BURNABY, B.C.— As many as 200 municipal workers from Canada’s Western provinces will meet in Kelowna, B.C. this weekend to exchange information on programs related to municipal infrastructure and to develop joint strategies for confronting increasing attempts to privatize public services and utilities in communities of every size throughout the west.
Barry O’Neill, president of CUPE BC, says that organizing such a conference is one
way for municipal workers to collaborate in the sharing of information and improving ways of communicating with people on the receiving end of municipal services.
“When it comes to contracting out and the privatization of services that directly affect community households,” says O’Neill, “residents and taxpayers are often blind-sided by exaggerated and erroneous claims of better services for lower taxes.”
“As direct employees of our communities, we need to find better ways of letting taxpayers—our real employers—know the reality of privatized public services.”
A recent Vancouver Island win for publicly delivered services provides a backdrop for the conference. In Nanaimo, CUPE’s Water Watch campaign organizers joined local residents in convincing Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) politicians to vote against a planned public private partnership for the operation of water systems in 14 RDN districts.
On Friday night, O’Neill welcomes Paul Moist, CUPE’s national president, who will address delegates on the subject of the Canadian government’s New Deal for Cities.
“Mr. Moist’s work in helping to secure the federal government’s New Deal for Cities is impressive. He’ll be able to share his knowledge and expertise directly with members who work in the municipal sector,” said O’Neill.
CUPE BC pursues protection for residents and taxpayers by ensuring the cleanup of wastewater services and working with many cities on CUPE’s own City Watch program, as well as supporting municipal programs around safety, arts, culture and sports.
“This conference is one more way of being proactive when it comes to serving our towns and cities.” says O’Neill. “Of course, we’ll continue meeting with local representatives through the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in pursuit of our ultimate goal—the maintenance of strong communities.”