The Prince George core services review story isn't a unique tale, according to CUPE BC president Barry O'Neill.
The head of the provincial branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees was in Prince George Wednesday night to take part in a public event called City Services Under Attack, organized by city locals 1048 and 399 at the Civic Centre.
"Let me say that what is happening here, the so-called core service review is a bold attempt not dealing with reality but dealing with one specific - sell it off, privatize it and for that, there is some benefit to the community," he said.
"I've had the opportunity, the pleasure, of going through about 11 so-called core service reviews and I can tell you I could put in an envelope, if it's one particular company... the results of what that core service review is going to look like in the end - especially if it cost as much as yours."
Community members, whether they are unionized employees of the city or not, need to push back against the top-down decisions prompted by outside experts, O'Neill suggested.
"If you want to talk about efficiency where would you go? To [Prince George review facilitators] KPMG or some consulting firm who's never lived a week in the community?" he asked. "No, you would go to the place where the service is provided and ask them first how they think we could be more efficient."
He also said union members are in a unique position of not only providing a service, but also benefiting from those services as community members and tax payers.
And while selling assets off and privatizing isn't good long-term planning, O'Neill said there will always be a role for the private sector in building communities - specifically in building infrastructure.
"Nobody has the right to sell off something my mother or my grandmother built years and years ago," he said, urging residents to stand in opposition. "That's not a decision any council make, whether they've been here for one year or five years."
But Coun. Frank Everitt, who was in attendance, said the review has its merits.
"I think that the core review served a purpose to evaluate what we're doing and it will pinpoint things that need to be changed and it will pinpoint some savings, but it will also say we're doing things very well," he said.
Everitt, who sat on the city's select committee on a core services review, is also the president of United Steelworkers local 1-424.
"Part of being a union member is understanding that certain things have to go on in order for the enterprise to be successful," he said, noting O'Neill raised good points about city employees being members of the community, not just people who are collecting a paycheque. "They care about the job that they do, they're supervised by supervisors who check up on them if they're not doing the job and should check up on them if they're not doing the job. That's how you make the place successful."
But he disagreed with O'Neill's assumption that the city would follow through on core review recommendations simply because they were put forward by the consultants.
"It's up to council to look at those changes, massage them, implement them or not implement them at all," Everitt said. "And we'll live and die by those decisions that we make."