PC Government deserves a ZERO for not doing their job

Sometimes, it’s difficult to be a PC supporter.  Reading stories about rampant corruption within our healthcare system are hard to stomach, especially considering the sub-par care my mother received in her dying days only a few years ago.  It took 3 months of doctor appointments (in her last 6 months of life) to get a diagnosis in our monopolistic system, yet when we flew to the US and paid for a diagnosis in a private clinic we got the diagnosis in 1 day.  After she was diagnosed here in Canada, our shitty healthcare system failed to provide her with homecare; somebody forgot to order it for her.  She died in emergency because there wasn’t enough space in the hospital for her.  It was a horrendous experience that left me very upset.

But I didn’t blame the PC government for that.  I understand that MLAs don’t run the healthcare system and I don’t think it’s a good idea for them to.  The healthcare system should be run by health professionals, which for the most part, it is in Alberta.

It is the job of MLAs and Ministers to broadly oversee the system and to make adjustments when those who run the system day to day make mistakes.  This is why Premier Redford took decisive action when the Merali story broke and why she is implementing more transparency in the way government officials report expenses.

The no zero policy story, which concluded yesterday with the firing of a high school teacher with 30+ years of experience is something I can’t believe our elected officials would allow to happen.  The Redford Government deserves a zero for not stepping in to stop this.

I agree that our Education Minister should not get involved in the day to day decisions made within our education system.  We have Trustees, Superintendents and other education professionals who are better suited to run our system at the local level.

But firing a teacher for giving HIGH SCHOOL students who don’t complete assignments zeros is far more offensive and egregious than any story of corruption or misuse of public dollars.  And the fact that Alberta’s Education Minister is not planning to step in to correct this is shocking and unacceptable.

The no zero issue is about far more than a teacher who isn’t following policies or a local firing decision as the Minister has suggested. It’s about teaching values and principles.  In a province where small business is the backbone of our economy and where our big businesses are global leaders, the values we teach with a no zeros policy is unacceptable.  Failing is one of the most important components of success and teaching our future leaders about consequences is one of the best ways we can prepare them for the competitive and cruel world.

Like I previously said, it’s the job of MLAs and Ministers to broadly oversee the system and to make adjustments when those who run the system day to day make mistakes.  A man lost his income because he would not follow the offensive no zero policy and the PC Government needs to make this right, just like they did recently regarding the expense claims of health officials.

Otherwise Albertans might decide to teach them that there are, in fact, consequences for not doing their work.

PP

A PC Party Make Work Project

I am a card carrying PC – you know that – and most of you know I’ve been one for years. I’ve held plenty of positions within the Party including my most recent stint as the Deputy Campaign Manager during the general election. I love my Party. I’m dedicated to its principles and core values. I’m a true Progressive Conservative.

Many of you will also remember that I am a true champion for #changefromwithin in the PC Party. What does this mean? It means renewal. It means doing things differently to ensure everyone is engaged – and by everyone I’m including brand spanking new PCs. #changefromwithin means communicating and including. It means transparency and ensuring there is a seat at the table for all PC Party members before a decision is made and a motion is passed.

I volunteered (along with @ppilarski) as Alison Redford’s GOTV Chair on her leadership campaign because I believe she was the healthy change this party needed. I took a leave of absence from my day job during the campaign to work on the PC campaign’s core team. Proud accomplishments of mine for many reasons – including the fact that I saw #changefromwithin become a reality in both circumstances. I remain a proud PC because of our strong leader and our strong roster of true, PC candidates that were elected this past April.

Do I like what Premier Redford is doing in Alberta? You bet! Family Care Clinics, public consultation, long term plans, quick action on previously ignored files (like Highway 63), no fear in doing things differently … all things I’m proud of. All things I believe represent a modern day Alberta and modern day Albertans. Changes necessary to move our province forward.

Do I believe #changefromwithin is alive and well in our Party? It’s getting there … but the fight is not over.

The PC Party’s latest “make work” project is the perfect example of my continued frustration over the Party’s focus.

