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August 25, 2009

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Throne Speech hints at more instability, says CUPE

Union fears range of services could be on chopping block in the name of cost-cutting

BURNABY— Today’s Speech from the Throne opening the 39th Parliament of British Columbia provided some ominous clues of the range of public services that could be on the BC Liberal government’s hit list in next week’s budget, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“Throne speeches tend to be short on specifics and are generally used to promote feel-good projects, so we don’t normally look at them with a view to what the government is actually planning to do,” says CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill.

“That said, this Throne speech has certainly raised some red flags around the government’s intentions with regard to Translink, public water and power, property assessment, and the future of health authorities and boards of education.”

The speech, O’Neill noted, indicated that the government may pass legislation on Translink without even waiting for the Comptroller General’s cost review. And its reference to “new strategies aimed at developing new clean, renewable power” raises the question: will the BC Utilities Commission be ordered to permit the sale of B.C. water and power resources?

“The government says there’s no money available for public sector wage increases, but it also promises that it ‘will not contemplate wage rollbacks’,” O’Neill adds. “But at the same time, it will subject health authorities, boards of education and Crown corporations to a funding review. How are they planning to balance budgets in those areas?”

O’Neill said the government’s claim to having been blindsided by the recession (“seismic economic shifts that were unpredictable and brutally deceiving in their speed and force”) is no excuse for cuts in social services, education and public libraries—especially given the billions being spent on the Olympics, the Gateway development and P3 projects.

“From this it appears that the only people in British Columbia who were unprepared for a downturn in the economy were members of this government,” he says.

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