Frontline public sector workers urge first ministers to propose a stimulus package that supports families by investing in public services

    OTTAWA, Jan. 15 /CNW/ - As Canada's first ministers meet in Ottawa to
discuss the growing economic crisis, frontline workers in health care,
community-based social services and the justice system are urging the leaders
to propose a federal stimulus package that invests in public services in order
to protect vulnerable families from the worst of a recession and help
stabilize the economy.
    "Canadians are united behind the idea that the next federal budget must
include a stimulus package that provides more funding to the public services
that people depend on, even if that means running a substantial deficit this
year," said Shelley Ward, a Licensed Practical Nurse from Prince Edward Island
and the President of the PEI Union of Public Sector Employees (PEIUPSE).
"Canadians understand that any cuts in public services will cause needless
hardship for countless Canadians and only serve to accentuate the longer term
damage to our economy."
    The Harper government came to the brink of collapse at the beginning of
December because its economic statement failed to provide real support for
families and a stimulus package for the economy. The prime minister is meeting
with Canada's premiers and territorial leaders in Ottawa on January 16 to
discuss a response to the economic crisis. The federal government will table a
budget on January 27.
    "With so many Canadians worried about losing their jobs, paying their
bills and putting food on the table, the last thing they should have to worry
about is whether they're going to get the health care they need," said Patty
Rout, a Medical Laboratory Technologist and the First Vice President and
Treasurer of the 130,000-member Ontario Public Service Employees Union
(OPSEU). "Canada's public health care system is also an important economic
driver. It is the third-largest sector of the economy, employing more than 1
in 10 Canadian workers. Investing part of a stimulus package in health care
would help ease the anxiety families are feeling and at the same time provide
a boost to the economy."
    A new Nanos Research poll, commissioned by the National Union of Public
and General Employees (NUPGE), suggests Canadians want to see a stimulus
package that invests in public services at the top of the agenda. When asked
how important it is for the government to increase investment in public
services like health care, education, social services, and the justice system
during an economic downturn, 70 percent of respondents ranked it important
(25.3%) or very important (44.5%) compared with nine percent who felt it was
not important. In addition, a majority of Canadians also said that cutting
government services would make the economic downturn worse. Full poll results
and tabulations can be seen at or
    "The research indicates that it's not all about tax cuts and bailouts in
the minds of Canadians," said James Clancy, NUPGE National President. "For the
vast majority of Canadians it's about protecting our social safety net during
tough times."
    "Canadians don't want their governments to repeat the mistakes of the
recession of the 90s when they made things worse for families by making
drastic cuts to social services and other vital programs," said Mike Clarke, a
community-based social services worker in British Columbia and a
Vice-President of the 65,000-member BC Government and Service Employees' Union
(BCGEU). "A decade of underfunding by governments has severely eroded the
ability of community social service agencies to meet the needs of hundreds of
thousands of people who depend on their services. As the economic crisis
deepens, the demand for these services is going to surge. Now is exactly the
right time for our governments to invest in the social services that protect
the most vulnerable in our communities."
    "We have some serious problems in our justice system today with long wait
times for trials, overcrowding in correctional facilities and too many
patients with a mental illness being warehoused in jails," said Jim Gosse a
Correctional Officer from Nova Scotia and a representative of the
23,000-member Nova Scotia Government and General Employees (NSGEU). "At the
same time the federal government is planning to pass more tough-on-crime
legislation that will inevitably result in more people in our courts and
jails. That approach will seriously exacerbate the existing problems unless
the federal government steps up to the plate and provides more funding for the
justice system."
    "We understand that there are a number of proposals to support families
and stimulate the economy, but investing in public services is a proven
approach that works and works well," added Rout. "Our governments must
increase funding for the public services that protect and support families in
tough times. And given the size of the public sector it can also play an
important stabilizing role in our economy. I think the message from Canadians
right across the country is that they value public services and the public
sector and want to see those services and jobs protected and strengthened as
we look ahead."

For further information:

For further information: Mike Luff, NUPGE Coordinator of Communications
and Research, (cell) (613) 852-5002, (office) (613) 228-9800

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National Union of Public and General Employees

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