Dash for Cash

This page has had some difficulty lately in being able to contact human resources personnel from major public sector employers for routine business. It appears that most, if not all, are busy with bargaining, as a result of the government's mandate to establish labour peace during the run-up to the 2010 Olympics.

Several contracts with BCGSEU, CUPE, HEU, BCNU, and others will expire on March 31. To accelerate the bargaining process, Employers Associations have been mandated to offer substantial signing bonus to unions in exchange for long-term (i.e. five year) agreements by the end of the month. The response from public sector unions has been mixed: some are putting their own feet on the bargaining gas pedal, while some are applying the brakes with a strike vote.

It's a widely accepted rule for working in the public sector that one takes in a little less money in exchange for a little more job security. Perhaps if Gordon Campbell hadn't tampered with this unwritten social contract through the P3 debacles, beating workers into submission with back-to-work legislation, and arbitrary, mean-spirited attacks like Bill 29, one might actually believe that the large orange stick he's wielding is really a carrot. Really, is there any point to signing a long-term agreement with a government employer when the government has a history of ripping up agreements it no longer finds convenient?

Those Unions who are speeding up to cash in before March 31 are advised by this page to slow down and take a good look at what's happening. A signing bonus is one thing, still having members around to get a signing bonus is another.


Olympic Retort IV: The End is the Beginning

This page attended yesterday's downtown rally to watch the closing ceremonies and the handover of the Olympic flag to Mayor Sam 'The Big Wheel' Sullivan. Italian sausage, pasta and pizza were served to simulate the Torino experience. A couple of bands played. Walnut Boat got to fire off a few rounds from a biathlon rifle. Much cheering, crying, and banging of those inflatable plastic thundersticks.

Now the real fun begins....or ends: If one takes a look at the plans for the entire local and regional public sector, pretty much everything has a 'best before' date of February 12, 2010 stamped on it. Given there will be a provincial election (2009), municipal elections (2008), and three or four federal elections before the torch is lit at BC Place Stadium, won't we be looking for a little more vision beyond the night of February 28 when that flame is extinguished?

We have heard that these are Vancouver's games, BC's games, Canada's games...but will they really be that way? Are these really are 'our' games if some of us can't afford to live here while City Hall takes away social housing? Are these 'our' games when organizers refuse to reach an agreement with local building trade unions and look to cheap foreign labour instead? If the powers that be refuse to answer those kind of questions, the elections that take place before 2010 might be needed to keep Vancouver's Olympic experience from going sour.


Olympic Retort, Part III

The 2-0 loss by Team Canada to the Russians doesn't really say anything more than this: the only league where champions can be assembled on short notice, and repeatedly save the day, is the Justice League. Once the Russians knew that their manager Pavel Bure was not going to let Viktor Tikonhov (who ran the Soviet teams like a gulag) anywhere near them, they were winners already. The Canadians never needed anyone to second-guess, harass, and intimidate them: it's why this country has so many talking heads and sportswriters.

It was brave of Cindy Klassen to come out just before winning the women's 1500m....as a Winnipegger. Remember in 1980 when Gatean Boucher won two gold medals at Lake Placid, and Rene Levesque sniping at Pierre Trudeau, "Quebec 2, Canada 0"? If Ralph Klein ever starts pulling that, the rest of us are screwed. Pretty much the entire Olympic team seems to come from Calgary, and the local media loves to draw little cowboy hats on the ones who just train there.

The Gushue rink's 11-5 win over the U.S. guarantees Canada 19 medals, this country's best ever result in the Winter Games. Don over at RevMod knows waaaaaaaaaay more about Curling than this page, but if there's a sport that deserves its surprising ascent of popularity, this would be it. Much of the U.S. coverage of the Games refers to events like boardercross or short-track speed skating as "NASCAR on snow, or NASCAR on ice". This page enjoys those events, but also has an editorial policy of "F**K NASCAR", and Curling is about as far from NASCAR as one can get.

Chandra Crawford wins a gold medal in the cross-country skiing sprint with a time of 2 minutes, 12.3 seconds. Given that it took over a year for Beckie Scott to get her gold medal from the 2002 games, it's great to see a Canadian athlete shave a few months off that mark.


