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The BC Shell Game of Public Funds

Creekside - 1 hour 25 min ago

In the 2013 BC Election, the Liberal party pledged the LNG industry would create $1 trillion in economic activity and a $100 billion prosperity fund. Tagline - "It's no fantasy"

Martyn Brown, Gordon Campbell’s former Chief of Staff, reckons Christy Clark and the BC Libs were 'patsies', repeatedly 'duped' by petro industry's sparkling promises of new investments, lots of jobs, and an endless supply of unicorn meat.

Sure, let's go with 'duped'.

"It is difficult to get a premier to understand something," as Upton Sinclair might have put it, "when her salary depends on her not understanding it."
BC In-Sights blogger and researcher extraordinaire Norm Farrell excerpts from Martyn Brown's Energy News Corp column on Clark's LNG fantasy and the gutting of BC's "2008 climate action plan":
"The Petronas precedent also gave those Asian state-oil monopolies a special 25-year indemnity that is underwritten by B.C. taxpayers.That indemnity will save them harm from any so-called “discriminatory events.”It assured the LNG industry that any companies covered under such project agreements would not have to face any industry-specific carbon taxes or any new industry-specific GHG reduction initiatives for at least 25 years.If any future government changes those locked-in tax rates and benefits at a cost to those companies that is greater than $25 million in any year, or more than $50 million over five years, they will be entitled to full compensation, courtesy of B.C. taxpayers.Similarly, any changes in government policy that impose new rules or tougher standards specific to the LNG industry, which entail higher costs relating to carbon taxes or to greenhouse gas emissions and reporting requirements, will be fully compensable above that threshold."So what happens to that legislation now that a world glut of LNG and it's non-competitive BC market price has choked on Christy's unicorn meat? Can we repeal it?

Norm is on Canadian Glen's blogtalkradio show The View From Up Here tonight at 6pm PST to discuss the BC Hydro/Site C Dam con and the LNG debacle on The BC Shell Game of Public Funds. That's the question I'm sending in.

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Into The Halls Of Mythology

Northern Reflections - 1 hour 26 min ago


The Chilcot Report has been made public. Yet Tony Blair And George W. -- who claimed to stand for truth, justice and the American Way -- are enjoying their retirements. Gerry Caplan writes:

The invasion of Iraq never was about Saddam or his fictional weapons of mass destruction. Saddam had nothing whatever to do with 9/11 or al-Qaeda and had no WMDs. Look, if I knew that, how could Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair not have known?
What did they want, those two BFFs? Mr. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney and the neocons, as far as anyone can figure, mostly wanted to show the world that America could not be disrespected by a two-bit Middle East despot like Saddam. That refusal to abide America being humiliated was at the very heart of neoconservatism. For his part, Mr. Blair was consumed with being America’s most faithful lapdog. He needed Mr. Bush to know he could always be counted on, no questions asked. “I will be with you, whatever,” Mr. Blair wrote Mr. Bush.
In  their names, crimes were committed:
In the hierarchy of the world’s international crimes, the top three are genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It’s hardly in question that the Americans and British committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Iraq. So what penalties are their leaders paying?
Why, the same penalty all Western leaders pay for their villainy. As Henry Kissinger did for his many crimes against humanity, from Chile to Indonesia to Bangladesh. He’s now a mentor on world affairs to Hillary Clinton – the non-reckless presidential candidate. Or Ronald Reagan, who backed sadistic terrorist groups across Central America and worked closely with the apartheid regime in South Africa. He’s now totally mythologized, the revered hero of the Republican Party.
Bush and Blair will never see the interior of the International Criminal Court. But they're hoping to enter the Halls of Mythology. 
Image: salon.com

The Bernie Or Bust Movement

Dawg's Blawg - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 17:21
Because I KNOW Dawg is dying to get into this topic…... Balbulican http://stageleft.info

Tuesday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 08:40
This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Lana Payne comments on the combination of low wages and nonexistent security attached to jobs for younger workers. And Catherine Baab-Muguira examines the spread of the side hustle economy as a means of bare survival.