Formal documentation of our Party’s political roots? What?! This sounds like a good MA thesis for a passionate young conservative … not a project you pay a consultant to do. Maybe a cool project for the PCYA wing of our Party as well not something we spend resources on. Let’s practice fiscal responsibility.

Did we not just fight the hardest election battle since 1993 in this province? We were victorious but we have plenty of lessons to learn as a Party that shouldn’t include prioritizing the documentation of our history.

What does need to be documented?
How about a debrief from the election campaign that involves all stakeholders and constituencies? Let’s learn the lessons of our political battles from the people who were on the frontlines of the campaign. Priorities should be already preparing for the next election, considering a four year strategy and learning from the mistakes of the past 4 years. Now, I expect the powers that be will tell me that they ARE doing these things. That’s wonderful – but if no one knows about it then does it really matter? Are you operating in your silos (something Redford has been passionate about breaking down in government)? Are you engaging your membership (all those campaign managers, cluster coaches, regional desks?)? How can you expect to strategize if you aren’t including the membership who fought the battle?

Now you’ll say “but Christina, they are engaging members in this project”. Let’s engage members by asking how to be battle ready and how to better represent the people of this province … and communicate that we actually are. Let’s ask them for a debrief of the election this year. Let’s engage them in fundraising, membership drives, etc. And what about engaging the thousands of new PCs our party gained after the leadership and after the 2012 election – this latest project is certainly not one they can buy into. Finally, let’s engage the PCYA in this project if it is really deemed as something that needs to be completed in the interim.

I’m disappointed. Not because we are documenting our history and asking members to get involved. I too have warm and fuzzy stories I can add to the collection – stories I’m proud of and stories that have kept me engaged as a member. I’m disappointed that this project has taken center stage and is what the party is currently highlighting.

What about the governance review? What about constitutional review? What about fundraising (some boards are in major need of support after the election)? What about board support (new MLAs, new volunteers that need backing … not to mention some serious communication breakdowns that need to be addressed in a number of boards across this province)? What about connecting the various constituency association executives so we can start collaborating? What about learning to communicate as an association – not just sharing what government is doing? Or just communicating in general?

I’m angry – I’m ranting. But most importantly I’m still waiting for #changefromwithin in the PCAA.

Because by pushing out make work projects we continually show Albertans we aren’t listening as a Party.

The leader (I’m so very proud to support) and our (capable, smart, next generation) caucus members need to stand up and get the PCAA train back on the tracks. Another 40 years is ours … but only if we learn from past mistakes and move Alberta into the future – not spend our resources and money on documenting the past and further glorifying it.

Take a step back – what do you think the average Albertan cares about? Long term planning or a historical document of how great we used to be? I stand by Premier Redford because she campaigned on stable, long term planning for our province – let’s take a hint and do the same for the party. Remember when the tables turned in the election – when Albertans started to realize Wildrose wanted to move Alberta backwards and that the PCs were capable of moving Alberta forwards. Let’s not lose that mandate. You may remember a few of my tweets during the election … “never trust a party that offers you the past” …

Thank goodness government is listening – hoping for a trickledown effect asap.

And, yes, these are qualities I will be looking for in the next PC President. The race is on. Who represents the face of #changefromwithin?

CR

Canada’s Building Trade Unions Support is Suspicious

Canada’s Building Trades Unions (BTU) came out publically the other day supporting the Government of Canada’s decision to allow the reversal of Enbridge Line 9 between Hamilton and Sarnia.  In their release, Director of Canadian Affairs, Robert Blakely, says that they work with energy producers on a daily basis to ensure that Canada’s energy projects “achieve all of their potential” and that “it’s refreshing to have a federal government that also grasps this economic reality.”  Blakley goes on to say that “with measures like an improved regulatory process, their commitment to apprenticeship and now this – the Harper Government is demonstrating its knowledge of, and commitment to, our industry.”

Taken at face value, such strong support of Prime Minister Harper’s Government and policies are no doubt helpful to the Prime Minister and to the energy industry as a whole.  Had the BTU sent this news release and focused only on the great nation building work of Prime Minister Harper, the BTU would have come across genuinely.

