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Vancouver city council decision to exclude the public sets bad example, says CUPE BC

VANCOUVER B.C.- The NPA council’s decision to shut down public consultation on the City of Vancouver’s 2006 operating budget is bad news for residents, says the B.C. division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill, along with CUPE Local 15 president Paul Faoro, was scheduled to make a presentation about the budget at tomorrow morning’s council meeting. But on April 13, the meeting agenda was revised and the budget was removed from public discussion.

“I guess the NPA didn’t like what they heard in the first set of public discussions and decided they couldn’t be bothered to finish the process they started,” says O’Neill.

“Well, cutting off public consultation is immoral and politically foolish. It flies in the face of democracy-not to mention the non-partisan principles the NPA allegedly embrace.”

A wide range of organizations in Vancouver has lined up to criticize the proposed budget. Among other things, it calls for cuts to services for residents and business (including a $400,000 funding cut to the Park Board), a $300,000 reduction in support for the arts, and the elimination of Vancouver’s ethical purchasing plan.

“I understand the mayor’s excitement about the Olympics,” says O’Neill, “but given the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent, what kind of message is the NPA sending the community that it can’t afford sixty or seventy thousand a year for a child-and-youth advocate?”

O’Neill points out that the process for finalizing a city budget usually involves a final round of public comment and consultation. That was planned for the Standing Committee of Council on City Services and Budgets tomorrow. But the NPA council’s out-of-the-blue decision to revise the agenda and cancel consultations has effectively muzzled any public input on the general operating budget.

O’Neill says he will be in attendance at City Hall before the Council meeting opens tomorrow morning.