Budget Watch 2012

PSAC members from across the prairies kept a close eye on the federal budget on March 29 to assess the impact it will have on working families in our communities and services Canadians rely on.

All eyes were on the federal budget as PSAC members gathered at budget watch events across the Prairie Region to assess the impact it will have on working families in our communities and the services that Canadians rely on.

“Unfortunately, because this government has been so secretive, we still don’t know exactly where the cuts will happen or how it will affect us in the Prairies,” explains Robyn Benson, Regional Executive Vice-President for the PSAC Prairie Region. “But whether or not the majority of the cuts are in the National Capital Region as they’ve indicated, I believe Canadians will feel the cuts from coast to coast to coast.”

“The numbers are alarming, and I want to know what programs they are planning to eliminate. The government is cutting $56 million from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, as an example, so how can we ensure that the food that Canadians eat is safe for consumption? We already know that we don’t have enough inspectors as it is.”

Benson gave interviews to Winnipeg Free Press (quoted in “Budget Voices” and “Premier blasts Tories…“), Winnipeg Sun and CTV at the budget watch event in Winnipeg, held at the PSAC Winnipeg Regional Office where PSAC members gathered to watch the budget live and discuss the severity of the cuts.

In Calgary, PSAC members joined other labour affiliates at the CLC’s Budget Watch event at the Greenwood Inn, including CUPE, UFCW, TWU, CDLC, Council of Canadians and Friends of Medicare. Union members felt that this budget will result in “death by a thousand cuts” and that the effects of the feds off loading costs on the provincial and municipal levels will be serious.

Discussion also focused on the issue of changes to pensions and the impact that will have on seniors. Eligibility for OAS and GIS will move from 65 to 67 starting in 2023, which means low income Canadians will have to wait even longer and the next generation of Canadians will have a harder time retiring with dignity. Additionally, beginning in 2013, new employees to the federal public service will have the retirement age raised from 60 to 65.

In Regina, labour affiliates gathered at the Ramada Inn to offer analysis of the budget as it was unveiled. Dozens of union members attended, including Steve Van Opstal, Southern Saskatchewan Geographical Representative for the Prairie Region Council, who spoke to media about how the cuts will harm public services and our economy.

In Edmonton, budget watchers came together at the CUPE Meeting Hall, including Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan who was on hand to offer his reaction.

“This budget undermines the retirement security of Canadians by cutting back on Old Age Security benefits to seniors, which risks throwing more elderly citizens into poverty,” McGowan says.

Attendees also discussed the vague changes to EI, as well as the impact this budget will have on food inspection and the environment.

In Saskatoon, PSAC members and representatives from CLC, SEIU, Grain Services Union, Saskatchewan Federation of Union Retirees and Saskatoon District Labour Council attended the budget watch event at the Sheraton Hotel. Darla Laird from the CLC chaired the event. Guest speakers included Sister Marianne Hladun, Alternate Regional Executive Vice-President for the Prairie Region, Jim Bitinsky from the Saskatchewan Fedederation of Union Retirees, and Kelly Harrington from SDLC. Global Saskatoon (story begins at 7:43) and CTV Saskatoon attended.

Following the budget watch events, PSAC members and affiliates are strategizing on how they can work together to take action and fight back against the destruction of quality public services in Canada. Slashing public services will devastate key social, environmental and cultural services that Canadians rely on. We need a better way forward – a third choice that protects our economy AND invests in the strong public services Canadians need.

More on the budget:

  • PSAC’s statement on the budget: Austerity budget will shrink economy, cost tens of thousands of jobs and put the environment and health and safety at risk.
  • The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has also released its Alternative Federal Budget, which this year features a do-it-yourself budget calculator and a chapter on strengthening public services.
  • Please take a moment to further orient yourself to the issues by completing the short PSAC e-learning course. We encourage you to share this link with colleagues.