Instead they went on to express their concern about the “unintended, negative consequences of Bill C-377, which endangers the ability of Canadian workers to participate in large scale nation building energy and resource projects”

WHAT???  How??? Huh???

Bill C-377 is a federal Private Members Bill that would require unions to make public their finances, including assets, liabilities, expenses, and salaries of officials.  It’s a necessary piece of legislation in a world that is becoming increasingly open and transparent.

In his news release, Blakely goes as far as threatening that if Harper’s government moves forward with Bill C-377 it will “add considerable costs to the bottom line of large-scale energy projects” while at the same time stating the legislation would actually “duplicate processes that are already in place to provide accountability and transparency”.

If unions already have systems in place to provide accountability and transparency then they will be able to comply with Bill C-377 with little or no additional cost.  You can’t say on the one hand that you already provide full financial disclosure to members and on the other that it would cost you a fortune to provide public financial disclosure.  There is no logic to that argument.  It simply doesn’t make sense.  We know, for example, that when the US brought in union disclosure legislation the cost of compliance to unions was nominal.

Blakely also states that building trade unions are private sector unions and that “unlike charities and political parties, they (we) receive no public sector subsidies”.  The fact of the matter is, however, that unions enjoy special status under our tax laws and receive approximately $400 million worth of tax benefits every year.  Furthermore, union dues are mandatory which means that unions effectively have the ability to tax their members without any requirements to be transparent or accountable.

When Bill C-377 was first introduced, Blakely and friends complained that the Harper Government was unfairly targeting unions with this legislation.  Given that the government has required charities and first nations governments to be more transparent, these arguments have fallen on deaf ears.  Their new argument that they receive no public subsidies is also full of holes given their unique tax status and the mandatory nature of union dues collection.

Canada is far behind many other developed countries when it comes to both union financial disclosure and the ability of workers to opt out of all of some of their union dues.  Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Ireland, the U.K. and the U.S. all have some form of union financial disclosure.  Furthermore, in Canada MPs, Senators, Minister’s offices, provincial politicians and their staff, federal and provincial departments, First Nations Governments, charities and foundations, crown corporations and publically traded companies are all subject to some form of financial disclosure and transparency requirements.

So why are the building trade unions essentially threatening large scale industrial project cost escalation and an endangerment of the “ability of Canadian workers to participate in large-scale nation building energy and resource projects”?

What do big union bosses REALLY have to hide??

Until unions are subject to financial disclosure legislation, we will never really know.

What we do know is that the USA has had union financial disclosure legislation in place since 1959 and it has led to thousands of fraud convictions.  In fact, from 2001-2008, the US labor department secured more than 1,000 union fraud-related indictments and 929 convictions.

We also know that several unions provide funding and support to oil sands opponents, such as the Sierra Club (CAW, Nova Scotia Nurses Union), Environmental Defence (United Steelworkers), Parkland Institute (Canadian Union of Public Employees), the Rideau Institute (CUPE), the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CUPE, CEP), the David Suzuki Foundation (B.C. Teacher’s Federation) and the Council of Canadians (CUPE, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Hospital Employees’ Union, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, Confederation of Canadian Unions, Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, CAW, Pulp and Paper and Woodworkers of Canada, COPE, B.C. Teachers’ Federation, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers).  But we often only know about this funding because the recipients, not the unions, report it.

Over the summer, one Federal MP told me that she has never been lobbied as much as she is being lobbied by organized labour against Bill C-377.  Clearly, organized labour has chosen union financial disclosure as their preverbal hill to die on.

One has to wonder why …

It’s great that the Building Trade Unions support Prime Minister Harper’s direction on energy development and its great they believe he is moving forward with great nation building policies.  I support Prime Minister Harper’s approach as well and so does the open shop construction community, which actually represents the vast majority of construction workers in Canada.

But to tie the issues of energy development and union financial disclosure together in the same media release is dishonest and, quite frankly, embarrassing.

Canadian unions should embrace financial disclosure requirements.  And they shouldn’t tie their support for energy development to the desire of Canadians to have greater union financial transparency.

