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Convention delegates demand fair, equal access to services for all communities

Policies of the Campbell government that have hurt rural communities in B.C. came under intense criticism at the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE) convention in Richmond today, as close to 600 delegates from across the province adopted a toughly-worded resolution demanding better treatment for towns and cities outside the Lower Mainland.

Union members who live and work in small towns in B.C. told troubling stories about the impact of the Campbell government’s cutbacks on local economies and on the quality of life for their families, their neighbours and their communities.

“There’s no health care left in Kimberley,” said delegate Tami Broughton, where the Campbell government closed a fully equipped hospital in less than 13 days earlier this year. Fort Nelson delegate John Barrett told the convention that cuts in legal aid, women’s services, parks and health care have devastated his remote Alaska Highway town.

And Prince Rupert health care worker Colleen Fitzpatrick detailed a litany of closures and cuts that have harmed her home city. “The cuts implemented by the Campbell government are eating away at the heart of the local economy. There’s been an unbelievable impact. There are no services and no jobs,” says Fitzpatrick. “We provide the resources that keep our province going. We need to send a message that all B.C. communities must be treated equally.”

And after an emotional debate, convention delegates did just that. They unanimously adopted a resolution demanding that the Campbell government ensure that communities outside the Lower Mainland get their fair share and that all British Columbians receive equal access to vital public services. And union members also lent strong backing to the upcoming rural protest that will coincide with the Liberal’s convention in Penticton Oct. 26.

B.C.’s largest health care union, HEU has thousands of members who work in hospitals, long-term care facilities and community health services in small towns and cities across the province.