CUPE NL convention delegates and community members came together in Gander to fight austerity and build an economy that works for everyone.

The Gander town hall was organized by the Common Front NL, and is part of a province-wide mobilization to resist the Liberal government budget.

CUPE economist Toby Sanger compared the recent provincial budget to Alberta’s budget, which was unveiled on the same day. Both provinces have been hit hard by plummeting resource revenues. And the difference in their response is stark.

“The Newfoundland and Labrador budget cuts critical public services, destroys jobs and cuts wages,” said Sanger. “This is the most miserable budget I’ve ever seen except for Greece, and Greece’s was forced on them.” 

The Liberal government is setting the province on the road to a deeper recession, but they didn’t have to.

“Alberta chose to help the people of their province, not hurt them when they’re down. They are maintaining funding for public services and increasing investment in infrastructure, with a budget focused on creating jobs, not destroying them,” said Sanger.

The NL budget increases taxes and fees that hit low and middle income Newfoundlanders much more than the wealthy.

“This budget is an inequality budget that widens gap between the one per cent and 99 per cent. Low and middle income people are being forced to pay for the deficit, while the rich get off almost scot-free,” said Mary Shortall, President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour.

“The government had an opportunity to start turning things around, but they’ve failed miserably,” said Shortall.

It’s a budget that will drive young people out of the province, said Bridget Cameron, a student at College of the North Atlantic and campaigns co-ordinator for the Canadian Federation of Students – NL.

“Layoffs, massive student debt and dismantling the social safety net won’t build a stronger economy today or for future,” said Cameron.

“Young people won’t be able to lay down their roots in Newfoundland and Labrador. When governments cut public services, families like mine suffer.”

CUPE National President Mark Hancock warned of the ripple effects of the Ball government’s cuts.

“Families in this province are already struggling to make ends meet. Public services are great equalizers that lift thousands of Newfoundland and Labrador families out of poverty,” said Hancock.

We’ve seen what happens. Cutting vital public services in tough economic times only makes things worse for workers and their families, as well as for communities and businesses,” said Hancock. “This budget won’t help people weather the recession. It will only deepen it.” 

Hancock highlighted the danger of the province falling into the trap of expensive and risky privatization schemes like so-called public-private partnerships (P3s).

“Privatizing public services means paying more to get less. It means giving up local control, with less accountability to citizens. And in the end the quality of services suffers,” said Hancock.

Participants shared their stories and their vision for a better budget, one that builds a stronger economy and society. The town hall is one of many actions planned in the coming weeks and months.

“The anger and the uprising is lasting. Momentum is building. People are angry and need to be on the street and talking about it. Let’s build on that anger, and turn it action and hope that we can build a better economy,” said Shortall.