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Unions rally against proposed job cuts
More than a dozen people congregate outside the legislative assembly to protest budget

Kirsten Fenn
Northern News Services
Friday, February 10, 2017

The walkway to the legislative assembly was crowded with signs that read "10 years to spend, 10 years to pay back," and "Invest in people, not roads," on Wednesday afternoon.

NNSL photo/graphic

Lauraine Armstrong, PSAC regional vice-president for Fort Smith, joined more than a dozen people at the legislative assembly on Wednesday to protest the territorial budget. - Kirsten Fenn/NNSL photo

More than a dozen people from the Public Service Alliance of Canada North came out from Monday to Thursday to protest cuts proposed in the 2017-18 territorial budget.

"We're there to support the MLAs in their work, because we agree with what they're wanting to have (in the budget)," said PSAC

North regional executive

vice-president Jack Bourassa.

Regular MLAs have signalled their opposition to the budget Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod presented last week. They say the government is focusing too much on debt reduction and not enough on investment in social programs and job creation.

Regular MLAs are calling for their requests to be added to the budget - adjustments they say would amount to less than two per cent of the overall proposed spending.

"At a time when the economy is in a depressed state, pushing down or tabling an austerity budget is not really a good idea," Bourassa said. "The governments here are intended to take care of people, not to be focused on the bottom line, which is what you do if you're a business. But government is not a business."

Some of the budget items he's most disappointed with are cuts at Aurora College, cuts to government jobs and the amalgamation of GNWT departments, something he doesn't believe will help streamline government operations.

Protesters who were at the legislative assembly Wednesday shared Bourassa's concerns. Union of Northern Workers (UNW) president Todd Parsons came out to show support for workers and oppose job reductions.

A number of UNW members are with Aurora College and the union is "quite concerned" about cuts to the social work and education programs, he said.

He's also concerned about the priorities established by the current assembly, which he said is investing more in things like roads than in Northerners.

"The UNW is very supportive of investing in infrastructure, but not to the extent that it means a reduction in current programs and services that are provided," he said.

Parsons said he wants to lend support to regular MLAs "that are doing the best they can to make amendments to the proposed budget tabled by the cabinet."

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