- Roderick Benns discusses how the isolation of remote communities represents a barrier to access to needed social supports - and how that can be remedied in part through a basic income. And Emily Badger writes about new research showing that no other housing policies will put a meaningful dent in the lack of decent housing in the absence of major public investment in construction and maintenance.

- Paula Simons notes that the Husky oil spill into the North Saskatchewan River should highlight the importance of a safe water supply, while the Canadian Press reports that it will be months before North Battleford, Prince Albert and other affected communities will be able to exercise that right. David Fraser reports on the Saskatchewan Party's wanton slashing of the regulator responsible for pipelines - which led to the province having no idea when the pipe which spilled was last inspected. And Emily Eaton points out that oil spills are in fact the norm across Saskatchewan even if they don't gather as much attention as one which flows directly into a major river.

- Meanwhile, David Brumer and Jayme Poisson document the decades of poison still being inflicted on the people of Grassy Narrows First Nation due to mercury contamination by poorly-regulated industries.

- Abacus' latest survey into the future expectations of Canadians shows that the public - unlike the political class - fully expects major greenhouse gas emission reductions in the very near future. And Joe Romm points out how the plummeting cost of solar power may make that possible.

- Finally, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression comments on the desperate need for serious analysis of the rights violations embedded in Bill C-51. But Michael Harris recognizes that Justin Trudeau couldn't seem less interested in reversing the Harper Cons' steps toward a surveillance-and-disruption state.

To serve and protect in Ottawa

Dawg's Blawg - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 06:10
Two days ago, an unarmed, autistic Black man, Abdi Abdiraman, was beaten to death by police, right here in Ottawa, in front of witnesses. I feel more uncomfortable than perhaps I should in writing this. Several weeks ago Ottawa police... Dr.Dawg http://drdawgsblawg.ca/

Looking Into The Abyss: A Guest Post By Pamela MacNeil

Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 06:09


Yesterday, my post consisted of three letters culled from a larger series by Star readers reflecting on the dire state of both the U.S. Republican Party and American society. Pamela MacNeil, always an insightful commentator, offered some very interesting observations about both. I am featuring them here as a guest post:

I listened to a JFK speech the other day Lorne. If you're interested, you can find it at #NoWar2016 and what Kennedy said, WorldBeyondWar.org. Some people consider it his greatest speech and some even think it's what contributed to his assassination.

The speech was about PEACE. Why do I bring this up? Strictly for contrasts. Compare this speech with Trump's nomination speech. Implicitly, both speeches are a reflection of American culture. Kennedy's speech reflects a culture that was serious about ideas, where an intelligent President could articulate how a viable option of peace over the cold war could be achieved. Trumps speech reflects a culture that is intellectually and morally bankrupt. It contains no serious ideas and in fact sounds more like something that would be said at a marketing or business meeting. More importantly it reveals a culture not only in decline, but a culture intellectually having reached rock bottom where all that dominates is faith and force. American culture has gone from the political sophistication and the pursuit of progressive ideals of a JFK to the anti-intellectual rhetoric and sleaze of a Donald Trump.

The GOP with its Evangelical and neoliberal beliefs reflects a culture of power and entitlement. They do not bring anything beneficial to the table for the average American. They are political zombies. Having no political ideas, they need a leader who reflects that lack. Anyone with political substance and intelligence, or even common sense, would completely avoid the GOP. They would feel embarrassed to be associated with this mindless group called the GOP. Donald Trump feels no such embarrassment.

Do Americans ever wonder why they once had an intellectually sophisticated president such as JFK and now have a presidential candidate whose character is that of a P.T. Barnum barker?

Who is responsible for the American cultural and political destruction? Why have Americans stood by and watched their governments, both Democrats and Republicans, turn their country into an ignorant war monger that wants to dominate the world?

Going from a political culture under JFK to a political culture under Trump is like going from super sonic jet travel back to the horse and buggy.

An empire in decline and with its nuclear weapons one that could take the rest of the world with it.

