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EDMONTON - Over 125 municipal employees from across western Canada met in Edmonton this weekend to discuss bargaining, the ‘Cities Agenda’ and privatization in the municipal sector.

CUPE National President Paul Moist addressed the delegates, warning that municipal workers may be facing harder times ahead.

“Municipal workers have been largely immune from the kind of roll backs we’ve seen in other jurisdictions,” said Moist. “However, that seems to be changing. Rural, smaller municipalities are now being confronted by employers seeking concessions.”

Moist pointed to rural municipalities in Ontario, and the City of Nelson BC, where the city recently locked out its employees in an effort to contract out municipal job.

“We have to resist these concessions,” said Moist. “The employer may think they are taking on 67 workers, but they are taking on much, much more. CUPE has 540,000 members and those members and their organization will be solidly behind the Nelson city employees.”

Moist also spoke about the work CUPE is doing bringing about a national presence on the ‘Cities agenda.’

“We’ve been meeting with representatives of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and with city mayors across the country, and we all agree on the need for a new deal for cities.

Moist said that 80% of the Canadian population lives in cities, and that 93% of taxes are generated from within those cities. However, only 7% of those taxes collected go to municipal governments.

“There is a $60 billion infrastructure deficit in the municipal sector,” said Moist. “And it is growing at a rate of $2 billion per year.”

Moist noted that the “New Deal for Cities” proposed by Liberal leader Paul Martin was met with a tepid response at the FCM convention in Edmonton last month.

“He blew it,” said Moist. “It was a tepid response, offering funds spread out over five years, after provincial approval. The funds he’s offering won’t even cover the added infrastructure cities will face.”

“Stephen Harper has even more skimpy policy on municipalities.”

Moist also addressed private public partnerships (P3s) saying they were starting to disappear from the table due to the national work of CUPE.

“We have become the resource for city councilors who oppose privatization of our services and assets,” said Moist. “Across the country, more and more people, and more and more cities are seeing P3s for what they are - a sell off of our communities.”