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B.C.’s largest union opens annual event tonight with speech on economy by Barry O’Neill

VANCOUVER—On the heels of a province-wide tour by CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill to discuss local development issues in resource-based and agricultural economies, British Columbia’s largest union opens its 45th annual convention here tonight with a renewed commitment to strengthen communities and seek progressive alternatives to privatization.

This year’s convention, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at the downtown Hyatt Regency Hotel, is themed “Building Sustainable Communities.” In promoting local economic development and strong public services in an era of rampant privatization, the approximately 600 CUPE delegates gathering in Vancouver this week will focus on issues that affect the union’s 75,000 members throughout B.C.

Among several key issues delegates will be voting on is an emergency resolution dealing with post-secondary funding cuts by the BC Liberal government. The resolution calls for the union to lobby the provincial government to restore funding to meet projected enrolment increases for 2008-09, provide new funds for additional spaces in high priority areas such as health care and skilled trades, and invest significantly in student finance initiatives to make post-secondary education accessible for more B.C. students.

O’Neill’s opening address tonight will be preceded by an 11-minute video that highlights the union’s activities since last year’s convention, including a glimpse of the CUPE BC president’s tour of 16 B.C. communities earlier this year.

This year’s featured guest speaker is internationally acclaimed author, entrepreneur and local economy expert Michael Shuman. Shuman, whose best-selling titles include The Small Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses Are Beating the Global Competition and Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in the Global Age, is known for his ideas and tools for building healthy local economies.

The other guest speakers are federal New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton, BC New Democratic Party leader Carole James and BC Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair. CUPE National president Paul Moist and CUPE National secretary-treasurer Claude Généreux will present their annual reports.

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