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September 17, 2014

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Municipal wage and salary report a shoddy, politically-motivated attack

BURNABY—A B.C. government report on wages and salaries paid by local governments—“leaked” by a right-wing special interest group that contributed to the report—represents a direct assault on the autonomy of elected municipal councils, CUPE BC President Mark Hancock said today. The report recommends the establishment of a provincial body to control compensation levels and conduct bargaining with civic employees.

“If the goal is to ‘school board-ize’ local governments by establishing provincial bargaining for every community in B.C., and gut the Community Charter legislation in the process, then this report is on the right track—but it’s not the approach most British Columbians want to see,” said Hancock.

The report was commissioned under the BC Liberals’ “Core Services Review” even though the government’s own terms of reference specifically exclude local governments from the process.  The government’s consultant, Ernst & Young consulted with a remarkably small group of sources on the report, and pointedly did not consult with the Union of BC Municipalities or any of its members. (The UBCM represents almost every local government in the province.) The report relies almost entirely on information supplied by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Business Council of British Columbia, the Independent Contractors and Business Association, and the Fraser Institute, all groups dedicated to suppressing wages.

“I’ve seen some one-sided consultations and reports,” said Hancock, “but rarely this blatantly biased. There is a political agenda from the BC Liberals at work here, plain and simple. They’re relying on their friends in right-wing special interest groups who contribute so much of their funding, and the result is ‘policy-based fact making.’”

“It’s impossible to take the conclusions and recommendations of this report seriously when they come from such a deeply flawed process,” said Hancock. “But the fact is, public-sector wage increases cited in this report almost exactly match the provincial average. Ideology and political spin notwithstanding, locally-elected government is more responsive and accountable to citizens and taxpayers than the current provincial government.

“The fact that this report recommends gutting the Community Charter is frankly bizarre. The Charter is one of the signature legislative achievements of the BC Liberals, and is held up as a model for setting out the roles and responsibilities of municipal governments. Premier Christy Clark appears to be more interested in provoking yet another confrontation than in providing good government. You’ve got to wonder what all the BC Liberal caucus members who came from local government are thinking.”


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