Saturday, August 30, 2014

By Deliberately Breaking Media Blackout Agreement, Education Minister Peter Fassbender Hurt Chances to Get a Deal

"Media blackout? What media blackout?"  Peter Fassbender at the microphones - 24 Hours photo
Fassbender's media tour jeopardizes negotiations at a critical juncture.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday August 26, 2014

By Bill Tieleman

It's good to shut up sometimes."
- French mime Marcel Marceau, 1923-2007
Education Minister Peter Fassbender knows his reading, writing and arithmetic.
And Fassbender knows that last week he flagrantly broke an agreement by both sides in the teachers' strike to observe a media blackout so bargaining would take place at the negotiating table, not via press release.
What Fassbender may not know or care about is that he has seriously hurt the chances of B.C. students getting back to classes on Sept. 2 by jeopardizing negotiations at a critical juncture, with veteran mediator Vince Ready finally considering joining the talks.
Fassbender is not only education minister; he is also a trained professional communicator, an ex-senior executive at DDB Canada (formerly Palmer Jarvis), one of the country's biggest marketing and communications firms.
Then there is this crystal clear joint statement issued Aug. 14 by the BC Teachers' Federation and the BC Public School Employers' Association: "The parties agreed that they will not engage in public discussion pending further discussions with Mr. Ready."
But there he was Thursday making the rounds with multiple media outlets, talking not only about bargaining issues but actually provoking the BCTF and launching a new $350,000 website that furthers the government's bargaining position.
Before that, Fassbender was criticizing BCTF leaders for attending a membership meeting in Kamloops, saying they should be at the table even though no talks were scheduled.
What 'blackout' means
Let's completely rule out the possibility that Fassbender made an inadvertent mistake in violating the media blackout.
Furthermore -- and I say this as a communications consultant working with unions and a former B.C. Federation of Labour communications director -- nobody in labour relations misunderstands the meaning of the words "media blackout."
For example, here's what the University of New Brunswick posted about a media blackout during negotiations there earlier this year:
"This blackout includes communications via traditional and social media channels and e-communications including this website. We will continue to work toward providing answers to submitted questions and reply once the blackout is lifted," UNB's administration wrote.
The BC Liberal government approach also damaged the fragile relationship between BCTF president Jim Iker and Fassbender-appointed BCPSEA negotiator Peter Cameron just when establishing some trust is most needed.
Cameron, a veteran at bargaining from both the employer and union side of the table, has been put in a terrible position because now Iker must doubt his ability to deliver on what he says in talks -- a critical element in reaching agreement. And both sides acknowledge that the two chief negotiators have been talking privately.
If Cameron's bosses don't honour his word, why would the BCTF believe him, no matter how sincere?
Intentional tactic
But the smartest people in Christy Clark's office think they know better than those with decades of experience.
Only a professional communicator like Fassbender could keep a straight face while delivering lines like this to CKNW's Michael Smyth on Thursday: "I am absolutely respecting the media blackout on details of negotiations."
Fassbender's excuse -- that he has an obligation as minister to talk to media despite the blackout in order to inform parents -- is misleading in the extreme, because Fassbender is the employer spokesperson, the guy who Cameron reports to.
Nothing Fassbender said Friday was new. The government's positions on all issues, including the crazy "pay the parents $40 a day" for kids not going to school scheme, have been public for weeks.
Make no mistake: Fassbender doing interviews wasn't his decision. It was clearly made in the office of Premier Christy Clark.
The premier and her advisors sent Fassbender out to break the media blackout with an intentional plan to either scuttle the talks or, more likely, further demoralize teachers who want to get back to their classrooms.
That dubious tactic will likely backfire, because now whatever happens in negotiations, parents will rightly see the government as having played chicken with their kids' education.
Risking the strike continuing into mid-October is more evidence that the government's real target is teachers and their union, not reaching a negotiated agreement so school starts on time.
It's a no class approach.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Teachers must keep picketing to put pressure on BC government - only a fair agreement with BCTF should bring down picket lines

Teachers in Coquitlam picketing - photo from Amanda Long on Twitter
By Bill Tieleman

Education Minister Peter Fassbender has publicly suggested the BCTF take down teachers' picket lines for a 2-week "cooling off period" while veteran mediator Vince Ready works with the government and BCTF negotiating teams to reach a collective agreement.

