The News Rundown
- B.C. General Employees’ Union members working for LifeLabs issued a 72-hour strike notice Wednesday, after what they say is months of negotiations and eight days of mediation.
- Lifelabs is a Canadian owned healthcare company that describes itself as Canada's largest laboratory testing services provider, is based out of BC and Ontario, and provides healthcare lab services such as blood tests to the community.
- LifeLabs is owned by the investment arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System. The company was originally founded by five entrepreneurs from IBM who hoped to create systems for health-care professionals. In 2013, LifeLabs became the dominant player in Canada’s lab testing market after it acquired B.C. Biomedical Laboratories and CML HealthCare.
- At the time, bulking up was seen as necessary because medical laboratories are mostly paid by provincial health ministries and are therefore under constant pressure to cut costs. An increased scale was thought to give LifeLabs the ability to test as efficiently as possible.
- BCGEU president Stephanie Smith cited longstanding issues with low wages and understaffing. She said: “BCGEU members working for LifeLabs are among the ‘healthcare heroes’ that have pushed themselves to the limit and beyond throughout the pandemic.”
- LifeLabs said in a statement that most of its sites will remain open in the event of strike action, but some will be closed on a rotating basis starting Monday. LifeLabs, designated an essential service by the B.C. Labour Relations Board, has worked with the BCGEU to determine essential-service levels that will be maintained during a strike “in order to provide vital outpatient laboratory [services] for our patients.” Smith said the strictest definition of essential services is “things that affect life or limb.” Patients with appointments that need to be rescheduled will be notified directly by LifeLabs, the company said.
- Since LifeLabs is considered an essential service, union members can’t go on a full strike. But starting on Friday at 7pm, they’re implementing an overtime ban where employees will refuse voluntary overtime hours offered by their manager. Workers will also enter work-to-rule, meaning they’ll do duties outlined in their job description and nothing more.
- Smith said LifeLabs is resisting BCGEU attempts to secure a wage increase to keep up with rising inflation and bring workers closer to the wage standard of their peers in the public sector. The bargaining unit has about 1,550 members and represents 94 out of 130 LifeLabs locations across the province, she said.
- BCGEU workers voted 98 per cent in favour of strike action in July. The earliest that job action could start is Friday at 7 p.m. and Smith said the union is prepared to use “every minute” of the time before then to get a deal done.
- Smith said wage levels and working conditions have created a “staffing crisis” at LifeLabs, while the company said in a statement provided to CHEK News that staffing problems are the result of high retirement rates and turnover due to COVID-19. The staffing situation led to a decision by LifeLabs to close two Greater Victoria locations — one in Westshore Town Centre and one at 1990 Fort St. — although it hopes to reopen both sites in early 2022, CHEK reported.
- As someone with family members who needs to deal with Lifelabs, I can say that the staffing levels are indeed at critical levels. Oftentimes patients will show up to their months in advance scheduled appointments only to find the location closed, or huge lineups of seniors that aren't being helped. Many times the wait times can be several hours long, and that's if you already have an appointment.
- It is also unclear what impact job action may have on COVID-19 testing in the province. The laboratory testing company conducts COVID-19 tests in B.C. and Ontario.
- This isn't the first major hurdle to operations for Lifelabs in recent years. In late 2019 Lifelabs paid an undisclosed ransom after a major cyberattack led to the theft of lab results for 85,000 Ontarians and potentially the personal information of 15 million customers. The personal information stolen from the lab test provider could include a customer’s name, address, e-mail, login, passwords, date of birth and health card number, all of which were on the computer systems the hackers accessed.
- Covid and inflation have combined together to create an untenable situation in our healthcare systems, and private companies are feeling the strain just as much as the public system is. With staffing levels so low, and wages not being increased to match inflation, many healthcare sectors are being stretched thin. And this isn't limited to healthcare either, other industries are feeling the pinch.
- This is the reality we are in in 2021. Status quo elections have not improved our country's direction and people are reaching their breaking point. It's time that our governments and political parties get their heads out of the sands and start listening to the people. Otherwise, Canada is going to go astray.
- Alberta’s municipal elections concluded on Monday with new mayors for Edmonton and Calgary, early results showing that the province’s equalization referendum will likely be successful, and the daylight savings referendum is teetering on the edge of a Brexit-like victory or defeat.
- We will have full results on the referendums and senate elections on next week's episode of Western Context.
- In Edmonton Amarjeet Sohi emerged victorious gaining 45% of the vote, second was Mike Nickel with 25%, and third was Kim Krushell with 17% of the vote.
- Premier Jason Kenney has pledged to work with *the* new mayors despite political differences. We’ll get into the Calgary race in a moment.
- In talking to reporters after the election, Sohi said, "I have never engaged in partisanship politics or have not engaged in personal attacks. And that is what I will absolutely continue to practice. So I look forward to working with the premier and his government."
- This was after the Premier said he believes that municipal politics should not be partisan.
- But of course Sohi was Justin Trudeau’s Minister of Natural Resources which was incredibly partisan enabling the Trudeau Liberals to, yes, carry forward the Trans Mountain expansion but also having to deal with the fallout of the government previously cancelling (under a different minister) Energy East and Northern Gateway.
