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As municipal politicians gather to discuss infrastructure, trade and the economy, CUPE is there to make sure workers’ expertise and ideas are part of the conversation.

CUPE leaders, members and staff are taking part in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ annual conference, renewing connections and building new relationships with municipal representatives – many of whom employ CUPE members.

Trade deals were front and centre in the opening plenary.  International Trade Minister Stockwell Day used his keynote speech to continue the Conservative government’s distortion of the Buy American debate.

Day and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, along with a well-oiled corporate lobby, are using controversy over Buy American provisions in the US stimulus package as cover for plans to promote corporate rights in a new free trade deal with the European Union, and to bring municipal and provincial purchasing decisions under NAFTA control.

CUPE and its allies are arguing that local procurement policies are what keep communities strong. They create greater local employment, increase tax revenues, encourage communities to buy locally, and help to diversify local economies. They also allow governments to set proactive policies that are best for their communities.

Day was clear that the Harper government will continue to aggressively pursue trade deals with any country it can. “Free Trade Deals ‘R Us,” he said, listing Panama, Colombia (without mentioning the deal’s recent setback), Jordan, China and India among the countries Canada is targeting.

CUPE National President Paul Moist, National Secretary-Treasurer Claude Généreux, National Executive Board members Wyman MacKinnon, Danny Cavanagh and Dennis Mol, strong delegations from CUPE 30 and CUPE 37 and a team of national staff are at CUPE’s booth, in workshops and on the conference floor, sharing CUPE’s expertise and analysis on privatization, the infrastructure crisis and free trade.

CUPE’s theme this year, “Working for Canadian communities”, is a reminder CUPE members deliver the public services that keep cities and towns strong. Hundreds of elected officials have stopped by CUPE’s booth to talk about issues affecting their communities. Many delegates visiting CUPE’s booth and the neighbouring Canadian Labour Congress display are labour-endorsed councilors or mayors, including several CUPE members.

This year CUPE is distributing fact sheets focusing on three areas:

In addition, a research paper analyzing the benefits of Whistler municipal council keeping its sewage plant P3-free draws important lessons for all municipal officials.

CLC Secretary-Treasurer Hassan Yussuff and representatives from the Canadian Auto Workers came to a pre-conference CUPE caucus to share information about their main priorities. The CLC is focusing on five themes in its municipalities matter campaign . The CAW is building support for its ‘Buy Canadian – Build Communities’ resolution.

The conference runs until Monday, June 8.