Thursday, November 01, 2007

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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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 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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Thursday, August 09, 2007

The NPA Union-Busters: an Open Letter to Vancouver City Council

If you agree with this posting, I strongly encourage you to email the Vancouver Mayor and City Council with a letter explaining just what you expect of them. Feel free to even copy this letter, sign it and send it to them at which will forward to each of them.

Dear Mayor and Council,

For those of you who have no interest in vindictively punishing your highly valued staff in your 3 unions, I commend you. I encourage you to continue to lobby the others of you, the NPA I assume (correct me if I'm wrong), to bargain fairly.

I don't know if you NPA union-busters are trying to save enough money from wages to pay off the Wilcox consultants or if you just like watching people suffer, but your refusal to meet your workers for more than 5 hours over THE LAST 6 DAYS is abhorrent and offensive to me.

I am ashamed that I live in this wonderful city when our "leaders" sink to this level of crass disrespect for the workers who support our social fabric, the workers you speak so highly of.

Your behaviour will not go unpunished in November 2008 when citizens wielding ballots all over the city will remember each one of you NPA social pariahs.

"Sam's Strike" can only exist with 5 NPA councillors continually supporting him.

17% over 5 years for workers in neighbouring municipalities is a fair settlement. As a citizen of Vancouver I would support those kind of numbers. Pay equity for library workers who suffer from gender discrimination IN THE 21ST CENTURY, IN CANADA, is due. We should be ashamed to delay it any longer.

This is the end of the NPA in Vancouver: your obvious desire to corrode our civil society is your undoing.

Your offense is obscene.

It is time to bargain a contract, not rewind our labour culture to the 19th century. Get to the table and do your job!

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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, February 08, 2007

The Myth of Media Objectivity

Kevin Potvin's piece yesterday in The Vancouver Courier [see below] is a welcome summary of the annoyance and offensiveness of The Province newspaper in particular and corporate media in general as they perpetuate the myth of their objectivity.

It is offensive to our democracy that is supposed to be enhanced by a "free" press for such a paper to actively promote the stadium development, collect mountains of ad revenue from its proponents, hold an online poll to guage public opinion, then remove the poll when the untampered results do not support their political/marketing position.

I, however, enjoy the irony that the CanWest monster that owns The Province also owns the The Vancouver Courier where Potvin and others often take valid shots at the legitimacy of CanWest's major propaganda dailies.

A friend once mentioned to me that this proves that CanWest actually supports fairness and balance in the media because they own one paper that frequently criticizes the validity of its other papers. But with just over 250,000 copies distributed for free each week throughout the city, The Vancouver Courier does not quite have the readership or budget to authentically counter the mind-numbing propaganda of The Province, The Vancouver Sun, or The National Post, the first two with a circulation of 2,500,000 each week.

And in the end, even if allowing this criticism in a small community paper [that is incidentally outweighed each delivery day by the fliers contained within, making the paper ultimately possibly just a convenient delivery mechanism for advertising] proves CanWest actually listens to or respects its own internal criticism, they certainly do not change their illegitimate operations at their propaganda dailies. So it actually looks worse for them: CanWest owns a paper that legitimately criticizes its major dailies, yet it ignores the criticism and continues subverting the role the free press ought to play in a democracy.


Whitecaps owe public a thank you

By Kevin Potvin

In the week before public speakers were scheduled to appear before council last fall to express their views on the waterfront stadium proposal, the Province newspaper staged an online poll asking what readers thought about it.

The Whitecaps sent an alert to everyone on its email lists urging them to go to the Province website and vote in favour. A link was conveniently provided. The results, which one could monitor as they were coming in, showed early support reaching up to 70 per cent.

But as the day wore on and other people besides those on the Whitecaps' lists were alerted, the tide began to shift. By 5 p.m., the vote was nearing 70 per cent opposed. That's when the poll disappeared from the Province website, replaced by a note apologizing for technical difficulties. Final results were never revealed.

I made phone calls and confirmed that Whitecaps president John LaRocca was in touch with a Province sports editor when the decision was made to pull the poll. When I talked to the Province the next day, the paper confirmed it had pulled it because the results did not look right to them, though their technicians could provide no evidence hacking had occurred. The Province is an official "sponsor" of the Whitecaps, and the Whitecaps buy substantial advertising in that paper. Editorials in the Province heavily endorsed the Whitecaps' waterfront stadium proposal.

It was the public that drew council's attention to the myriad problems the stadium proposal contained, and not just problems for the public but also for soccer fans and the proposed stadium's owners as well. Chief among public concerns was the obvious safety hazard involved in packing in 30,000 people above an inaccessible storage area for train cars carrying such things as propane, bauxite and chlorine-the three ingredients in a train derailment in Mississauga that caused the biggest evacuation in Canadian history.

There was also the matter of there being only two exits from the proposed building, with no marshalling area outside the doors, meaning 30,000 fans would plug the streets of the Downtown Eastside, a neighbourhood with few people who could afford to go to events at the proposed stadium. And then there was the sheer ugliness of a massive stadium wall blocking the neighbourhood from any hint of the waterfront.

I spoke with the head designer of the project who reacted with indignation at my suggestion that it would be a blot on the landscape. He dismissed my safety concerns as those of someone who knows nothing about architecture.

Council voted unanimously to back the proposal.

Well, looks like the public was right. Last week, the Whitecaps, citing the same safety and public access issues the public speakers brought to their attention, abandoned the original waterfront stadium proposal-the same one the leading papers in the city, the leading councillors, the biggest of billionaires, the huffiest of architects and the most defensive of company presidents all assured me was not only the brightest idea in a decade, but the last possible chance we had to be blessed by the largesse of so wonderful a philanthropist as Whitecaps owner Greg Kerfoot.

The new proposal, to be built over the Seabus terminal, looks a lot better, better for the Whitecaps, for their customers, and for the neighbourhood. I'll be checking the Whitecaps website daily for the "thank yous" to the public.

published on 02/07/2007

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