I want to begin my first column as your new president with sincere thanks to all 85,000 CUPE members in British Columbia. As you know, Mark Hancock is now our national president, elected at national convention in Vancouver in November. My thanks to our entire executive board for placing their confidence in me to replace Brother Hancock as CUPE BC president.
The events of the past few months have been extremely busy, beginning with Paul Moist’s surprise announcement that he would be retiring and closely followed by Brother Hancock’s decision to seek the national presidency. I was very proud to support Mark’s candidacy, and while we’re sad to see him leave CUPE BC, our loss is really our entire union’s gain. I know that Mark will be an excellent national president, and I look forward to working closely with him on the national executive board.
My number one priority as your president will be to support our locals and our members—and the communities in which we live and work—throughout the province. I want to work with each and every one of our 164 locals and six district councils, providing any support they need to keep their communities strong.
As we move through the coming year, one of the issues I really want to focus on is child poverty in British Columbia. In a province as rich as ours, it is unacceptable to me—and, I know, to each of you—that one in five B.C. kids is growing up in poverty. Under the BC Liberal governments we’ve had to endure over the past 14 years, the situation continues to get worse, with no sign that Premier Christy Clark has any intention of working to improve things. There are so many reasons the Liberals don’t deserve another term in office, but to me their shameful record on this single issue is enough to vote them out.
I intend to hold the Premier and her government to account wherever their misguided policies affect our members and our communities. Christy Clark has become a one-trick pony in her obsession with LNG as the all-or-nothing panacea for the provincial economy. Meanwhile, her BC Liberals have gutted public services.
If there is an opportunity to work with the government to make positive change, we’ll do that. But our overarching goal for the next 17 months will be to elect a BC NDP government in May 2017. We know that an NDP government will restore funding to K-12 and post-secondary institutions, show far more respect for the collective bargaining process, and generally improve the labour relations climate in B.C.
In the meantime, I look forward to the work that’s ahead of us. Whether it’s responding to the provincial throne speech or attending the budget lockup and developing progressive policy alternatives, CUPE BC will be front and centre on the issues that matter to our members.
In closing, I hope that 2016 brings good health and prosperity for you and your loved ones. And congratulations to newly appointed Secretary-Treasurer Trevor Davies and new General Vice President Frank Lee.
I look forward to seeing many of you soon, whether at Convention in April or at a local or district council meeting.