Oh ya …. I forgot to mention that Canadians support Bill C-377 – in fact, more union members want increase union financial disclosure than non-members ….

But I thought that unions already disclosed all of their finances to their members?

Right … they really don’t.

PP

Ontario Lobby Firm Trades Principles for Dollars

If you had to put a value on your principles, what would it be?  How much money would it take for you to turn your back on everything you believe in and have been working towards?

Recently, a conservative lobby firm named Crestview did just that.  During the recent Ontario provincial election, Crestview’s founder, Mark Spiro was campaign manager for Conservative leader, Tim Hudak.  Today, Crestview is the registered lobbyist for U.S labours giant AFL-CIO and the Canadian Building and Construction Trades Council.

What is particularly troubling about the business dealings between Crestview and the largest and most powerful union in the U.S. and Canada is that it was those very unions who robbed Tim Hudak – and by extension Spiro – of his election win.  They did this by painting Tim Hudak as a dangerous right winger who would destroy the lives of workers and families.   The infamous “Working Families Coalition” which is a coalition of Ontario unions and hardcore left wingers, spent between $7 and $10 million on advertising before and during the campaign to ensure their good friend, Dalton McGuinty held onto power.

And now the unions have hired Crestview to help them stop Bill C-377, which would force unions to publically disclose their finances and expose these types of campaigns, which are financed by the mandatory union dues of their members.

While Crestview says it’s a multi-partisan firm and they are certainly free to take on any client they wish, most principled conservatives I’ve talked to find this particular business transaction shocking and disturbing.  I personally think that Crestview has sold its soul to the highest bidder and find the whole thing appalling.

Here in Alberta, the union movement has a history of working against conservatives much like they do in Ontario.  During the 2008 election, they attacked Premier Stelmach and the PC Party through nasty ads.  Those American style attack ads were brought to Albertans by a group that called themselves “Albertans for Change”, which as it turns out was a coalition of Alberta unions.

Many people in Alberta know my views about these types of attack ads, which are paid for by mandatory union dues.   Most people also know that I am a very active supporter of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta.  I wear my passions on my sleeve and always stood up for the conservative principles I so strongly believe in.  I for one would never, ever even consider working for the organized labour movement and that’s why I find it so hard to believe that Crestview sold itself out.

How much would you sell your principles for?  My values are definitely NOT for sale … but maybe that’s just me?

PP

Amend the Labour Code to eliminate unethical bid subsidy schemes

Before Christmas I wrote a blog titled, Top 10 Reasons to Amend the Alberta Labour Code, where I broadly laid out 10 public policy recommendations that are needed to make Alberta’s labour relations environment more competitive and fair.  The purpose of that blog was to introduce the topics. Over the coming weeks, I will be writing specific blogs about each idea.  I look forward to your comments – Alberta can be better; here are some ideas on how to get there.

I will start this series with recommendation 9, which reads:

Recommendation 9: Improve Alberta Labour Code provisions that address market enhancement recovery fund (“MERFs”), which are illegal bid subsidy schemes.

A practice occurs in Alberta whereby union construction companies in industrial markets (ie. Alberta’s oilsands) unfairly subsidize construction projects in commercial markets (A Calgary 7-11 store).  Under this complicated scheme, Alberta’s construction prices become inflated and less competitive, and Albertans receive less royalty revenue from its heavy industrial projects.  It’s a bad deal all around, especially since the only reason for this practice is to increase the market share of less competitive unionized construction companies.

In Alberta these bid subsidy schemes have been labelled “Market Enhancement Recovery Funds” (MERF).  They have also been called “Job Targeting Funds” (JTF) or “Stabilization Funds” (STAB).  Regardless of what you call them, they are all, in the words of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), “part of a strong organizing program aimed at securing monopoly of local labour markets.”

These schemes developed in Alberta because of high energy prices and our province’s rapidly expanding economy.  As the economy expanded, building trade unions such as the IBEW and the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union (UA) convinced some major oilsands project developers to grant them labour supply monopolies to build the projects.  The projects provided the financial means for exploiting faults in Alberta’s Labour Relations Code.

