For many years, our union has been participating in the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services consultation process to inform the government's budget priorities. By making a written submission and an oral presentation, as well as encouraging members to participate via the committee's online survey, we make sure that our members' priorities are part of the government's budget process.
On June 2, I presented our priorities to the committee via video conference as part of a panel with representatives of CUPE BC and the BC Federation of Labour. On June 26, we submitted our written report. Our submission reflects the feedback of your senior elected leadership regarding the priorities and challenges of members living and working across B.C. and is supported by the rigorous and comprehensive research of our Research & Interactive Services (RIS) staff.
Our report reflects a key lesson of the pandemic: government matters. Because of government, B.C. went into the pandemic in a strong fiscal and economic position. Because of government, B.C. had already embarked on progressive policy change in critical areas like seniors' care, childcare, poverty reduction, and workers' rights before the pandemic hit. Because of government, B.C. had a solid foundation from which to launch the public health response that has left our province with fewer infections, hospitalizations and deaths than many other jurisdictions.
Now, as we work together to reopen our communities and restart our economy without rebooting the virus, government will matter more than ever. British Columbians can and must have a robust and well-resourced system of public programs and services as well as a diverse and prosperous economy. To achieve those goals, our submission recommended significant investments in seniors' care; affordable public housing; universal public childcare; climate action, green infrastructure and renewable energy development; and public jobs, programs and services. Our recommendations are based on three pillars:
Protecting our most vulnerable: A few weeks ago, Dr. Henry said, "We're all facing the same storm, but we aren't in the same boat." The truth is, none of us will be truly safe until all of us are safe. Government must protect those who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Building what we need: Moving forward will mean fundamentally re-imagining government's role as an employer and an investor in post-pandemic economy and society.
Maintaining what we have: Before the pandemic hit, key and critical public programs and services were suffering from years of chronic under-funding. Those challenges remain and addressing them is more urgent than ever. Government should shore up existing public services and programs by boosting employment in key, targeted areas.
You can read the full text of our written budget submission here.
I want to thank your elected leadership for passing on your priorities, the dedicated RIS staff who developed this document on a tight timeline, and you – the members – for taking the time to read our submission.
This is a unique and important moment for a budget consultation, a moment that presents both promising opportunities as well as serious challenges – all of which must be met with continued government leadership and increased public capacity. I look forward to working with the provincial government, your elected leadership and BCGEU staff, to ensure our priorities are reflected in Budget 2021.
Stephanie Smith, President
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