Don't do it, is my strong advice to teachers - it's a trap.

I am sure many teachers are running out of cash or into deeper debt without a pay cheque and the thought of some cash in hand is tempting, as well as the enormous pressure from media, parents and students to get school started on time.

But if teachers drop their picket lines and go back to work on September 2, it will lead to a disastrous result.

First, the pressure on the BC Liberal government is then off and it will go back to a hardline, no movement position.

Second, the BCTF will not be able to end negotiations - no matter how bad the government offers and behaviour is at the bargaining table - because it will not be able to get members back onto the picket line, nor will the public support it.

Third, Vince Ready will then put all the pressure on the BCTF to compromise far more than the government.

Don't blame Ready - that's how he and other mediators get deals - by forcing the weaker party to surrender on more and more of their demands until a deal is reached.

No one should think veteran negotiator Peter Cameron, Fassbender or Premier Christy Clark want the 2-week cooling off period to get kids back to school - they want it to get the BCTF into an impossible to get out of corner!

So teachers - don't listen to the media - some of whom are putting out some amazingly uninformed, inexperienced and contrary to all labour relations experience commentary.

It is not "reasonable" to give up the only strength you have to get a negotiated contract - a picket line that stops schools from opening.

Make no mistake, the BCTF will have to make some concessions to get a deal.

But bargaining from a position of strength - not weakness - is the only way to get an acceptable agreement.

As someone who spent 6 years as Director of Communications at the BC Federation of Labour working on many disputes; two years as an Employee Representative at the BC Labour Relations Board; and the past 16 years as a communications and strategy consultant for unions, I speak with experience.

Don't make a huge mistake and listen to the cooling off appeals - get an agreement that works for you as teachers and for your students, then go back to work.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Vancouver Gardens on Arbutus Corridor Railroaded For Greed by CP Rail

Community gardens at West 6th Avenue and Pine Street - note worn out CP Rail sign - new "no trespassing" signs were put in place recently nearby - Bill Tieleman photo
CP Rail removes plots, pressuring the city to pay more for its private land

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday August 19, 2014

By Bill Tieleman

“Great railway corporations are the most dangerous enemies popular government ever had.”
— David Mills, Member of Parliament, 1872
Canadian Pacific Railway is a dirty rotten scoundrel, needlessly destroying people’s harmless gardens in the Arbutus corridor in a greedy drive to pressure Vancouver to buy its railway line land for $100 million.
Clear enough?
Because I’m only getting started. Last week, the company began tearing out the plots tended by local gardeners along its disused line, which will eventually include near Burrard and West 6th.
Let me say that I respect private property rights, and I believe the CP Rail corridor must be retained as a potential future transportation line, not for housing development.
What I don’t respect is the deliberate devastation of up to 350 permitted community gardens along an 11-kilometre ribbon of land through the city – for the sole purpose of forcing Vancouver to pay CP Rail $80 million more than the $20 million offered.
The vicious tactics are calculated to enrage citizens before a municipal election so that Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson feels forced to surrender.
An urban oasis
But the fact is that thousands of Vancouver residents took land CP Rail shamefully neglected since its last train ran in 2001 and turned it into an urban oasis.
No one can walk the abandoned CP Rail lines near Burrard and West 6th Avenue without admiring everything from fig trees to pumpkins – making the city more beautiful.
Robertson, who I support, calls CP Rail “bullies.”
CP spokesperson Breanne Feigel said on the day the removals began: "We're not seeing negotiations have progressed in a positive manner... we need to utilize these assets and unfortunately that's the work we're doing today."
But it's obvious that CP Rail has no plans to run locomotives, or anything else, on the tracks. The company is slashing and burning in order to railroad Vancouver into raising its offer.
At a minimum, the corporation should have left gardeners to finish the season and start reclaiming their property in the late fall.
In comparison, the company was happy to sell Richmond 14.7 acres of CP Rail land along a 3.6 kilometre stretch of old railway track in 2010 for $5 million for public use.
But its Vancouver strategy is based on intimidation, not accommodation with city residents.
Real neighbourly!
Aside from needlessly bulldozing gardens to try and meet their goal, CP Rail is also making another mistake.
It's called public relations. Most companies around the world try to improve their image, donating to charities, sponsoring cancer fundraisers and ensuring residents and politicians see them as good corporate citizens.
Astonishingly, CP Rail claims on its website that: "We do our best to be a reasonable neighbour."
Really? How is bulldozing a neighbour's garden reasonable?
CP Rail continues: "Just as you take care of the things you own, such as your home and yard, CP does the same for our property. We take special care in maintaining our right-of-way -- the area on both sides of our tracks -- and work hard to quickly address any concerns regarding its appearance."
Is cutting the grass and pulling the weeds after 13 years CP Rail's idea of taking special care of its appearance?
Who'll stand up?
Led by cost-cutter American Hunter Harrison, CP Rail's three largest investors are big U.S. hedge funds or financial institutions. Not one of its board of directors comes from B.C.
So don't expect the company to care much about what happens in Vancouver or even Canada.
The fourth largest institutional investor, however, is the Royal Bank of Canada. It spends millions in advertising to keep and win customers here. 
It's time for RBC to publicly say that CP Rail should stop railroading Vancouver and clear-cutting people's gardens.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Justin Trudeau should avoid the "help" of Marc and Jodie Emery to get Liberal Party elected on marijuana legalization

