` Columbia Journal - Time to act, time to choose
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Time to act, time to choose
BY BARRY O'NEILL - Recent job actions in Duncan and Chemainus, on Vancouver Island, may be a taste of things to come as the Campbell Liberals press ahead with their agenda of school closures, hospital shutdowns, shredded contracts and broken promises. The community action involved 16 different workplaces where both employees and users of the public services are mad as hell and ready to go beyond rallies to make their voices heard and stop the destruction of their towns. The media coverage of the three-hour action was sparse. The Victoria Times-Colonist gave it ample space, as did the local area media. But it wasn't a blip in the Vancouver media. The big-city editors don't seem interested in stories that reveal the harm being done by the Campbell Liberals with their "burn your village to save it" ideology. They're still stuck in a "blame it on New Democrats" groove.

Actions like those on Vancouver Island are a signal to any society that something is going painfully and dramatically wrong. They are the silence before the political firestorm. Unfortunately, it has fallen on ears that refuse to hear from the people. But some people heard the call from the small Vancouver Island towns. Many were proud of those communities for finally taking a stand, for siding with their community over the provincial government. Many more are assessing those actions with an eye to repeating them throughout rural B.C.

CUPE members were involved in the actions in the Cowichan Valley. These are not people who want to shut down towns for the sake of flexing their union muscle. They live in those towns and benefit from the public services. They joined as citizens in actions designed to warn the Campbell Liberals that the attacks on communities and workers had gone far enough.

They also sent an underlying message to local Chambers of Commerce. Contrary to one of Gordon Campbell's favourite mantras, it may not be "business as usual" this summer.

While no one wants to hurt local economies, community actions like Duncan may be a last resort. So it is possible that such actions could be in the offing this summer at the height of tourism season. This would not be good for local businesses. The island action was dubbed a "Day of Defiance," with people demanding accountability from a government that has become the No. 1 enemy of the people. But it was as much a plea to return to political sanity as anything. When a government dismantles the laws that protect the people, it is declaring that it is not conscious of the needs of its citizens. The Campbell Liberals have repeatedly done this without regard for the well-being of our youth, our elderly, our infirm and our disadvantaged.

In their latest mind-numbing act, the Campbell gang has demolished our Human Rights Commission. They say a tribunal will remain and people in need can hire a lawyer to have their case heard. But they have also dismantled the legal aid system that provided lawyers for those who couldn't afford one.

Some critics argue that the commission was biased and that it needed to be reformed. Maybe so. But under the Liberals, "reform" seems to require the amputation of our institutions if they don't fit the Liberal mould.

Duncan's Day of Defiance was a first rallying cry to the people of B.C., a people under fire by their own government, a people quickly running out of patience with Premier Gordon Campbell and his 77 mostly silent partners.

Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer has remarked that the premier goes nowhere these days without a police escort. That speaks volumes about how our province is being twisted into an undemocratic wasteland ripe for private takeover.

We are moving quickly from peaceful protest to actions fed by a simmering public anger. It is fast coming to a point where people will be forced to make a decision: Do we wait until our province is totally plundered by Campbell or do we fight back.

It is time to choose whether or not to defend ourselves. It is time for every community to act in its own best interest before this government tramples our chances of survival.

Barry O'Neill is president of CUPE BC.

The Columbia Journal
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