Here is how the schemes work:

In Alberta the schemes were initially created through collective agreements between unions and unionized employers.  Unionized contractors were required to remit part of their negotiated wages (up to $2.32/hr) to a union controlled fund. This fund was then available to other unionized contractors, which could apply for a subsidy on a project-by-project basis.  In some cases, the hour rate subsidy was estimated to be as high as $15 per hour multiplied by the total estimated hours of labour required for the projects.

The lion’s share of the financing came from large energy projects whereby unions were given labour supply monopolies. So why would oilsands companies agree to pay higher labour costs?

Part of the answer lies in Alberta’s royalty regime.  Alberta’s royalty structure allows for industrial project developers to pay lower royalties to the Alberta government until the capital cost of the project are recovered.  Essentially, this occurred because some large oilsands developers willingly paid a premium on their multibillion-dollar construction projects in a very hot economy to gain access to pools of unionized tradespeople.

The Government of Alberta recognized that this unfair scheme is a bad deal for Alberta taxpayers and in 2008 legislators introduced Bill 26 to end the practice.  Alberta’s new law sought to restrict how MERFs were collected and distributed.  Direct payments from employers to unions and unions to contractors to undercut the bids of more competitive contractors were prohibited.

Despite this legislation, the respective Building Trade Unions (BTU) immediately developed new schemes to circumvent the law.  In fact, within 6 weeks from when the Act became the law, one BTU Business Manager reported to members that it was “business as usual” and that the union would “have in place an alternative way of ensuring that (unionized) contractors will be competitive for this work.”  Some unionized contractors also mentioned anecdotally that relief was being provided under “something we don’t call a MERF anymore.”

In time, the various collective agreements were amended and the picture became clearer. While the names of the MERF’s were changed, the amount of monies that contractors were required to pay into newly created funds remained the same. As an example, the collective agreement between the Electrical Contractors Association of Alberta and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 424 prior to the 2008 legislation was referred to as the Market Target Recovery Trust Funds (MTRF) and the amount contractors were required to contribute to the fund was $.93 per straight time hour worked by each journeymen. In the subsequent collective agreement, the formerly referenced MTRF became the “Membership Development Fund” and the amount contractors remained obligated to remit continued to be $.93 per straight time hour worked by each journeyman.

Unions also got creative in how they distributed the money.  In one collective agreement, the previously named MERF was renamed, the Promotion of the Insulation Trade Trust or PITT. The hourly contribution rate remained unchanged at $.50 per straight time hour worked.

What did change can be found in a “Letter of Understanding” attached to and forming part of the revised collective agreement.  After agreeing that, “non-signatory contractors operating in the commercial/institutional sector do not offer Health and Welfare and Pension packages to their workforce equivalent to those contained in the collective agreement” the parties acknowledged that “the added cost of maintaining the agreement, ha[d] a negative impact on the ability of signatory contractors to compete, secure work and offer gainful employment opportunities to members of the union”. This problem is then dealt with in the final paragraph stating, “all current and future commercial work may, at the Employer’s discretion be enabled by waiving the Employer’s obligation to contribute on behalf of its employees to the Health and Welfare and the Pension Plan.” In other words the MERF no longer directly subsidizes wages; the subsidy is used to pay for health, welfare and pension plan benefits.

In the case of the Insulators, the value of this relief is equivalent to $6.50 per hour worked. This is concerning since charges for vacations, pensions and other funds are approximately 30% to 33% of the basic negotiated hourly “wage rate”. Under normal bidding conditions, these costs are added to the hourly charge a contractor would include in a bid estimate.

The legislation passed in 2008 was clearly intended to end “subsidizing the bids, tenders, fees or prices of” unionized construction contractors. A subsidy is a subsidy is a subsidy.

This unfair bid subsidy scheme is both increasing the cost of construction in Alberta and reducing the amount of royalty revenue being collected by the government.  The only purpose of these schemes is to increase the market share of less competitive union contractors.  Alberta needs to amend its labour code to end this unsavory practice once and for all.

