Business leaders acknowledge they need to rethink their "solutions" at summit road show finale

Union president Fred Muzin says HEU activists played positive role across B.C. in making labours' views heard

In a startling conclusion to a province-wide series of public meetings designed to validate right-wing prescriptions for our province's economic and social ills, B.C. business leaders acknowledged Nov. 8 in Richmond that they might not have all the right answers after all. HEU president Fred Muzin, who spoke at the Richmond meeting, says he's a little surprised but pleased by the outcome. "It was a candid admission by business leaders that they didn't have it right," said Muzin. "So it's an opening for business and labour to sit down and more cooperatively develop solutions that build a strong B.C. economy and strengthen important public services like health care and education." Unions like HEU, says Muzin, have strongly supported the campaign efforts of the B.C. Federation of Labour to challenge the business agenda during the entire summit road show. "Throughout the past two months of public meetings, HEU activists have done the job, helping to organize community-based opposition to summit proposals, and appearing at public meetings with our alternatives for a stronger economy and a fairer society," he said. "It's a concrete example of the benefits of taking political action because we influenced and shaped public opinion on these business "solutions" which in fact are very much like the electoral platform of Liberal leader Gordon Campbell." The so called summit began as a powerful forum of B.C.'s top business leaders, more than a thousand of whom convened in Vancouver a year ago to develop proposals to, as they described it, "secure B.C.'s future." Mainstream media like the always business-friendly BCTV hailed the package of rightwing solutions like deep tax and spending cuts, contracting out and privatization of public services like health care, cuts to the minimum wage and gutting health and safety protections as the panacea that would get B.C.'s economy moving again. The network even broadcast live from the summitís convention site. But 12 months and 14 public meetings later, the business leaders had failed to kindle any kind of broader public support or interest. Even the business community had lost interest in their own political project, as borne out by the more than 200 empty seats at the Richmond meeting. And high profile media coverage had dwindled, while labour and community activists were able to earn extensive coverage of their alternatives. B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair says that at the end of the day, British Columbians have made it clear that the prescriptions proposed by the business community are not acceptable. "they've said 'no thanks' to tax cuts for the wealthiest British Columbians, no thanks to the return of scab labour, and no thanks for a lower minimum wage for young people." br>