NUPGE publishes the first of three reports on ideas that emerged from a series of 26 town hall meetings across the country to assess the way forward from the global economic collapse.
Ottawa (11 Nov. 2009) - Six clear ideas emerged when the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) held town hall meetings in 26 communities across Canada this year to survey the wreckage of the global collapse and come up with ideas for 'The Next Economy.'
James Clancy, president of the 340,000-member union, says the responses gathered from ordinary Canadians were "eloquent, astute, sage and thoughtful" and deserve to be given serious consideration, especially since it was the "bright ideas from the masters of high finance (the experts) that brought our economy crashing down on top of us."
In Part One of three reports - entitled The Next Economy - Findings from the cross-Canada public sessions of Cut Me A Slice: A People’s Response to the Economic Crisis - NUPGE is publishing a summary of the advice and ideas that came out of the meetings.
"In terms of policy directions, six clear themes and priorities emerged," Clancy says.
- People want to work and the top priority must be job creation. The goal must be full employment based on good jobs that provide decent wages, security and working conditions. This requires short-term measures like investing in infrastructure projects. It also requires long-term measures such as investing in people through training and apprenticeship programs and encouraging research and development.
- Laid-off workers, struggling to pay their bills and keep their heads above water, need and deserve our support. The Employment Insurance (EI) program must be reformed so it is more accessible, provides better benefits for a longer duration, and is responsive to regions that rely on seasonal employment.
- We must do more to ensure people can retire with security and dignity. The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) benefits must be increased to support the most vulnerable seniors. Workplace pension plans must be protected through a national insurance system. Canada Pension Plan (CPP) benefits should be doubled to ensure all workers have adequate retirement security.
- Public services provide families with social and income security and during tough times they rely on these services more than ever. Investing in public services also creates jobs and is a good way to provide a boost to the economy. We need to protect, strengthen and expand public services such as health care, education, child care, elder care, affordable housing and community-based social services.
- We don’t have to choose between a strong economy and a clean environment. That is a false choice. We can have both. In fact the solutions to the climate crisis are the same measures needed to renew our economy. We need an industrial strategy to unleash Canadian ingenuity and develop the cutting-edge green technologies that will create jobs, renew our economy and help us confront the climate crisis.
- Canada’s big banks must do their share to help families, businesses and communities get through this difficult time. We need action to ensure banks pass on central interest rate cuts to families and businesses. We need action to reduce sky-high credit card interest rates and ATM fees.
"The six policy directions outlined above are essential," Clancy adds.
"But something else, something perhaps more important, emerged from all of the discussions and presentations. A narrative emerged that ties all of these crucial public policy areas together – a narrative that people kept coming back to again and again."
"It is this: building a strong, sustainable and equitable economy can only happen if we believe in using our governments as a constructive and compassionate force for the common good. Our federal government must take the lead and define a vision of where we want to go with our economy and how we’re going to get there. That vision must be based on Canada’s finest and most enduring values such as: justice; democracy; opportunity; responsibility; fairness; compassion; cooperation; diversity; and tolerance," Clancy says.
"So stay tuned. This report is only Part One in what will be a three-part series. Part Two will expose some of the myths that are being spread about the current crisis. And Part Three will lay out a more detailed alternative economic strategy to create jobs and ensure the indicators of progress and prosperity actually align with the values Canadians hold dear in their hearts," he adds.
"We are determined not to stop until our vision of using our common wealth for the common good stirs Canada’s collective conscience and becomes the centre of political discourse and policy in this country. The task has never been more formidable. The need has never been greater."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE