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Bold solutions needed to save public services

Working people are true engines of the economy

Every year at this time, union leaders like me are asked to share our thoughts on the significance of Labour Day and the contributions of working people to the communities where we live and work. I've often said that working people are the true engines of the economy.

But this year, as Labour Day approaches, the contribution of public sector workers to their communities is being threatened more than ever by privatization.

When budgets are tight, federal and provincial governments often turn to privatization as the first and only solution. So what are the alternatives?

If governments are serious about generating new revenue to offset program costs, why not maximize the multiplier effect of our existing tax dollars-creating more revenue from consumer spending that stays in the community?

Why not provide more opportunities for young entrepreneurs to stay in the communities where they live, so that they can develop innovative new products at home rather than joining the brain drain?

We could also create additional revenue by promoting programs that use capital stock in municipalities. We could do leakage analysis in order to find ways to slow down the number of dollars that leave the community. We could consider programs that deal with import substitution to reduce, for example, our reliance on products flown in from other hemispheres.

What we need right now is bold, visionary government that is unafraid of trying creative new revenue streams aimed at protecting public services and the dedicated workers who provide them.

Barry O'Neill is president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, B.C. division.