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Federal NDP leader Jack Layton brought a strong message of solidarity and activism to the B.C. division convention, thanking delegates and CUPE members for the work that they do in communities from coast to coast.

Layton used the CUPE BC convention to announce a major initiative to make prescription drugs more affordable. He said that responsibility for the current patchwork of drug coverage across Canada “clearly and squarely sits at the feet of Stephen Harper.”

Calling the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) between Alberta and B.C.“a reprehensible deal”, Layton acknowledged the leadership role of CUPE BC in sounding the alarm. “This is a deal that will start a race to the bottom on labour and environmental standards and it fundamentally undermines democracy.”

He praised the work of Victoria Member of Parliament Denise Savoie, whose private member’s bill, the Early Learning and Child Care Act (Bill C303), passed Second Reading in the House of Commons with the support of all three opposition parties. Layton said that if adopted, Bill C303 will help Canada build a much-needed child care system.

Layton said that rather than working to close the prosperity gap with their budget, the Harper Conservatives have actually widened it. He slammed the Conservative plan to create a new federal office to promote privatization and federal budget provisions that tie infrastructure funds for local and provincial governments to public-private partnerships, comparing them to similar tactics by the BC Liberal government with Partnerships BC.

He ended to a standing ovation, encouraging CUPE to continue to work with the NDP to close the prosperity gap. “Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done. Let’s get on with the job!”