Americans don't seem to know it, but they are looking into a cultural abyss.

Recommend this Post

Pierre Would Be Appalled

Northern Reflections - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 05:38


Sometimes silence isn't golden. June 21st marked the anniversary of the passage of Bill C-51. When Justin Trudeau's party voted to pass the bill, they did so saying they would change it substantially once they were elected. Michael Harris writes:

C-51 handed Canada’s spy service grotesque new powers that are unconstitutional, indefensible and unnecessary. Short of killing or sexually assaulting ‘persons of interest’ in its quest to disrupt activities deemed to be ‘dangerous’ to national security, CSIS was handed carte blanche by the Harper government. Not a good situation when, at the time, Canada — unlike the United States, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand — had no parliamentary oversight of the activities of the country’s spies.

 As far as civilian oversight went, Harper starved the Security and Intelligence Review Committee of funding and never even bothered to fill a vacancy (the committee only has five members to begin with). Harper didn’t want oversight — he wanted a rubber stamp and zombie appointees. And if Arthur Porter hadn’t been accused in a kickback scheme in a Montreal hospital project, Harper’s personal choice to head up SIRC would have continued his oversight of SIRC. (As it happened, he died a fugitive from Canadian justice in a Panamanian jail.)

More importantly, the bill bore the marks of the Harperites' utter contempt for the Charter of Rights and  Freedoms:

Basic civil rights went on the chopping block when the bill received Royal Assent in June 2015. The spy service could infringe on free speech because “promoting” terrorism was now a jailing offence. CSIS could make more arrests without warrants, even in cases where all the authorities had was the suspicion that an individual “may” carry out a terrorist act. The spy agency was no longer restricted to simply gathering intelligence, but now had the power to “disrupt” suspected terror plots. CSIS could even siphon personal information about an individual from 100 government departments, including the Canada Revenue Agency and Health Canada. And if the spooks planned to break the law or violate the Constitution, they could go before a judge in secret to get pre-approval of their illegal acts.
The Liberals said that they would hold public meetings to get input on how the bill should be changed.  So far there have been no meetings.

Pierre Trudeau would be appalled.

Image: huffingtonpost.ca


The Desperate Cons and the Referendum Obsession

Montreal Simon - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 04:44


It's the Con's worst nightmare. The spectre of electoral reform coming after them, and threatening to drive them from power forever. 

And since they know only a referendum can save them, they spend an incredible amount of time calling for screaming for one. 

Or repeating the same talking point over and over again like a broken record


Press Progress

If you've tuned in to Question Period since the last election, federal Conservatives seem to have one response and one response only whenever anyone brings up the question of reforming Canada's electoral system: referendum!

And of course the idea of a referendum did have to come from Pierre Poilievre.
Read more »

Just another E-Mail from the Real World…

Left Over - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 15:06
A friend sent me this article,  and  I am  adding my  answer…I don’t have permission to print out the article in its entirety, but  you  can  look for it  at FP..it’s short and succinct…

WORTHY OF THEIR ANGER

Our leaders’ unpunished failures have led to furious voters

Stephen Walt

For Foreign Policy magazine

Dear K….

Actually, that is  Germany post WW1, and  this is the same response to a  conman that the  Germans gave to  Hitler..and yes, i a, terrified..but  Klaas I am a  Bernie fan all the way, and if this sort of  seemingly mindless  anger is what is necessary to clean house..well, so be it..the only way people seemingly learn is the hard way, and though all these  writers  trash this and that elite, who allowed them to get into power, and maintain it all these years?  The people, who treat participatory democracy like a  joke,  most of those angry  ones probably never  bother to vote or even  do a little reading/research to find out what is really going on…

Don’t want to make you feel bad, but a real microcosm of this attitude is  a union..how many meetings did anyone actually attend? In the twenty years i was  with the  City I tried to attend as many as i could, I participated and  got  frustrated because the powers that were entrenched in that Union office  knew what Trump and the  others  knew..that  people are lazy, don’t want to be bothered and they would do whatever the  Union  told them was for  ‘their won good..”  When I tried to  fight that I succeeded, but then, apathy set in again and  people quit caring,  and quit coming to meetings, etc…and so it goes… The  same thing happens  here (and in the US and Britain)..sure everyone  got all antsy and decided they’d had enough of  Harper, but who died they vote for?  And how is Trudeau any different?  He isn’t…and so it goes…it’s gonna have to get a lot worse here before it gets better….and  Canadians haven’t  even gotten angry yet..I have no idea  what that is going to look like… W

Jim Jefferies "Gets" Donald Trump

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 08:59

Brace yourself. Jim Jefferies has taken vulgarity to the level of an art form. This is NSFW, perhaps not safe for anywhere you don't want to be seen watching. Still... he does get Donald Trump.

Welcome to the Age of Chaos. No, Sorry, There's No Going Back.

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 08:54


People mention it all the time even if they can't quite put their finger on it. Something's up. Definitely. Stuff is going wrong in every direction. Too much change. Too fast. Can't keep up. Why?

Donald Trump, Brexit, the Nice massacre, ISIS, Recep Erdogan, the steady decline of liberal democracy making way for the era of the oligarchs. Guess what - it's all connected. It is the face of the Age of Chaos and it is well and truly upon us.

I came to this realization from a number of online courses I took these past few years on subjects such as global food security, climate change and warfare in the 21st century. It wasn't quite Road Warrior-grade dystopia. Not quite. Then again.

Last week The Globe's Mark MacKinnon captured the essence of our new reality in an essay, "It's All Connected." It's an important piece and I urge you to read it. A brief sampling:


A “period of instability” is upon us, historian Margaret MacMillan told me this week, one that has parallels to the pre-war periods of the 20th century that she’s written acclaimed books about.

...Those cheering Brexit in the U.K., and welcoming a state of emergency in Turkey, were the ships that were supposed to be lifted by the rising tide of globalization, a promise that proved cruelly incorrect. They are now finding satisfaction in defeating their ruling classes, the people who believed those countries, and the world, were theirs to rule.

It’s the same live wire that connects an Islamic State-inspired attack in Europe to a racially motivated shooting rampage in the U.S. The perpetrators are – almost always – those who felt they have very little left to lose in their lives. The cause they choose is almost a footnote to their act of anarchy.


...Our societies are fracturing into tribes. In the U.K., it’s Leavers versus Remainers. In Turkey, the failed coup has cleaved society into Erdoganites and Gulenists (after the movement accused of supporting the failed putsch). Almost everywhere, lines are being drawn between immigrants and the native-born. Black and white. Us and them.

And the tribes are turning on one another.



...What was most shocking about the recent spate of headline-seizing events – and deeply unsettling when you consider them as a chain – was how no one seemed to have seen any of it coming.

The pollsters and pundits predicted Britain would vote, by a comfortable margin, to remain part of the EU. The attack in Nice succeeded in part because many French police were given the Bastille Day holiday off after being on high alert through the country’s month-long hosting of the European soccer championships. Turkey’s intelligence services only detected something might be amiss a few hours before tanks starting moving towards Istanbul’s bridges and airports.

And six months ago, nobody thought Donald Trump stood a chance of becoming president of the United States.



...Radicals thrive when governments can no longer meet the standard-of-living expectations of their citizens, Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, told me.

“The world seems to have reached a critical point in terms of creating a large enough pool of ‘losers’ – those who lost out on globalization, who lost out on technology, who lost out on free trade – to create the undercurrents of this instability.”

Meanwhile, the U.S., which Mr. Ulgen said lost much of its global authority during the twin disasters of the Iraq invasion and the 2008 financial crisis, is no longer willing or able to play the role of global policeman. From afar – as street violence escalates and Mr. Trump is crowned the Republic Party’s candidate for the White House – American-style capitalism and democracy no longer looks like a model worth pursuing.

In other words, the old world order has come unglued. Globalization led and regulated by the U.S. is now considered a failure. People around the world are seeking the safety of their tribes.


