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St. John’s chapter in 3,000-person strong protest against austerity

Members of the St. John’s chapter carry a “Say No To Austerity” banner at today’s protest.

The Council of Canadians St. John’s chapter protested the provincial government’s austerity budget again today.

The chapter has posted in a blog, “Three thousand people converged at Confederation Building in St. John’s to show their opposition to the 2016 austerity budget. Our chapter joined the grassroots march from MUN [Memorial University of Newfoundland]. There were also two other marches to the rally: CUPE and librarians marched from the Arts and Culture Centre, and the Canadian Federation of Students and NL Teachers’ Association marched from College of the North Atlantic. We all met for an epic rally that really allowed everyone to express their outrage at the inequality and injustice in the budget.”

The Telegram now reports, “There was a strong union presence in the crowd, with members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), Unifor, Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour (NLFL) taking part. There was also a heavy turnout from members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association, who marched in together waving banners and signs. Busloads of people were brought to the rally by NAPE.”

NLFL president Mary Shortall says, “The people of this province elected this government on a promise of a stronger tomorrow. On a promise not to raise the HST. On a promise of no job cuts to the public service. But all that this budget delivered was misery, increased taxes, fees, fees and more fees, and then there’s the levy.”

Just some of the specific budget measures include:

  • cutting hundreds of civil service jobs (eliminating at least 450 full-time equivalent jobs across public agencies, board and commissions, as well as 200 government positions)

  • raising the harmonized sales tax from 13 per cent to 15 per cent

  • cutting $14 million in funding to Memorial University (prompting concerns about tuition fee increases)

  • closing 54 of the 95 libraries in the province

  • a $300 levy for those earning $25,000 a year (that tops out at $900 for anyone making more than $202,500 a year)

  • the average household in Newfoundland and Labrador paying nearly $3,000 more in taxes and fees per year.

Shortall has also commented, “There’s demonstrations happening all over the province. It’s not going away, which is a little bit different for us. What I think we’re seeing is that, for a long time, we’ve been told to put up and shut up by governments who think they know what’s best for us. And I think we’re at a turning point in our history now, where ordinary citizens are saying to the government, no, we’re not going to put up. We’re not going to shut up.”

The Council of Canadians St. John’s chapter has already participated in three other major protests against the provincial government’s budget on April 16, April 21 and April 29. We are also a member of the ‘We Are NL’ anti-austerity campaign that was launched on April 26.

CBC reports, “[The province’s finance minister] said further actions will be announced in a supplemental budget this fall.”