The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Dear Prime Minister Harper:
I am writing to you on behalf of over 570,000 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees who are concerned about the increasingly perilous financial and economic situation.
I commend you for convening a meeting with provincial Premiers to focus on the economic situation, as we have urged you to do a number of times during the past year. The situation is now more urgent in light of the unprecedented turmoil in financial markets and the rapidly slowing Canadian and world economies, and the direct damages that these are causing to Canadian families.
The recent bailouts of the financial sector, while perhaps necessary, have failed to revive economies in Canada and around the world. There should be no doubt that it is necessary to fundamentally reconsider the economic policies that resulted in this crisis.
You will be participating in a number of important meetings and decisions over the coming month: the First Ministers’ meeting on the economy, the G20 meeting of world leaders in Washington, the federal government’s economic and fiscal statement, and the start of a new session of Parliament. These provide an opportunity to move beyond ideological perspectives and to work together to help put the Canadian and world economies back on track.
We will outline more extensive and detailed policy in the near future, but at this time I urge you to:
- Maintain strong levels of federal support for public services, investments and transfers. Now is certainly not the time to restrain public spending. To do so would further damage the economy. Instead we need to revive our economy with an effective stimulus program that will provide long-term economic growth, while also maintaining social programs to protect the vulnerable. Many notable economists and even the International Monetary Fund have urged governments – and particularly those that are in good fiscal shape such as Canada – to use fiscal stimulus to help the economy. Particular support should be provided to those most affected and at risk from the current economic crisis: manufacturing and forestry communities, the unemployed, low income workers, and pensioners.
- Accelerate funding for investments in public infrastructure. Planned federal funding for infrastructure will grow at less than the expected rate of inflation after the coming fiscal year, while funding marked for municipalities has already been delayed. Investments in public services and infrastructure provide at least two to three times the positive job impact of tax cuts. They can also be much better focused on areas that provide the best economic and social benefits. The current financial crisis has clearly demonstrated the dangers and high cost of relying on private corporations and markets to manage risks and provide public services. As we have argued for some time, P3s (public-private partnerships) are more expensive, risky, time consuming and less accountable than traditional forms of public infrastructure investment.
- Improve governance of financial institutions in Canada and around the world. Canada has escaped some of the worst damage from the financial crisis so far because we did not proceed to deregulate our financial institutions to the same degree that other countries did. As you are well-aware we need improve regulation of our own financial sector, but this also needs to take place within a more stable international financial system. I strongly urge you to consider a number of the proposals outlined by Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy for reform of the world financial institutions. These leaders have called for: cross-border regulation of the largest global financial corporations, reform of the World Bank and IMF, stronger global uniform standards for regulation of financial institutions, an early warning system for financial threats and better international cooperation, particularly with those countries that were not included in the G8 group of world leaders.
- Stronger cooperation on economic policy. Just as the economic circumstances demand that countries work more effectively together at an international level, we must also work together more cooperatively within Canada. I join with the Canadian Labour Congress in asking you to convene a meeting with senior labour leaders to discuss Canada’s position prior to your government’s upcoming economic statement and the international summit of G20 leaders.
Our members – and Canadians across the country – are most immediately concerned about the security of their pensions, houses, and jobs. The current financial crisis has demonstrated just how vulnerable hardworking families who play by the rules are to markets that have no rules and to financiers who break the rules with impunity. Canadian families who suffer losses can still benefit from decent public services and a modest but diminished social safety net. Now is the time to reinforce and strengthen our public services and social supports, not diminish them or tear them down.
I look forward to meeting with you to discuss how we can work together to maintain and strengthen our public services and protect Canadians during these difficult and challenging economic times.
Canadian Union of Public Employees