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Letter from Paul Moist: Let’s scrap a few lines from NAFTA

On August 30, the Globe and Mail published an editorial entitled “Avoiding getting stuck with the bill” that missed the target in terms of the NAFTA debate.

In the context of the settlement with AbitibiBowater, the editorial asks whether the federal government should sue the provinces for contravening NAFTA. But the real question is should private corporations have the right to sue the federal government for lost profits.

The problem here is NAFTA itself. Without getting into the specifics of this case with AbitibiBowater, there is a larger lesson here. These “free-trade” deals are, essentially, charters of rights for corporations, which grant exaggerated power to private interests.

Canadians have already bailed out many industries in times of crisis. But should Canadians also have to pay these companies when we do not bow down to them? It is clear we will see more and more cases like this if some clauses of NAFTA are not revised and included in new trade deals with other entities, like the one the Harper government is quietly striking with the European Union.

The debate on which order of government should pay is important, but secondary because at the end of the day it’s always taxpayers who get stuck with the bill.

The Globe says the taxpayers of Canada need some concrete assurance that they will not have to pick up another such tab. Yes they should have assurance. Let’s scrap a few lines from NAFTA.

CUPE says Government of Saskatchewan “botoxing” cost of public sector surgeries

Contrary to the Saskatchewan Health Minister’s claim, contracting out surgeries to a private for- profit clinic in Regina is not cost-effective and could harm the capacity of the public system to deliver timely medical procedures. Health Minister McMorris announced this week that the government is paying Omni Surgery Centre about $1,500 for each knee surgery performed at the clinic, stating it was cheaper than the in-hospital cost which the government estimates is $1,700.

According to the interprovincial billing rates, Saskatchewan pays less than $1,000 for out-patients when they have the same surgical procedure done in a public facility in another province. The rates, available on the Ontario Health Ministry’s website, show the public cost is $997 for day care surgery.

The CUPE Health Council has referred the matter to arbitration stating it violates the collective agreement. According to article 6.02 in the agreement, the employer can only contract out services if it will result in “significant savings” and “maintain the quality of health services.”

Union reminds motorists speed fines double in school zones

As P-12 aged children return to schools across Nova Scotia, motorists in the two largest municipalities are reminded to slow down in school zones.

CUPE Nova Scotia president Danny Cavanagh said, “Motorists need to realize that speed fines double in those school zones.  We’re simply asking everyone to slow down and pay attention. That also means no talking on your cell phone, which is illegal anyway.”

Cavanagh said it was great to see the Minister of Transportation, Bill Estabrooks, out promoting this issue recently. “We certainly believe that a public awareness campaign is badly needed to help fix this problem. Our members who work in HRM and CBRM say it is a chronic problem that puts children in harm’s way.”

CUPE is also encouraging municipalities to take advantage of the offer from Minister Estabrooks for free road signs reminding motorists that ‘Speed Fines Double in School Zones’.

CUPE urges Town of Pictou to keep the Ship Hector public

CUPE is calling on the Town of Pictou to keep the ship Hector and its associated infrastructure in public hands.

A delay in the proposed transfer to a non-profit society which has been prompted by an environmental assessment, gives Town Council an opportunity to revisit its decision to disassociate itself with this icon of Nova Scotia. In addition, if the proposed sale of the ship Hector and Heritage Quay to private interests for the sum of nine dollars goes through, good paying jobs in the Town of Pictou may be lost,” said CUPE National Representative Kim Cail.

Political Action Profile: Dianne Wyntjes for Red Deer city council

CUPE Regional Director Dianne Wyntjes is seeking election to city council on election day, October 18, 2010 in Red Deer, Alberta. Working with CUPE over the last 30 years, Dianne Wyntjes has gained invaluable insight and experience into public policy and politics. Now, she would like to give back to her community and share her perspectives, including the importance of preserving public services in Red Deer.

Wyntjes believes in the efficient use of tax dollars, maintaining a healthy and safe community, reducing crime, and upgrading our infrastructure for services such as safe drinking water and public water systems. She points out that we need to be responsible with our environment and focus on transportation systems (including transit, bicycle and walking paths), providing an affordable city to live in with a thriving business community and good job opportunities.

To learn more, visit the Dianne for Red Deer website at: www.dianneforreddeer.ca.

A Labour Day message from CUPE National President Paul Moist

Labour Day is our opportunity to celebrate the important contributions of working people to make Canada a better country. That includes what we do on the job providing vital services that Canadians depend on and our accomplishments over the years that have improved living standards, promoted equality and built strong communities,” said Paul Moist.

Personally, I will be thinking about how we can achieve our goal of improving retirement incomes for all Canadians by winning an increase in the Canada Pension Plan. I will also worry about the challenges ahead for front line public sector workers as corporations and governments try to make us pay the price for the global economic meltdown.”

This Labour Day I will be celebrating with workers at the Ottawa and District Labour Council picnic.  I’m looking forward to sharing hot dogs and corn on the cob with other union members. I hope all CUPE members are able to mark the day with family, friends, and colleagues.”

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