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"Ever wonder if City Council is as contentious and chaotic as it is sometimes portrayed? Here you can get a progressive perspective on some of the issues from someone who spent four years in the trenches. Totally unbiased, though! Feel free to comment but keep it respectful, just like they do at council."

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The strike: Time to speak out

I haven't posted on this blog for a long time. Maybe I was too busy, maybe I wanted to give the new council, many of whom I supported during  their election campaigns, a chance to find their sea legs. But the events of the past nearly two months have made it very difficult to remain silent. "It's time," a friend told me a couple of weeks ago. I agreed, but still I wasn't ready. Then came the City Manager's invitation to the inside workers to cross their own picket line and the hiring of "replacement workers". And not a word of protest from council. My friend was right. It's time.

On Thursday, the union and the city negotiators went back to the bargaining table under the auspices of a government mediator. This is only the third time in the nearly seven weeks since the strike began that the two sides have met, using the term loosely. The first time, the union presented a proposal to get things going. The City’s team took the offer and left, not to return for five and a half hours. When it did, the only response was no; it was all or nothing. The City was not prepared to move. Especially not to refer the contentious issues to an independent arbitrator which could have seen the strikers back at work the following day.

The second time came at the behest of the government-appointed mediator. The two sides didn’t actually meet; the mediator made several treks between the parties huddled in separate rooms at a local hotel. When it was clear they weren’t getting anywhere, the mediator sent them home. Neither side was talking, to each other or to the media.

So this was the third time. There were some optimistic rumours that there might be a possibility of some movement. If so, the movement would have to come from the city’s team; the union had been doing all the moving to that point without any discernible impact on the City.

CUPE Local 101 is hardly what one would describe as a militant union. They haven’t been on strike since 1979. So what, one might ask, has changed? Why now?

Certainly money doesn’t seem to be a major issue. Yes, the union was asking for more than the 1 percent per year (1.1 in the fourth year) being offered by the City. That was only slightly better than what the outside workers settled for a few months earlier. And the inside workers had been settling for little more than the cost of living for years without a strike vote.

But things are different this time around.

For starters, the union had had a hard time getting the City to negotiate. The union negotiators were ready to talk last fall in the hopes that an agreement could be reached before the contract expired at the end of the year. But the City wanted to wait until the new council had been installed. So the talks were delayed. Yet interestingly, the City had settled with the outside workers, Local 107, back in in the fall even though that contract won’t expire until December 2015, a full year later than of the inside workers.

The election of the new council, eleven of whose members were complete neophytes, had been greeted with relief and optimism by the voters of London. No more infighting, no more embarrassment. But perhaps none were as delighted as the inside workers. Here was a council they could work with and for; here was a council they could trust, and a mayor they could respect. There were smiles throughout city hall at the end of October.

It’s a sharp contrast with the grimaces of pain and disillusionment, of hurt and disbelief, which you see on the faces of those who walk the picket line in front of city hall today.

Looking back at the chain of events, some speculate that the strike was orchestrated by the City Manager and Chief Human Resources Officer. How else would one explain the City’s demand for contracting out and the removal of five departments – planning, information technology, communications, security and payroll—from the bargaining unit? True, that demand didn’t stay on the table long, but it would be a red flag to any union. That could only be an attempt to gut the union.

There were the other concessions demanded as well. There was the demand that all employees in the bargaining unit be subject to being scheduled to work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. any day including weekends.

On this issue, the general public seems to be unsympathetic. Lots of people work weekends. Why should city workers be any different? “Suck it up, buttercup” is the attitude of many.

But, the workers retort, why after 50 years should weekend work become necessary? What about online applications that allow people to access services 24/7? Besides, many of them already work evenings and weekends where there is a demonstrated need and there is a premium paid for those overtime hours and shifts. But a general provision that anyone can be scheduled anytime? No way.

It’s not just that it’s undesirable: it can also be expensive and dangerous. Working alone downtown late at night or weekends means not being able to carpool; it means finding your car in a dark deserted parking lot or underground garage; it means trying to line up after hours child care; it means not being able to plan family outings or taking the kids to practice.

