Labour Views – November 11, 2015
Written by Todd Parsons, President, Union of Northern Workers
NWT voters go to the polls November 23 to elect new members of the Legislative Assembly. It’s the opportunity for workers and the users of public services to take a stand in support of GNWT employers and the services they provide.
For the past year, the NWT Finance Minister has preached a steady sermon of financial bad news, arguing that we don’t have the cash to continue providing public services at the basic level of the past few years.
During the campaign to elect new Members to the Legislative Assembly, there are a few things for voters to keep in mind about this propaganda.
Contract negotiations are starting with the major GNWT bargaining units, and the Northwest Territories Power Corporation. The Minister is crying poor so he can tell workers to expect no salary increase and be happy they aren’t laid off. This tactic is transparent and cynical.
By saying that we will keep on with infrastructure spending and look for savings through program cuts, the outgoing Minister of Finance is setting the fiscal agenda for a government that hasn’t been elected yet. That doesn’t show a lot of respect for the next Assembly members.
It’s not true that the government doesn’t have the money to fund programs. It’s a matter of what the government chooses to spend its money on, infrastructure or people.
Right now, we’re spending $100 million for the GNWT share of the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk highway, even though northern oil and gas development is paralyzed. Once the highway is built, those jobs are gone. Last Assembly, government spent $220 million for a bridge that has made no lasting difference to levels of employment, growth of the economy, or lowering the cost of living.
If the minister wants to spur the economy, he could spend that money on renewable energy projects to lower the cost of living, and a program of local expenditures to provide critically needed housing.
Well paid government jobs are a major engine of the NWT economy. Elimination of government jobs would have a cyclic effect in knocking down local economies.
The government says it wants to attract 2,000 new residents to the NWT using the major lure of excellent government services, especially health care and education. How are we going to promote excellent public services if we cut those programs and who will move here to take a job that could be cut?
These are the issues for voters to consider coming up to election day.
The Union of Northern Workers has sent all candidates a survey to learn their positions on issues important to workers and those who depend on public services and spending. The survey results have been released as the UNW Election Report Card. You can see the survey results at www.unw.ca and in next week’s edition of News North.
I urge all voters to challenge candidates at public meetings or when candidates come calling. On November 23, vote for the leaders who will support high quality public services for the years ahead.