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John McGettigan: Candidate for the Saskatchewan Party Nomination in Saskatoon Stonebridge Dakota Constituency

So I heard that John McGettigan was running for the Saskatchewan Party nomination in Saskatoon Stonebridge Dakota.  I then found this speech from a couple of years ago he gave at a Teacher’s Rally where he questioned the Brad Wall lead Saskatchewan Party governments intelligence, passion for education, and commitment to our children.

Now he wants to be a part of the same government he bashed from the front of the legislature.  It’s been a long time since I have been involved in partisan politics but I don’t think it works like that.

Of course it actually gets weirder with this odd campaign announcement on Facebook where he seems to think he is running to be a cabinet minister.

Why is John McGettigan running for the Saskatchewan Party?

So if he isn’t named to cabinet (and given the perks to the position) is he going to quit?  Who makes those kinds of declarations (or doesn’t at least take away his campaign managers computer) as they announce their nomination?

Statement from Darren Cannell

Okay, so the reason the Sask Party has “messed up” education is that they don’t have the information needed to fix it?  The bureaucrats, the meetings with the unions, the work with the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation, meetings with John McGettigan himself … that isn’t getting them the information they need?  So only McGettigan himself once elected and presumably named as Minister of Education will then share this information on how to fix education in this province.

It’s so weird.  It is like he is running to be education minister and that is it which even if you have no idea how the world works, you have to know our system doesn’t work like that.

In case you are wondering if that is all.  No.  There was this statement by his campaign manager.

Darren Cannell

Again, this man needs to have his computer taken away from him.  This may be the most disastrous start to any nomination campaign that I have ever seen.

Is the Lorje Leak ‘Inside baseball’?

I tend to agree with Prof. David McGrane on this.

Charles Smith, an assistant political science professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s St. Thomas More College, said if Lorje is found to have broken the law she will have a "professional obligation" to resign. "I think she’d have to step down," Smith said. "I don’t see how she could stay on."

Regardless of the outcome of the police investigation, the "whiff of scandal" now surrounding Lorje will "dog her over the next two years," make a re-election bid challenging and "make it very difficult for her to act and do the work she was elected to do," Smith added.

After her colleagues sanctioned her Monday, Lorje told reporters she had "no intention of resigning."

She apologized for the breach, but maintained she did not know she was breaking council’s code of conduct when she sent a document to "a trusted adviser" for "private, independent, confidential advice" in early June. Cline, who received the document, was an NDP MLA alongside Lorje from 1995 to 2003 and served in cabinet with her from 2001 to 2002. He owns a home on 11th Street East in Nutana, where riverbank slumping has been a problem since 2012.

City solicitor Patricia Warwick said the leaked document contains legal advice, is subject to solicitorclient privilege and contains information that could be "injurious" to the city if it’s made public.

Councillors Darren Hill and Tiffany Paulsen told reporters after Monday’s meeting they have heard from numerous constituents calling for Lorje’s resignation and they would step down from their posts were they in her position.

David McGrane, a political science professor at the U of S, said he doesn’t see "any reason" for Lorje to resign. He said he suspects voters with short memories will have forgotten about the leak – which he described as "inside baseball" – by the time the next municipal election rolls around in October 2016.

"As long as this doesn’t reproduce itself, it should really wash away within a short amount of time," he said.

I’ll add in some disclosure to this.  Wendy and I are both friends with Pat Lorje, something that came up many times in the previous leak investigation that didn’t find anything.

I agree with Charles Smith.  I think that anyone that is convicted of a crime who is in public office should resign.  There is more than adequate precedent for that and I think it is part of a functioning democracy.  If she is not charged or convicted, I also agree with David McGrane that this will not affect her electability.  People just don’t tune in enough to care that much at the two year point of a mandate.

Also kudos to McGrane for using the phrase “inside baseball” in his interview with Andrea Hill. 

This is America: You’re supposed to play by the broken rules until you can fix them, even if they’re fixed beyond correction.

