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The province's largest public sector union accused the Saskatchewan Party today of having a hidden agenda to privatize the province's Crown corporations and public services if it wins the November 5th election.

“The Saskatchewan Party claims it will slash taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars, increase spending on health, education and highways and at the same time balance the budget. Selling off our core Crown corporations - SaskPower, SaskEnergy, SaskTel and SGI - is the only way these election promises could possibly add up,” said Tom Graham, president of the Saskatchewan Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“Our Crown corporations have served working people well,” said Graham. “They have provided Saskatchewan citizens with affordable energy, electricity, telephone and insurance services. In addition, our Crown corporations returned $200 million to the provincial treasury last year to help fund health care, education and other public services. We simply can't afford to sell off these public assets.”

Graham also questioned the Saskatchewan Party promise to launch a comprehensive Government Efficiency Review of every program, department, board, commission, agency and Crown corporation.

“The Gord Campbell government in British Columbia made a similar promise, which resulted in the gutting of one-third of the public service, massive cuts to public services such as legal aid, child care programs and women's shelters, the elimination of the Human Rights Commission, user fee increases, privatization of Crown corporations and contracting out of health care jobs.”

The Saskatchewan Party's promise to eliminate the small business tax, slash the corporate capital tax in half and reduce other taxes will blow a $260 million hole in the provincial budget, said Graham, who noted that recent years have already seen significant reductions to income taxes and resource royalties.

“Who will benefit from these tax breaks? Where is the evidence that these tax cuts to the corporate sector will actually increase economic activity and grow the province?” he asked. “Surveys of CEOs show that things like access to markets, resources and an educated labour force, electricity and borrowing costs and social infrastructure play a much bigger role than taxes in a company's decision whether or not to invest.”

Graham also pointed to a 2002 KPMG Competitive Alternatives study that ranked Saskatchewan as one of the most competitive places to do business. According to the study, Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw were more competitive than the Canadian average.

“The revenue the province would forfeit with these tax breaks for business would be better invested in our health and education systems, municipalities and impoverished CBO sector, which provides essential services to some of the most disadvantaged people in this province.”

Graham also called the Saskatchewan Party promise to introduce so-called “fair and balanced” labour laws nothing more than doublespeak that will tip the scales strongly in favour of business.

“In reality, these proposals would weaken the Trade Union Act, allowing employers to coerce, intimidate and threaten employees who choose to exercise their constitutional right to join a union. A weakening of the Trade Union Act, combined with the work-for-welfare pledge and past statements opposing minimum wage increases, suggests that the Saskatchewan Party wants to grow Saskatchewan by promoting a low-wage economy.”

Graham said that CUPE Saskatchewan is urging its members to carefully consider how the election platforms of all political parties will impact on public sector workers. “We need to ensure that the next government that is elected supports a strong public sector for Saskatchewan.”

CUPE represents 24,000 members in Saskatchewan who work at health care facilities, municipalities, school boards, universities, libraries and community-based organizations.

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For more information contact:
Tom Graham 306 229-8171