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Anti-Austerity Budget Bedfellows

Speech snippets from hundred-strong #NSUncut demo

by Miles Howe

Anti-Austerity Budget Bedfellows

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) - On April 24, newly formed action group #NS Uncut, a mixed bag of unionists, students, academics, environmentalists, activists and representatives from economically marginalized groups, staged a 'casserolle' style demonstration outside of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly in Halifax. While outside the house, about 100 demonstrators chanted, drummed and gave rousing speeches, inside, members of the legislature passed the 2015 budget through its second reading by a vote of 30 to 13. 

It is the budget, with its "austerity" style cuts to a wide swath of social protections to some of the province's most vulnerable populations, and its targeted assaults on students and the film and television industry, that has driven these otherwise disparate groups together. While the provincial Liberal budget appears to be chugging along through its readings, #NS Uncut today promised an upcoming week full of unexpected direct action.

Noticeably absent from the day's demonstration were speakers representing visible minority communities. Nor was any acknowledgement made that the event was taking place on unceded Mi'kmaq territory, which in recent years has become a traditional 'starting point' for 'socially progressive' gatherings. The oversight was likely due to the excitement of gathering so many varied groups together, coupled with the very real exacerbation of dealing with life-impacting budgetary cuts.

The hour of speeches and music that followed were intense, serious, and provided something of a 'venting off' for groups that might otherwise be facing their respective impacts of this budget alone. What follows are brief snippets from the day's speakers:

“The point behind #NS Uncut is that all of these groups are coming together, to stand in solidarity with one another. This is not just about cuts to healthcare. It's not just about the deregulation of tuition. It's not just about the elimination of the film tax credit. It's about an overall program that is designed to attack the working class and marginalized peoples in our communities. And we will not stand for it.”

  • Kyle Buott - President, Halifax-Dartmouth District Labour Council

“What's clear today is that a cut for one of us is a cut for all of us. This Liberal government decided that it needed to put absolutely nothing in its budget for students, faculty and staff. Because not only did this government decide to deregulate tuition fees for the next year. Not only did it decide to deregulate out of province students' and graduate students' fees for the next years to come. Not only did it decide to cut student assistance for the years to come. But while it was at it, apparently the rule of this government is 'Go big or go home', because it also decided to cut funding.

And it is not only about the budget, because just this week the government proposed Bill 100, which plans to infringe on workers' rights, on collective bargaining rights, on students' ability to come to the table and instead will give our institutions and our university administrators the ability to run themselves into the ground and will take away the voices of those that try to prevent that from happening."

  • Michaela Sam - Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students, Nova Scotia

“Bill 100 is just a reflection of Bill 1 which we saw last year. Its a violation of the Canadian Constitution and we're going to be fighting it. We had a conference call today and we know we're going to win because Saskatchewan already won this battle before the courts. But what these people are doing, when they say we have no resources, they are throwing tax dollars away on fights they know they are going to lose before the courts. That's irresponsible.”

  • Rick Clarke - President, Nova Scotia Federation of Labour

“I am a person with a disability. And this budget discriminates against persons with disabilities. There's a UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities that Canada...signed on to. And this government fails in every article. Article 27, the right to employment. Article 19, the right to live in a community. There's an article on the right to be free of persecution and discrimination. Well, I am being persecuted and I am being discriminated against. If you don't believe me, then read this budget. This budget violates my basic civil rights.

This budget discriminates, isolates and segregates and will continue to segregate people with disabilities to live in the communities. It is direct persecution of people with disabilities. I would love for Stephen MacNeil to come out so he could tell me why he thinks my life is so worthless."

  • John Cox - ACORN member

“Through this austerity budget, the Nova Scotia Liberals have said that tough choices have to be made. Everyone must pay their fair share. What they really mean by that is that they want working people, children, immigrants, first nations communities, women, students, they want them to pay so that billionaires like John Risley of Clearwater Seafoods can continue to enjoy his tax breaks [and] his benefits. What the tax breaks for the one percent, for the billionaires of this region, mean is that low-wage jobs get created for the rest of us. There's less money for education. There's less money for our non-profit sector that makes sure that the most vulnerable get their needs met. There's less money for students, who are the future of this province. There's less money for public servants who make sure that the work of this province gets done. There's less money for health care for everybody. But there's less money for all of us, the ninety nine percent.

Taking care of the future and present of this province means creating a better province for everybody. Not creating an economic playground for the wealthy!"

  • Suzanne McNeil - Solidarity Halifax

"Consultation. What's so hard? Everybody is in this street today because no one here was talked with. Because this government doesn't talk to the people who know, on the ground, what their lives are and know what would improve them. Who know already how they contribute to this province and how they could contribute more. And the film and TV industry found that out in a big ol' sucker punch to the head.

This government is now – now that they've torched our house – telling us that we should talk with them. 'Let's have a reasonable conversation now that we've taken everything you had and thrown it in pieces on the floor.'

How can we build with a government like that? Everybody here! Who in the poverty coalitions gets talked to before the decisions are made? Who in healthcare is talked to before decisions are made? And is there a capital besides money from out of province? There is human capital! Standing right here."

