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PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. Prince George, Quesnel and other northern communities hurt by Liberal cuts must hold their local MLAs accountable, says CUPE BC president, Barry ONeill. Constituents must demand answers from their MLAs because accountability begins at home, he said yesterday at the start of a two-day tour of the region.

ONeill said local MLAs must explain how closing schools in Prince George or Wells will improve the quality of education for our children. They must explain how privatizing our hospitals will make local residents healthier, or how closing the courthouse in Vanderhoof will make our justice system more efficient?

ONeill was in town as part of CUPEs Strong Communities campaign. He met with CUPE members in Prince George and Quesnel as well as school board representatives and municipal leaders.

The Campbell governments policies are hitting hard at communities like Prince George. For example, the local school board will have to close schools, increase class sizes and lay-off as many as 175 employees. Yet MLA Shirley Bond insists the the new school funding formula is long overdue and will give school districts a better chance to plan.

These glib comments by the minister of advanced education suggest she is out of touch, says ONeill. The school board representatives I talked to werent looking for the chance to plan how to close schools and cut jobs.

The Northern Health Authority is also facing a $22 million funding shortfall because of cuts. ONeill chastised the authority for inviting the private company Sodexho to the region to look at privatizing services.

Although Bond has described these public private partnerships as an exciting opportunity, ONeill warned privatizing health services will destroy our public health care system.

Local residents must demand local MLAs represent the interests of their communities, he added, not the interests of the Campbell Liberals.

CUPE represents about 2,500 members in the region, including municipal workers, school board employees and support staff at the University of Northern B.C.

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Contact
Beth Smillie, CUPE Communications,
(604) 785-1422 or (604) 291-1940.

For more Strong Communities campaign news, check out cupe.bc.ca.