Rolling Stone asks What Constitutes Appropriate Rebellion?

Watching the preparations Ferguson, Missouri, made for St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch’s announcement of the grand jury findings in the case of Officer Darren Wilson’s killing of Michael Brown was deeply unsettling. A dismal air of inevitability hung over the event. The Ferguson police had negotiated some terms with protesters, but they still had their police tanks and gas canisters at the ready. Even in Clayton, Missouri, they were putting locks on the fucking mailboxes. That’s how little you could trust these people. You couldn’t trust them with mail. Civic unrest trumps civic failure, and nothing occludes institutional contempt for the citizenry like wanton displays of disrespect for process. This is America: You’re supposed to play by the broken rules until you can fix them, even if they’re fixed beyond correction.

Once McCulloch began speaking, his office and Ferguson’s anodyne preparations took on a note of the sinister. Announcing a “no bill” grand jury vote on an explicit 10-shot killing late at night might been chalked up to the bumbling of an overwhelmed office during the day, but later it seemed almost ideal for the purposes of impeaching protester backlash by having as many pissed off people off from work with nothing to do but be on the street. A target-rich environment of institutional excuses. All those weeks of leaked grand jury details — optimistically written up by the media as tempering details intended to manage expectations — instead seemed like prep. Rather than letting off steam slowly, it felt like stoking the fire. 

Employees raising concerns about Regina nursing home

Part of a government’s job is looking out for the most vulnerable in society.

Three employees at a Regina nursing home that was at the centre of a recent controversy are speaking out today, describing Santa Maria Senior Citizens Home as a troubled place with bad food that has failed to make needed improvements.

At the Legislature Monday, the Saskatchewan New Democrats were again discussing conditions at Santa Maria, the home where Margaret Warholm lived until her transfer to hospital last fall and death three days later.

Three care home aides, who have requested that their names not be published out of fear they might be fired, disputed claims that Santa Maria staff have had some retraining and that things have changed for the better in the year since Warholm died.

They said there has been no change in policies or procedures since Warholm’s death.

They say short-staffing means residents get a bath roughly once every two weeks and sometimes have to wear soiled bandages for extended periods.

“We’ve always been overworked I feel,” Sue (not her real name) said. 

“Working short — probably in the last year — before that it was never, ever heard of,” Sue said. “We never, ever worked short. Lately it’s just an everyday occurrence.”

As a consequence, elderly residents don’t get cared for properly, she said.

Another worker, Anna (not her real name), said the quality of the food being served to residents is also a major concern.

“The food is like leftover food on a daily basis,” she said. “What they have for breakfast, they’re going to have it for lunch. And when they have something for lunch, the left over is for supper. Residents don’t eat that, there is lots of waste.”

The women also said the inability to spend time with each patient is an ongoing problem.

“We can’t even spend 10 minutes with the residents, like one-on-one,” Jenny (not her real name) said. “They need to do something, not just sitting in a chair all day or looking at the walls.”

The case of Warholm, 74, who died Oct. 6, 2013, was raised by the NDP in the legislature last week.

Her children believe she died prematurely at least in part because of the treatment she received in the home.

The NDP has produced a letter from 49 Santa Maria staff members expressing concerns.

Heckling Grieving Families in the Legislative Assembly

From Murray Mandryk

The pain in Nancy Macfarlane’s voice echoed off the marble pillars in the legislature’s rotunda as she talked about the 30-centimetre bedsore that her late mother, Margaret Warholm, had acquired in Regina’s Santa Maria Senior Citizens’ Home.

“If we had known how bad her back really was, we would have done something,” a tearful Macfarlane said Wednesday, referring to the raw fleshy bedsore she photographed after her mother was admitted to the Regina General Hospital. “But we weren’t told until we saw it in the hospital.”