Olympic Retort, Part II

More notes from (my living room where the TV is tuned into the Games from) Torino:

-This page stands corrected from last week, as women's hockey is now three fingers competitive. NBC's Cammie Granato could barely choke down her bitterness during the Gold Medal game, accusing Canada of winning a "hollow victory" over a surprising Team Sweden. For those of you scoring at home, Granato was the same poor sport on the ice as she is in the broadcast booth. During the U.S. run to the inaugural women's hockey gold medal in 1998, 'Classy' Cammie scored a goal, then trash-talked a Canadian player who had recently lost her father with the words "Dedicate THAT to your Dad!" If Granato plans to be behind the mic for NBC in 2010, she might want to talk the network about getting dental...

-A few years ago, this page had the misfortune of being at the Santa Claus Parade in Calgary, where a mother was persistently chastising her children, Dakota, Nevada, and Sierra, for not behaving. This page is grateful to be long removed from a city where it's acceptable to name your children after sport utility vehicles. However, after the men's Skeleton competition, I'm hoping that Calgary's future parents consider giving their kids a name like 'Duff' - part firefighter, part champion daredevil, and one solid syllable. What's not to like?

-Much has been made about the Norwegian coach who handed a ski pole to Canada's Sara Renner after hers broke during the Women's Cross-Country Skiing Team Spring, in which Renner and Beckie Scott won a silver medal, and how this coach acted in the true Olympic spirit. Anyone who knows anything about the true (read: ancient) Olympic games can't help but snicker at such a notion. The 'true' Olympians tried to win at all costs in events such as the Pankration, where competitors boxed, wrestled, kicked, bit, choked, and killed (yes, killed) each other. By comparison, today's Ultimate Fighting is pretty much a day at the spa with the girls. If this Norwegian ski coach wanted to reflect the 'true' Olympic spirit, he would have used the ski pole to stab Renner enough times to give his team a shot at the podium.


Hacking China

While Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and Cisco Systems gutlessly adhere to the dictates of Beijing to gather market share in China, at least one one internet entrepreneur in the Pacific Northwest is working to give the Chinese people real access to the internet.

If Bennett Haselton ever goes public, put this page down for a few shares. Freedom, democracy, and and human rights may not be high-tech stocks, but they are far sounder investments than the deal with the Communist Devils being struck by the high-tech high rollers.


You read it here first

Yesterday's Speech from the Throne showed the BC Lieberals delivering more of the same: more blowing of sunshine up BC's collective ass (complete with new mascot, which this page was using first), more gadget funding for education (without resolving critical issues like class sizes), and more f**king with public health care.

The Lieberals have already sent two very different messages on their plans:
1. Any new legislation will be consistent with the Canada Health Act, and
2. Gordon Campbell wants to lead a national debate about changes to the Canada Health Act

The Premier believes he can have it both ways, because he wants to have a "conversation" with British Columbians about health care. Based on our experience watching frontline care in Vancouver hospitals disintegrate under Bill 29, the P3 misadventures with Fraser Valley Hospitals, and having no idea where St. Paul's Hospital will be in four years, maybe the Liberals should be providing some straight answers before they start asking questions about the future of Medicare in British Columbia.

Based on this page's experience with Bill 11 under the Klein regime in Alberta, I can predict with ample certainty how the 'consultations' will go: Hand-picked mouthpieces from the Vancouver Board of Trade and the Fraser Institute will tell anyone (who managed to make a meeting called on 24 hours notice) that government spending on health care takes up an ever increasing proportion of the budget, and is therefore unsustainable.

These carpetbagging corporate whores will dutifully ignore that reduced spending on education, social services, the environment, etc. increases health care's share of the overall budget. The Canwest/Global media cabal will report their musings as the Gospel Truth, complete with teary-eyed accounts of people on waiting lists to manipulate their audience into demanding privatization. Anyone who points out any points of fact such as increased costs in a private system due to the need to generate profits, higher overhead, and legal/liability issues will be categorically dismissed as a 'special interest' and told to shut the f**k up and go back to the HEU, BCNU, HSA, BC FED, or the NDP.

