Commentary
Jan 05, 2017

Communities minister raises stakes for May 9

Municipal wage control threat sets off alarm bells

When this issue of Public Employee hits doorsteps, we’ll be only five months away from the next provincial election, and the stakes could not be higher—especially for CUPE members and our families.

We’ve all seen the damage the BC Liberals have done during their 15 years in office. I would need much more space that I have here to outline the harm Christy Clark and her MLAs have done—piling onto the grim legacy of Gordon Campbell—but here’s a very short list: cutting funding to important public services like health care and education, ripping up contracts with workers, ignoring serious issues like rising housing prices until it’s too late, firing elected school boards for refusing to close schools, and choosing massive tax cuts for the richest 2 per cent of British Columbians instead of giving the rest of us a break.

Right-wing threats

Now we learn that if the BC Liberals win the next election they are planning to bring in provincial wage controls for local governments. Right-wing groups like the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses have long urged the BC Liberals to scrap collective bargaining between local governments and their employees, but even Christy Clark has resisted the pressure—so far.

At the 2016 Union of BC Municipalities convention in Victoria, I listened as communities minister Peter Fassbender raised the possibility of the province taking control away from local governments.  Given this news, the possibility of another BC Liberal term, and the impacts it could have on a very large number of our members across the province, is extremely worrisome.

This possibility should cause grave concern for all workers, not just those who deliver public services for local governments. CUPE members who work in the K-12 sector know full well how provincial interference in local bargaining has led to additional downloaded costs to school boards, without the resources to pay for them. The recent firing of the locally elected Vancouver School Board shows how little respect the BC Liberals have for democracy.

Time to step up

This possible provincial move to seize power from locally elected governments is just one more reason CUPE BC is working so hard to defeat the BC Liberals on May 9.  Recognizing the damage that 15 years of Christy Clark and Gordon Campbell have done to our province, delegates to our last Convention voted to make electing a BC NDP government under Premier John Horgan our top priority. And we’re acting on that decision. On page 3 of this issue, read about the election campaign plan we’re putting together.  And check out the interview with John Horgan on pages 8 and 9.

We have 85,000 members in British Columbia, and we live and work in every community. If we all work together, pull out all the stops and get involved in the campaign, we can change our province for the better. I know that John Horgan and his BC NDP team are with us.  They’ve got the vision, the energy and the plan to turn things around and form a government for all of us—not just the wealthy and well-connected.

Paul Faoro is president of CUPE BC, British Columbia’s largest union, representing 85,000 workers delivering important public services in communities across the province.

COPE 491