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Canada’s largest union is urging provincial and territorial leaders to collaborate on national issues important to all Canadians. The Canadian Union of Public Employees hopes premiers – meeting today in Halifax for their annual Council of the Federation meeting – will work to find solutions on a host of vital national issues in a way that respects federal and provincial jurisdictions.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has chosen to divest itself of both financial and political responsibility for the needs of Canadians,” says Paul Moist, national president of CUPE. “This is forcing the provinces to step in to fund vital programs Canadians depend on every day.”

Moist says premiers should share CUPE’s concerns about recent cuts to programs, such as Employment Insurance, Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, and unilateral moves from the Harper Conservative government to gradually abandon its responsibility to provide adequate public health care funding.

The federal government should be providing real leadership; not downloading responsibility and costs to the provinces,” says Moist. “This downloading is distorting federal and provincial jurisdictions, and reshaping our country in a way that’s not in the best interests of Canadians.”

Moist is also urging premiers to discuss the on-going trade negotiations between Canada and the European Union. CUPE recently released a legal opinion showing the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) could mean an implicit shift away from provincial jurisdictions in a number of key areas.

I hope the premiers will work to protect public services and provincial powers by withdrawing their support for CETA until all details have been disclosed and discussed,” says Moist.

CUPE is also urging premiers to use their meeting to develop a long-term national green and public energy strategy, and to push the federal government to commit to a long term infrastructure strategy.

Our country is facing a $125 billion infrastructure deficit, with no long-term vision from the federal government on how we are to strengthen and maintain Canada’s road, bridges, community centre, drinking water systems and sewage treatment plants,” says Moist. “I hope premiers will reject risky public – private partnerships as a solution, and call on the Harper Conservative government to keep our public infrastructure public.”