Don't say I didn't warn you...


That Was Wonderland

CBC Television has announced the cancellation of the critically acclaimed dramas Da Vinci's City Hall and This is Wonderland. For those of you scoring at home, this page never watched Da Vinci. The Art imitates Life element in the series never really grabbed me. The show jumped the shark right after the episode where Da Vinci tells the Bus Riders Union to go f**k themselves and then gets appointed to the Senate.

However, this page very much enjoyed This is Wonderland. Some of you who are regulars to this page know that this page has struggled with mental illness for some time. Those of you who didn't know probably could have guessed by this page's tendency to slide into sarcasm, profanity, and fits of self-righteousness. This is Wonderland is the first TV series I've seen that shows the Mentally Ill as people who need to be understood and assisted, not pitied and patronized. In fact, 'Wonderland' is the only series I've seen that has a practicing psychotherapist among its recurring cast members.

It's also the first TV series that allowed that gave audiences an honest look life in Urban Canada: a world that this country's smug, holier-than-thou baby-boomers see nothing of from the windows of their SUV's as they bitch along in traffic on our overcrowded expressways . The much-revered 'Corner Gas' doesn't talk about things like mental health, addiction, prostitution, poverty, or the lack of grocery stores in the inner city. That's not to say it's bad television: it's damn good, funny television, I'm just not sure that I'm laughing with or at the good people of Dog River. Remember, the show's creator, Brent Butt, is a no-good big city stand-up comic from Vancouver.

There needs to be drama on the small screen that talks about important issues in such remote corners of Canada as Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. You know, the people that told Stephen Harper and the Conservatives to go f**k themselves in the election a few weeks ago because we didn't vote for them. The CBC cites low ratings as the reason for canceling 'Wonderland' and 'Da Vinci', but this page calls, to use a popular term in the new government caucus, bullsh*t. The reason these shows were cancelled is because the CBC's new political masters must be soothed for the imminent reckoning over the network's budget, and what is more soothing than making stories and characters that make Myron Thompson and Stockwell Day squirm simply go away?

George F. Walker, Cara Pifko, Michael Riley, Michael Murphy et al...take a bow for saving some of us from commodified crap like Canadian Idol and showing the has-beens with the Royal Canadian Air Farce the true meaning of wit. You will be missed, at least until all the episodes are out on DVD.


Olympic Retort

Highlights from the first few days of competition in Torino:

-PA announcer at women's moguls inadvertently refers to gold medalist Jennifer Heil of Spruce Grove, Alberta as "representing the United States of America". Of course, one needed to have the TV turned up pretty loud to hear it, so mouth-breathing nationalists should take a deep one. Don may need to put up the gaffe-o-meter for the next couple of weeks. It could have been worse - someone may have referred to her as a resident of Stony Plain*.

-Baseball gets kicked out of the Olympic program because the IOC believes that only a handful of countries (Japan, Korea, Cuba, the Dominican Republic., the U.S., Canada, Taiwan) are competitive. Women's hockey has been in since 1998, and only two Canadian and American fingers have ever been competitive.

-Given the results of the Men's Downhill, the U.S. Ski Team will be facing a lot of tough questions about not giving Bode Miller enough to drink.

-Dick Cheney is disqualified from the biathlon.

*That's really funny if you know your small town Alberta geography.


Cartoon violence is stupid. So is republishing the cartoons.

The controversy surrounding the reaction to the reprinting of Muhammad cartoons originally published Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten last fall has this page bewildered. It's not so much that Muslims are undeniably upset, I don't think Islam receives the respect it deserves from Western governments and the media, and it's not like there's been any real effort from the West to build an understanding beyond the ignorant post-9/11 bleating of "Why do they hate us?". For what it's worth, I found Tariq Ali's Clash of the Fundamentalisms to be a good starting point.

What I don't get is that publications insist on reprinting these cartoons to prove how committed they are to free speech. It's an important ideal, but it's an ideal which has precipitated the deaths of 15 people and counting. Last year's riots around Paris and this year's violent demonstrations illustrate that Europe is simply not prepared to accommodate new immigrants nor their cultural traditions, and it appears any lessons from North America about building a culturally diverse society are being ignored. The U.S. constitution promises life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...in that order.

