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OPINION: Bullied by government

['Canadian money']
Former teacher says P.E.I. public sector employees still feeling effects of 1994 wage rollbacks. (File Photo)

The 1994 P.E.I. public sector wage rollback will not go away after 24 years

BY GARY WALKER

GUEST OPINION

Dear Premier Wade MacLauchlan: I know all agree that bullying must be stopped. In our internet/cyber age, as in the past, the consequences of bullying have long-term negative effects; often for a life-time.

I was a small, timid boy; I remember the odd slaps, minor violence and verbal abuse - usually from teenagers - that I endured. I was upset at the time, but never felt in great danger. I knew it would pass. As it did.

But, “that was then, and this is now.” In preparing our income tax returns this year– a life-long affair, as we all know - I recalled the severe bullying – there is no other word for it – that your party inflicted on myself and countless others.

I refer to the public sector wage rollback of 1994. My wages, only, supported my wife, two young children and myself at the time your party bullied us. No trips to Florida, no skiing, no new cars for our family. I was a well-respected, competent teacher. I had taught, and dealt with more than one instance of abuse, with students and parents.

This year I calculated how much salary and pension dollars the rollback had cost me and my family. Unfortunately, I had to retire early for health reasons; nevertheless - I have, unwillingly, given over $30,000 to the province – with no end in sight.

To lower the debt? What a joke. In 1994 our provincial debt stood at $822,615,698. In 2017 (last figures available) the provincial debt stood at $2,171,896,000. So, it didn't really help, did it?

Public servants were singled out for this bullying. We felt protected – we had legal documents, contracts - which we had signed. Your party, Mr. Premier, bullied us severely - a 7.5 per cent wage and pension reduction - which apparently will follow us to the grave. Some 12,000 public sector employees and their families saw broken contracts by the Liberal government. Forever. I’m sure you can appreciate the irony - teaching students about bullying - while being bullied ourselves.

People have said to me, as well as to other public servants who endured the rollback to get over it. Right. We are criticized and vilified for still being upset. The public at large has long forgotten. I know one fact - if you are upset by this commentary it tells me only one thing - you donated nothing – you were not bullied. Try it - give 7.5 per cent of your salary this year to a worthy cause.

Why comment on this now? Why not now? Islanders are fed up with your government's waste of public tax dollars and stonewalling questions. Look at that provincial public debt. Where did all those millions go? The time has come to come to terms with your party’s broken promises.

We are still here. No more bullying. An end to this stealing. I know many will disagree with this opinion - show it – if you dare. We know all the names - the songwriter, the Charlottetown lawyer, the real estate owner, the pub owner . . . the others who applauded and continue, to get away scot-free.

We the bullied, are asking for an equitable end to this continued bullying. Personally, I would like a small cash settlement, and an end to my 7.5 per cent pension deduction. Too late? No. Treaties signed hundreds of years ago are still in force with our First Nation Peoples. Signed contracts are supposed to be binding. I deserved, and still deserve, the terms of the contract that I signed with the Liberal government in 1994.

Thank you, Mr. Premier, for your attention to this situation, which, has, and will not go away. Over 12,000 of us, and our families, await your reply.

- Gary Walker, Charlottetown, B.A.(UPEI), BEd (Dalhousie), MLIS (Western) is a retired school-teacher, vice-principal and professional teacher-librarian.

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