That was three days before the 74-year-old Warholm – malnourished and weighing 89 pounds, according to her medical report – died on Oct. 6, 2013 Many see the Saskatchewan legislature as a place of anger, sanctimony, studious reflection or maybe even frivolity. But the often-overlooked emotion – especially present in the rotunda when woeful tales like

Margaret Warholm’s are retold into the microphones of reporters – is sadness.

Health Minister Dustin Duncan’s problem is that he has virtually asked to take ownership of every sad tale like that of Warholm.

She had been a Santa Maria resident for two years, having transferred from a long-term care home because of her spinal stenosis. Her pain and mobility issues were so severe she could no longer feed herself or even turn over in bed.

Besides the sorrow and the feeling of guilt that there had to be something more they could have done to ease the suffering their mother endured in her final days, Warholm’s children brought a lot of anger to the legislature.

They are angry over both the medical care and staff at Santa Maria – the latter of whom, the family said, did not pay enough attention to their mother and weren’t forthright about her bedsores. Warholm’s medical records show she had recent spinal fractures – possibly from a fall.

Santa Maria’s executive director admitted earlier this month that “a number of matters related to the care of Mrs. Warholm should have been better managed.”

But the reason Warholm’s children were at the legislature Wednesday was to express their anger toward Duncan. “He failed us,” Leanna Macfarlane said.

Admittedly, such sadness and anger expressed towards the minister can be misplaced. This is somewhat the case for Warholm’s family.

Duncan surely cannot be personally blamed for the specific treatment Warholm received in Santa Maria. Moreover, it was Duncan who first suggested the case be investigated by the provincial ombudsman and on Thursday morning he wrote to the ombudsman requesting a formal investigation. Duncan was respectful, sympathetic and professional Wednesday, unlike unhelpful caucus colleagues Nancy Heppner and Doreen Eagles, who heckled in the chamber that this case was all about “creating drama”. Those heckles presumably were aimed at the NDP Opposition, which raised the issue, but Warholm’s family thought they were aimed at them.

But Duncan is also the minister who told us a year ago – after ordering health district CEOs to tour every nursing care facility in the province – that what was subsequently reported was unacceptable and not the kind of treatment he would expect for his own loved ones.

Yet his government’s response was a mere $10 million for emergency funding (the districts requested $18 million) last fall and there was no additional money in the spring budget.

What is wrong with Nancy Heppner that she would say that a grieving family was in the Legislature “creating drama”.  Really Ms. Heppner and Ms. Eagles?  Their mother died because of neglect from a provincially funded nursing home.  Has politics made you so bitter that every single time someone has a problem with the provincial government that you think it is partisan ploy?  That heckling sickened me.  

Sometimes governments fail their citizens.  It happens under Progressive Conservative, CCF, NDP, Liberal and even Saskatchewan Party governments.  When it involves the death of someone in your care, you don’t heckle, you take responsibility and fix the problem.  If you can’t do that, it’s probably time to retire.

In order to save healthcare in Saskatchewan, we have had to pay $1m in hotel bills

This is getting ridiculous

Since signing the contract with an American consultant in 2011, the provincial government has doled out close to $1 million for his hotel bills.

The contractor is John Black and Associates (JBA), who was signed up to reform Saskatchewan health care through lean – a system to streamline health services and cut costs.

Since the 2011-12 budget year, Black and his colleagues’ flights, hotels, per diems and other miscellaneous travel expenses have collectively cost Saskatchewan taxpayers $2.5 million.

NDP Leader Cam Broten called the amount “obscene.”

And while Health Minister Dustin Duncan admitted “it’s a lot of money,” he said it was important to put it into the context of building up lean expertise in the province so Saskatchewan doesn’t “have to rely on those outside consultants.”

The government knew from the outset it would be spending $40 million on the JBA contract and that “travel was going to be a part of that,” Duncan said.

“This whole journey into lean is a part of trying to make the (health) system more sustainable.”

What’s next, adding Alison Redford to the cabinet?