  • Mary Collin Chisholm, ACTRA Maritimes

"This Liberal government is trying to balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable in our society. Shame! First thing they've done is they've essentially frozen the healthcare budget. We are an aging population with high rates of chronic disease and illness and we are getting sicker. There is no way to freeze the healthcare budget. Its a matter of life and death.

Now what are the priorities of this government? As I was walking here I got a call from the CBC asking me what I thought about the fact that the QEII hospital surgery rooms are closed for the fourth time. If you've heard about this, there's a black dust over all of the scalpels and equipment in the surgery rooms of the QEII. All of the sterilization equipment is broken. Maybe its because they cut seven million dollars from hospital equipment. Already more than 300 surgeries have been postponed or cancelled. If this is the case now, what happens when this government freezes the healthcare budget?

Already, our health Minister Leo Glavine came out this morning asking for another million dollars. The budget isn't even passed yet and they're admitting it's a sham."

  • James Hutt - Nova Scotia Health Coalition

“1894, Queen Victoria gave a gift to this country and it was called the Victoria Order of Nurses and they have been around this country for hundreds of years, giving, nursing and [providing] home care to people in their homes. And why? So that we can save money, keep them in their homes and out of hospitals. Ninety eight percent of the people that provide home care in this province are female. They go to work every day, into homes, not knowing what they'll see when they get there, not knowing what to expect, and provide excellent care to Nova Scotians. And I will also say they're all unionized. And what does that mean? I can tell you, it doesn't mean they're rich. It means they're getting a fair wage. It means they have a pension plan. It means they have a medical plan and why the heck shouldn't they? They deserve it.

However, the decision has been made that they're too expensive. 'We can't afford to be paying these nurses and health care workers the wages that we pay them. We can't afford to give them benefits. We can't treat them the same as their co-workers in acute care. So what is happening is that they are going to tender an RFP for home care in this province. And what an RFP means is that companies will come in and bid on this work. Companies will come in and bid against VON. They're going to come in and say: 'We can do it cheaper. Faster. Quicker.'

But absolutely not better.

And if they believe that unions are going to stand by and encourage our nurses and workers to stay working for private, for profit, losing away their medical plan, taking away their pension plan, and working for less?"

Janet Hazelton - President, Nova Scotia Nurses Union

"What [Bill 100] does is offer academic employers, administrators, the ability to invoke financial exigency and then essentially liquidate any academic or pedagogical control over the core mission of universities.

Basically I'd like to thank the government and the people that it represents for making this choice that is before us very clear. And this is the choice:

You can have educational institutions that are organizer and mobilized solely for business and economic concerns or you can have educational institutions that educate. You cannot have both. That is the choice. It is not acceptable to reduce the public mission of education to training to fit into a corporate machine somewhere because everything else that constitutes what humans can think about, or do, or enquire into, is too expensive and unnecessary."

Matthew Furlong - Communication Officer, Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers

"We lost funding to renewables. We lost funding to sustainable transportation. We lost funding to energy efficiency. But do you know where we got increased funding? Petroleum resources.

We lost $1.4 million to non-electric efficiency. What that means that the seventy percent of people in this province that heat their homes with non-electric sources no longer have support in reducing their energy consumption. And if we're going to fight climate change, fifty percent of those greenhouse gas emission [reductions] need to come from energy efficiency. It makes no sense for us to be taking funding away from that.

It also makes no sense if we're going to be talking about jobs. For every million dollars that we put into fossil fuels, if you put that into renewable energy you'd get three times more jobs. If you put that into energy efficiency, you'd get five times more jobs. If you put that money into energy efficiency, you can reduce energy poverty."

Emma Norton – Stop Energy East Halifax


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Comments

First ,Community Services, Second other areas then get worse

I was prestent at the protest on Friday whcih is the excact protest that this article is talking about. The question I bring up is "When is this autristury ever going end?" Then I bring up the question "Will it ever get better?" The way things are going, I would not be surprised if somday resdients of this provience turns to wore aginst this current goverment.

First - as talk about for the longest time is Department Of Community Services. Now it is not only the people looseing thier special needs, it is also job cuts within the department. All we can hope for now is, all the money the goverment is saving from these cuts, hopefulley the goverment will be smart enough to reinvest this money into raising allowences for people who are on income assitnace. The reality is we just have to waint and see.

Second - Cuts to Health Care, big mistake thier. Cuts to health care goes to show that this goverment does not about the health of this provience.

Thirid - Students, oh ya! I can less students comming to this provience to study. Unverisity Students makes up for a big portient of Halifax's poopulation. This also amkes up for a huge portient of Antigonish and Wolfville population as well. I think this is something the goverment should have taken into consideration when they decided to take the gap off Tuistion.  I think without the university students, the amount of old population in this provience is goign to increase.

Fourth - Filim Tax Credit fadded out. Ya! it would be sad to filim making leave this provience. Filim making is an example of something that creats jobs. Hearing this one in the budget, this goverement has not interest in wanting to creat job in this provience.

I am happy to see that protest action is taking place outside the Ledguster because that is what is needed.

 

 

 

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