Thursday, November 01, 2007

Child Sexual Abuse Treatment: BC Government Lies About Underfunding


Some lessons to heed from question period this week:

1. BC's neoLiberal party abuses Freedom of Information requests to make themselves look good and justify leaving abused children vulnerable.

2. BC's neoLiberal party has lied about the need for better funding for treating children who have suffered sexual abuse.

3. The installation of a Representative for Children and Youth last fall should be viewed in this new light.

4. The government should actually hold legislative sessions for public accountability.

5. Tom Christensen's offices are just gorgeous [see above] with their new renovations using money that could have paid for child sexual abuse counsellors.

It was a sick, sick Halloween when in question period, Minister of Children and Family Development Tom Christensen tried to dance around being caught by the Times Colonist [see below] in redacting critical elements of a report, thus allowing the Ministry to deny providing poor service to child sexual abuse victims.

Christensen, with no sense of irony: "It's unfortunate that the opposition is choosing to politicize this issue."

Then NDP MLA Rob Flemming followed up the questioning, "Sadly, it isn't the first time they've tried to cover up failings when it comes to protecting children. Last fall the opposition revealed an FOI which was sent inadvertently to the opposition, complete with handwritten sticky-notes. That FOI about child protection in the Coroner's Service had a handwritten note from the Deputy Solicitor General asking for more severing because it 'contradicts what we've said to this point.' The FOI also showed the public affairs bureau has been given sign-off authority by this government."

Christensen's ass-covering reply: "I can tell you that the Ministry of Children and Family Development receives well over a thousand FOI requests each year. I have nothing to do with a single one of those, but in fact we have a piece of legislation that balances access to information with a number of other considerations."

So much for ministerial responsibility. I know he doesn't process FOI requests, but the minister is responsible for the ministry's actions. Further, the FOI legislation isn't designed for the government to sever information in FOIs that contradicts their public messaging to keep from appearing duplicitous.

Christensen, later: "I'm proud of what this government has accomplished for children and youth with mental health issues across this province — a child and youth mental health plan that is the envy of jurisdictions across Canada."

I wonder if those jurisdictions envy the BC neoLiberals' ability to redact documents to justify defunding child sexual abuse treatment programs.

And now I think back to last November when the government reluctantly decided to actually hold a legislative session to appoint a Representative for Children and Youth, a session that the NDP stretched out to a whopping 3 days. Knowing now that at that time the government was hiding the report that was critical of their funding of child sexual abuse treatment, maybe that helps explain why that Representative appointment was enough to justify actually holding a fall legislative session.


2006 report identified problems with B.C.'s child abuse programs
Lindsay Kines
Times Colonist
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The B.C. government has known for 18 months that its program to help sexually abused children is in trouble and needs help, documents obtained by the Times Colonist show.

Long before stories broke last spring about children waiting months for counselling, a review by the Ministry of Children and Family Development uncovered extensive problems with its Sexual Abuse Intervention Program (SAIP).

The April 2006 review concluded that the 47 agencies and societies helping abused children felt neglected, isolated and short-changed by government.

"Providers were unanimous in their view that program funding is insufficient to meet the needs for SAIP services," the 26-page review stated.

The report said the program was a "critical element" of services related to child and youth mental health and "deserving of a more explicit focus."

"There is a pervasive view among providers that the program has been neglected by government decision-makers over the past several years," the report stated

The ministry blanked out those comments from a copy of the review released under the province's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

But the TC has obtained an unedited version of the report that shows many of the agencies complained about a lack of money for training, poor wages for counsellors, an inability to travel to provide services in remote geographic areas, isolation from decision-makers and deteriorating relationships over the past 10 years.

"A more intensive focus on sexual-abuse intervention programming should yield greater satisfaction among providers and improved access and quality of services for clients, resulting in a more consistent standard of care across the province," the report said.

The province's sexual abuse program made headlines last spring when Victoria's Mary Manning Centre was forced to issue layoff notices to three part-time therapists because of a lack of funding. The subsequent publicity prompted public donations totaling more than $130,000 that allowed the centre to re-hire therapists and eliminate a waitlist for sexually abused children.

A TC investigation at the time found that other agencies were also struggling, that sexually abused children were waiting up to six months for treatment in some regions, and that the program's budget had been frozen at $3 million for 17 years.

Children's Minister Tom Christensen expressed concern last May that the budget had been frozen for so long.

"I'm asking my staff questions about that to see if it's something we need to be looking at more closely," he said.

The ministry's review a year earlier, however, had already identified key areas requiring attention, including "establishing appropriate funding."

"Providers maintain that funding has not kept pace with population growth, particularly in high-growth geographic areas, or inflation," the review said.

Christensen said in an interview this week that he did not know all the details of the review last spring, though he was aware his ministry had been looking at the sexual abuse program. The review was done about five months before he was appointed minister.

"Having said that, quite frankly my answers in the spring wouldn't have been any different," he said.

Christensen said it's no surprise that when the ministry surveys agencies to see if they have a shortage of cash, "you get the answer, 'Yes, there is.'"

He noted the review found little consistency among how agencies run sexual-abuse counselling programs across the province, and stressed the need to establish standards before dealing with money matters.

"That's the work that's been underway for the last number of months," Christensen said. Draft standards are ready for review, and the ministry recently held a training session on trauma counselling, he said.

"We are moving forward in terms of trying to ensure that this is an effective program and that the public can be assured of quality services, regardless of where they may access them in the province, and that there's some consistency of standards," he said.

Once that's done, he hinted at a possible budget boost for the program in the 2008-2009 fiscal year. "I didn't make any secret of it in the spring that I was surprised that the funding had been frozen, and I certainly am of the view that when people have suffered sexual abuse and we have effective counselling that can help them to deal with that, then we need to be working hard to make it available."