I am actually not opposed to lean in the same way that others are.  I have read a fair amount about it and have seen what it can do for healthcare.  There were some excellent videos from the Saskatoon Health Region that show how hospital units have saved time, money, and improved patient care.  Those small things add up.

At the same time could the Saskatchewan Party have picked a more polarizing consultant?  $1m for hotel bills.  $2.5m for flight and travel.  What kind of hotels are they staying in.  Even at $250 a night, that is over a decade of hotel rooms and all since 2011.  As @toddintune (who just did the math and tweeted), maybe we need to get the lean consultant a lean consultant to lower hotel costs.

The 15 most powerful people in Canada

Maclean’ has their list of the 15 most powerful people in Canada.  Chances are if you are reading this, you are #16 of lower.

Atchison could face toughest challenge in 2016

The StarPhoenix brought back the City Hall Notebook (it hadn’t really gone anywhere but for a while it was as silent as City Council during the transit strike) with a fantastic post by Phil Tank on Don Atchison’s re-election chances.

Atchison breezed through the 2006 and 2009 elections, easily beating challenger former councillor Lenore Swystun both times with 64 per cent and 58 per cent, respectively.

Then, Atchison faced his toughest challenge as incumbent in 2012 when political newcomer agricultural scientist Tom Wolf collected 48 per cent of the vote to Atchison’s 52. The mayor’s support has dropped six per cent each election.

Many politicians would read this result as a warning that it’s time to quit if a candidate can come out of nowhere and come close to victory. Not Atchison, who will become Saskatoon’s longest serving mayor at 13 years if he completes his current term.

All indications suggest Atch will be back to defend his crown in 2016. In a midterm interview, Atchison said he’s “leaning” toward running for a fifth term in two years. It would be a surprise if he bowed out.

His potential challengers must feel encouraged by the 2012 result, but must also be aware that a vote split three or more ways can result in anyone winning.

Did Wolf tap the entire extent of anti-Atch sentiment or was his support limited by his political inexperience?

Could an incumbent councillor with greater name recognition, like Darren Hill or Charlie Clark, have beaten Atchison two years ago?

Will Atchison fatigue be an even greater factor in 2016?

Sidewalk clearing in Saskatoon

I have mixed feelings about sidewalk snow removal in Saskatoon.  I rather enjoy shovelling snow in part because when I was younger, I would go out and do it with my mom who always had me shovel the neighbour’s sidewalks on both sides of the house.  She would have seen it as karma but in the end it was because my sister had a disability that made it hard for her to walk and for my mom, it was two fewer houses she had to worry about.

Now Mark and I shovel the walk in front of our house.  We have a corner walk so I have Mark shovel two houses down.  There has been some karma involved for him as our neighbour finds this unacceptable that Mark does it for free and pays him for it (he travels a lot and loves coming home to a clean walk).  Mark has extended her service from door to door and is now doing our deck.  Mark also let’s Maggi come out with him and bounds in and out of the snow.  Depending on Maggi’s mood, she can actually knock more snow into the walk faster than Mark can shovel it out.  Even that doesn’t seem to bother Mark.

Wendy who works at 33rd Street Safeway walks the two blocks home and often notes that no one else shovels their walks, including the church across the street from us which is a triple lot.  That’s a lot of snow to wander through, especially when it gets icy.

I am not sure why no one shovels their walks anymore.  Even our neighbour who travels shovels his walk when he gets home.  I have heard him out with an ice scraper before (which is why he loves it when Mark does it now).

The city came out with it’s snow angel program a couple of years ago which reminded citizens that they had to shovel their own walk and if they could, shovel someone else’s walk.  It seemed to work well for a couple of years and then the city grew silent about it.  Since then snow there seems to be less and less snow clearing going on which makes it really hard for our neighbours who have disabilities to get around.  Like Wendy they have to walk to Safeway on 33rd.  Unlike Wendy they are doing it in a walker, wheelchairs or a cane and the snow and ice has a huge impact on their ability to get around.

