Bad economy is worse, Liberals didn't help, say Steelworkers

TORONTO, Sept. 28 /CNW/ - BC's economic fundamentals were already far from sound before the recession, which made things significantly worse, say United Steelworkers.

In testimony today before the BC Legislature's Select Committee on Finance, Steelworkers' research representative Kim Pollock attributed a good portion of the responsibility for BC's slumping economy to recent BC government policy.

"We were already in bad shape in 2007, before the global economic crisis," Pollock told MLAs. "The crisis - which Gordon Campbell's government long denied would even affect BC - is significantly worsening the economic situation and deepening BC's social problems."

Pollock noted that the deteriorating economic situation and the province's worsening social problems are directly linked.

"As the economy has declined, we've seen a fall in incomes, a rise in poverty, especially child poverty, mounting homelessness, worsening health problems and more household debt. The global crisis seems to have caught the government unaware - they seemed unready for rising unemployment or rapidly-growing welfare caseloads, for instance. But they should have seen those things coming."

Pollock pointed to the government's sweeping changes to the Forest Act, increases in raw-log exports and support for the Canada-US Softwood Lumber Agreements as policies that especially hurt employment, investment, productivity and exports. In addition, regressive tax changes such as income-tax and corporate tax cuts, the 2008 gas tax and federal-provincial sales-tax harmonization take purchasing power from families who are likely to spend, driving the economy deeper into recession. The government's refusal to raise the minimum wage - now Canada's lowest - also cuts into workers' purchasing power, forcing more families into debt.

"These are seriously misguided policies. By undermining the forest industry, the government has further reduced wages and incomes in BC; again, this makes the effects of the recession much worse than they would be otherwise," said Pollock, in a presentation based largely on a series of articles he wrote the BC economy and which appeared this summer in The

"It's time we connected the dots between a slumping economy and deepening social problems," Pollock warns. "Until there is more investment and job-creation, things will get worse and worse in this province because we haven't the revenue to provide decent services or deal with our mounting problems and because more and more British Columbians will be unemployed, poor or homeless."

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information: For further information: Kim Pollock or Norman Garcia, (604) 683-1117

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