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Sears is into Union Busting in the Lower Mainland

Taking a cue from the morally-repugnant labour tactics of Vancouver's NPA, Sears has locked out IBEW 213 after they refused a take-it-or-leave-it concession-filled contract without even bringing it to their membership.

Sears has also been involved in impeding unionization in Belleville in 2006.

I'm sure Sears will blame it on the strong Canadian dollar.

Service Technicians employed by Sears in the lower
mainland of BC were locked out on October 1, 2007
because they would not work under a collective
agreement that was imposed. Bargaining broke off
on September 27 when Sears demanded that the
Bargaining Committee either reject or accept the
offer right then and there prior to taking it to
their members. Sears locked them out On October 1,
first thing in the morning and then offered them a
chance to come in and work under the company's new
agreement. The "agreement" contained many
concessions and was inferior to what the employees
had previously. These long term employees joined
the Union in 1997 because of poor management and a
constant chipping away at terms and conditions of
employment by Sears. They are represented by IBEW
Local 213. They are asking that others do not
patronize Sears until this dispute is resolved
regardless of where they live in Canada.

We are asking all of our members to show support
for these workers who are fighting for dignity and
respect by not doing any business with this unfair
employer. If you would like to express your
opinion to Sears management, call: 1-800-973-7579
(Sears President's Line) or 1-800-469-4663.

Thank you for not shopping at Sears until this
dispute is resolved.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Children of Poor Families in NDP Ridings are Worth Less than Children in neoLiberal Ridings

“The provincial distribution goals were met.” - Minister of State for Childcare, Linda Reid, October 24, 2007.

I’m sure the government isn’t lying when they say that 53% of the 2,000 booster seats handed out to poor families in BC went to people in NDP ridings.

“We achieved geographic reach across British Columbia.” - Linda Reid

The seats were handed out only by neoLiberal MLAs at their constituency offices where elegant photo ops took place.

Only 5 booster seats were distributed through all of north Vancouver Island and none in Haida Gwaii, despite government offices that could have distributed seats.

The premier’s Point Grey riding is not filled with the poor. It wasn’t on the government’s list for provincial distribution. Yet the NDP found he had a photo of himself handing out a booster seat on his website yesterday, until they pulled it.

Linda Reid said during question period today that she regrets the distribution method, but says their goals were met.

It is clear their goal was more than just handing out booster seats to the poor.

Even if 53% did go to children in poor families in NDP ridings, the neoLiberal MLAs took the photo ops instead of distributing the seats through government agencies.

When a person in Surrey phoned the BCAA to see if they could get a booster seat, they were asked if their MLA was a neoLiberal. No seat was available for them.


"We do not believe that constituency offices are partisan." - Linda Reid

While technically true that constituency offices represent all constituents regardless of who they voted for, when neoLiberal MLAs and the premier take pictures of themselves handing out booster seats, constituency offices are being politicized.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Sassy Indian Squaw: Imagine, Create, Transform?

"This sexy indian costume comes with suede corsetted dress with leather fringe and matching anklet."

It's the "Sassy Indian Squaw" Halloween costume and shock of shocks, it is going around the internet as a symbol of offense to all sorts of people. A few ironies lurk in the background, particularly in BC.

1. Halloween Mart's website boasts Imagine, Create and Transform as their motto. It's hard to see how this costume accomplishes any of that.

2. For the second time this year, a local First Nation has voted to ratify a treaty with the Crown. Regardless of where you stand on the content/process of these treaties this year, the Maa-Nulth have voted to imagine, create and transform.

At least some are able to move past the past. Too bad we all can't.

You can contact Halloween Mart here to let them know what you think of their sexy Indian squaw and her matching anklet.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Racist Survey Questions on a Survey about Multi-Culturalism


OK. Click on this image. I dare you. I'll go into how offended I am by it below. If you find the questions fine, you can stop reading now and go here.

I'm starting to become far more than mildly concerned about Innovative Research Group. I've already written about the creative nature of interpreting reality that goes on at Robbins SCE Research. Now I can't help but wonder about the validity of IRG's polling.

Among whatever else they do, they conduct monthly polls in an online format. They ask about political support and current events.

Their online polling methodology is questionable. To sign up for their Canada 20/20 polls, you must provide an incredibly personal dossier on yourself, which they can use to pre-determine who gets to answer each month's poll. Maybe they request participation randomly. If so, why bother with all the up-front data-mining? I suppose we should just trust them on this. Here are your views and information they ask about [a poll in itself] before you can participate in their polls:
  1. federal party support
  2. our presence in Afghanistan
  3. Medicare and prescription drugs
  4. gender
  5. birthdate
  6. postal code
  7. citizenship
  8. residency
  9. whether you work in media or polling
  10. whether and who you voted for in the last federal election
  11. whether Quebec is a distinct society
  12. federal party affiliation
  13. your registered and non-registered investments
  14. your personal financial asset wealth
  15. your charitable giving habits
  16. the role of newspapers, tv and the internet in your news gathering, and which media outlets
  17. whether you rent or own your home
  18. employment status, sector, job category and authority position
  19. formal education
  20. union membership
  21. religion!
  22. language at home
  23. and of course the money shot, household income [which you can decline to answer, as with some but not all other questions]
  24. the country where you and your parents were born
  25. whether you wish to be in a focus group
Aside from the poll not being a random sample of British Columbians [the homeless and others on the wrong side of the digital divide don't always check their email promptly enough], their August poll asked "473 British Columbians" from around the province to comment on Vancouver's strike. Asking people far from Vancouver what they think of Vancouver's strike is questionable. This might explain how on page 10 of their August poll report, we find that 62% of those polled found the strike to not have affected them at all while 18% were affected "not much." Perhaps they don't live in Vancouver? Their heading on page 10 is "Most feel no impact from strike." Really.

