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Building mobilizing capacity in communities through broad-based local coalitions is the best way to defend public services and support local economies and jobs, CUPE President Paul Moist told more the 150 people gathered at a community lunch in Kingston recently.

Moist was the keynote speaker at the event, which also included speakers from the National Farmers’ Union, CUPE 1974 and other community groups who make up ‘People Who Care About Kingston’ – a community coalition opposing the outsourcing of hospital patient food to a factory operation near Toronto.

You can’t shrink your way to greatness,” Moist quipped in response to the fiscal austerity plan recently announced by Kingston General Hospital (KGH) that includes more bed closures and 140 job cuts.

The key question, said Moist, is the role of the provincial government to adequately fund hospitals and promote vibrant local economies and environmental sustainability. Rather than policies urging broader public sector employers like hospitals and universities to support small businesses, small family farms and local jobs in communities like Kingston, the province has policies that dissuade local procurement,” said Moist.

In a clear message for Liberal MPP John Gerretsen, Moist said it is the role of the area MPP “to support local food producers and local jobs here.” Despite more than 10,000 Kingston residents signing postcards and petitions opposing the KGH decision to truck patient food from Toronto, Gerretsen has been virtually silent on the issue.

Get as much food from local farms as possible. Bring the cooks back. Make patient food in the KGH kitchen. Provide good quality food to convalescing patients. Support the local economy and promote environmental sustainability. That’s what the Local MPP should be doing. But he’s not,” said Moist, who committed continued CUPE support for the community local food campaign.