- Sohi also made headlines of course attacking the Premier while complaining about delays in his Mill Woods riding due to a train.
- Edmonton saw 4 incumbents defeated in Tony Caterina, Moe Banga, Bev Esslinger, and Jon Dziadyk. Alongside this, a historic 8 women were elected to city council.
- While the Premier and others want no partisan politics at the municipal level, it’s here and played a role in this election.
- Sohi of course has the reputation of being a former Liberal, Michael Janz who won a seat in the Papastew ward was endorsed by several NDP MLAs and his campaign was run by Rachel Notley’s husband.
- Karen Principe also ran in the 2019 Alberta election as a UCP candidate in the Edmonton-Decore riding and she won in Tastawiyniwak ward this week.
- Despite what people say, partisan politics is here in Edmonton and likely only to become more brazen in the future.
- The same also goes for Calgary where new mayor Jyoti Gondek said her first task after being elected was to declare a climate emergency.
- In talking with Ryan Jespersen’s Real Talk show she said, “We have had the opportunity to declare a climate emergency for years. We have had various documents presented to us as a council, so let’s get serious and declare this.”
- She also said that this would allow new capital to flow into the city and that the city of Calgary has become “fixated” that the end product of energy production being oil and gas and that the city needs to “most past” that.
- Former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall ripped the band-aid off and said, “Maybe Calgary oil and gas HQ’d companies should ‘move past’ Calgary and look to some other more welcoming cities.”
- This did not come up at all during her campaign and it’s something Calgarians should have known as she defeated Jeromy Farkas by 15% or almost 59,000 votes.
- She also says that childcare is one of her top priorities! She says that she wants to work with Ottawa and negotiate a deal municipally if the province does not make a deal.
- To unpack this, first, she can declare a climate emergency but the people of Calgary and surrounding communities need to be aware that this will send investment running away. You have been warned.
- Second, it is nowhere in the jurisdiction of a mayor to negotiate directly with the federal government on practically anything. Cities by Constitution are the jurisdiction of the province.
- It also emerged that newly re-elected Calgary councillor Sean Chu has been accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour years ago while he was a police officer.
- The power resides with the province to remove him but Gondek has said she will not swear him in come next week.
- With the absolute turn of events by Mayor-elect Gondek and the concerns around Sean Chu it is time for the province to proclaim its recall legislation and put it into effect now for municipalities with tweaks if needed.
- If Mr. Chu does not step down and the allegations are proven true this would be a prime case for recall. Secondly, Calgarians are probably wondering just what they voted for in Mayor-elect Gondek and all municipal officers need to be held democratically accountable.
- We say here that elections have consequences and the municipal leaders levy taxes. But they can be very very close as people of Elk Point, Alberta learnt where the mayoral victor won his election by one vote.
- All votes matter.
- The BC Liberal Party says it has rejected a bid from Aaron Gunn to be considered in the party’s ongoing leadership race, but the former BC Proud spokesman vowed that his fight is not over. Gunn, a Victoria-based “small-c conservative” who ran on a slogan of “Bring back common sense,” declared his intent earlier this month to secure the leadership and become the next premier of B.C.
- But on Friday, the co-chair of the party’s election organizing committee Roxanne Helme and party president Paul Barbeau released a statement saying they declined Gunn’s application for candidacy. Helme said in a statement: “After a thorough review of Mr. Gunn’s statements on social media, both public and private, and after having provided Mr. Gunn with the opportunity to respond to concerns raised by certain of those statements, LEOC concluded that to approve Mr. Gunn’s candidacy would be inconsistent with the BC Liberal Party’s commitment to reconciliation, diversity and acceptance of all British Columbians.”
- Gunn said the dispute centred on four of his tweets where he said residential schools were horrific but not technically genocide, a position he said some federal Conservatives and BC Liberals supported. Gunn also pointed to the fact that his candidacy was supported by BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross, the only Indigenous candidate in the race, who sent a letter to the organizing committee urging it to approve Gunn’s application, while the 7 "unelected non-indigenous [party board] insiders" were the ones who said his views were incompatible with reconciliation.
- Ellis Ross released a statement: "I am disappointed with the decision...to reject the candidacy of Aaron Gunn. The decision as to his leadership should have been made by the voting members of the BC Liberal Party. This is not about whether or not I agree with all of Mr. Gunn's views, but whether or not he should have been permitted to run."
- "British Columbians have been clear that to earn their trust again, we must be a 'big tent' party that is inclusive of views and opinions from across the political spectrum. In that regard, today's decision is a step backward, and it is contrary to my goal of taking our party and our province forward. Today's decision has only reinforced my long-held belief that to be competitive again - and to beat the NDP - our party must change."
- The BC Liberal leadership race will conclude on Feb 5th 2022, and those interested in voting have until Dec 17th to join the party and be eligible to cast their ballots. The six candidates officially in the race are Gavin Dew, Kevin Falcon, Michael Lee, Val Litwin, Ellis Ross and Renee Merrifield.