They do break down the 17% of 473 people [or 80] who reported being affected and 96% of them [77 people] ]live in Vancouver or the lower mainland. I am not thrilled by that sample size. Good thing the Vancouver Sun reported on the poll that includes merely 77 of the over 2 million living in the lower mainland [that's .00386% of the population].

In all, they conclude that poll participants think the union had been more unreasonable than the city. Presumably this includes people from the rest of BC who may have virtually no knowledge of the machinations of the strike itself. In the end it doesn't matter because the percentages blaming each side were within the margin of error. So no one really loses. They interpret this to mean a pox on both your houses. Perhaps the conclusion is lack of information due to living in Fort St. John or Cranbrook.

So I've been wary of IRG's methodology for some time now. But this evening I participated in one of their polls. Why not? I have a chance to win $500.

After many reasonable questions in the monthly online survey, many having to do with general views of federal and provincial politics and multi-cultural acceptance [perhaps having to do with Bruce Allen and his idiocy], I encountered a series of questions asking how I felt about living in a society with so many cultures.

I was even asked to reflect on the idea that after all, our nation is a land of immigrants. [I agreed.]

Then I clicked on the next page button and saw this piece of garbage above.

I thought I had learned to stuff down the bile in my throat after Gordon Campbell's BC neoLiberal party has gone all in favour of treaty negotiations after their racist First Nations treaty referendum, but now we have a "major" polling group asking these ridiculous questions.

Below is the letter I sent to their support@canada2020.com. Feel free to share with them how you feel about asking these ridiculous questions. And pop back here to see any updates. I expect a response from them. If I don't get one, I'll comment on that as well.

Attached is a screenshot of a question in your current web survey [the same image as above].

It is irresponsible, inflammatory and impossible to answer by anyone but the ignorant or at best highly uninformed.

It can provide no meaningful information.

You should be ashamed of yourselves.

While most of the other questions were highly or mostly answerable without having to over-simplify thought, this entire page is an affront. I await your apology and a public apology to all who have answered this survey.

I will be tracking how you disseminate the results of this survey. If you demonstrate that you have included information from this question, I will publicly be demanding a public apology.

Stephen Elliott-Buckley

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Some Simple Homelessness Arithmetic

BC's 2006-2007 Budget Surplus: $4.1 billion

Homeless people in Vancouver: 2,000

Homeless people in BC: 5,000

Cost of a home we could have purchased for each of BC's homeless people with last year's budget surplus: $820,000

Here are a few options.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

I'm Done with the Olympics

So Bruce Allen is a xenophobic bigot. Nothing new there.

And having been turned off the Olympics from decades of drug scandals and corporate co-optation, VANOC's de facto copyrighting of the number 2010, not to mention the International Olympic Committee [a global entity owned by who, regulated by who and accountable to who?], and during my preparations to boycott the China Olympics next summer because China is a murderous, totalitarian regime [but then Hitler hosted the Olympics too] I find myself stuck with how to boycott the 2010 Olympics in my home town.

Not that I could afford to go, so that's something off my 2009 Christmas List. But really it's only the hockey I'd miss, but when I think about it, the Olympics are much like an all-star game. Curious, but not as compelling as the Stanley Cup playoffs. So now I'm feeling easy about skipping the whole nonsense.

But now Bruce Allen, the bigot, is connected to the Olympics. So I whip off a quick note to our Olympic organizers [whose meetings and financial books are not open to scrutiny, though they are spending public money] saying how I feel, then they reply, then I reply [I can't wait for their next reply, I suspect it will be a "we agree to disagree, respectfully"]:

Here's how I started it off:

bruce allen is an embarrassment to canada. there is no place for him representing us with your organization in any capacity.

his perspective of multiculturalism is shameful and an offense to all canadians.

And I receive a polite FOAD email saying not to fret, he's only a minor player:

Vancouver 2010 Info wrote:

Hello,
Thank you for your interest in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. We wish to acknowledge your e-mail. At Vancouver 2010, we welcome everybody's comments, ideas and opinions.

We're committed to creating spectacular Ceremonies that celebrate
Canada's diversity and rich heritage - Ceremonies that make all Canadians proud. We will also showcase some of Canada's top musical talent every night of the Games at the Victory Ceremonies.

Bruce Allen's participation on the Ceremonies team is limited to helping
us secure some of the biggest music stars in the Canadian music industry. There are other members of the Ceremonies team who will be responsible for developing our Canadian messaging, themes and tone.

Bruce Allen's work for the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee
(VANOC) is and will remain entirely separate and distinct from other work he does including his public commentary and opinions on the radio.

He has communicated his regret over the controversy and he has strongly
reconfirmed and emphasized his support for our goal of showcasing Canada's cultures and celebrating our diversity through the 2010 Winter Games Ceremonies.

We appreciate you taking the time to share your views.


Thanks again,

Vancouver Info


And then I replied:

true, he regrets the controversy [only someone of questionable sanity wouldn't], but he stands by his views that oppose the diversity and rich heritage you wish to celebrate.

having a limited role for bruce allen is no solution. his presence in your organization stains your whole organization.


you need to remove him from organization completely.


I have no respect for, or faith in our Olympic organizers. I also think that if someone not famous or in the music biz who works for them phoned up all the great Canadian [and the relatively unknown ones] and asked if they'd like to be involved in the Olympics, they'd jump at the free marketing. You don't need Bruce Allen to secure them.

Yet another reason for boycotting these pathetic games. We have last year a $4.1 billion provincial surplus, social service cuts that make Bill Vander Zalm look like Dave Barrett, thousands of homeless, tens of thousands living below the poverty line, and privatization galore. We also have what someone once said, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

And I'm supposed to support the Olympics? Get a grip.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Psst, Wanna Buy a BC River?

September 30, 2007 is British Columbia Rivers Day!

This is a time to celebrate the role BC rivers has played in the history of our province, from before Europeans came [though we don't really seem to actually care too much about that] until today: British imperialism, economics, recreation, [ecology, yes], etc.

