Originally posted in the fall 2015 issue of The Stand.
By Holly Fraughton
People are leaving our province, because there are fewer and fewer opportunities to be found here. It’s a very serious subject, not just for NSGEU members, but for all Nova Scotians.
We all know someone (most likely, many people) who have been forced to move away to find work in another province – even another country. Often, those people choose to build their lives in another province, and they don’t come home.
Under the leadership of Stephen McNeil and his Liberal government, we’re seeing even more good jobs and services being cut and put at risk.
“…We’ve seen just one after the other leave this province — and now the parents are leaving. The kids have gone, the parents with the good pension … are selling their homes and then leaving,” NSGEU President Joan Jessome said during a recent interview with the CBC.
“We are creating a zero tax base in the way that this government is addressing income inequality. We’ve got a government that’s attacking people with jobs and not creating jobs … They’ve attacked workers’ rights, they’ve pitted the public against the public sector. They’ve tried looking at privatizing work with good paying jobs that keep these communities alive.”
So far, they’ve closed seven satellite courthouses and 13 land registry offices in rural communities; eliminated jobs in Child Protection and closed Day Spring, a treatment centre for at-risk children; completely abolished the Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, as well as Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia; closed visitor information centres & cut jobs at our Provincial Parks; slashed funding to a wide range of non-profit and community groups; gutted the Film Tax Credit; eliminated the Graduate Retention Rebate, and removed the tuition cap for young Nova Scotians.
Next, they plan to privatize the Land Registry, Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Registry of Joint Stocks; contract out our home care services; privatize hospital food services; and unleash the newly-created “Department of Business” on whatever “non-core” public services are left, for further privatization… or outright elimination.
None of this is what they promised to do when they were campaigning, of course.
In the lead-up to the 2013 election, the NSGEU conducted a survey of all parties, asking them a series of questions about where they stood on issues of importance to our members.
In their response to us in September 2013, the Liberals stated that they: “… support collective bargaining and will respect agreements. As well … we will also respect public services and, with civil servants, will see to it that Nova Scotians will not see reductions in direct service.”
But once they took office on October 22, they rapidly moved in the opposite direction, interfering in and undermining the collective bargaining process and introducing five separate pieces of legislation that significantly diminish workers’ rights.
We fully expect the Liberal’s cuts and privatization attempts are just beginning. They’ve set the stage, and will pursue an agenda to privatize whatever public services they think the public will accept.
This puts our members’ jobs on the line, and moreover, threatens the important public services that all Nova Scotians rely on.
UNDERSTANDING THE ISSUE
In order to help the public understand what’s really at risk when public services are cut or privatized, the NSGEU Board of Directors voted to approve a public campaign.
This campaign included a research component, which included focus groups and polling of a wide range of people from throughout the province. We wanted to find out what they knew about privatization, and how they felt about it.
It turns out that most Nova Scotians already were quite familiar with privatization schemes (like Nova Scotia Power), and were opposed to privatizing our public services. They understood that these choices hurt communities, through lost jobs and opportunities, and lead to less money to be spent at local businesses and reduced services for families.
To help raise awareness of damaging cuts and privatization, we wanted to start a conversation with the public, NSGEU members, and hopefully, put pressure on the Liberal government to stop attacking our public sector.
NSGEU FIGHTS BACK
In September, we launched “McNeil’s Movers,” which takes a cheeky approach to a very serious subject.
The concept is simple: cuts & privatization are essentially shutting down communities, as Nova Scotians are driven to leave the province for work. “McNeil’s Movers” is the moving company that is facilitating this – “driving you and your family out of Nova Scotia with every service and job privatized!”
Privatization means cuts. It means McNeil is shipping out the services and jobs that make Nova Scotia what it is.
Our television ads began airing on Labour Day for two weeks, and will air again in November, after the federal election has ended. The ad is also running online, as pre-roll for YouTube and other local news sites. It’s been viewed by more than 42,000 on Facebook, and has had almost 15,000 views on YouTube.
The campaign also includes a website – McNeilsMovers.ca – that provides critical background information on what has been cut and privatized in Nova Scotia, so far, and what has happened elsewhere throughout Canada, where government has made similar decisions, to the detriment of the public. There’s also an online petition, where people can send the Premier and their own MLA a message about privatization, and sign up to get campaign updates.
You can also share your own “moving stories” – stories about people you know who have had to move away – and if your story is selected to be featured on our website, you’ll win a t-shirt! Or, you can upload your photo on our website, and our “I love N.S. & want to stay” message, and share the image with your own social networks.
Finally, there is a strong, active social media component to the campaign. People can follow us on Twitter (@McNeilsMovers) and “like” us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/McNeilsMovers) for all the latest on the Liberals’ attempts to cut and privatize our public services.
THE MOVERS ARE COMING TO YOU!
At the NSGEU’s Leadership Symposium in September, 140 of your peers and union leaders discussed the “McNeil’s Movers” campaign, and took on the task of organizing “Moving Day Rallies” throughout the province.
The rallies kicked off on Saturday, October 3rd with an event at the final Chase the Ace event in Inverness, where organizers played a special “Chase the Joker” version of the game with passersby, gave out prizes, like t-shirts, M&Ms and stickers, and started some important conversations about the dangers of public service cuts and privatization.
That same day, activists held a rally at the Access Nova Scotia centre in Dartmouth, educating members of the public about the impending privatization of our public registries: the Registry of Joint Stocks, Registry of Motor Vehicles, and Land Registry.
More rallies are planned toward the end of October. So if you see our moving crews out at an event in your community, please come by to say hello and learn a bit more about the campaign! Together, we can all help to stop McNeil’s Movers as they try and move our vital public services and the people who do that important work out of our province.