It’s not as if these workers are fat cats. Despite the mayor’s assertion that the “average” wage is $58,000 per year, most earn substantially less. A few high salaries can skew that arithmetic mean. Most are female and many are sole support parents with mortgages, utilities and property taxes to pay and groceries to put on the table. Their kids need shoes and tuition fees. A 1 or 2 per cent raise will make little difference to their lifestyles. But having to bear the extra burden of unpredictable work schedules certainly will.

Even so, the union offered in its first meeting after it struck to be scheduled from 7 to 7 weekdays only, with a $1.20 per hour premium for the extra hours. The City said no; it wanted what it wanted.

There’s more. There’s the matter of how jobs are evaluated, an evaluation that determines the pay level and the status to ensure pay equity for those doing “women’s work”. At present there is a joint union-management evaluation committee that makes that determination. It had been working well; only twice have the two sides been unable to reach agreement and referred the matter to an independent third party. Only twice in 20 years. But now, the City wants to concentrate that power in the hands of its Chief Human Resources Officer. So jobs could be down-graded and pay cheques reduced even with a collective agreement in place. And jobs could be reclassified out of the bargaining unit.

It’s an untenable position. In the words of the union’s negotiating committee “[W]e are simply not prepared to destroy the integrity of our pay equity and compensation systems by giving the City ultimate power to reduce our wages during the collective agreement.”

And the list goes on. The City has demanded that the union surrender its seniority rights in job promotion and bumping rights. From the union’s perspective, that allows the manager to show favouritism both in promotions as well as determining who should be laid off should a position become redundant. No more locating another job within the city that the senior employee could do.

Finally, there is the removal of early retiree benefits for new hires, creating a two-tier union membership which the union sees as being unfair, especially to younger workers. The union did propose a 15 year waiting period for new hires before becoming eligible for early retirement benefits. That offer too was not accepted.

On Saturday, we learned that Loblaw workers, who had been on the verge of striking, came to an agreement with their employer. A peaceful settlement. Nobody lost any business; nobody lost any wages.

So what’s wrong? Why can’t the City settle with its “valued employees”? Why have single mothers been walking the line for one-third of the regular pay for the last 40 days? Why has the City crippled its own services to its builders and citizens? And where are the leaders we elected just nine months ago?

City Manager Art Zuidema, resident of Brantford Ontario (whose hours of operation are Monday to Friday - 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, closed Saturdays and Sundays) , is insistent that the city has to become more service-oriented. His Service London plan, implicitly endorsed by Council’s Strategic Plan, needs it. Yet, that very plan makes no mention of expanded hours or weekend work. And there is little indication that other comparable municipalities are moving in that direction.

But here is an interesting bit of history. Back in 2007 during my first year on council, then Chief Administrative Officer Jeff Fielding was pushing for a 3-1-1 service modelled along the line of that in many municipalities giving citizens improved access to city services. And he had managed to get a deal for expanded hours with the inside workers to make that possible! But he had actually consulted with the union leadership outside of the contract negotiations process, and gotten its agreement. Ultimately, the council of the day decided not to go forward with the plan; it didn’t fit into the budget. But union concerns about changes in job descriptions and hours of work were resolved through consultation.

A year or so later, that council created a Service Review Committee headed by Nancy Branscombe. The point of the review was to find efficiencies and improvements in services. Meeting after meeting we heard managers describe their departments and how they functioned, functioning which depended on the activities of the inside and outside workers. It was bound to make those workers nervous. What would happen to their jobs, they no doubt wondered.

But Branscombe included them in the review. She met with them, heard their concerns, listened to their point of view. Millions of dollars were saved through that process because, let’s face it, if you want to know where savings are to be had and where improvements can be made, it’s the front line workers who are likely to have the information. You ignore and disrespect them at your own peril.

There is little evidence to suggest that that is what is happening in the current situation. The workers weren’t consulted and even now, when they ask for a plan, (Tell us what you have in mind, show us the need and demand), they get nothing. Nothing from the City’s negotiators or top administrators. Nothing from the Council. Only a dismissive, “Get serious” from the new Mayor. Emails from the public and the workers rarely receive acknowledgement, only the mayor’s newsletter listing the many events he has attended. Pictures, too. But nary a mention of the strike.

But the City is saving money. About one million dollars every week. Six million so far and counting. That should go some way to funding some of the projects that the City manager and the Council would like to see move forward. And as long as the public doesn’t complain, who cares?