Welcome to the Age of Chaos. It's your new "normal."

Monday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 08:33
Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- David Blanchflower notes that there's virtually no dispute that the UK is headed into an economic downturn - meaning that there's also no excuse to hold off on fiscal relief for the public. And Brad DeLong points to a new study on the effectiveness of government spending in generating immediate economic growth well beyond the money actually spent.

- David Macdonald rightly recognizes a few important steps toward reducing poverty in Canada through broadly-available income supports.

- Jeff Guo highlights the connection between an increased workload and other job stressors, and overall health impacts on workers.

- Angella MacEwen and Laura Macdonald examine the Trans-Pacific Partnership's toxic effects on labour throughout the participating countries. And Greg Keenan reports on John Holmes and Jeffrey Carey's research showing how the TPP would harm Canada's auto sector.

- Finally, Joel French examines the massive amounts of public money being funneled into exclusionary private schools across Canada. And Morgan Modjeski reports that basic site elements including playgrounds have been left out of any design or funding for Saskatchewan schools - which both places the burden on individuals to fund-raise for community services, and effectively ensures disparity based on the wealth of a given neighbourhood.

The Party Of Lincoln

Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 06:27

H/t Toronto Star

A series of letters excoriating the deplorable state of American politics and society, epitomized by Donald Trump's presidential nomination, is well-worth the read. Here are but three of them:
The unthinkable has happened. The party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan has nominated Donald Trump for president.

A storm is coming for Republicans in November. They richly deserve the pounding they will get at the polls from the millions of Americans who are repulsed by this egocentric, racist, misogynistic bloviating bag of gas. They will lose the White House in a landslide, control of the Senate, possibly the House and countless governorships and state legislatures across the country.

The good news in all of this is that the Grand Old Party will be forced – finally -- to re-think everything it has done, condoned and stood for the in the last 20 years that allowed Trump to go from a joke to presidential nominee. And that is long overdue.

John Bruce, Niagara Falls

In 1967, H. Rap Brown said: “Violence is as American as cherry pie.” It’s still true.

In 1791, when the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was written, muzzle-loading muskets were high tech. At that time, there was an excuse for guns: wild meat was essential food, bears roamed streets, and the British menaced.

Second Amendment authors couldn’t have foreseen modern assault rifles. Since then, however, no government has had the courage to limit sales of these weapons. Rather than legislating to reduce mass murders of their constituents, or acting to limit corporate power now sucking all oxygen out of the world, politicians welcome gun-lobby donations to fund elections.

The United States was founded on a violent revolution. Their Civil War killed over a million people, more deaths than all other U.S. wars together. They have witnessed the assassination of four presidents and attempts on the lives of sixteen others. Mayhem in America is a daily occurrence, but is mostly unacknowledged in prosperous, white enclaves; few people make connections between tragic events. While some grieve and pray, many are filled with fear and anger, and divisive media fan the flames.

And now, the U.S. has an overtly racist and incompetent presidential candidate. It’s hard not to imagine more riots and more deaths,

regardless of who wins in November. Is the U.S. unraveling before our eyes? Who will, who can, step forward?

Douglas Buck, Toronto

Having just watched the roll call of states at the Republican National Convention, I am reminded of pre World War II Germany, when Hitler gained the support of the country by terrorizing them and uniting them to be the supreme nation and the supreme Aryan race. I see little difference (except that as yet he has not proposed “the final solution”); make the U.S. secure by barring immigrants, let white Americans keep and carry their guns, build walls, etc. He uses any tactic to frighten Americans into voting for him. The governor of New Mexico, of Mexican descent, has disavowed her own parents by supporting Trump!

I used to go to the U.S. for holidays – never again.

Cynthia Stark, Toronto
Recommend this Post

The Con Leadership Race Gets Even More Desperate

Montreal Simon - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 05:29


As you know the Cons are having a desperate time trying to attract good candidates to join their leadership contest.

The only worse line-up than the one they have right now would be this one...



