Friday, January 30, 2015

Unions call on Premiers to make fairness a priority

As Canada’s premiers meet in Ottawa, the country’s major provincial public sector unions are calling for the fight against income inequality to be a priority.

“The federal government continues to enact policies like income splitting which only benefit the rich,” said James Clancy, president of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), which is a federation of provincial public sector unions including the New Brunswick Union (NBU). “But our provincial governments continue to wield power in this country, so we’re calling on Premier Brian Gallant to do what Prime Minister Stephen Harper won’t - help the struggling middle class.”

Income inequality is a term economists and social scientists use to measure the wealth gap between the rich and poor. It’s been rising in countries around the world – including Canada – over the past generation, bringing with it a host of social problems. Academics, bank CEOs, progressive politicians, and even the Pope have called it one of the world’s most pressing problems.

New Brunswick isn’t immune. According to the latest figures from Statistics Canada, income inequality in the province rose by 5.6 per cent between 1987 and 2011.

To begin lowering income inequality in New Brunswick, Clancy and NBU President Susie Proulx-Daigle have formally called on Premier Gallant to enact a fairness test.
This means the province would provide a transparent, comprehensive and verifiable evaluation of the income inequality effects of the policy measures of budgets as well as key tax and spending policy decisions. This would help ensure the good of everybody in the province – not just corporations and the rich – are taken into account during budget deliberations.

“It’s important for our leaders to encourage economic growth and ensure that our common wealth is used responsibly,” said Proulx-Daigle. “Fostering growth that only benefits the rich and reducing public service budgets isn’t helping anybody in the long run.

“It’s time for leaders like Premier Gallant to ensure their budgets and policies are fair for all citizens.”

For more than five years, NBU and NUPGE have been advocating for the reduction of income inequality through government programs and policies that encourage tax fairness, good jobs, labour rights, and quality public services.