And the public isn’t complaining. After all, they’re not much inconvenienced by the strike. The work of the inside workers is largely invisible to the general public, most of whom have never visited city hall. It’s only people in need of social services who feel the pain and most of them lack a voice. And builders. They need their permits and inspections to move ahead and they are getting antsy. Construction season is short. But hey, the City Manager can just hire some “replacement workers” (a.k.a. scabs) to give a hand. And encourage those strikers whose bank accounts are being depleted to abandon their colleagues and cross the line; he’ll protect them from any retribution from the union they betray. And, of course, it’s kind of nice for the public to get away with some by-law infractions when no one is enforcing them! Besides, some of the words and actions of the union’s more militant supporters--not the inside workers themselves-- haven’t endeared them to the public. Yelling from the public gallery or suggesting that the labour movement can make or break the council is not likely to improve public opinion of unions or encourage empathy with the plight of the workers.

But what about the council? What is it to do? What can it do?

No doubt there is a lot of talk going on behind the scenes. But the talks are in camera and not for public consumption. Here we have the most significant challenge that this council has met or is likely to meet, and yet the constituents have no idea of where the person they elected stands on the matter. Are they all solidly behind the City Manager and the Chief Human Resources Officer? Surely, there are some who would not be able to tolerate hiring scab labour. Granted, it appears they didn’t learn of it until after the City Manager announced that he would be doing that. But still, they could tell him to cease and desist. After all, as I tried to remind them early on, they direct administration, not vice versa. They are leaders, not followers. They have power; they can be in charge if they want to be. That’s why we elected them.

I’m sure many of them are very conflicted, and so they should be. Perhaps it is asking too much that a newly-elected council so lacking in experience could take an independent principled stand. I find it hard to believe that most of them support in their hearts the position that the City is taking, the position of starving the inside workers into submission. Yet no one has spoken out. No one has said, I can’t be party to this. I will not be a party to this.

Of course, councillors can’t inject themselves directly into the negotiations and no one would expect them to do so. And they can’t reveal what happened behind closed doors.

But they can walk out of that door. They can’t be forced to witness and remain silent. They have a choice.

Still, it’s a lot to expect of newbies. And since Deputy Mayor Paul Hubert has declared a conflict, there are only three there with any experience- the Mayor, whose talk of valued employees sounds hollow, Harold Usher and Bill Armstrong. And perhaps they are being misinformed about the negotiations. Perhaps they don’t know that from the beginning the City’s team was ill-prepared and unable to make any decisions without going back to the Chief Human Resources Officer. Perhaps they don’t know that the information they are getting is limited and second and third hand. Have they even been informed of what the City’s bottom-line position is? What the end goal is? Are they afraid to ask?

Because make no mistake: although the City may be saving a few dollars now, it is going to pay in the long run. And it is the Council that will bear the brunt of the fallout. It is not only the inside workers who have lost trust and respect for their betters. So have the outside workers and the firefighters, those workers whom the City would not have dared to treat the way it has these compliant, mostly female, mostly invisible inside workers. That resentment is likely to find its way into the day to day service that the councillors depend on. It will take longer for calls to be returned, for reports to be submitted, for questions to be answered. It is likely to last a long time.

This strike need never have happened. The City could have actually talked to the union well ahead of contract negotiations. It could have sent negotiators prepared and authorized to negotiate. It could have avoided putting items on the table that were purely provocative. And when the strike did occur, it could have been ended quickly had the City been willing to return to the bargaining table, to consider seriously the concessions offered, to be willing to send to arbitration any unresolved items.

What was the City afraid of?

The Mayor said we needed a “made in London” solution. But this standoff has made London look like a city without a heart, not a city that will attract the best and the brightest.

Here it is in the words of someone on the picket line more than a week ago:
The city has a lot to lose, and it’s not concessions.… [F]or me and most of my fellow co-workers, returning to work will be difficult. Losing respect and slowly gaining it back is one thing after this strike. Losing Trust and gaining that back, almost impossible. For the latter, I think some people will have to leave the corporation for that to happen. London is on the verge of losing some really good talent here; I have heard that some of our best talent are seriously considering applying out.
For now, a media blackout is in place. Perhaps a resolution is at hand. Certainly the workers desperately want one. My guess is, so do the councillors. And, I have no doubt, so do the vast majority of managers who are left to try to hold things together.