The right of a publisher to deliberately piss off thousands of culturally shocked Muslims is trumped by the right of society in transition to grab a little stability. Anyone who feels that the angry Muslim reaction proves the Danish newspaper right is welcome to join me for a tour of the site of the Winter Olympics........of 2002: Salt Lake City. You will however, be required to wear a T-shirt depicting Joseph Smith as a sodomizing pedophile strung out on crystal meth.

Aw, c'mon...people can't be THAT upset...it's for science...


Hockey lets it ride

New Jersey State Police have charged Phoenix Coyotes Associate Coach Rick Tocchet for financing a gambling ring, and implicated six current NHL players plus Janet Gretzky for wagering in it.

Those of you who follow this page on a regular basis know that my primary sporting allegiance is to Major League Baseball, not the NHL. Baseball invented the gambling scandal in 1919 when Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series. Pete Rose held the Major League record for career hits, but his spot in the Hall of Fame was rubbed out when it was discovered he was betting on his own team. The actions of Tocchet and Co., from the initial reports, pale by comparison. If the NHL wants to be taken seriously in the U.S. media market, they need to do a better job at sullying their reputation.

That isn't to say that Gary Bettman and the league's Board of Governors should not be taking this incident seriously, and also taking a good look in the mirror. The only hypocrisy sports media has offered is the fact that the charges against Tocchet broke during NHL meetings in Las Vegas. Allow this page to point out that for any 'concerns' about gambling coming out of the league office, the NHL has no problem with having their games on government-run sports lotteries like SportsSelect or SportsAction, allows the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks to run their own lotteries, and thinks Isle of Capri Casino is a good partner for the Pittsburgh Penguins to build an arena with.


Explaining Emerson

Political observers outside of British Columbia may be surprised if not shocked by the defection of Vancouver-Kingsway MP David Emerson to join Stephen Harper's Conservative cabinet. However, this page withholds the right of those within BC to a similar reaction, because it's obvious they haven't been paying close enough attention.

Unlike the rest of Canada (and Alberta's one-party oligarchy) BC has a highly polarized two-party system: one for the rich, and the NDP. This polarization stems from the anti-communist hysteria that old money and the capitalist ruling class used to tarnish organized labour and the emerging Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in the 1920's. The first gathering of the right wing clans took place at the civic level in Vancouver in 1925 when Liberals and Conservatives formed the Non-Partisan Association for the sole purpose of stopping the Socialist barbarians at the gates.

Give or take the exercises in pragmatism of a W.A.C. Bennett (like BC Hydro) or a Mike Harcourt (like welfare reform), the history of BC politics is business vs. labour, not Liberals vs. Conservatives. When the NDP reduced Social Credit to smoking cinder in 1991, the bosses grabbed their expense accounts and jumped ship to the resurgent BC Liberals. A palace coup was staged to dump moderate Gordon Wilson and install Vancouver NPA Mayor and Board of Trade mouthpiece Gordon Campbell.

As CEO of Canfor, David Emerson was one of Gordon Campbell's biggest cheerleaders, leading the Premier to appoint him to the Board of Directors at BC Ferries. Emerson's tenure saw failed experiments in privatization, outright hostility towards ferry workers and subsequent labour unrest, plus the betrayal of local shipbuilders when he opted to have the newest additions to the fleet built in Germany. With that kind of record, it's no wonder that Paulie Pockets tagged him as a star candidate for Vancouver-Kingsway in 2004: It takes a lying, corrupt sack o' sh*t to know one.

From Emerson's perspective, there is no difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives because in British Columbia, there is no difference. Conservatives like Kevin Falcon and Liberals like Carole Taylor sit side by side in the caucus room, scheming to keep the unions down and the socialists out, just like their Socred ancestors did. Emerson has no more problem with saying he would be "the Conservative Party's worst nightmare" on January 23 than his political mentor Gordon Campbell had in saying "I don't believe in tearing up collective agreements"" in November of 2000.


That's just wrong.

This page can admit his mistake in picking the Seahawks yesterday. Can Pierce County judge Beverly Grant admit her Super Bowl error in judgment?

