It gives me a great deal of pride to have had the 2007 budget proposal approved by our National Executive Board in December.
As I reported to you in December, I proposed some significant changes to our financial management in the 2007 budget. This included moving $500,000 of election related expenses to the General Fund, reflecting the fact that our political work in federal, provincial, municipal and school board elections is core work for CUPE activists and should be a permanent feature of our operations. It also relieves some pressure on the National Defence Fund. In addition, I proposed that we add $2 million to our General Fund expenditures to pay for retiree health benefits rather than continue to pay for this from pension surpluses.
I am also quite proud that the budget proposal included adding 14 new staff, the largest single addition of staff since 2001. As I indicated in my December report, we have added a Collective Agreement Analyst at national office in order to complete the implementation of our Collective Agreement Information System, which is further elaborated in the technology update of my report. And we have continued with our commitment to re-balance our staffing complement across the regions. While we are not governed exclusively by ratios when we decide to add new staff to a region, we are mindful that the ratio of staff to members provides us with a guidepost for measuring equity in staffing among the regions. We have made a commitment to Ontario to bring the ratio of staff to members more in line with other regions at the same time as meeting needs all across the country. It is a balancing act each year. This year we have added one additional education representative and one legal representative in British Columbia; one new servicing representative in Alberta; a part-time support staff in Manitoba to staff the new Dauphin office when it is opened later this year; four new servicing representatives, one new communications representative and one support staff position along with an additional part-time support staff position in Ontario, for a total of 6.5 positions; two new servicing representatives in Quebec; and one new servicing representative in the Maritimes.