And I'm afraid the latest leadership candidate to join the race isn't going to help matters.

Read more »

It's Not Easy Being Hillary

Northern Reflections - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 05:22

The action shifts to Philadelphia this week. And Hillary Clinton will be its epicenter. Doubts follow her there. Why? Tom Walkom writes:

The Clintons’ time in the White House was marked by a series of so-called scandals with names like Whitewater and Travelgate that, for most people, have long vanished into the mists of time.
An independent prosecutor later concluded that Hillary Clinton had done nothing wrong in any of these.Nonetheless, they damaged her. Critics were unable to pierce Bill Clinton’s glad-handing popularity. 
But Hillary was easier prey. By the time the Clintons left the White House, a notion — not entirely without merit — had taken root in the public mind that she sometimes skirted the truth.
And let's be frank. She's a woman. For Republicans, she fits into a "sub-catagory." And they claim that she's corrupt:
On the face of it, the email scandal should have appealed only to IT aficionados. Her stated and very plausible motive for using a private cellphone on government business was that she didn’t want to carry two mobile devices.
However, this was Hillary Clinton. Once again, an investigation was launched. Once again, she was cleared of criminal wrongdoing (although not of bad judgment) — this time by the FBI.
A House investigation into another soi-disant Clinton scandal — her role in the 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya that killed four Americans — found no evidence of negligence on her part.But both contretemps served to reawaken the old doubts. In May, one pollster interviewed Americans with a negative view of Clinton. It found, to no one’s surprise, that 50 per cent of Republicans polled found her untrustworthy.
More alarmingly for the Democratic presidential candidate, it found that 39 per cent of Democrats polled held the same view.
Donald Trump -- who operates on the assumption that small phrases entertain small minds -- has taken to calling her "crooked Hillary."  Meanwhile, he's doing his best to throw a cone of silence around his own business practices.
It's not easy being Hillary.
Image: ilovemyfreedom.org

Hillary Clinton and the Bernie Revolution

Montreal Simon - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 04:20


It's opening night at the Democratic Convention. And what was supposed to be Hillary Clinton's sparkly coronation is turning into a bit of a nightmare.

For even as Clinton prepares to accept her party's nomination, what was supposed to be a show of unity, and a bright contrast to Donald Trump's dark and divisive rally, is threatening to become a noisy show of disunity.

With the fate of the convention, and maybe her own fate, in the hands of the man she defeated.
Read more »

Why party strategists are threatened by electoral reform

Creekside - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 02:27
Tom Parkin on bastions and battlegrounds ..."There’s a reason traditional political strategists argue so fervently to keep the first-past-the-post system.

Yes, it can give them 100% of the power with only 39% of the vote. But that’s not the worst.

More worrisome is the thought the beloved political bastions and battlegrounds created by the first-past-the-post system might be destroyed – rendering useless all the manipulative political strategies they’ve successfully developed to exploit them."Strategies like ignoring voters in the 1/3 to 1/2 ridings where an election outcome is a foregone conclusion to concentrate their micro-targeting tech and pork-barrelling on just the close ridings. Strategies like dogwhistling voters into two-party strategic voting."Proportional representation wipes out bastions because it makes every vote count. Everyone – even in what was a bastion – has a reason to vote, and all parties now need to pay attention."Very good article. Go..



Polluted by crimes, but torn by no remorse

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 07/24/2016 - 18:19
Shorter Brad Wall on what's truly important as an oil spill pollutes drinking water along the North Saskatchewan River:
I only hope this monster running amok doesn't make it harder to sell new reanimation technologies.Or in graphic form...


between the lines: how we got here

we move to canada - Sun, 07/24/2016 - 07:00
We've stopped picketing and demonstrating, and are waiting for our ratification meeting and vote tomorrow night, Monday, July 25.

As local president, my life has been consumed by bargaining and the strike for so long, it feels a bit surreal. Is it really over? That may take a while to sink in! I'm sure others feel this way, too.