PP

Top Ten Reasons to Amend the Alberta Labour Code

The Alberta Labour Relations Code was written in 1988 and has remained virtually untouched since that time.  Over the coming months, I will be writing a new blog series titled “Top Ten Reasons to Amend the Alberta Labour Code” in an effort to initiate an online discussion about the need to update this antiquated (cold-war era) legislation.

Much has happened in the world since 1988, including significant labour legislation changes in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, as well as Europe, the USA and most developed countries throughout the world.  The time has come to update this 23 year old piece of legislation in Alberta.

The governments of British Columbia and Saskatchewan have responded with labour code changes that made their workforces more nimble, fair and competitive.  As a result, these provinces have created a labour relations environment that is more conducive to attracting investment to their provinces.

In response to these changing circumstances in western Canada and around the world, a group of construction leaders formed a coalition to find ways to combat Alberta’s increasingly uncompetitive construction sector.  The group is called the Construction Competitiveness Coalition and its participants operate in both union and non-union environments.  Most of their recommendations are based on labour code changes that have already taken place in other provinces and jurisdictions around the world.  I will write a detailed blog about each of the recommendations in the coming months.

The opportunities for Alberta to become more competitive through Labour Code amendments generally fall into three (3) categories:

  • Creating economic advantages though cost and schedule certainty;
  • Creating bargaining structures for today’s workplaces; and
  • Improving fairness for employees and employers.

The top ten reasons to amend the Alberta Labour Code are:

Recommendation 1:   Amend Division 8 to address potential issues under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Recommendation 2:   Adopt legislation similar to that in British Columbia, which allows for the continuation of collective agreements in situations where a union becomes the bargaining agent for a workforce and there is an existing collective agreement in place for that workforce.

Recommendation 3:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to allow contractors to complete existing work under the labour obligations that existed prior to certification.

Recommendation 4:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to allow for certificates in the construction industry that cover all of the employees working for an employer.

Recommendation 5:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to put into law a provision that allows for early renewal of collective agreements when all parties are in agreement and employees consent.

Recommendation 6:   Maintain the current approach to the “build up principle” in construction.

Recommendation 7:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to prohibit unions from fining workers for the crime of working with an employer not affiliated with the union.

Recommendation 8:   Amend the Alberta Labour Code to prohibit unions from using union dues to support activities other than fulfilling the union’s obligations under the Code unless the union obtains prior consent of the employee.

Recommendation 9:   Improve Alberta Labour Code provisions that address market enhancement recovery fund (“MERFs”), which are illegal bid subsidy schemes.

Recommendation 10: Amend the Alberta Labour Code to clarify limits on the use of picket lines.

If you are still reading, you must be wondering what much of this means!  These are complicated but critically important matters.  Many of these policy recommendations have been implemented throughout the country and around the world and despite fierce opposition from union leadership, they have resulted in better, more competitive workplaces and happier workers.

I look forward to diving into each of these recommendations over the coming months and engaging in this important dialogue.

PP

Public Sector Forced to Support an Anti-Business Agenda

There is a battle brewing in Canada between the rights of individual Canadians and the agenda of union leaders.  The battle lines are being drawn and based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s going to be a difficult fight.

Canadians want changes – in Quebec, they want an end to ties between unions and organized crime and an end to wide-spread corruption.  In Ottawa, the federal government has introduced legislation that forces unions to publically disclose their finances.  In Alberta, there is a growing group of businesses, politicians and citizens who understand that Alberta’s Labour Relations Code needs to be updated if the province is to once again become competitive.  The last time Alberta’s Labour Code was significantly amended was 1988 – a full generation ago.

Union leaders, on the other hand, want the status quo and they appear to be willing to protect it at all costs.

However, the cost to Canadians of doing nothing about these critically important public policy issues is far too great.  Harold Wilson once said, “he who rejects change is the architect of decay.  The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.”

Canadian labour laws are causing decay in our Country and it’s important for us to tackle the causes of this head on.  Canadian union leaders will dismiss calls for change and will use every tool at their disposal to stop progress from happening. We must be vigilant and stay the course.