Not only are they battling sidewalks that are uncleared but deep snow and ice at intersections.  It’s frustrating for me to get around, it’s even more frustrating for others.

If I was city council, instead of spending $3 million a year on snow removal on sidewalks, I would instead spend the money on the following things.

  • Clear the snow off and around city parks.  Clear the paths and the sidewalks.  I have listened to city managers say this is the case for years and then walk by A.H. Browne and see it covered with snow and ice.  If it is being done, it isn’t done in a timely manner.
  • Work with snow clearing crews to make sure intersections are clear of snow.  Piling up snow on the corners is an insane practice.  It happens a lot.
  • Bring back the Snow Angels campaign but also start to fine places that are not clearing sidewalks.  Seriously.  Write tickets.  The city by-law is that you have 24 hours to clear it and there are houses that go all winter without shovelling.  Make them pay the cost to have it cleared.
  • Work out a plan so that infirm seniors or those with disabilities can have some help clearing it.  I’d do something with local schools.  Kids will shovel for money.
  • Plug $3 million extra into snow removal for roads, especially side streets.  I know this doesn’t make sense when you are trying to create a walkable city but our roadways are sometimes the biggest obstacles to walking, especially if you have a disability.  The ruts are brutal on your car but can be unsurpassable if you are struggling to walk or get around.
  • Andrew Coyne: Our Broken Democracy and How to Fix It

    Video of Andrew Coyne at the McKercher Lecture Series at the College of Law.  It’s a great lecture and one that you really need to watch.

    Why American’s have lost faith in Obama

    Interesting piece in The Atlantic of why Americans have lost faith in Barack Obama

    1. After denouncing his predecessor’s warrantless wiretapping, Obama presided over the construction of a surveillance state more expansive than any democracy has ever known. What he hid includes documented violations of the Fourth Amendment. And the so-called reforms he urged to satiate the public are a cynical farce.
    2. The Obama administration hasn’t merely violated the law in its failure to prosecute what the president and attorney general acknowledge to be illegal torture. It has also suppressed a still-unreleased Senate report about that torture and done nothing to prevent the next president from restarting “enhanced interrogation.”
    3. The Obama administration continues to wage the most costly, ruinous war in the modern era: the War on Drugs. Obama did not try and fail to end the drug war. He didn’t even try.
    4. When the Obama administration kills innocent people in a drone strike, it does not acknowledge its mistake, apologize, or compensate the family, nor does it articulate how it will prevent such tragedies in the future. Instead, the president just keeps quiet. He suppresses the number of innocents killed, preventing anyone outside the executive branch from judging the effectiveness or morality of drone policy. He invokes the state-secrets doctrine to keep the courts from judging whether he is violating the Constitution. And he hides even his own team’s legal reasoning.
    5. Obama took two actions that set extremely dangerous precedents: He established a secret kill list, put the name of an American citizen on that list, and ordered his execution by drone strike without charges or trial or any due process. And he waged a war of choice in Libya without permission from Congress.
    6. Under Obama, the national-security state is out of control. Set aside his policies, whatever you think about them. This is a president who let his director of national intelligence, James Clapper, lie in sworn testimony to Congress without consequences. His CIA director, John Brennan, presided over surveillance of Senate Intelligence Committee operations, also without consequence.
    7. Compared to his predecessors, Obama has been extremely aggressive in his persecution of whistleblowers and journalists who’ve worked with whistleblowers.

    Where did Obama go wrong?

    The Washington Post looks at what went wrong.

    The week after his reelection, President Obama was a man full of promise and promises: His job-approval rating stood at 54 percent, the 2010 tea party wave that had knocked his first term off balance appeared to have receded and he seemed as sober about the future as he was hopeful.

    “With respect to the issue of mandate, I’ve got one mandate . . . to help middle-class families and families that have been working hard to try to get into the middle class,” he said at a news conference in the East Room in November 2012. Obama acknowledged the dangers of “presidential overreach” in second terms, but he put forward an expansive, legacy-building agenda: a major fiscal deal, immigration reform and action on climate change.

