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Picking on the most vulnerable

Posted May 7, 2012


Greetings PEI UPSE members,

Tough times often bring to light the true colours of people and the type of community or society we live in. As we all know, PEI has traditionally shown itself to be a compassionate society. We are the "Gentle Island" after all, if I may coin a phrase.

However, if we look at the actions of the current provincial government we see that their response in challenging times is anything but gentle or compassionate. We see a government that has consistently shown Islanders that its priorities are out of place. This government has made poor financial choices over the past five years and is continuing to do so. In order to correct its own mistakes, government feels that it must inflict pain on some of the most vulnerable people in Prince Edward Island.

Approximately three-hundred casual workers in PEI have received layoff notices and find themselves out of meaningful employment, and hundreds more are on the chopping block. These are people who maintain and upgrade our roads in the summer, people who protect at-risk youth and our families, people who encourage our education, and those who ensure our general safety.

The majority of these Islanders I speak of are casual workers. They don't make a lot of money, however, they perform important work in our society that helps everyone. And like all of us, their employment provides them the ability to look after themselves and their families, and it provides the social basis for their self-respect. Their employment also helps the economy, because like you and me, these folks drive cars, buy groceries and clothes for their children, and support local business.

Why would government choose to eliminate all of these positives? The government should be the "employer of last resort" when times are tough. Where is their compassion? Where is their will to uphold a just society? Removing the opportunity for meaningful work is ultimately destructive for our citizens.

If we look at the provincial government's latest attack, we see them ramping up their efforts to privatize liquor stores on Prince Edward Island, lay off more casual workers, and reduce hours of operation for current full service outlets. The union has not been consulted on these changes. Laying off more workers will create more pain and poverty in PEI. Introducing privatized agency liquor stores will mean easy access to alcohol for our young people and those who abuse the substance. Is this the "Gentle Island" we know and love? Are these the actions of a just and compassionate government?

Shelley Ward,

President,

PEI Union of Public Sector Employees