200 gather in Ingonish to save Highlands Links golf course

INGONISH, NS– Union leaders and a local Member of Parliament joined members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) from Cape Breton and beyond and the community of Ingonish today at an event aimed at stopping the privatization of Highlands Links.  Almost 200 people gathered at the Ingonish Fire Hall to send a message to Ottawa.

“Highlands Links belongs to all of us.  Let’s keep it public. Let’s keep it accessible. Let’s keep it Canadian.  It’s our game,” said Jeannie Baldwin, PSAC Regional Executive Vice-President.

Parks Canada recently issued an RFP that seeks to put the management of Highlands Links, a world-famous golf course, into private hands.  Currently, the course is a public resource that employs 22 full time workers, as well as a number of term and student workers.  The facility provides millions of dollars worth of economic benefits to the surrounding community.

“There are clear dangers in privatizing,” said Eddie Kennedy, Union of National Employees National Vice-President, “It often ends up costing tax-payers millions of dollars more than if facilities had remained in public hands.”

The union and the community are also concerned that privatization will eliminate opportunities for young people to have a career at home.   Then there is the question of access.  The course stands to become a too expensive for the average person to use.  The union also believes the very quality of the Highlands Links course could deteriorate under private ownership.

“Millions of Canadian tax dollars have gone into this golf course over the years and countless hours of this community’s skilled labour and expertise,” said Kennedy. ”The reason the course is rated so highly is because it’s been run as a public facility. This gem is not the government’s to auction off.”

The union is currently asking questions about why the federal government is using its 2008 budget to justify this move.

Community members, golf course workers and the unions that represent them are fighting to keep Highlands Links public. Saturday’s event officially kicked off this campaign.  Ingonish is covered in lawn signs, flyers and posters directing the public to an online petition to be presented in parliament at www.ItsOurGame.ca.                                       

Workers at Highlands Links are members of the Union of National Employees (UNE), a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, a national union with over 180,000 members. 

Lesley Thompson, Communications Officer, PSAC, 902 471 6201