Wouldn't it be great in celebrating BC's rivers that you had the opportunity to, I don't know, buy the water rights in perpetuity for up to $10,000?

If that sounds like a nice way to spend $10k for the chance to make your own electricity plant, you know how to spot a bargain! Well, the government, anyway, sure knows how to offer a bargain...everyone's water at fire sale prices. Then you too can contribute to rolling brownouts, regional blackouts and price gouging just like the fatcats!

Green tags represent many of the 62 current water licenses for power generation or storage. Yell tags represent many of the 350+ pending applications. Red lines indicate parks.

Hurry! The offer doesn't last forever! Once BC rivers have all been bought up, there literally will be none left for you to snatch up. Get on it!

And if you aren't so much in favour of selling our water rights for any price, let alone less than $10,000, they it's time to get involved in stopping the continued privatization of the commons: Citizens for Public Power is a good place to start.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

The End of "Mayor" Sam Sullivan

Welcome Peter Ladner, NPA's next mayoral candidate.

Sam Sullivan has unofficially ended his term as mayor at 11:03AM today as CUPE announced a tentative settlement in North Vancouver. We have passed the tipping point in the regional dispute.

Sullivan's strategy has been absurd, ill-conceived and ill-informed at best, arrogant and destructive at worst. In fact, however, it is not a new strategy: it has a historic [and historically foolish] basis: Boulwarism.

It's all about rejecting bargaining entirely and starting "negotiating" with a final offer that won't budge from threats or strikes. It inherently opposes the rights of workers to negotiate with management.

In light of the Supreme Court of Canada's recent ruling that BC's Bill 29 is illegal and that collective bargaining is protected under the Charter, "Mayor" Sam's tactics are in the spirit of what the Supreme Court opposes, as are the abuses the HEU suffered earlier in the decade and BC teachers' loss of the right to bargain wages, working conditions and class sizes.

But "Mayor" Sam is always right. Until he is embarrassingly wrong. Here's how it looks today:


Richmond, Surrey, Delta, Burnaby and North Vancouver have got Vancouver surrounded with contracts that aren't punitively designed to punish labour because it is organized. Vancouver has had the strength to bargain unfairly with the GVRD's bargaining support, until now as the 5 largest municipalities around Vancouver have or will settle by tomorrow. Vancouver's bargaining strength is virtually gone. Richmond and Surrey, that do not use the GVRD bargaining stick, helped set a pattern that the other 3 cities have recognized, and in doing so have constrained the GVRD's scope to push Vancouver's agenda and support Vancouver's internal turmoil.

Keith Baldrey wrote in the Coquitlam Now on July 25, 2007, “the BC economy has undergone significant changes (forestry, while still big, is not the huge industry it once was) and the power of organized labour has diminished in the past two decades. …The economy is doing well, and employees consider themselves deserving of a bigger portion of that richer economic pie.”

The truth is broader though. Sure, the better economy means the workers ought to share in it. But the truth is that even when the economy was not so good in recent decades, corporate profits and management salaries have done well, often at the expense of workers, whose purchasing power today is close to half of what it was 30 years ago.

People often complain—especially during civic strikes like now--that union workers are lazy whiners who seek opportunities to strike while “real” workers in the private sector don’t have job security or finite hours of work or good working conditions. Their goal seems to be to make unionized workers have to suck it up and suffer the same kind of crappy jobs, wages, working conditions, hours of work and lack of protections that non-union workers are forced to endure.

Unions have spent the better part of two centuries agitating for change: weekends, a 40 hour work week [hopefully to decline further for quality of life concerns and higher meaningful employment rates], no children working 12-hour 7-day weeks in coal mines [except in BC now, thanks to Campbell’s neoLiberal regime, children as young as 12 can get their asses to work], overtime pay, holidays, vacations, health and safety provisions, etc. So many of these benefits have become so valued that society as a whole has adopted them into legislation: the Labour Code, minimum wages, collective bargaining rights to support democracy in the workplace. And now the Supreme Court has joined our side.

So while many non-union workers think unionized workers get too much, my question to them is don’t you deserve as much too? Why try to stop others from being treated with dignity at work because you aren’t. Should we all have a labour race to the bottom so we’re all back in sweatshops? Stop the insanity.

And as Baldry writes that the power of unions has declined, it is because unionization, particularly private sector unionization, has declined. Instead of trying to drag other workers down to lower levels of treatment, it’s time increase the level and breadth of unionization, particularly in the private sectors. Why aren’t bank workers unionized? They are often treated like moronic cogs on a product-shilling wheel while the big banks in Canada regularly post quarterly profits [not revenues!] in the billions?

Sam Sullivan doesn’t get it. Actually, he does get it. It’s just that he rejects it while claiming in his inaugural address to support it:

“Vancouver is blessed with highly skilled staff who maintain our status as the most liveable city in the world. Tightening labour markets will present challenges over the next five years to attract, retain and develop our work force. All of us should be grateful for the front line workers who serve us so well. Our recruitment theme ‘Powered by Innovation’ should be more than a slogan as we provide interesting and rewarding careers."

Intelligent city councils surrounding Vancouver get it too and they don’t reject it. CUPE workers get it because they know they deserve to be treated with respect…as do all other workers, despite what our arrogant, anti-social premier and mayor believe.

So thanks for the memories, "Mayor" Sam Sullivan. Let your lame duck mayoralty begin.

And, Peter Ladner, the tide is turning. Remember that as you build your NPA leadership campaign.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Post-Post-Modernist, Non-Ironic Self-Reflexivity in Advertising: It Bores/Annoys Me Already

Click on that image above to view it in a nice, big size. You won't regret it.

So, every once in a while, the free daily Metro does away with...I don't know how to say this...any actual news on the front page. It just puts an ad there. The whole page. And the next page too.

Then they start the "paper" on page 3.

When they first did it, I was flabbergasted, though I shouldn't have been.

