Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


November 24, 2014

Public sector bargaining success

S. Simpson: I would agree with the member that public sector workers and the public sector unions in this province have been very responsible over many, many years in terms of how they’ve dealt with collective bargaining and how they’ve, on many occasions and most occasions, taken less than the cost of living and, as a result, have actually seen some regression in their own buying power.

The thing, though, that I hear from public sector workers and those unions more than anything is their concern about public services and their concern about the delivery of services and whether those services are adequately resourced for them to be able to do the job they do. These are the people who know that best. They do that work every day.

The list is long. In health care we know the concerns that have been raised around wait times — whether it’s wait times for surgery. We’ve debated and discussed in this House recently issues around colonoscopy testing and how that works.

I know, as a cancer survivor, that I will be tested some time in the spring, and it will be six or seven months since I saw the surgeon to prepare that test, and I know that my six- or seven-month wait is typical; it’s not the exception. That’s a concern.

We know that we’ve been hearing, over the last number of days, about concerns at the Cancer Agency about support and resources there. This is an agency that we’re all very proud of in this province as a cutting-edge, leading agency in the fight against cancer, and they are raising concerns about resources there.

In K to 12 — the member spoke about that. We know the reality there is that we’re about $1,000 a student behind the national average, and that’s what has created the problems around class size and composition, and resolving those problems will continue to be a challenge because of resource issues.

In the area of Environment and what are commonly known as the dirt ministries, we know of the cuts that happened in the early 2000s, the reductions in biologists and science technical officers and conservation officers in others of the dirt ministries. There are serious questions as to: to what extent has that reduction in oversight and enforcement led to things like Mount Polley and things like Babine and Lakeland? Those are real questions that need to be answered. What is the correlation between those reductions in services there?

The Representative for Children and Youth has been telling us for years that there are not enough resources to deal with the needs of vulnerable children in this province, and too many times the results of that have been tragic.

In justice we know that lawyers, judges are all telling us that family and poverty law are not being supported in the way that’s necessary. It’s not being supported in a way that ensures those families — mostly poor, mostly single moms — who have to take advantage of that have the opportunity. In employment standards we know that this self-managed model has simply failed.

There’s a difference between spending and investment. There’s an argument that you don’t want to overspend, but there’s always a time to invest. The problem we have here is that the government currently seems to have blinkers on when it comes to investment questions on social and environmental files. That needs to be corrected. When that happens, then we can all be proud of the public service moving forward.

What I am proud of is the fact that the public sector unions are providing some of the strongest voices in telling British Columbians about these shortcomings in an array of ministries and in an array of areas, and I’m glad that their voices are speaking out. I hope the member and his colleagues may pay attention to that.

http://www.leg.bc.ca/hansard/40th3rd/20141124am-Hansard-v18n4.htm

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