“Costly privatization and cuts to seniors, students and the most vulnerable do not build a strong province,” said Tom Graham, President of CUPE Saskatchewan, responding to the 2015-2016 provincial budget released yesterday. “Whether it is expensive privatization or a reduction in funding for key public services and programs, Saskatchewan people are getting less from a budget that otherwise could have delivered more.”
The public sector union noted that child care workers will see their wages fall behind the cost of living, and promised child care spaces will remain unrealized and lagging behind the demand of Saskatchewan families. Community based organizations and the caregivers for the most vulnerable citizens, after a wage freeze last year, won’t receive the raise they need. Bearing the brunt of cuts in the budget, the University of Saskatchewan took a $20 million cut and the University of Regina received less than half of the new funding it requested, leaving students to pay higher tuition and the University of Regina already confirming jobs will be eliminated.
“In areas where more investment in public services could make life better for Saskatchewan people, the government chose to make unnecessary cuts,” said Graham. “In the areas where moderate increases were made such as health and pre k-12 education, the funding fails to keep up with inflation. Long-term care facilities are not receiving enough to deal with understaffing and the urgent repairs needed for facilities, and again there is not enough to reverse the previous cuts made to education support workers in school divisions.”
Saskatchewan Builds, the four-year capital plan presented in this year’s budget, will rely on public-private partnership (P3) privatization to finance the building of most new major infrastructure in the province – a move proven to be a costly mistake in every other jurisdiction. At the same time, the government will effectively prevent school boards from having any control over the nine joint-use P3 schools slated for construction as a consequence of the provincial government’s policy change to school capital funding.
“P3 privatization is the most expensive way for the government to build new infrastructure,” said Graham. “The government has already gone to great lengths to keep information and the true costs about its push to privatize the building of new schools through P3s away from the public, and now school boards and their communities will be left permanently in the dark.”
Graham also expressed concern over funding cuts to Occupational Health and Safety, the Labour Relations Board, and labour relations mediation services.
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