Mr. Gallant, put down those scissors

Written by Daniel Legere on December 2, 2016

Rally against the cuts

CUPE members rallying against cuts to public services at the NB Legislature in Fredericton in Dec. 2015.

When a right-wing think tank, such as the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) now says NB has cut its public sector enough, we should pay attention.

In its recent publication titled “The Size and Cost of the Public Sector in Atlantic Canada,” the Halifax-based AIMS showed how New Brunswick’s government has slashed its public-sector size below the national average – ahead of all other Atlantic provinces.

Despite this, politicians in power have not renounced to more contracting out and cuts. Just this month, NB Health Minister Victor Boudreau will be in negotiations with private companies to privatize food, portering, and environmental services in our hospitals.

2017 is coming fast, and we still have MLAs saying that reducing public-sector size through attrition, closures, privatization and wage suppression remain “necessary conditions for maintaining fiscal stability”. It’s as if the last thirty years had never gone by.

That neoliberal mantra revolts me because it is not just misleading, it’s scapegoating our public-sector workers. It serves the purpose of hiding a tough reality Fredericton does not want to deal with: a chronically under-performing private sector that fails to generate sufficient revenues for the province.

Serious economists will tell you that it’s not public sector size that is to blame for fiscal instability in New Brunswick: after years of cuts, our situation has not fared better. Our ever-increasing public debt, which now stands at approximately $13,9 billion, is the directly linked to continued weak growth in the private sector – particularly since 2008.

A strong public sector is necessary to tackle our high unemployment levels (10.3%) – more reductions or corporate welfare won’t do it. This government can and must focus more on solutions to finally generate sustainable prosperity in NB.

Daniel Légère is the President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees – NB (CUPE NB). 

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