Let's put British Columbians first

Guardian column, spring 2017
By Donisa Bernardo

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of attacks on public and social services over the past decade and a half under the BC Liberals.

For nearly 16 years, the Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark governments have shown a complete disregard for working families in this province. At its core, is their continued privatization agenda that rewards corporations – not hard-working British Columbians.

The damage is profound. The BC Liberals dismantled safeguards like legal aid and the tenants’ rights branch, cut funding to children’s and women’s programs, slashed health care and education budgets, shredded collective agreements, and rolled back public sector wages.

And don’t get me started on pay equity. The BC Liberals took a wrecking ball to it
– passing several bills since 2001 that set women’s equality back by decades.

They ditched the Ministry for Women’s Equality; cut funding to critical services like women’s shelters, addiction and recovery centres, violence prevention programs, and supports for women and children experiencing domestic abuse. They demolished subsidy initiatives making child care unaffordable; created a two-tier minimum wage system reducing some workers’ wages to $6/hour; privatized thousands of jobs primarily held by women; and reduced welfare and income supports leaving many women, especially single mothers, in financial peril.

And the BC Liberals have steadfastly refused to create a poverty-reduction plan, despite one in five children going to school hungry.

We still have the highest child poverty rate in Canada – at a staggering 19.8 per cent – or 163,260 children.

Between 2007 and 2014, Metro Vancouver family expenses grew by 18 per cent and child care rates rose by 35 per cent. The cost of living keeps rising, but incomes are not keeping pace.

That’s why we need to keep fighting for a $10 a day child care program, a living wage, proper staffing levels in residential care, and an end to contract-flipping and privatization.

This summer, HEU will lose about 130 hospital laundry workers, mostly women, due to the Interior Health Authority’s contracting-out scheme.

When does it stop? On May 9, we have decisions to make.

Do we want a government whose policies clearly do not respect or value ours – one that has turned its back on women, children, seniors and workers? Or do we want to elect a government who protects working people, social programs, public health care and education?

The choice is simple.