    Two bruising years later, only one of those initiatives has been achieved, and a president who once boasted of a barrier-breaking liberal coalition is under fire from his own party as his Republican rivals are poised to make gains in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

    Here is the problem is a nutshell

    “This is an administration that is very good at articulating some of its plans and responses and has delivered good speeches, but translating that into action has been a problem for the past six years,” said David Rothkopf, author of “National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear.” “Right now, the vast preponderance of evidence is that management is not one of the strong suits of this administration.”

    Obama’s list of second-term leadership crises is a formidable one: the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, long waits at Veterans Affairs hospitals, Edward Snowden’s disclosures of the National Security Agency’s secrets, a pileup of foreign children along the southwestern border, the threat of Islamist terrorists marauding across Syria and Iraq beheading foreigners, including Americans, and the arrival of the Ebola virus in the United States.

    “These are legitimate crises in their own right that have to be dealt with by the president. That’s his job,” said AFL-CIO political director Michael Podhorzer, a White House ally who blames the GOP for blocking the president’s economic agenda. “But that has dampened his ability to speak out on other issues.”

    Looking back at the Saskatoon Transit Strike

    I chose not to write anything about the lockout because as soon as it lifted, I got several versions of the in-camera discussions and to be honest, the stories shocked me.  Instead I put together some excellent posts, columns and articles from other people observing the lockout.  

    The first comes from October 10th and is by University of Saskatchewan law professor Keir Valance who said back then that the lockout was illegal.  He was right.

    More importantly, though, the lockout may well be illegal, and so may be the City’s unilateral changes to the pension plan. And the Union quickly brought an application before the Labour Relations Board, arguing exactly that.

    On Sept. 26, 2014, the Labour Relations Board issued an interim Order (LRB File No. 211-14). That Order didn’t end the lockout, but it did prevent the City from implementing any further unilateral changes to the pension plan. On October 14th, the City and the ATU are back in front of the Board to argue about the legality of the changes to the pension plan and to the legality of the lockout.

    The Law

    The language that potentially renders the City’s actions illegal is the same now, under the new
    Saskatchewan Employment Act (“SEA”), as it was under the now-repealed Trade Union Act. Section 6-62(1)(l)(i) of the SEA reads:

    6-62(1)It is an unfair labour practice for an employer, or any person acting on behalf of the employer, to do any of the following:

    (l) to declare or cause a lockout or to make or threaten any changes in wages, hours, conditions or tenure of employment, benefits or privileges while:
    (i) any application is pending before the Board…

    [“Pending” means that the hearing of the application has begun but the Board has not yet rendered a decision, so an Employer or Union could not, for instance, file a frivolous application just to prevent a lockout or strike.]

    Unfortunately for the City, there was an Unfair Labour Practice (“ULP”) application pending before the Labour Relations Board when the lockout notice was issued. It appears the ULP was unrelated to the lockout – it related to discipline of a bus driver and was heard back in May – but the language in the SEA doesn’t say a “related” application, or anything of the sort. It says any application.

    In order for the lockout and the pension plan changes to be legal, the City has to convince the Labour Relations Board that when the SEA says “any application”, the statute really means “any related application”. That flies in the face of the plain wording of the legislation. However, in fairness to the City’s position, most of the time the ULPs in such situations are related either to the lockout itself, or to the collective bargaining process that was underway. The intention of s. 6-62(1)(l) is to ensure that employers don’t “raise the stakes” on a ULP by trying to place economic pressure on a Union that has decided to pursue its rights before the Board. It’s about protecting the integrity of the Board’s process, and not allowing the rule of law to be undermined by economic power.

    Still, the Board can’t simply decide what it thinks the law should be. It’s got to operate within the terms of the legislation that gives it its authority (the SEA). Without getting into the intricacies of statutory interpretation, the City would have to have some strong evidence that the Legislature somehow did not intend for the statute to mean what it says it means. That’s not impossible. But the Union has in its favour the fact that the Legislature could have changed the language of the statute when it implemented the SEA – but didn’t.

