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PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. About 300 angry citizens, including several CUPE members, took on advanced education ministry bureaucrats last night to oppose a plan that many say would destroy the province’s world-class apprenticeship system.

“This is not a union issue,” CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill told the emotion-packed meeting. “It’s a worker issue. It’s a youth issue. It’s a respect issue.”

“Where is the minister?” he asked. “Where is Shirley Bond?” Others repeated his question in the overflow crowd of young apprentices, retired trades people, employers, educators and union leaders. Media were excluded from the meeting, which was originally intended for a select few.

Many were shocked to learn that Bond would not appear at the public consultation in her own riding. She has been criticized for not attending earlier meetings while issuing her views in “opinion editorials” from Victoria praising the proposed changes.

“It’s irresponsible for the minister not to be here,” O’Neill said. “It is also a direct insult to the young people and trades people in this room, most of them her constituents.”

Throughout the three-hour meeting a deputy minister and assistant deputy were barraged with questions about the discussion paper that proposes radical changes to apprenticeships and trades training.

“The Industry Training and Apprenticeship Commission wasn’t perfect,” O’Neill agreed with other speakers. “But it was far better than what is being proposed by the ministry.” ITAC offices across the province are being closed by the end of March.

“We went down this road before in 1981-82. That resulted in a waste of $35 million in taxpayers’ money before the program was scrapped. Do we now want to spend $70 million a year over three years on the same type of program? That’s another $210 million down the tube.”

Toward the end of the meeting, CUPE member Lorraine Prouse called for a standing vote on scrapping the “New Model” and using the money to improve ITAC. The majority stood up in unison.


Ron Verzuh, CUPE Communications,
604-291-1940 or 604-828-7668.