Jodie and Marc Emery
Support from the fickle Prince and Princess of pot could burn the federal Liberal brand, send Trudeau dreams up in smoke

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday August 12, 2014

By Bill Tieleman

"With marijuana being such a big issue, I think I could be a really good spokesperson to defend Justin Trudeau from all the attacks."
- Jodie Emery, marijuana activist and potential federal Liberal candidate
The self-proclaimed "Prince and Princess of Pot" -- marijuana legalization activists Marc and Jodie Emery -- plan to help federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, but that may instead make his chances of becoming prime minister go up in smoke.
Marc Emery is scheduled to get out of a Louisiana jail and return to Canada today after a stiff five-year sentence for dealing marijuana seeds into America by mail.
Meanwhile, Jodie Emery anxiously awaits word from a Liberal Party of Canada, ahem, "green light" committee on whether she can run for Trudeau's team in the Vancouver East riding against veteran New Democrat MP Libby Davies, herself a champion of decriminalization for years.
The Emerys also announced they will exact "political revenge" on Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper by touring across Canada, urging voters to support Trudeau in the 2015 election because he promises to legalize marijuana.
But Trudeau should immediately distance him from the Emerys and their "joint" campaign. Why? Because they're one-trick ponies on the single issue of marijuana, and regularly change political stables to further their cause without any loyalty whatsoever to either the party or its leader.
They've backed the Marijuana Party, the NDP and the Greens, but now it's the Liberals.
Libs were burned before
Helpful? Last year Justin Trudeau said Marc Emery was "flat out lying" about claims he had smoked marijuana with Justin four or five times on several different occasions.
"I've never done it except with people I know and trust. And Marc Emery was someone I met but certainly not someone I ever thought of smoking with," Trudeau said in Aug. 2013. "I only met Marc Emery once in my life, so that's a lot of smoking with him that I apparently did."
Emery publicly apologized last year, but still claims he smoked up with Trudeau on one occasion. Trudeau continues to deny it.
In 2008, Emery reportedly claimed he struck a deal with the late New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton to bring Marijuana Party members and pro-pot supporters to the NDP and offer up candidates to help with an NDP promise to decriminalize the drug.
But the NDP wasn't inhaling, saying Emery's statements were "pure fantasy."
Then-Layton spokesman Brad Lavigne said: "The New Democratic Party has made no such deal with any other party or with any individual... This is nonsense, absolute nonsense."
Layton himself later denied the allegations. "There never was any kind of a deal. There was no commitment, no relationship," he said, while noting the party had favoured decriminalization for years and was asked about it in the 2004 and 2006 elections.
Emery's comments about Trudeau were nasty, since he denounced the MP for voting for Bill C-15, which would have imposed mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences, including marijuana.
Emery said in a 2009 video because Trudeau "smoked with me four or five times" that "it really pisses me off when I see Justin Trudeau, who took big gaggers with me, is in Parliament actually voting for Bill C-15. What a fucking hypocrite."
All of which makes one question Jodie Emery's candidacy, given Trudeau thinks her husband lied about him in a way that hurt Liberals.
Inconsistent, except on cannabis
What's more, Jodie is anything but consistent politically, other than campaigning for cannabis.
She twice ran for the Green Party provincially. In 2013 in Vancouver-West End, she placed third behind winner New Democrat MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert and BC Liberal Scott Harrison.
In 2009, she came in third in Vancouver-Fraserview, losing to BC Liberal Kash Heed in a contest where Elections BC later fined Heed's campaign $8,000 for overspending but did not order a byelection. Emery's 904 votes were greater than the margin New Democrat candidate Gabriel Yiu lost by to Heed.
She also ran twice for the B.C. Marijuana Party in 2005 and a 2008 byelection.
While Marc Emery was indeed shafted when the federal Conservative government extradited him to a tough prison sentence in the U.S. rather than charge him in Canada, Emery knew all along he was poking a stick at a tiger and aiming for marijuana martyrdom.
Canadians would be outraged if the U.S. refused to extradite an American illegally mailing drugs or guns into our country. Emery, however, sees himself as a faultless hero.
"This is an epic struggle between good and evil. You couldn't pick a more virtuous person to go up against evil," Emery said of himself before being extradited.
Despite supporting the NDP, Greens and now Liberals at various points, Emery identifies most closely as a right-wing libertarian, not a social democrat.
"My mentor is Ayn Rand," he told The Georgia Straight in 2007, talking about the author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
The Emerys can make one claim that won't be disputed. Their efforts and those of thousands of others have begun a process of marijuana legalization in the United States, starting in Washington and Colorado States, and likely Canada in the future.