But who, I wonder, doesn’t?


Sheila said...

Gina, thanks for raising an important issue that should be more in the forefront of people's concerns. As always, you raise some very valid points. The move to precarious work (more hours, changing schedules, reduced overtime pay, increased workload, zero tolerance for complaints, fewer benefits, more stressful work environments and loss of trust in workplace relationships) is a labour market shift that is occurring in all sectors, unfortunately, and its major victims are women and young employees - those with the least power and clout. It is disheartening to see the current council not use the tools of negotiation and bargaining in good faith in order to reach an equitable and fair resolution to this dispute. The damage done will, as you say, be very hard to mend. Thanks for the wake-up call.

Charley Horse said...

Time for a new city manager and new head of human resources.

While we're at it, we also need someone to step forward and lead city council, leaving Matt the Muppet Brown to handle the ribbon-cuttings and smiley-face photo-ops.

Gord Drimmie said...

Loblaws settled because it is a private sector company.....and shoppers have a lot of alternatives to buy groceries. There is pressure to settle on both sides. But a public sector strike, where there are no alternatives for "customers" is reprehensible. Public sector unions love to hold the public hostage - whether it be developers....or those looking for welfare cheques....or, in the case of teachers, kids ENTITLED to an education including report cards AND extra-curriculars. Public sector unions generally expect higher settlements because they expect the other side to cave in rather than risk angering the public which might mean lost votes in the future. But by doing that, public sector unions are disadvantaging the rest of society while enriching themselves.

Gina seems to be privy to the CUPE negotiations but the blog is certainly one-sided and one wonders how she can be so knowledgeable re the bargaining progress, the offers, & the counter-offers. I am pleased that some Union members have seen the strike as an antiquated, obsolete, and expensive tool that has outlived its usefulness. And as far as the Unions "offer" to submit to arbitration, we all know where that one goes - straight to an expensive Toronto style settlement unwarranted in little ol' London.

If the Union really wanted to settle this one, they would recognize how well-compensated public sector employees are versus their private sector counterparts and do some REAL good-faith bargaining whereby the City can get what it needs at an affordable cost to hard-pressed and overburdened taxpayers; and the employees can get a raise with, perhaps, some inconvenience indicative of current employment practices. They will never recover the wages they have lost already and the losses are mounting.

Chris McDonald said...

It's too bad we can't organize a very large, very visible "Citizens of London in support of Cupe101" strike team as well. Fill the sidewalks to bursting with people demanding that City Hall do a better job than they have been doing up until now.

Anonymous said...

after reading the blog I nearly threw up what cupe needs to do is get their heads out of their asses and get back to work. as a hard working trucker I feel zero sympathy for ppl making 58k a year and going back with hands out wanting more WE AS TAX PAYERS HAVE NO MORE don't you greedy little pigs at the city trough get it we can afford your lazy asses anymore. matt brown and council are doing the right thing staying out of it you big labour people with your pockets stuffed with tax dollars voted him and 6 other councillor in thinking you bought his vote cause he is part of OSSTA WRONG just like you voted in the liberals thinking you were going to fatten your already over paid salaries but that has proven to back fire in your face big time hasn't it I say bravo to the city for keeping to their guns and keeping cupe on strike don't for get cupe VOTED 97% to strike so you asked for it you got it 9 out 10 people I talk to say keep them out till they see we aren't paying you anymore most people in London would love to have their easy jobs for half the money and half the benefits. thousands of people out of work in London would die to have your jobs think about that when your cashing that fat paycheck cupe your not GETTING ANYMORE so suck it up sally and get your bull mastiff shelly masteroni or what ever her name is to take what the city offers and get back to sitting at your desks playing solitaire and posting on facebook and reading magazines

Anonymous said...

Dave. Our new elected council should speak up and replace the City Manager and Chief Human Resources Officer. End of problem.

Colin Hendry said...

Gina, over the years I have learned that it is best to remain silent on the sideline unless you have some constructive advice which will lead to the quick r3esolution of the problem.

It is time that the people of London took ownership of the problem which has been imposed on the Inside workers. Clearly the union is not moving to alleviate their pain. The City seems focused on sustaining the power of some senior executives.

