St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe was blunt Friday in describing the federal government’s handling of cuts to the public sector in recent years.
By Andrew Robinson
“What we’re going through, as far as I’m concerned, is really death by a thousand cuts with a funeral yet to come.”
O’Keefe joined members of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees in front of city hall to rally against cuts overseen by the federal government under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Close to 100 people were present for the event.
O’Keefe singled out federal cuts to the postal service, search and rescue, Statistics Canada and the CBC. The mayor said those cuts are driven by Harper’s agenda to minimize government’s role in the economy and the lives of Canadians.
PIPSC president Debi Daviau said more than 6,000 members of her organization have been affected by public sector cuts, with 80 of those cuts coming in St. John’s.
“These aren’t back-office cuts like the government says they are. We’re talking about front-line workers. People who protect the safety and the well-being of their fellow citizens. People who protect fish stocks from the harmful effects of industrial, agricultural and land-development activities. People who provide the science behind resource management. Environmental emergency response teams. The Coast Guard. Almost every federal department in Atlantic Canada has been seriously impacted.”
She said austerity measures are failing Atlantic Canada, and if the Harper government is defeated in the next federal election, there will be a great need to undo the damage his government has caused to the region.
PSAC’s Jeannie Baldwin, regional executive vice-president for Atlantic Canada, credited public services for keeping Canadians healthy and safe, and said her union’s members are fighting to defend those services. She also took some cues from the world of professional boxing Friday, asking the crowd if it was “ready to rumble with Harper.”
Shortly before leaving city hall, many rally attendees loudly shouted in unison, “Stop Harper.”