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Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), spoke on behalf of over 570,000 union members in a letter calling upon Prime Minister Stephen Harper to act on the increasingly volatile economic and financial situation.

The letter, which Harper received yesterday, outlined policy steps needed to protect Canadians and help put the Canadian and world economies back on track.

In the letter, Moist urged Harper 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. We need to improve regulation of our own financial sector, but this also needs to take place within a more stable international financial system. We need 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. Now is the time to reinforce and strengthen our public services and social supports, not diminish them or tear them down.

For information or interviews:
Sébastien Goulet, CUPE Communications, 613-808-0675