- Gunn took to Twitter to dispute the decision of the BC Liberal Party executive to bar him from the race. "Today, it became clear that conservatives, and all British Columbians who believe in common sense and freedom of speech, are no longer welcome in today’s BC Liberal party. I will be releasing a full statement later today, but rest assured, if you think this fight is over, you couldn’t be more wrong. The fight is only just beginning."
- JJ McCullough, a Vancouver based journalist for the Washington Post decried the decision to ban Gunn: "This is a terrible day for democracy in British Columbia. The BC Liberals are too afraid of their own base to let members pick their leader. Instead, some unaccountable party elite will put forward a fixed set of limited choices which members can take or leave in a phony contest. The BC Liberals have no excuse at this point if some legitimately conservative party now arises, led by Gunn or someone else, and this causes a split in the anti-NDP vote. In brazenly writing off conservative voters like this, the party can't complain about the aftermath."
- This is now the major worry. The BC Liberals, for about 30 years, have been the party of choice for both centrists and the centre-right in the province to keep the NDP from power. It was always thought that a strong leader was needed to keep that coalition of federal liberals and conservatives together, and both former premiers Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark were able to do just that. It's clear that former leader Andrew Wilkinson was not able to do that, and the party now faces a crossroads. If Aaron Gunn or anyone else on the conservative side of the BC Liberals leaves the party, it will guarantee the BC NDP another majority government in 2024.
- The further fragmentation of the BC Liberals now gives Premier John Horgan even more power over British Columbians. With a weakened Green Party and a floundering opposition, what happens in BC rests solely on Horgan's shoulders. For better or worse, what is happening in our province is on him. And for many, that's worrisome.
- Earlier this week Justin Trudeau landed in Kamloops, BC and visited with the Tk'emlúps te Secwe̓pemc (Teh suh-WEP-muk) Nation that he flew over on National Truth and Reconciliation Day back on September 30th.
- The goal of the trip was to listen and advance the cause of reconciliation with the federal government and nations across Canada.
- It was back in late May that remains of children were found at the site of the former Kamloops residential school and this spurred a push to find other remains across Canada.
- There is a lot of hurt in the community, specifically towards Justin Trudeau himself.
- Trudeau who has led a life of privilege and has had 6+ years to advance the push for reconciliation faced tough questions this week.
- The questions effectively mounted to the Prime Minister only being able to redeem himself if he acts. One member said, “only actions will tell me if he was really listening.”
- Others shared stories of mourning for language, culture, and tradition caused by the residential schools and citizens pushing to reclaim their culture and teach it to their children before it’s too late in their own words.
- Put simply, it’s a time for action and the Prime Minister’s only way of redeeming himself is to deliver otherwise he will join the ranks of talkers who have talked to many First Nations and not delivered.
- The community also questioned why Trudeau’s wife, Sophie, was not present. At times the security staff outnumbered the number of attendees.
- On this, Stuart Basil of Bonaparte First Nation said, "We police ourselves in a respectful way, in an honourable way. There has never been any harm come to any dignitary that has come to our territory.”
- And while there was anger in the community, many opted to stay away to minimize crowds during the pandemic.
- Chief Roseanne Casimir laid out the demands of the Tk'emlúps te Secwe̓pemc Nation in her meeting with Trudeau. These include federal funding for a new healing centre in Kamloops, assistance to further survey unmarked burial sites, and full access to student attendance records.
- The Prime Minister did not commit funding but one has to question whether or not he was committed to the meeting at all.
- In a joint media availability with Chief Rosanne Casimir, Justin Trudeau can be seen staring off aimlessly into the distance playing with his pen. There’s little emotion on his face even as the Chief brought up his September 30th Tofino vacation and said that even a virtual greeting would have been acceptable.
- The saying goes that the best indication of future behaviour is past behaviour. Given this and the stage that Trudeau is at in his Prime Ministership, not much is likely to change.
- There’s a ton of virtue signalling and vanity with this Prime Minister and through one majority and a minority, so much more could have been done.
- These exact same things were brought up in the Prime Minister’s calls this week with opposition leaders. Advancing reconciliation. Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. $10 a day daycare and banning conversion therapy and so on.
- These could’ve been done in the last parliamentary session and even in Trudeau’s majority.
- We’re about to see how efficient this new minority parliament will be and whether or not Trudeau is actually serious about getting things that matter done.
Word of the Week
Partisan - a strong ideological supporter of a person, party, or cause, often to the point of prejudicial favour.
Quote of the Week
“I have never engaged in partisanship politics or have not engaged in personal attacks. And that is what I will absolutely continue to practice. So I look forward to working with the premier and his government." - Edmonton Mayor Elect Amarjeet Sohi on working with the province.
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Gunn-ed Down
Teaser: Lifelabs healthcare workers go on strike in BC, new mayors are elected in Alberta, and the BC Liberals reject the leadership candidacy of Aaron Gunn. Also, Trudeau meets with the Tk’emlups Nation that he snubbed on Sept 30th, but was he really there?
Recorded Date: October 22, 2021
Release Date: October 24, 2021
Edit Notes: None*
Podcast Summary Notes