North Okanagan Labour Council President Brad Dunlop, Recording Secretary Pat Bulmer and Delegate Les Milton had the opportunity to spend 45 minutes with B.C. NDP Leader Carole James on the afternoon of April 5 to raise issues of importance to the NOLC and its members. James, it turns out, was well versed on all the issues we raised. Below is the written presentation President Dunlop prepared for the NDP leader:
Afternoon Chat with Carole James - April 5, 2006
Items of interest to the North Okanagan Labour Council:
- Canada Post -- Consolidation of three separate (downtown post office boxes, wholesale customer service and Rutland retail service) Kelowna area Canada Post facilities into one. The Rutland Post Office is overly busy due to Federal Student Loans and Passport Services -- submission of application and payment. There's a real need for a separate Federal Passport/Student Loan office for Kelowna rather than consolidate and relocate the core business of Canada Post at a cost of convenience and service to the regular local users of the postal service.
- Alternative Energy -- The potential of thousands of jobs and reduced long-term environmental impact, the current BC Government should be urged to follow the Government of Ontario lead with respect to alternate electrical energy infrastructure including, photovoltaic (solar) and wind sources. Ontario's Standard Offer program will offer $0.1l/kWh (kilowatt-hour) to producers of wind, biomass (biomass fuels include wood, dung, methane gas, and grain alcohol) and small hydro energy. It will offer $0.42/kWh for solar photovoltaic energy. The term of the contracts will be 20 years, and there will be an inflation adjustment. The residential retail price for electricity in Ontario is under $0.06/kWh. There is no limit to the number of projects that may apply for a contract, but the size of each project is capped at 10MW (megawatts). A caveat for BC would, of course, include geothermal, wave and tidal power as well as FortisBC in any alternate electrical energy infrastructure program here.
(For comparison, the proposed Duke Point power plant on Vancouver Island (a medium sized gas-fired power plant) would have been 260 MW in size. 10MW of capacity is approximately sufficient to serve 10,000 homes.) (Source-BCSEA)
- Olympics and Affordable Housing -- Displacing the impoverished Vancouver Downtown Eastside residents in particular and other BC residents in general in advance of the 2010 Olympics. (In Beijing 300,000 poor people have been removed in advance of 2008 Olympics)
- Worker Safety -- The Theresa Newman death (Kelowna flagger who was struck and killed March 27) in Kelowna simply reminds us that the number of worker deaths is going up. Recall that the Liberals in their first term gutted health and safety regulations and more importantly the associated inspection and investigative abilities. These short term, ill-advised decisions must be put under the spotlight for what they are, putting profit ahead of the safety of the workers of the Province of BC.
- Skilled and General Labour Shortage -- In Kelowna and across the province, but especially here, employers are cheap, cheap, cheap and now that it's an employees' market, workers have the ability to say no to cheap wages. This especially in a city where the cost of housing and living is so high. The answer does not lie with importing workers and as such, poaching on other countries (particularly Third World) labour forces to solve our self-created problems. It's increasing wages, including the minimum wage, and offering better training and trade apprenticeship programs while keeping tuition reasonable that offers the best long-term solutions.
- Harm Reduction -- Initiatives such as the proposed downtown Kelowna (St. Paul Street) housing complex to help treat a portion of the over 400 Kelowna homeless, two thirds of
which suffer from drug and/or mental health issues, are facing fierce opposition. The very organized and vocal opponents of the harm reduction model seem to be winning the PR battle by among other things, convincing everyone it is a ''wet house" where government-supplied drug and alcohol use will run rampant. Judging by the available funding, this is one thing that the current government has almost got right, yet they seem reticent in jumping in with both feet and showing some real leadership in getting this done. Innovative ideas like this are integral to the "Four Pillars" approach and are much needed in our community. Influential voices of reason and support from all corners need be heard and heard now.
- British Columbia Health Authorities -- At the Interior Health Authority, incompetence seemingly runs amuck. What a disastrous job they're doing and with lives literally at stake, this is not acceptable. We believe this to be a top down problem exacerbated by a Board "all of whom are appointed by the Minister of Health on the recommendation of the Board Resourcing and Development Office". Decisions are being made and fiefdoms are being protected with little or no regard to the people they are supposed to be caring for. With the best interests and accountability of the health and well being of the public at large, we believe the time is ripe for electing a majority of the respective Board seats for each of the six British Columbia Health Authorities. For electoral purpose,s the three year terms for the HA Board can be incorporated within the existing BC Civic Election timetable.
- Health Care -- Privatization must be stopped. As American-based notions of public health care permeate our system, the Canadian public is sure to suffer. While the big business of ealth care insurance in the United States runs roughshod over our extended medical benefit plans, the real prize for them is gaining control over Medicare. While acknowledging that a multi-tier system is already in place (Work Safe BC, ICBC, private care for cash on demand clinics giving those "with" priority over those ''without'') this must not be allowed to happen. It is imperative that irrevocable precedent on health care issues capable of negatively affecting every Canadian citizen not be made under the NAFTA rules by any level or any jurisdiction of government in Canada.
- Civic Financial Burden - The continued downloading and offloading of fiscal responsibility traditionally funded by senior levels of government place increasingly onerous tax implications on the civic level of government. Whether as homeowners or renters, the ramifications of this type of taxation policy tend to have a large impact on the workers of our society. So long as we continue to struggle with funding for health, education, infrastructure and environmental issues (including sustainable energy) to name a few, how can any government make a true claim to having a ''budget surplus"? To make such claims is pure political folly until such a time as every need is adequately funded. These fiscal inadequacies need be highlighted wherever and whenever and by whomever possible.