Members of CUPE Prince Edward Island were celebrating after they forced the provincial government to blink not once but twice on separate P3 proposals.
The first victory came in May 1999, when the Conservative government reversed its decision to privatize Waste Watch, one of the most successful recycling and composting programs in the country.
Members of CUPE 501 were determined to keep Waste Watch in the public spotlight. They hounded local politicians, knocked on doors and held signs at major intersections. After more than a year the government bowed to public pressure and pulled the plug on the P3 proposal.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the work of the local was what made the difference,” says Division president Bill McKinnon. “It was a simple and effective message and the public came on side.”
But within days of the Waste Watch decision the government announced plans for a P3 hospital near Summerside. This time, CUPE members from across the province mobilized, wearing campaign buttons to work, distributing pamphlets and setting up a hotline concerned citizens could phone.
Once again, the government buckled under the pressure. In July 1999, Premier Pat Binns announced the new hospital will remain in public hands.
“No matter how you cut it, P3s are a bad call. They cost more, deliver less and line the pockets of wealthy investors,” says McKinnon. “I’m glad we were able to fight off the threat – and I hope the government has learned its lesson.”