I disagree that it is the fault of the new councilors; similarly, we cannot accuse the "seasoned" councilors of ineffective leadership. Matt will not like it, but I lay the problem at his fee. He was elected the Mayor of all the People of London. As a former member of a union, a militant and aggressive union, he must feel more than a little remorse of his apparent inaction. It is time to clear the clutter off the table. Cut the crap out and reduce the rhetoric to what really matter --no more than 3 issues--start where the agreement is closest and more to more important.

I never perceived the Mayor as someone who would revel in another's pain and suffering. Matt it is Time!.

Tucker said...

Gina Barber, thank you for creating a one sided view of greed.

As for matt, rookies and remaining Counsellors thank God, they understand their position at City Hall.

Gina, enjoy the summer, maybe create another great read after City Manager Art Zuidema puts his stamp of approval, and steers London into a brighter future.

Jenn said...

Some of these comments are very one sided and obviously written by union-haters, who are people who don't understand how unions in Canada have historically improved the working conditions of all working people, including private sector workers. Local 101 needs to stand strong and continue to fight for a contract that contains NO concessions. Workers need to move forward, not backwards.

Thank you Gina for writing a very insightful and factual blog for those of us who didn't know what's been going on.

Anonymous said...

Hard working truck driver...oxymoron isn't it?
Its funny when people who are educated and have a higher education they are deemed to be lazy!

Anonymous said...

Gina should know what  she is talking about in regards to how council SHOULD work.  London wanted a change hence the new council, but is it worth it?
Matt seems to be more interested in being in front of a camera than he does "valuing" the employees (and the public) and getting them back to work.  It's funny isn't it, it is okay to be in a union when it pleases you as it has gotten you to where you are and now you and all the other councillors sit on the sidelines of this tug of war.  Councillors should have a voice as the public voted them in, but they have to stand behind Matt as their spokesman?
Most people on the blogs are always stating how the employees will never make their money up, don't you think they were aware of this when they voted to strike?  Obviously it has nothing to do with that, it is.more based on principle and the respect they want of their employer for the work they do for the public.
It is amazing that everyone is more focused on the fact of the wages of the employees but not management, as the public also pays them.  Does no one see the sunshine list and how that has increasingly grown throughout the years.  I heard there is approximately one manager to two employees, why is this the case?  One teacher deals with twenty to thirty CHILDREN........don't you think the public and London as a whole can find savings in this area?
"Let's get serious" and end this as I am sure these employees want to get back to work and clean up all the mounting work that needs to get done!

Anonymous said...

Its a new world out there people 9 to 5 jobs are a thing of the pass. I can see my dentist, doctor and even shop everyday of the week and most nights till at least 8 but if I want to do anything at city hall I have to take time off work. I was working retail when Sunday shopping came in. Everyone was up in arms and yet today it is a normal and no one gives it a second thought. It really is not the big deal your life will not end if you have to work after 4:30 or even a Saturday or Sunday you will just have different times off. As for the dangers and child care many people work down town and have the same problem and they make much less. In someway it will make down town safer the more hardworking honest people down town the less likely the rif raf will hang around.

Anonymous said...

A great comment.

Anonymous said...

Look around people, most of our large companies are gone to the south because of the unions and even the ones that are still here in London do not do business as they did before. Most work all shifts if they have the work and now if you want a pension then what you put in, the company matches it. No one is continually getting a free ride anymore. I think and most people think that the new council is doing great and as far as Matt, he is on the other side of the fence now and as one of my old boss said, that was then and this is now. Suck it up buttercup and go back to work. You will never get the money back you lost.

Anonymous said...

Just the facts! The city established a service review group. Barber is right even noticing employees were included,! New management employees excluded even though millions saved. The facts and business
case on the table doesn't apply to management!!!! SILENCE BY COUNCILORS is contrary to fair play and their commitment to all citizens. They should answers to the facts raised by Barber! Right or wrong? Billboy

Anonymous said...

9 to 5 jobs are a thing of the past yet you have to take time off work if you want to do anything at City Hall....because you work a 9 to 5 job, lmao.

Anonymous said...