On Tuesday, July 21st, 2007 they did it again.

But this time it was a highly self-reflexive post-post-modern joke about there being no news and alas there was no news on the front page.

The joke several layers deep, or maybe just 2 layers deep [it's hard to count] is that there is no real news in Metro. There is just soft news masquerading as substance and substantial news with so little length that depth and thorough understanding is impossible. It all just seems to be news: a simulacra.

So as they and all the other free dailies unapologetically offer fluff over real news, they are even content to mock their own emptiness by profiting from their vacuousness with an ad skating so close to the truth.

But what happens to the population when they "read" this paper with this ad. Do they get it? Do they just skate over it mentally? Do they not care? I'm afraid to know the truth.

Metro is hip and connected to the vibe of its people:

"Our reporters get to the point quickly and cover Vancouver politics, up-and-coming local artists, events and much more. Our columnists keep readers informed about the latest celebrities visiting our city, shopping and restaurants – everything readers want, right at their fingertips."

By quickly does that mean without any slow stuff like background or analysis? And news columnists write about news. I have a hard time seeing fluff topics as being covered by columnists. But then, I suppose if you get a column in a paper on shopping, then that's news[?].

"Which is great, because since the beginning our readers have maintained a special relationship with Metro."

What the hell kind of relationship have we got with Metro? Is Metro our barber, therapist, confidante, bookie, work-spouse? Who started this relationship? Is it consensual? Was I informed that I'm in a relationship? Is it one-sided, completely constructed by a newspaper, its marketing arm, its focus groups and studies of target audiences, and its will to determine for us what news is so when we're asked we say news is that thing we're fed?

"They’re an established and loyal group who believe in, connect with and respond."

Established by Metro? Who decides how that amorphous group is loyal to anything, let alone a newspaper? Is it loyalty like to the Canucks or an extended family or belief system? And what does this loyal group believe in about Metro? This is just lunacy.

In the end, Metro's self-description sounds like a church. Metro isn't a product we consume as much as a lifestyle we choose and identify with. Psychology + Marketing = Mind Control. And if we actually believe Metro speaks to us, I've got some Kool-Aid I'd like you to drink.

I tell ya, Pravda never had it so good: at least there, everyone knew it was all the same, here we have the illusion of a free press because the papers and media outlets have different names.

In the end, the CanWestMedia whore owns the Vancouver Sun, The Province, The National Post, the Times-Colonist, 14 lower mainland weeklies, Global and CH TV and Showcase [with their purchase of Alliance Atlantis], all of the Dose free daily paper and until recently, 1/3 of Metro. The CRTC without any real concern for corporate concentration of media [unless it impedes free advertiser access] gives us all a snapshot of the media empire [see below or see here]. And in the end, regardless of which media robber baron is in charge of the "truth" we are allowed to see, the corporate media filter censors reality daily.



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Monday, July 30, 2007

Sam's Strike: The Arrogance of the Man and "The Man"

It is clear to me that Sam's Strike is all about the Vancouver mayor's deluded sense of autocracy [see below].

While other municipalities are being lined up to support Vancouver's mean-spirited refusal to bargain in good faith, we wait to watch how long Sam can go thinking that the world will actually revolve around him and his idea that through his immense, sheer will, thousands of people who are actually committed to building community will crack under his might and give in to his petty demands.

His mayoralty is a shame.

Vancouver is the only city in Canada that has had three strikes in the last decade. In a strong economy, to not reward public workers, but instead to demand job insecurity and a contract term to expire days after the Olympics ends is just plain mean. It's also representative of the grand golden straitjacket of neoliberalism that erodes the social fabric we've spent generations building.

Talks with CUPE 15 break down, city fails again to bargain worker issues

[July 28, 2007 08:53 PM]

VANCOUVER – CUPE 15, the union representing striking Vancouver inside workers, returned to the bargaining table yesterday at 9:30 a.m. tabling a 5 year package that addressed Mayor Sullivan’s concern about labour stability through the Olympics, with an understanding that the city was prepared to deal with issues that were also important to the union.

Despite this CUPE 15 movement, the City of Vancouver once again refused to bargain and spent less than 2 hours and 22 minutes over a period of two full days speaking with the union. The rest of the time, the city committee “caucused” while union negotiators sat and waited.

“We knew something was wrong when we arrived at the table and the City of Vancouver did not even have their two top decision makers in the room or in the building,” says CUPE 15 president, Paul Faoro. “You would have thought that with a strike coming into its second week, civic services at a halt and nearly 5,500 Vancouver city workers on the street, that General Manager Mike Zora and City Manager Judy Rogers would have made it a priority to attend and negotiate a settlement. What else could be more important?”

“There is one thing I give the city credit for,” says Faoro. “Consistency. The City of Vancouver has consistently failed to bargain and continues to frustrate the process to this day.”

CUPE 15 presented a complete written package to the city for negotiation on Friday morning. The city refused to respond in writing to the proposal.

“Frankly, we have had enough of this circus, and we suspect the public has had enough too. What is it going to take for the city to realize that manipulation and game-playing is not going to bring about a collective agreement?” says Faoro. “How much does the public have to be inconvenienced and how long do our members have to walk the picket-line without a paycheque, unable to provide the services they are proud to deliver to the residents of Vancouver?”

CUPE 15’s chief negotiator, Keith Graham, says the city is still holding onto their “final offer”, tabled on July 9th, 2007. This is the same offer that union members voted down by an overwhelming 89% because it had takeaways and failed to address issues of importance to the union, like job security (no-contracting out language), improvements for auxiliaries, whistleblower protection and harassment resolution language.

Description of major CUPE 15 issues:

Contrary to common belief, CUPE 15’s current collective agreement has no language in it that protects Vancouver’s inside workers from contracting out. At any moment, the city of Vancouver can outsource whatever services they choose, eliminating jobs and compromising the quality and stability of public services. It is for this reason that CUPE 15’s primary concern is to negotiate language that provides them with job security through the term of the agreement.