The federal government has recently introduced a Private Members Bill on union financial disclosure. This legislation is necessary given the fact that Canadian unions essentially have the power of taxation on their members with absolutely no requirements for transparency.

The Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE), the union that represents Alberta’s public sector workers, is one of very few unions that make some of their financial information available.  Based on those records, it’s clear that Alberta’s bureaucracy is forced to support the unions’ own anti-business agenda through mandatory union dues or forced wage deductions whether they support the union’s agenda or not.

The AUPE’s financial records show that in 2011, $928,399 has been set aside for a “labour laws campaign” and another $368,922 has been reserved for an “anti-privatization campaign”.   While unions have every right to advocate for these causes and fight these campaigns, individual union members must have the right to decide whether they want to participate financially in these activities.  The problem in our current labour relations system is that public sector workers are forced to pay the bill for these campaigns through direct and mandatory wage deductions even if they disagree with the campaign or if they choose not to be card carrying members of their union.

In other words, the very same public servants who are asked to prepare briefing notes, policy drafts and legislative documents for politicians are forced, through mandatory union dues, to pay for an agenda that is directly in conflict with the job they work hard at, most often with pride, each day.

The inherent conflict of interest here is absolutely mind boggling.  It’s the ultimate example of the tail wagging the dog and should be deeply troubling to every single politician who wants to make Canada a better place to live and raise a family.

In Europe, governments have amended labour legislation to allow individual employees to opt out financially from political causes their unions choose to engage in.  In Europe, governments have also imposed strict financial disclosure rules on unions to ensure that these institutions are accountable.

With recent developments in Quebec and Ottawa, Canadians have started to take some steps in the right direction on labour law reform.  It’s time for Canadian provinces to join the rest of the world and take a larger step by embracing labour code changes such as those suggested in this blog.  If Alberta is to ever return to the Alberta Advantage, it needs to get ahead of other provinces by making the first move in this direction.

 If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep walking.

Buddhist Proverb

PP

Stay Bold Stephen Carter and make us Proud!

I found the Sun’s cover and story, as well as the Wildrose Party’s criticism of Stephen Carter today cheap and dirty – a vindictive smear campaign aimed at discrediting him on his first week of his new job.  While Stephen Carter’s business ran into major financial trouble a few years ago, this is a story that has been published many times before.  The details of his previous financial troubles are very well known.  He has spoken to media about it several times and it’s definitely something he wishes didn’t happen.

But here’s the thing – unfortunately, insolvency and bankruptcy is a part of business.  It’s not pleasant and nobody ever wants it to happen, but it does.  In 2010, there were over 140,000 Insolvencies across Canada.  So it doesn’t only happen, it happens relatively frequently. Carter’s company didn’t pay its creditors because his largest client didn’t pay him.  He got stuck and had to walk away.  Furthermore, Carter’s company owes the amount he got sued for, not how much he actually owed his creditors. He didn’t fight the law suits because he didn’t have the money to.  It sucks, but it happens.

The Sun’s headline “Chief of Stiff” is VERY rich coming from that newspaper, since its parent company Quebecor actually went bankrupt themselves in 2008 and owed nearly $1 Billion.  They filed for Bankruptcy in the US and protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act here in Canada.

Stephen Carter’s real story is of man who took some chances in his life and ran into a problem, then picked himself up and proved to the world that he is capable and worthy.  I mentioned Carter’s story to one of my tenants this afternoon and his reaction is one I believe most Albertans would have. My tenant believed that the fact that Carter picked himself up so quickly and stood back up so impressively speaks volumes about his character and the job he will do for this province. Carter’s story is actually quite an impressive one. It’s the story of a man who refused to stay down.  It’s the story about the Alberta way – where risk is good and where hard work and determination will eventually pay off.

I know very few people in this world who are as driven and determined, yet humble and kind as Stephen Carter.  He has leadership capabilities that many dream to have and he is a brilliant strategic thinker.  Some members of the Wildrose Party who have been the quickest to criticize him for their own personal gain are jealous cowards who prefer to throw grenades from the cheap seats rather than risk to be better themselves.

