Week of January 21-28, 2002

Cuts amount to small potatoes…The B.C. government’s decision to slash about a third of its public service over the next three years has evoked cries of cruelty from many corners. However, SFU economist Richard Harris maintains the cuts, being made in an effort to get B.C. on a good financial footing, are "small potatoes" in the grand scheme of things. "Relative to the average turnover in the labour market these cuts are not a big deal," says Harris. "Roughly about five percent of the labour market turns over every four to six months." Harris adds the cuts will do nothing to address B.C.’s economic growth, the difference between the government’s expenditures and its revenue, or the impact of the interest rate on its debt. Along with many other economists, Harris will be looking closely at the B.C. Liberal government’s upcoming budget to see how it addresses these issues. Meanwhile, SFU political science professor Patrick Smith says Premier Gordon Campbell has set out not just to reduce spending but to redesign the way government works in the province. The move, he says, represents a radical shift in how the province is being governed.

Richard Harris, 604-291-3795, richard_harris@sfu.ca
Patrick Smith, 604-291-3088/604-291-1544 (h); psmith@sfu.ca

Robbing the public to pay private business…Déjà vu about sums up SFU B.C. labour history expert Mark Leier’s view of the labour calamity unfolding in this province. Leier says there are a lot of parallels between the Socred government’s efforts in 1983 to resuscitate B.C.’s economy through massive layoffs and cutbacks, and what the current Liberal government is doing. "Are we doomed to repeat the past because we haven’t learned from it?," ponders Leier. "It may seem like it. There is no doubt that the cutbacks of 1983 made the economy worse. This lesson has escaped the Liberals, but it is well-known by everyone else." Leier theorizes B.C. governments are locked in a pattern of quashing labour unions and turning over public resources and money to business in an effort to bail businesses out of their financial woes. "That pattern is particularly powerful in recessions and depressions," adds Leier.

Mark Leier, 604-291-5827, mark_leier@sfu.ca

Highway could hold key to Olympics …A new provincial study on the feasibility of the Vancouver-Whistler bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics suggests the state of the Sea to Sky Highway is the bid’s most serious deficiency. That mirrors the findings of a class of SFU geography students who spent the past semester studying issues related to the bid, under geographer Mark Roseland. The 30 Geography 449 students suggest utilizing a multi-model transportation system, which could include buses, trains and even marine transport to decrease the need for private vehicles. That could include transporting some spectators via the existing heavy rail lines — with, possibly, the creation of Olympic trains as a legacy — and making use of cruise ships to bring passengers from Vancouver to Squamish. They also suggest a third lane be added to the highway’s two-lane sections that could serve as a reversible bus, and possibly HOV, lane. Their findings have been forwarded to the Bid Corporation and their full report is expected to be available on the web in early spring.

Marianne Meadahl/Julie Ovenell-Carter, media/pr, 604-291-4323

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