Speaking of errors in judgment, how about the 'strategic' voters in Vancouver-Kingsway, who voted for David Emerson instead of Ian Waddel out of fear of being one seat closer to a Conservative majority?

While we're at it, what about Vancouver's 2010 Olympic organizers, who refused to sign a partnership agreement in the belief that shutting out BC unions would keep construction costs down?

Don't shake your head too hard - it hurts after a while. Where's Dan Quayle when you need him?


That's just super.

Super Bowl XL kicks off Sunday afternoon in Detroit, where the Pittsburgh Steelers will be pitted against the Seattle Seahawks. This page finds this year's game a little more interesting in that I've actually bought tickets to see the 'Hawks at Paul Allen's taxpayer-subsidized gargantuan gridiron chapel. Meanwhile, the Alaskan Way Viaduct leading to Qwest Field still hasn't been fixed from the last earthquake, and the Seattle School Board tries to figure out which schools can be closed. One can imagine how the locals in (Dammit, I need some Mo)town, coping with recent layoffs at the big three automakers and continuing urban decay, feel about the parade of corporate 'VIPs' shoving to the front of the line this week.

The NFL likes to refer to the Super Bowl as a world championship. Unlike baseball, basketball, or hockey, all 32 NFL teams are based in the U.S., and unlike the other three major sports where names like Ichiro, Yao, or Jaromir are common, there are virtually no non-Americans in the NFL. However, there was an actual football world championship (i.e. one with teams from outside the U.S.) in the Detroit area this week, and guess who won?

Commercial excess and the most patriotic displays this side of Leni Riefenstahl aside, I'll still be watching on Sunday because dammit, I likes my football. For those of you scoring at home, The Bear 604 Show has successfully predicted the outcome of every Super Bowl in its history (this page's history, not the Super Bowl, which predates the internet and me). Anyway, Seattle proved against the Redskins they're not a one-dimensional team, and Pittsburgh's been punching above their weight for weeks: take the Seahawks against the spread.


It's the driving, Stupid.

Premier Campbell and Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon re-announced The Gateway Project yesterday, pounding another nail into the GVRD's Liveable Region Strategy. Rather than developing a long-range transportation plan that accounts for social, economic, and environmental factors, Kevin Falcon opted to just keep going down on the BC Trucking Association and the BC Auto Dealers Association, both groups proud supporters of the BC Liberals.

The end result is a $3 billion dollars worth of roads, roads, and more roads, with "room" for transit buses on the new Port Mann Bridge (no dedicated transit lane, just "room"). The RAV Line and Coquitlam LRT were thrown into the package, just to make the car fetish look a little less unseemly. If the Liberals are so concerned about congestion, what about rapid transit along the Broadway Corridor to UBC, easily the busiest transit corridor in the Lower Mainland?

This page could care less that Greater Vancouver only had 900,000 residents when the Port Mann Bridge was built in 1964. Fourty-two years ago, there was a hell of lot more oil and the hole in the ozone layer was a lot smaller. The Transportation Ministry has a responsibility to move people and move goods, not to subsidize suburbanites addiction to fossil fuels. Force these people out of their cars, and a lot more space opens up on the roads to get those trucks moving. For those of you whining "but I need my car", if you have convenient public transit in your area, why do you need your car? If you don't have the transit service you need, neither do your neighbours, so maybe you should get together to elect someone who will provide that service.

Before Gordon Campbell turned into a Pavement Premier, he served on Vancouver City Council with one Gordon Price, who was a strong advocate for public transit and cycling. When it came to balancing those transportation options with driving, Price remarked "Congestion is our friend." Congestion has been enough of a friend to allow for extensive greenways and bikeways throughout the Lower Mainland. Congestion created densely populated and vibrant neighbourhoods in Yaletown and the West End. Congestion gave us the U-Pass and the Employer Transit Program.

Congestion is a friend being stabbed in the back by the Gateway Project. This page won't hide his disappointment that billions of dollars in P3 overruns and our quality of life are going to be flushed for car-driven idiots who refuse to get on the road a little earlier or be bothered to read a bus schedule.