Premier Christy Clark takes questions from reporters at Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler last week.

Is CUPE running your city hall?

Premier Christy Clark forced municipal employee wage increases onto the agenda of the annual UBCM convention

WHISTLER – The big story at this year’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention was a report commissioned by the B.C. government that reveals municipal pay increases for unionized staff have been running at twice the rate of provincial raises.

When I asked Premier Christy Clark about the intent of this report, leaked just before the annual UBCM convention, she was blunt. It’s to get this issue onto the agenda for the November municipal elections, which the province has decreed shall be for four-year terms instead of three. After local elections, discussions with surviving and incoming municipal politicians will resume.

Things have been going pretty well for the main municipal union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, for the last couple of decades. As local election turnout has gone from bad to worse, municipal employees themselves have become an increasingly dominant voting bloc.

Then there are the “labour councils” in urban centres, now almost entirely fronts for public sector unions. They quietly survey council candidates to determine their level of affection for ever-growing public payrolls, and dole out campaign funds accordingly. Sometimes they organize full slates, with cuddly names like “Protect Coquitlam” to appeal to low-information voters.

During last week’s convention in Whistler, I caught up to Finance Minister Mike de Jong in a brief break from the dozens of meetings cabinet ministers have with mayors, councillors and regional directors.

Is the province going to impose some kind of solution?

“There’s not some hidden legislative agenda,” de Jong replied. More data needs to be gathered, and the report shows ongoing problems with management salaries at the provincial level as well.

Is this the first step to imposing a tight-fisted centralized bargaining agency, such as the government set up last year to wrestle the B.C. Teachers’ Federation to the ground?

“We haven’t formulated our answer,” de Jong said. “What the data does suggest, however, is that there may well be some merit [to centralized bargaining]. One of the recommendations points to a more coordinated approach to some of the negotiations that take place.”

Will the new municipal auditor general have a role in this?

“The purpose of the auditor was not to become an enforcement mechanism,” de Jong said. “It was to play a traditional audit function on whether taxpayers are getting value for money. To that extent I suppose a municipal auditor might be able to comment on the advantages of coordinating efforts.”

NDP leader John Horgan’s attack on the compensation report was as predictable as it was selective. In his speech to delegates, Horgan called it “one-sided, politically motivated, shoddy work” designed to embarrass local politicians on the eve of their elections.

Did he question Ernst and Young’s numbers, the pay increases for municipal union staff of 38 per cent between 2001 and 2012, compared to 19 per cent for unionized provincial staff? Did he question their calculation that over that period, inflation totalled 23 per cent? No. The facts being against him, he went with an emotional pitch to distract from them.

Recall that during the final days of the teachers’ strike, Horgan suddenly decided that what was really needed was binding arbitration. This was 24 hours after the teachers’ union took that position.

So there’s the big question to be considered by voters as local elections draw near. Which candidates are looking out for your interests, and which ones are working on behalf of CUPE?

There’s another troubling trend in manipulation of local government that was more evident than ever at the 2014 UBCM convention. I’ll discuss that in a future column.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

Ocean “Blob” returns to North Coast of B.C.

A 2,000 kilometre patch of warm ocean water could signal a warm winter in Prince Rupert

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

Singer k.d. lang receives Alberta’s highest honour

Celebrated singer-songwriter k.d. lang received the Alberta Order of Excellence in Edmonton

B.C. tickets win big in Lotto Max draw

Jackpot carried over; B.C. tickets share Max Millions prizes

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Enbridge aims for mid-November to finish B.C. pipeline repair after blast

A natural gas pipeline that ruptured and burned near Prince George caused an explosion and fireball

How to get government cheques if Canada Post staff go on strike

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said members could go on rotating strikes as early as Monday

Anti-SOGI school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

Barry Neufeld says Glen Hansman’s words caused him “indignity,” “personal harassment,” and “anxiety”

Ocean ‘blob’ returns to B.C.’s North Coast

A 2,000 kilometre patch of warm ocean water could signal a warm winter in Prince Rupert

Most Read