    Okay, so it got weird from the start.  I knew that law and when I probed members of council about it, they started telling me that the city didn’t like the law and it was ruining their strategy so the Board would have to overturn it.  When I brought up voices like Valance, they looked at me like I was mad.  Again, kind of weird.

    Oh yeah, there is also this sentence from Valance from that post

    Ironically, had the City waited two weeks, there would have been no question that the lockout had been properly issued – because the outstanding ULP was decided on October 3, 2014.

    Saskatoon City Council wasted over $1 million of “ratepayers” (you know those of us they are trying to protect) money because they could not wait two week?  Think about that for a while.  If they had waited two weeks, it would have been a legal lockout and they probably would have won.  

    So now the Mayor wants a judicial review on the ruling.  According to Valance, that stands little chance of succeeding.

    If the City pursues judicial review of the LRB decision, the question will be whether the LRB’s interpretation of the SEA was “reasonable”. In my view, it was (though I hasten to add we still don’t have the Board’s written reasons for why it ruled as it did). The Board has the jurisdiction, responsibility, and expertise to interpret its governing statute. It’s owed deference in its decision. And in my view, finding in the City’s favour would have flown in the face of the plain language of the legislation, and would have flown in the face of the fact that the Legislature has apparently – at least twice – refused to change the section in question.

    Whether ss. 6-62(1)(l) and 6-63(1)(b) are good or bad for labour relations is not the point. That’s for the Legislature to decide. And the Legislature has decided at least three times (in 1944 when it proclaimed The Trade Union Act, 1944; in 1993; and in 2013) that these sections were to stay. It should be up to the Legislature to change them.

    So let’s get Les MacPherson’s take on it as he arrived at many of the same conclusions as Valance and also the Labour Relations Board (and might as well toss this in there, the Government of Saskatchewan in 1944, 1993, and in 2013)

    I find myself mystified by this transit fiasco.

    I’m no lawyer, but, to me, at least, it seems crystal clear that the lockout was illegal in the first place. The labour act says there can be no strike or lockout with a pending grievance before the labour board. There was a pending grievance before the labour board, filed by the union in June. On the face of it, the lockout was illegal.

    City lawyers argued that the grievance was not relevant to negotiations. Except the act doesn’t say anything about relevance to negotiations. It says “any” grievance. The city, unwisely, was betting the board would read into well-established law what isn’t there. For that to happen would be almost freakishly rare.

    The city further argued that the grievance was not really pending because the board had not started formal hearings. Except the act doesn’t say anything about whether hearings have started. It just says there can be no strike or lockout if a grievance is pending. Again, the city gambled that the board would interpret the law to mean what it doesn’t say. Losing this bet will cost Saskatoon taxpayers into the seven figures in refunded wages for lockedout bus drivers, for refunds on transit passes and for legal costs. For the damage done to those who rely on transit to get to work, to get to the store, to get the kids to daycare, there is no accounting.

    The city argued that the law as it is invites labour turmoil. Any looming strike or lockout, otherwise perfectly legitimate, could be thwarted by filing a bogus grievance. Maybe so, ruled the labour board, but the law is the law. There are many legislated restrictions on strikes and lockouts, the ruling explained. This is one of them.

    “It is not for this board to rewrite the Saskatchewan Employment Act in the fashion suggested by the city.” The city should not have to go to the labour board to be told the law is the law.

    By appealing this decision, the city now will be asking the Court of Queen’s Bench to rewrite the law. Why the court would be any more likely than the board to do so, no one has explained. The board is appointed by a Saskatchewan Party government, and not because it is labour-friendly.