Thank yous to the bargaining team from our members continue to pour in, along with congratulations from other union sisters and brothers. Donations continue to arrive from other locals, retired members, and even customers. Those are very welcome, as we begin to pay our bills and rebuild our funds.

The details of our new contract can't be made public until we ratify. But I can say this: we regard it as a very significant win.

For our leadership teams, this is gratifying beyond measure. We have spent the last two years rebuilding our union from the ground up, and this was the outcome.

The roots of our strike: rebuilding our union

Labour-Management

The first step in rebuilding our union was strengthening our position at our monthly labour-management meetings -- coming in more prepared, hitting harder, not being reluctant to file grievances. For more on this, see this article on RankandFile.ca, and its source, CharleyRichardson.org: "Kicking Ass for the Working Class". It's an honour and a privilege to try to walk in Charley Richardson's huge footprints. Shoulders of giants, and all that.

The most important element of our labour-management strategy was preparation. This required a willingness to meet regularly, on our own time, to plan and strategize in advance of meetings with management.

Separation

The next step in rebuilding was our separation from a large, composite local structure that didn't serve our needs, and returning to an independent local, as existed before the merger. This was an enormous undertaking, and required the time and commitment of many members. We held a series of informational meetings so members could make an informed decision -- and 98% of our membership voted to separate. This process itself was an incredibly powerful tool for building member engagement.

Becoming an independent local again gave us decision-making power over grievances, including when to go to arbitration, and we adopted a new willingness to use these tools.

Member engagement

Union activists -- including our rank-and-file executive, but certainly not only those -- made building member engagement our number one priority. We did this in ways large and small; see this post on my personal website: 10 ways you can increase member engagement in your union.

Our new or renewed strength at labour-management, and our new willingness to grieve, worked hand-in-hand with member engagement. We reported the highlights of labour-management meetings to our membership, so they knew we were fighting for them.

Communication

The next factor was clear communication and lots of it. One of the problems with the composite local structure had been a lack of transparency. We vowed to keep members constantly informed, and to strive for total transparency. That is probably the single most important piece of this picture. How can members feel engaged if they don't know what's going on?

Our attitude towards member communications extended to bargaining. Past negotiating committees had been very quiet about negotiations until the very end. That is very common, and many union members believe it is actually required, and that keeping members informed constitutes bad-faith bargaining. Not so.

We adopted a different approach. While we didn't share every roller-coaster twist and turn of the bargaining process -- which would be completely counter-productive -- we kept our membership in the loop throughout. I regularly emailed "Bargaining Bulletins" (thanks to Maureen O'Reilly for the name!) summarizing how the process was going, what we were fighting for, how the employer was reacting. We also gave updates about bargaining at our monthly general membership meetings.

And finally, the strike vote

This process went on for a long time, all of it working synergistically, building something larger than the sum of its parts.

When it was time to ask for a strike vote, our members were primed and ready. The bargaining team wasn't swooping in out of nowhere, asking people to gamble, to make this sacrifice. By the time we received the employer's (supposedly) best offer, and declared that we would not recommend ratification, our members came pouring into the auditorium ready to vote yes.

The night before the strike vote, I experienced a dark night of doubt and fear. So many of our members said they were willing to strike... but what if that was just talk? When push came to shove, would they vote yes? I've just faced our employer across the table and said, "We are rejecting this offer. We are not recommending ratification." What if our members didn't back us up?? If that happened, we were done. Finished. Our power at the table would be completely negated. We had said as much to members many times -- and members were saying it to each other, which was a great sign -- but still. There was no way to be sure.

All that night and into the morning, my stomach was in knots. We were holding three vote meetings, to give our members (as we are shift workers) maximum opportunity to participate. As soon as the first meeting began, I saw our members' faces -- a huge turnout, the room crackling with energy, everyone smiling and excited -- and I knew we had it.

And we did. We had the highest turnout of the last two years, and 96% of our membership voted to strike.

What did we gain?

I will write more about the gains we've made from striking -- both very real, practical gains in our collective agreement, and myriad intangible gains as a union and as individuals -- after we ratify. Stay tuned.

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