Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance
Chris Aylward, National Executive Vice-President
Public Service Alliance of Canada
October 22, 2012
(Check against delivery)
Thank you Mr. Chair, and committee members, for this opportunity to present to you today.
Our union represents the majority of federal government workers in Canada – more than 172,000 people who deliver crucial services and programs to Canadians across the country.
Since the 2012 federal budget was tabled in the spring, more than 18,000 of our members have been told they could lose their jobs.
They are anxious for their future and for their families.
But they are also worried about what these cuts mean for those who rely on the services and programs they deliver.
Mr. Chair, Commmittee members, I am here today to call on you to do two things:
First, we want this government to reverse course. Federal government cuts are bad for Canadian families, communities and the economy.
Second, we want this government to start listening to Canadians before making decisions.
We were encouraged to learn last week that after hearing from communities about how their economies would be hurt, the government backed off its decision to cut the seasons for Canada's canals and waterways.
That was a good first step.
But now we need the government to do the same for all of Canada's national historic sites and parks, because the communities that depend on them are saying their economies are going to suffer too.
Mr. Chair, it is clear.
Public services and the workers who provide them are a major contributor to the prosperity of our families and communities.
Economists estimate that the last federal budget could amount to the loss of 55,000 public sector and 61,000 private sector jobs across the country.
That's bad for our economy.
The government needs to listen to people like Mayor Claude Elliott of Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, who says that losing 30 Service Canada jobs there means losing about 1.5 milion dollars a year from their economy – and that's just in salaries alone.
He put it best when he told us:
When you're out there trying to expand and grow by attracting new business to the community, it doesn't give businesses a good sense of your profitability when the Federal government is out cutting jobs.
Or Brad Barkhouse, the owner of a bookstore in Gander, who told us:
“When the cuts hit here it's going to affect my customers... All of the businesses will be affected. There's a snowball effect, and it takes money out of everyone's pocket.”
The government also needs to listen to Canadians about how these cuts are undermining our health and safety.
As of last week we had 15 confirmed cases of illness caused by food contaminated with e-coli – food that came from the XL Foods slaughterhouse in Brooks, Alberta.
This follows a 56 million dollar cut to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's budget.
The government says that it has hired 700 new inspectors but refuses to give anyone a breakdown of where they are.
What we do know is that none of these new hires went to inspecting slaughterhouses like XL foods.
And what we also know is that this government continues to push for less hands-on inspections and more self-regulation by industry.
That is putting lives at risk.
The government needs to listen to Canadians and recognize that this is not the time cut back on food safety.
The government also needs to stop ignoring the people who live and work along Canada's coasts.
Last year we spoke to this committee about lives being put at risk by the shut down of the St. John's and Quebec City search and rescue stations.
But that decision went ahead.
And now BC's fishing, tug boat and pleasure boat community are protesting the government's decision to shut down the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station in Vancouver.
They say that lives will be at risk because calls for help from Vancouver harbour will now go to the Sea Island Station in Richmond, 17 nautical miles and 35 minutes away.
The government needs to listen to what the experts there have to say, and reverse that decision too.
The government needs to listen to Canada's veterans and reverse its decision to shut down nine Veterans Affairs district offices across Canada.
That includes the one and only office in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
As one of our local union presidents told us:
The Charlottetown district office has the highest ratio of walk-in clientele in Canada . We deal with veterans who are young and old, but depending on their different abilities and disabilities, a trip to New Brunswick may not even be possible for them. Before, I wasn't worried because the government kept saying it wouldn't cut frontline jobs. But you can't get any more front line than the 262 of our members who have been told they could lose their jobs.
If I had more time today I could tell you about so many more examples of how the economy, families and communities are being hurt by this government's policies.
I would talk about cuts to aviation safety.
Or about what cuts to fisheries habitat staff, or the shut down of the internationally reknowned experimental lakes research centre will mean for the environment.
Or I would tell you about the Acadian community in Nova Scotia, and their outrage at the loss of the Parks Canada laboratory in Dartmouth that houses precious artifacts.
Or the end to the Community Pasture Program and what that means for the prairies.
Or how the small community of Indian Head, Saskatchewan, and farmers, will be affected by the loss of the Shelter Belt program.
I urge you to read our full submission, which we mailed directly to you, Mr. Chair, back in August, and which we have distributed here today.
Date Modified : 2012/10/22