As a senior political staffer, Carter will have to meet with the Ethics Commissioner to discuss how this matter affects his position – I’m confident it won’t have an impact.  Stephen Cater as Chief of Staff to the Premier is an excellent appointment by Premier Redford.  After masterminding the campaigns behind both Mayor Nenshi and Premier Redford, the two biggest electoral upsets in Alberta’s recent history, he has proven himself more than anybody ever imagined possible.

Albertan will evaluate both Stephen Carter and Premier Redford on what they do for Alberta between now and the next election.  As proven time and time again, opposition parties and media rarely get it right in this province and I’m confident Stephen Carter will prove them all wrong once more.

Stay bold my friend – and continue to make us proud!

PP

Alison Redford’s Leadership Win and Unions

One the funniest and most ignorant comments on Twitter about Alison Redford’s PC Leadership win last weekend has been coming from both the left and right side of the political spectrum – mainly, the idea that Alison won the election thanks to unions.

While it’s true that Redford met with the Alberta Teacher’s Association and promised to put $100 million back into Alberta classrooms within 10 days of being elected to office, she does not owe her win to organized labour.  Instead, she owes her win to teachers, parents, students, nurses, doctors, engineers, electricians, janitors and every other Albertans who gave her their vote – whether they work in a unionized environment or not.

Alison Redford’s campaign was focused on policies that matter to everyday Albertans.  She talked about increasing accessibility to Alberta’s public healthcare system and providing predictable and sustainable funding for education.  She had ideas about making Alberta a global energy capital, as well as thoughts on economic diversification and job creation.  She talked about those expensive cell phone charges that annoy Canadians to no end.

On the specific topic of labour and unions, Alison is on record several times indicating that she is fully aware that the Alberta Labour Code hasn’t been touched since 1988 and that she supports a review to ensure that Alberta’s labour market remains competitive relative to other provinces in Canada and jurisdictions around the world.

So I just can’t help but laugh when I see tweet like “#pcldr chosen by unions” from a known NDP supporter or “I can’t believe we have a ‘conservative’ Premier in Alberta that is now beholden to unions …”

Of course this is nothing more than filthy and meaningless political rhetoric from terrified opposition party supporters who know that Alison is one of the most intelligent and capable leaders the PC Party has ever elected.

However, Albertans need not be afraid.  While Alison Redford did win the election with the help of teachers, she is NOT beholden to unions.

Take if from David Climenhaga, the most hard core union sympathizer I have ever met, who said in a recent blog that:

…while it’s a fact Alberta labour leaders can’t usually deliver their members’ votes to anyone, union members are paying attention and labour votes matter anyways.  In other words, you can’t tell union members what to do, but they’ll figure it out for themselves.”

David is right – individual union members don’t blindly follow what union bosses tell them to do.  The fact that teachers may have supported Alison Redford’s leadership bid because she promised to put money back into classroom has nothing to do with the union itself.

In fact, I look forward to testing Mr. Climenhaga’s conclusion that “Alberta labour leaders can’t usually deliver their members’ votes anymore” when the Alberta government undertakes a labour code review.

Will individual union members run to the polls to take down a government that considers an idea such as eliminating the fines that a union can charge its members for working for a non-union company?  I doubt it.

Will individual union workers get fired up about potential amendments to the labour code that could allow them to opt-out of paying the portion of their union dues that go towards political causes they don’t want to support?  I can’t see that happening.

What about recommendations that would allow both union and non-union construction workers to work harmoniously and efficiently side-by-side on the same jobsite.  Do you really think union members will drop their tool belts and run to the polls to vote against the Party their hiring hall tells them is making them commit this atrocity?   I wouldn’t hold my breath on that ….

If Alison Redford is beholden to anyone its Albertans – she campaigned directly to them with policies that matter to their everyday lives.  I am confident that as long as Alison Redford continues to do what is right for individual Albertans and Alberta’s economy, she owes nothing to unions themselves.

PP