But their self-promotional and dubious approach isn't one any party should accept.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Like Captain Ahab Pursuing Moby-Dick, Christy Clark's Harpooning of BC Schools Continues With Crazy Plan to Pay Parents

Fantastic adaptation of Moby-Dick movie poster sent by a reader! 
In senselessly spending strike savings, it's clear Clark is channeling Captain Ahab.

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver / The Tyee column

Tuesday August 5, 2014

By Bill Tieleman

"Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee." –
- Captain Ahab in Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, 1851
For Premier Christy Clark, the BC Teachers' Federation has become Moby-Dick, the object of hatred to be pursued to the ends of the earth.
Clark has become Captain Ahab, driven mad in her desire to destroy the union version of the white whale.
That became apparent last week when the BC Liberal government announced what is a truly crazy plan -- to pay parents of students $40 a day if the union strike continues into September.
Crazy, because it makes no sense.
Clark's scheme would instantly dispose of the estimated $12 million in daily savings from the strike without putting a penny into improving public education.
What's worse, while the government claimed the money is for "child care" for students under 13 years old, there is no requirement that parents spend it on child care -- nor is there child care available to be had, and certainly not for $40 a day.
The move infuriated the union, which it was highly calculated to do.
BCTF president Jim Iker dismissed the government move as "a blatant and divisive attempt to prolong disruption in B.C. schools."
It shows the premier's unhealthy obsession with harpooning teachers instead of solving the serious underfunding problems in our schools.
Where is Starbuck?
In this whale tale, there is no BC Liberal Starbuck -- Captain Ahab's first mate who cautioned against chasing Moby-Dick.
If there was, perhaps Clark would realize the folly of her mission.
Remove the union from the equation, and consider whether the government would compensate oil companies if First Nations took legal action that delayed pipeline construction or drilling plans. Not a chance.
Would Clark pay $12 million a day to patients to receive treatment in the United States if B.C. doctors legally withdrew their services in a fee dispute? No way.
The BCTF is taking legal strike action, as is its right, but the BC Liberals are giving away allocated education dollars.
The reason this borders on insane is because the B.C. government is appealing a B.C. Supreme Court decision that ruled it must restore class size and composition limits negotiated by the union.
If the government loses again, it will be forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on more teachers and resources in our schools.
Where will it get that money if all strike savings are spent? You guessed it -- from taxpayers.
If the teachers are on picket lines for two weeks in September, forcing the government to raise wages and benefits more than it wants, the strike savings money that could have paid for it will have already disappeared.
An ill-fated voyage
Captain Ahab asked a passing ship as he began his demented pursuit: "Hast thou seen the white whale?"
Yes, indeed we have -- and a battle with it will not end well.
The solution is obvious: negotiate a fair agreement with teachers this month and put the dispute behind you.

But so long as Christy Clark channels Captain Ahab, this ill-fated voyage continues.