But Gina, Are you saying the City has treated it's fire fighters any better than it is treating it's inside workers. I see a lot of parallels.
The City is treating all it's employee groups with the same disrespect.
For example, the fire fighters have been without a contract since Dec. 31 2010.
And, the fire fighters won't likely have a contract signed until it is literally 7 years overdue.
If you look back at the history of the London Firefighters, I believe that the city has NEVER negotiated and signed a contract prior to the expiration of the old contract since Fire Fighters lost the right to strike in 1997.
Prior the that, it was normal to have a new contract negotiated and signed prior to the expiration of the old contract.
Prior to that, there was decades of history linking and comparing Police wages to Fire fighter wages. So you would think it would be really simple for the City to offer the Fire Fighters the exact same package it was offering to the Police. Be that a wage increase, or decrease. But no, the city wants no part of a timely negotiated contract. Why? Because they save a lot of money earning interest on the wages not paid during the 5 to 7 years it takes to get a 3 year contract signed through the arbitration process.
Matt Brown says he needs a made in London solution and doesn't want arbitration.
Then why is he telling the fire fighters the exact opposite. That they need arbitration and are not willing to negotiate a contract.
Seems the City of London stopped negotiating in good faith with their fire fighters somewhere around 1997 when someone had the bright idea that not negotiated could be a profitable idea.

Art and Veronica said...

DAY 43: This unnecessary strike has set the City of London back five years in the labour relations department. Maybe longer.

Take the City's bizarre concessionary demands off the table and I strongly suspect CUPE Local 101 would have settled for the minimal raises offered. The City's management has created a crisis when none existed.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Gina. Your blog was very enlightening.

It looks like the city has been subjected to a totally unnecessary strike for the sake of some empire building.


Scott said...

Just so we can keep track:

"Maybe I was too busy, maybe I wanted to give the new council, many of whom I supported during their election campaigns, a chance to find their sea legs."

Gina Barber 750$
James Barber 750$

Ward 3:
James Barber 500$

Ward 9:
Gina Barber 750$
James Barber 750$

Ward 10:
Gina Barber 250$
James Barber 250$

Ward 11:
Gina Barber 250$
James Barber 250$

And you thought only the evil development community wielded their influence at council.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the entire argument of "we don't work 9 to 5 so you should not either". Do you want to see property taxes go up to support these extra hours of work, even if it is one or two people that are there on weekends there can be a large ripple of costs associated with it. For you always need support for the people at hand including custodial, building maintenance, information technology, security, and probably others. Add in the cost of the the buildings being active themselves. Now the idea of being able to go into City Hall to pay a bill on a Saturday would be nice, but the question is would you be willing to pay the costs of having that extra service?

If anything I think the city would be better off having more automated systems for what people want to do over the weekend and after hours for it would be a cheaper solution and that is where I think the different municipalities are headed not by extending work hours to a cost that can't be justified.

Gina Barber said...

@Scott This is public knowledge. You missed the contributions to unsuccessful candidates. As a former candidate, I appreciate the need for donations to pays the costs of a campaign. It's important that individuals participate in every way that they can in their democracy: by speaking out, by working in campaigns, by donating, by providing feedback on issues and concerns in the hopes of getting fair representation and good government as a result.

Anonymous said...

I believe city leadership and union leadership share in the inability to resolve their differences, but I just don't know where the truth lies or what side is being the most difficult. I am sure that the union is right, partially. And city administration is right, partially. It is the poor staff that are paying the price - that is the sad part for me. The animosity will linger. We all lose. Why grown adults can't sit across the table and work something like this out is baffling to me.

Forget the rhetoric. The strike reflects poorly on senior administration AND the union leadership.

The one thing I do like is the discipline shown by our council in the face of a difficult situation to keep their mouths shut publicly. While they do have authority over city staff, they have none over the union. Staying out of the negotiation publicly is massively difficult but commendable on their part.

Anonymous said...

First of all this labour dispute is easy to understand once you come to grips with the fact that this is not a battle between management and its workers, it's a battle between management's vision for delivering improved public services and CUPE principles. It is unfortunate that the workers are caught in the middle but that can't be helped.

And Jeff Fielding's earlier efforts for a 311 system failed because of the cost of implementation which was in due in part to the high cost of complying with union demands. This administration seems to want to do something similar but knows they have to get labour costs under control.

Anyway, management gets paid to lead so lets get out of the way and let them do just that. Who knows, maybe this will lead to improved public service delivery...and what's wrong with that?

Scott said...