“We recognize that is it reasonable for the city of Vancouver to secure labour stability through the Olympics, but it is also reasonable for city workers to seek job security,” says Faoro. “Mayor Sullivan and his management staff have given us no reason to trust that they won’t just contract out our jobs one-by-one over the next 5-years.”

Another major issue that the union would like to see addressed is improvements for auxiliary workers, whom have no right to be scheduled by seniority, no benefits, no statutory holiday pay and have gone from temporary and occasional work relief to a massive under-compensated labour pool. In parks, for instance, two-thirds of the workforce is made up of “auxiliary workers” who are kept in this position for years and years.

CUPE 15 would like to see more of these jobs converted into full-time jobs with benefits and negotiate improvements for remaining auxiliaries that include scheduling by seniority. Right now, management can and does decide to call into work an auxiliary with less than a day on the job over an auxiliary worker with 14 years service with the city.

The union has also made it a priority at the bargaining table to negotiate harassment resolution language and whistleblower protection - contract language that protects workers from discipline and/or job loss when they speak out on an issue of public concern, like water safety, equipment maintenance, safety procedures, etc.

Union package to city of Vancouver, July 27, 2007:

Using the contract ratified in Richmond as a starting point, CUPE 15 tabled a wage increase of 21 percent over 5 years that they clearly stated was negotiable. The package also included proposed benefit improvements and the above-mentioned priorities.

The city claimed that the union’s package amounted to a total cost of 30 percent and was not “affordable and reasonable”. Faoro says the city’s calculation is more “phantom costing” and just an excuse not to begin negotiations in earnest.

“It is frustrating to be at the bargaining table with people who clearly do not understand or are pretending not to understand how negotiations work,” says Faoro. “The idea is both sides present their position and you end up somewhere in between.”

Robin Jones, CUPE National representative and chief negotiator for CUPE 394 and CUPE 718, the two Richmond locals that ratified a deal last week is available to comment to the media on the total cost of his committee’s initial proposal to the city, which he says began at about 40% cost to the city of Richmond.

“We asked for almost 12 benefit improvements, we agreed to only two in the end, glasses and dietician services. We asked for a $2 an hour shift differential, we agreed to only $1 an hour in the end. We asked for $1.50 an hour dirty pay, we agreed to 75 cents, we asked for 100 percent benefit coverage and we ended up with only 80 percent in the end and the list goes on,” says Jones. “That’s how negotiations work and today we have a signed collective agreement and both sides are happy. But you can’t get there if one party is not willing to negotiate.”

CUPE 15 represents Vancouver’s 2,500 inside city workers who normally work at city, parks, Ray-Cam, and Britannia Community Centre.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Gordon Campbell's Greedy, Sticky Fingers in Riverview and Tsawwassen

On Friday, July 27, 2007, Rich Coleman set his status on his Facebook page as "thinking big about Riverview." Once a mental health facility, it closed down in the 1990s as the model for mental health administration changed.

But now, Coleman, Minister of Forests and Range and a-ha! Minister Responsible for Housing, sees great things for the vast under-[market]-utilized tract of land: condos!

Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan, not one to embrace humility, consensus, community-building or progressive social change, has embraced the province's decision to develop Riverview. And why not. Why bother with pesky social housing in Vancouver itself. Why bother with dealing with social decay, homelessness, abject poverty and drug addiction by accommodating people actually in our city when the province is thinking of sucking land out of decades of imprisonment at Riverview for market housing...oh yes, let's send the ne'er-do-wells out there. NIMBY institutionalized!

Why bother developing the land solely for mental health and social needs when you can plunk some market housing there. After all, people live on the former BC Penitentiary site.

Coleman mentally meanders about like this: "We should blend in some social housing and seniors housing for folks [folks=the kind of people George w.Caesar talks to/about] who need it, and also some types of supportive housing for families and for seniors and the health side [and the health side? this is now in the running for political vagueness sound bite of the month] and then you have a lot of land there that may be allowed to where you could maybe do some market housing would help pay for those facilities on behalf of taxpayers, I think it's something that we'd have to look at." [my emphasis]

Absolutely, Mr. I-Want-To-Defeat-Carole-Taylor-As-Next-BC-Premier, we kinda think that maybe there's land there so maybe kinda we could I dunno, sell it?...and make some cash to pay for, you know, all the cost and stuff for taking care of like old people and the mentally and socially challenged...yeah.

God only knows that taxes are an evil burden, even to pay for, hmmm, "supportive housing for families and for seniors and the health side" because the taxpayer wants value for their money. Value in the form of massive tax cuts so we don't to pay for them. Shudder.

But not to be outdone by the Riverview condo fire sale, we also have the new treaty between the province and the Tsawwassen First Nation. Sure, there are many points on the political continuum of First Nations relations with this "Canada" thing and while the Tsawwassen First Nation will certainly gain from the deal in some tangible ways, many see it as a sell-out doing dirty deals with occupiers in many other ways.

Despite whatever spin whoever wants to put on the treaty, a potent template for urban treaty negotiations, there are several facts here that make Gordon Campbell et al grin. Land will be removed from the socialist Agricultural Land Reserve. That land will be paved so containers coming in and out of DeltaPort can rest on their long Pacific Rim journey inside BC's great golden Gateway Plan of fossil fuel worship that includes twinning the Port Mann Bridge. Instead of just pulling land out of the ALR despite legislative processes, it is certainly less politically ugly for the province to sign a treaty and co-opt one of so many generationally oppressed First Nations to get the land out of the ALR for container storage.

In all, it has been a good week for the BC Liberals neoliberal land reform program.

I see it as a bad week for mental health programs, socially progressive housing, government as service provider for the needy and disenfranchised, social and economic justice, sound ecological stewardship, respect for aboriginal title, and universality and equality in society.

