadian soldiers and their families with far less support.
  • The lives of Canadians who live and work on our coastlines have been put at risk with the closure of marine search and rescue stations in St. John’s and Vancouver.
  • The safety of the food we eat has been compromised by cutting workers who deliver front-line inspection services; and more cuts are planned to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
  • Researchers will have far less access to historical documents since the devastating cuts at Library and Archives Canada, showing obvious disregard for preserving our Canadian heritage.
  • Funding to conserve and maintain our National Parks has been cut, even though 43% of the ecosystems are in a declining state of health.
  • Canadian security is being placed at greater risk with the cuts to front-line border workers and intelligence officers.
  • Unemployed workers are finding it much harder to access crucial EI benefits since the cuts to EI call and processing centers, not to mention the legislative changes designed to make eligibility for EI next to impossible.
  • Every Canadian Revenue service counter in the country has been closed, leaving Canadians and businesses without the front-line services they need.

It is not surprising that only 22 years after parliament’s creation of a National Public Service week, all of the 17 unions representing public sector workers called for a boycott of the government’s events and rejected their empty platitudes last week.

As Northerners and as Canadians, we deserve better from our government. We deserve quality public services; and we deserve quality public service jobs that serve our communities and help to build the North we want.

We are all affected, and we must stand together for fairness!