I know it is public knowledge.

As for your other contributions (I wouldn't want to short-change you or your husband on your collective benevolence), I suppose I could have gone and looked for them, but seeing as they don't currently have a vote on council, the influence of said contribution today is somewhat muted. I have zero problems w/ donating to campaigns. What I do have issue with is mention that contributions from the corporate (aka the development) community always come with strings attached (I might direct you here: http://ginabarber.blogspot.ca/2011/04/hey-big-spender-who-pays-for-municipal.html for a refresher) yet somehow contributions from a social and political activist are simply for the betterment of society, fair representation and good government. Funny how that works, huh? :)

Joe Mazzolla said...

Comparing an individual's campaign donations (unconnected to a business) to donations from corporate or land developers is comparing apples to grapefruit.

No self-respecting debater would even go there.

How many times does a year does an individual seek something specific from a standing committee of council, compared to a corporate interest such as a land developer or its agent?

Scott said...

Apples to grapefruit? I respectfully disagree. It is one instance where the corporate and individual interest are on equal footing - to a maximum of 750$ per person or entity per candidate.

Municipal Elections Act, 1996, S.O. 1996, c. 32, Sched.

Maximum, each candidate
71. (1) A contributor shall not make contributions exceeding a total of $750 to any one candidate in an election. 1996, c. 32, Sched., s. 71 (1).

More than one office
(2) If a person is a candidate for more than one office, a contributor’s total contributions to him or her in respect of all the offices shall not exceed $750. 1996, c. 32, Sched., s. 71 (2).

Multiple candidates
(2.1) A contributor shall not make contributions exceeding a total of $5,000 to two or more candidates for office on the same council or local board. 2009, c. 33, Sched. 21, s. 8 (35).

Exception, candidates and spouses
(3) Subsections (1), (2) and (2.1) do not apply to contributions made to a candidate’s own election campaign by the candidate or his or her spouse. 1996, c. 32, Sched., s. 71 (3); 1999, c. 6, s. 43 (6); 2005, c. 5, s. 46 (6); 2009, c. 33, Sched. 21, s. 8 (36).

Associated corporations
72.For the purposes of sections 66 to 82, corporations that are associated with one another under section 256 of the Income Tax Act (Canada) shall be deemed to be a single corporation. 1996, c. 32, Sched., s. 72.

And who is to say that my retail development application is any different than other unique interests that may come before a standing committee of council, be it fluoridation of municipal water (mayhaps a favourite of yours?); annual funding applications for various special interest and/or populations groups; the humane and ethical treatment of animals and associated shelter policies; the flipping of various heritage properties in the downtown; or even the disposition of extant water control structures such as the Springbank Dam?

The aforementioned are all items of special interest that seem to perennially draw scads of people (often the same ones, perhaps even the blog author herself) to the galleries and speaker's podia at City Hall.

Gina Barber said...

The public interest is not the same as private interest as you undoubtedly know. Councillors need to declare a "pecuniary" interest meaning that they or a close family member would personally benefit from a decision on a matter before the council; councillors are there to serve the public interest. Why not just give corporate entities a vote as well if it's the same as an individual with individual rights. Corporations are established to limit personal liability.

Joe Mazzolla said...

Scott, thank you for the copy-and-paste job of the Municipal Elections Act which has been available for all to read online for years.

But surely you can see there's a significant difference between planning applications by corporate interests and other city hall-related matters in the public interest of concern to citizens which are not defined by their revenue-generating potential for the individual applicant.

In any event, you are dragging the comment thread into an area far removed from Gina's column above.

If you have a problem with her facts about the 43-day strike or the merits of her arguments regarding same, why not elaborate on them and save the election campaign donation meanderings for another day?

Unknown said...

It has always been popular to beat up on unionized workers and this strike is no different. These so-called "progressive" city councilors are a sad joke.

This strike was completely unnecessary and not strategic. There will be no improvement in city services if Matt Brown and his band of merry fools succeed in this. There will be no savings if staff hours are stretched over more days for longer periods. No one was demanding longer available hours. The city's demands are apropos of nothing. This strike will accomplish nothing. This city council are beating up on the workers of this city for nothing, and they're doing it in my name. It's disgusting.

Everyone on the city's side of the bargaining team should be sent packing and the negotiations sent to arbitration.