    As for the labour turmoil predicted by city solicitor Patricia Warwick if the decision is allowed to stand, I wouldn’t bet on that, either. The prohibition on a strike or lockout when a grievance is pending is nothing new. It has been a part of Saskatchewan labour legislation since 1944, and has remained in place after multiple revisions and amendments in the decades since. The idea is to prevent undue pressure on the board while it adjudicates a grievance. Why a law in place for 70 years suddenly would cause labour turmoil is no more clear to me than it was to the labour board.

    He summarizes with this

    To me, it looks like council got lousy advice. On a case that might have gone either way, an expensive defeat is bearable. In this case, council was advised to gamble taxpayers’ money on a crazy long shot for something it could have had anyway, and legally, in two weeks. If I were the client here, I would be angry.

    What kind of shocks me in this whole thing is that the city has several solicitors to draw advice from.  They also have a lawyer on Council (Tiffany Paulsen) and someone who is a labour expert (Ann Iwanchuk) who also overlooked or ignored the act.  There are also some other councillors who bragged to me about their knowledge of the labour act and were 100% confident that this was a legal lockout.  How did the all get it wrong? 

    What goes on in that bunker where everyone gets it wrong and is utterly shocked when a ruling where all of these outside voices are saying you are going to lose goes against you?  

    There is a weird reality that council puts itself in sometimes.  Remember snow removal when council voted against residential snow clearing.  Then it snowed a bunch that winter and in an “emergency debate” on it, many of them played the victims and used phrases like “under siege” and seemed shocked that it snows in Saskatoon in the winter.  The city wasn’t under siege but as councillors they were.  It was all about them.  Then the mayor starts to lecture manager who do not have the funds to do snow removal to do a daily press conference because it must be a misunderstanding right?

    The same thing happened with the outrage over roads.  The city for over a decade (it started when Atch was elected) cut back on road repair and maintenance.  What happened?  The roads fell apart and again council acted as it they were victims of this. Now we have the same thing.  A hashtag, website, new pylons (no I am not talking about new politicians but actual pylons with “Building Better Roads” on them) and congratulatory radio ads about doing what other cities just do, maintain the roads.  I don’t get it but it is a weird group dynamic.  There are some intelligent members on council but for whatever reason the sum of the whole is far less then the total of the parts and the result is a very, very low functioning city council and we as a city suffer because of it.

    A picture is worth a thousand words

    The photo below is from Andrea Hill.  Twitter’s ability to show photos has sucked in recent days so I thought I would post it here. (it took 20 minutes for Twitter to load this up)

    Sad Saskatoon City Councillors

    Those are some sad, sad looking city councillors.  Well Zach Jeffries looks angry but by in large, they look sad.

    Progressive Leadership

    Atch is showing true leadership on the compost program for the City of Saskatoon.

    So the city will run out room at the landfill in 30-40 years if we can’t cut back on the waste going to the landfill.  Most cities in Canada have a composting program like our recycling.  Compost is collected and sold or used for other purposes.  It works well but it would cost to have picked up.  Again, it is what other cities do.  So what does our mayor do?

    According to CKOM News, he didn’t do anything.

    However, Mayor Don Atchison and councillor Pat Lorje expressed reservations about the implementation of a comprehensive organic waste collection program. Atchison argued that taxpayers may be reluctant to accept another mandatory waste program so soon after the rollout of curbside recycling.

    In other word he was worried about the political consequences of taking a long term view of the problem.  That’s leadership Saskatoon style.

    Personally it doesn’t matter to me.  Ever since I accidentally built a bio-reactor at home (seriously, it works amazing), we haven’t sent any biological waste to the landfill in two years.  Grass and leaves is cut and mulched, food waste goes in the compost bin/reactor and nothing at all goes to the landfill.  Living in Mayfair, we have very little topsoil and so the idea of sending organics to the landfill when it can help with the garden and lawn makes no sense.  

    As a citizen of a city that is running out of space at the landfill, this matters a whole lot to me.  As a father of two boys that may choose to make Saskatoon home, this matters to me.  Choosing short sighted politics instead of a long term solution is… well… typical.