Or maybe I should just stop complaining, invest in a container shipping firm and buy a river view condo in Coquitlam.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Poisoning a Community: What Forces Teachers to Leave

Jeepers. This piece [see below] was terrifying, mostly because of the angry abuse making up many of the comments at the website.

"It's just a job." That's a scary phrase. But I can relate to it. I quit just before I got to that place, and that was after 12 years teaching in first a pretty good climate leading to a steadily soul-destroying climate.

I still deal with the regret of spending almost a decade wanting to become a teacher, doing the training and getting a job, then building professional competence, only to see it assaulted by political forces. Reforming from within is something so many are capable of doing without becoming too bitter. I have immense respect for them. The price became too high for me.

Now I have stepped out of the classroom to find more politically powerful tools to address the underlying hyper-individualistic ideological and neoliberal economics motivations for destroying the public, universal, communitarian, society-building education system in exchange for one that worships the inherent god of free-market economics.

But I still resent having my vocation stolen from me by a poisoned climate. Yet, I am still optimistic. Optimistic and unwavering in my belief that when my children turn 5, they will have a rewarding public school experience despite others' attempts to defund and undermine it for their own material greed, misanthropy and hatred of "the inferior".

Oh, yes, the soul-destroying climate:

- parents who blindly stand behind their students who are caught cheating, insisting that the teachers are lying, despite evidence, perhaps because they feel being a good parent means always believing your child
- arbitrary statistical school "performance" goals that encourage fudging enrollment in provincial government exam courses
- the institutional mentality that increasingly needs to pound square peg students into round holes
- "customer" satisfaction surveys
- corporate "food" companies building food fairs in cafeterias
- parents claiming I am discriminating against their students because I didn't catch all the other cheaters on the test, therefore their students shouldn't be "consequenced"
- labour flexibility = servitude
- functionally illiterate administrators who believe they are inspiring
- administrators soliciting parents to complain to them about teachers instead of following district policy asking them to show enough respect for the teachers to speak to them first
- administrators trying to subvert any due process to get teachers to quit
- administrators soliciting students to complain about unfavoured teachers
- high stakes testing
- the ignorance-championing view that what cannot be measured with "objective," "verifiable" statistics is not worth teaching
- new teachers having to justify their grade distribution to their administrators as a statistical whole, rather than an aggregate of actual individual students' achievement
- staff meetings split into 4 different groups in different rooms to keep the staff from discussing contentious issues affecting the entire learning community
- the Fraser Institute--with its website and publications riddled with spelling errors--promoting myopic, research-rejecting educational values
- teachers who welcome and even champion government violations of their labour and human rights
- Ministry staff and government functionaries who believe consulting stakeholders means refusing to speak with BCTF representatives because they are a special interest group, different from all the other special interests
- legislating used car salespeople to have a self-regulating professional body, but removing teachers' ability to have the same
- students who feel it is a human rights violation to be asked to handwrite or not write formal essays w/ txt msg abrev's and shit, u no?
- Emery Dosdall
- Christy Clark
- Gordon Campbell


http://thetyee.ca/Views/Teacherdiaries/2007/03/28/GoodbyeClass/


Why I Left the Classroom
Teaching changed, so I changed my life.
By Shaun Cunningham
Published: March 28, 2007
TheTyee.ca

One in five teachers leaves the profession within the first five years of teaching. Or is it one in thirteen, as the Ontario government claims? Whatever the stats, they don't reveal how many vanishing teachers were young and restless, old and exhausted, or, like myself, somewhere in between.

Based on what I've overheard in the public school staff rooms of British Columbia, about 98 per cent of teachers say they seriously consider getting out about once a day. The other two per cent are, of course, either Buddhists or medicated. I am one of these. Gone, that is, not medicated.

My own stand-up performance lasted 15 years, thus outlasting by ten years all those who leap from the ship within the first five years. It's not so much that I'm a slow learner, but rather that this is how long it took me to achieve the spectacular kind of burn-out which hasn't been seen since one of my Junior High math teachers declared in the middle of class, "This doesn't add up", left the room, and was never seen again.

Teaching was my identity and I miss it. So the answer to why I left isn't simple. The answer, "to look after my children" brings sighs, nods of knowing commiseration, and the occasional hug from young mothers who barely know me. But in truth, I have a kind of laundry list of items which, taken together, may or may not constitute the dirt on why I and so many teachers leave the best profession on earth.

Numbers that add up

Those who believe that the 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. school bells constitute the parameters of teachers' working hours subscribe to one or more illusions. One of these is perhaps based on recollections of the kind of schooling that depended primarily on textbooks, workbooks and on matching words to pictures. A second might be the vision of a teacher standing before a group of "average students" who are all able to learn at roughly the same rate and in roughly the same way.

Teachers now stand before a group of individuals. Each of their learning styles, their needs, their contexts, abilities and disabilities needs identification, respect, modification and thought. In one split class of 29 students, I was faced with 19 different "labels," nine of which required completely individualized education plans. After countless meetings and forms, at June's end that particular year, I waved good-bye to a group who seemed not to be significantly hampered by my inability to meet their needs. I, on the other hand, was mute with both exhaustion and a sense of personal failure.

Given the expectation of individualization, textbooks (where updated versions exist in sufficient numbers) have become only semi-useful tools of instruction. Many teachers run, by necessity, a "resource-based classroom." This involves locating, evaluating, modifying and adapting material wherever you can find it. When two parents asked for homework in advance so as to pack it along on a trip to Disneyland, I suggested that they would need to make room for me. "I'm the program," I said. "What time do we leave?"

Discussing this often inspires lectures from experts on education, most of whom work at jobs outside the field -- like my Uncle Bob, for example. He had 40 or 50 kids in his room and his teacher carried a stick and wasn't afraid to use it. He refers to these times as "the good old days," which is why no one wants Uncle Bob at Thanksgiving dinner.

Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll

When did I get so conservative that I wanted to skip the class debating session and work on negative integers instead? Well, the day I intervened to stop a vote on who was hotter, Hillary Duff or Britney Spears, that's when.

The voice in my head says, "I can't believe I'm talking about this with 30 twelve-year-olds and I REALLY can't believe that kid just asked that question in public. Is this something to discuss openly? In a classroom? Is my face red? Is this really in the curriculum?"

Yes, it is. Everything is: reading, writing, arithmetic, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.

The hat rack

Teacher training programs provide hats, which are trendy in style, to suit the basic tasks of daily organization, instruction and assessment. There are many of them, but they're quickly outdated. Then teachers add their own new hats in the day-to-day dealings with 30 students, which we wear proudly into staff rooms: "Hey! Check out my new counsellor cap!" Each new one makes us feel as though we have responded, made a difference in young lives.

We collect more hats in our service to school-based managers, formerly known as principals. The boards themselves, who often speak as though CEOs of a publicly traded company, remind our captains never to remove their "fiduciary duty" fedoras. Where budgets rule, the quality of leadership is determined by numbers.

By year three, my headgear had expanded from the day-wear of a classroom teacher into the evening-wear of other roles: Attender of Many Meetings (some of which are called to cancel the initiatives announced at the last), Neurologist, Pharmacist, Public Speaker, Filer of Documentation, Punching Bag, Conscientious Objector. . . .

As I sat at home one night ignoring my own kids while polishing my union helmet before another evening meeting, it finally hit me. "Hey! This is just another hat!"

Flip flopping

In theory, schooling is about "the basics," and in reality, at report card time at least, it returns to those roots. Between this tri-annual grounding, however, schooling has become very much about the societal ill du jour and about ideology. What's on the talk show tonight may well be in your classroom in the form of a draft document by the end of the week. Then cancelled shortly after. I recall gulping down supper before heading off to do an evening workshop on "How to read your Year 2000 report card." My fork froze halfway to my mouth when I heard Mike Harcourt announce on the TV news that the Year 2000 program was dead.

Though not funny at all really, it became a form of entertainment for my teacher wife and I. "Wait for it!" we would say, while listening to a talk or call-in show. Sure enough, someone would say, "Schools need to do more about this."

Of course, schools need to address the ills of a society. It's just that some of these ills are diagnosed awfully quickly and the prescription tends often to be a program apparently hashed out in the back of a cab on the way to a booksellers' convention.

If the governments used the same method to plan public health as they do for education, medical treatments would be determined by the callers to yesterday's phone-in show.

'Flexibility'

My son, at seven years of age, got mad at me for referring to my students as "my kids." "They're not your kids, Dad," he said. "I am."

I tried to keep that fact in front of me afterward when trying to manage how much of my life became occupied with the dilemmas of the troubled little souls I dealt with. It didn't work. "My students" came to inhabit my thoughts, my planning and my approach to what was needed as surely as my own kids did. Sometimes, in those cases where students were in serious trouble or seriously troubled by their own circumstances, where I was not getting through, they took up even more space in my head. What was I to do -- adopt them? No room in the house.

I took to phoning those radio talk shows instead. "Listen," I said. "If you're going to ask teachers to deal with all the complex issues and dynamics of the day (in between the regular public bashings, that is), you're going to need smaller classes. There's a reason that people don't have 30 kids when they decide to raise a family."

The answer to this demand, sadly, was a new 2002 contract that replaced class size limits with "flexibility."

Feeding the students

By at least one measure, B.C. tops the provinces with the highest rate of child poverty. Those who dispute the numbers might visit what now constitutes a typical classroom. Depending on the locale, you will find an alarming number of children coming to elementary school without proper wear on cold days, without nutritious -- or any -- lunch, without sleep, without acquaintance with books and quite likely, without the slightest conviction that their schooling might change anything about their contexts and choices. The children of poverty require you to work at the level of need for which a degree in social work might have been better preparation. And when you have a choice between finding a warm spot for a kid to eat the school-provided, clandestine lunch or finding a replacement bulb for the overhead projector you need for the afternoon lesson on addition, it's the math that goes by the wayside.

Until, that is, the quiet and loud demands for care become overwhelming and you realize you don't feel you are making the kind of difference that needs to be made. You can too easily relate to the prejudice promoted by conservative governments and think-tanks. You begin sounding like someone else, speaking resentfully of "all these needs."

Getting revenge

When I was a student, my own experience of schooling was mostly abysmal. Part of the rationale for becoming a teacher, I have always claimed, was "revenge." I thought the best way to overcome the bitterness I felt was to join the ranks and do the job better, make schools better. Ten years into the profession, I recognized in myself an exhaustion akin to that which my Grade 11 social studies teacher must have been feeling when he had us spend the year copying notes from a textbook while he sat reading the newspaper at his desk.

Though I spent very little time at my desk -- and no part of my day on "personal reading," I asked a friend for a favour when I saw the potential for burn-out coming on. "When you see me starting to fizzle, when you see that look that says, 'Please kill me' on my students' faces, tell me," I said. I didn't want to stick around and torture kids more than the general experience of life in school already burdens some of them.

Unfortunately, my friend left town too soon. It became my own responsibility to spot the signs and, sure enough, they accumulated. Meeting-by-meeting, form-by-form, minister-by-minister, and kid-by-kid. So I left.

I have great admiration for those who remain to fight with the kind of wide-ranging involvement energy, time and conviction required. As for me, I volunteer in my children's own schools now and I write thank-you notes to their teachers at the slightest provocation. Perhaps I'll give it another try someday, but only after practicing the mantra it seems to require: "It's just a job. It's just a job. It's just a job."

Shaun Cunningham was a B.C. elementary school teacher for 15 years, who recently moved to New Brunswick. This week, he started substitute teaching in his daughter's school.

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