Friday, August 14, 2009

An Early Saturday Spread: Banana Splits & A Fantasy Story

Banana Splits & Alberta Labour Law: Fact or Fantasy?

The Edmonton Sun has been holding out on you.

Inside a brown-bagged package received by The Alberta Report early this morning, we received... a newspaper. But not just any ol' daily scandal sheet... this one comes complete with pro-labour musings from Kerry Diotte, Swann-bashing courtesy of Jeremy Loome, and a tittilating trinket of info from the latest look at the Klein years, from Tory insider and former Insight into Government publisher Rich Vivone.

Hot Damn! Secretly, everybody over at the Sun are a bunch of crazed Tiny Perfect Bloggers, further to the left than Hugo Chavez on a bad day (or a good day?)!

How dya like them apples Will?

This week's early Saturday spread will dissect the arguments, piece by tabloid piece.

Banana Splits

"On a day when it could have found dozens of legitimate reasons to criticize Premier Ed Stelmach's debacle government, the Alberta Liberals instead put out a press release to capitalize on Dairy Queen's support for sick kids through Blizzard sales."

- Jeremy Loome, The Edmonton Sun

Damn. A shrill blogger like me has trouble adding more to that. So here's the scoop (har har): Swann took a shot at the Tory's health care policy by comparing them to Dairy Queen. You can't beat that. According to Loome's account (I can't find a link to the actual press release, unfortunately) Swann put out a release this week in response to a charitable Dairy Queen promotion that donates the profits from Blizzard sales to the sickkids foundation. The fact that a lot of this money doesn't ever make it to Alberta doesn't get in the way of the Liberals' strategy of... oh yeah, they don't have a strategy.

Loome has some more sweet quotes from the Liberal leader:

"I think all Albertans can enjoy a Blizzard today in good conscience, but I think it is a sad day when our health-care system gets more moral support from the corporate sector than Ed Stelmach."

Really David? I mean, when you look at last year's grant recipients, not a lot of money or moral support made it to Alberta - right? Well, here's the breakdown:

Master Awards in Complementary and Alternative Health Care
Larissa Shamseer Masters of Science, University of Alberta Approved funding: $5,000 over 1 year.

The Rotman Award for Innovation in Paediatric Home Care
Capital Health Home Care Children's Services of Edmonton Approved Funding $100,000 over 1 year.

New Investigator Research Grants Short Bowel Syndrome Neonatal Piglet Models
Dr. Justine Turner, University of Alberta, Dr. Justine Turner, University of Alberta Approved funding: $125,380 over 2 years.

So what is Swann saying? That the government should chip in another $125,000 for further research on "Short Bowel Syndrome Neonatal Piglet Models"?

This is obviously a case of a politician demanding a press release and an communications staffer not having the balls or brains to tell him its a bad idea, or vice versa. Either way, I'm glad Swann is the Liberals' ice cream headache and not mine. Furthermore, in the interest of public health, I'm also asking the Liberals to please put a warning at the bottom of all future press releases advising: "this caucus may contain nuts."

An Alberta Labour Law Fantasy... or is it?

Once upon a time, in a magical place in a faraway land, a provincial election was called.

Many of the province's citizens were dissatisfied with the king's rule. Taxes were low for some, but the cost of bread was soaring. The Kingdom was out of debt, but the roads were rutted and wait times at the local chiurgeon's office were dreadful.

Thus, the local guilds were determined to end the rule of the King's advisers (who called themselves the Progressive Christians), by hiring town criers for every street corner in every market in every corner of the Kingdom, to bellow as mightily as they possibly could just how awful the King's decisions had been.

Worse, the criers put to the townsfolk that the King's advisers had no plan to deal with the threat of acid rain & strange harvest weather from the Northern Sorcerer's Village weather spells, no idea how to train enough chiurgeons and midwives to keep the people in good health, and no blueprint to repair important inter-city trade routes and aging academies.

Well the townsfolk listened. But instead of changing the Progressive Christians for the Liberal Christians or the New Christian Party, more than half of them fell ill to the 24-hour plague on Election Day.

But the King's advisers were none too happy with the guilds who had undertaken such a campaign...

And so on and so forth.

So immediately following the election, Stelmach did this:

Now, most organizers believe that salting can and will continue to be done, regardless of the law. How do ya prove that anyway?

And there may still be semi-legal ways of MERFing - that is, assisting closed shops (union companies and contractors) to bid on contracts against the big CLAC and Meritt Contractor contractors.

But that doesn't make this bizarre piece of legislation any nicer or fairer for Alberta's labour organizations. In fact, AUPE did a stunning job developing activists and public support for wholesale changes to the Alberta Labour Code prior to this - before the new changes making them worse were even implemented!

Enter the current first contract dispute between Dynalife and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta.

First, the governing Tories can't decide whether or not the looming strike of lab workers was an essential service or not.

Then, a 75% strike vote and a 72-hour notice of strike action served to the company by the workers forced some action.

Now, the non-binding provincial mediator is no closer to reaching a solution between the two sides.

This group of employees, just like those at Lakeside in Brooks way back when, democratically voted to join a union. All they want is a first contract. They organized. They deserve it.

Kerry Diotte points to that packing plant dispute as the source of the First Contract musing on the part of than Labour Minister Mike Cardinal.

He doesn't come right out and say that Alberta needs first-contract legislation. All he points out in today's editorial column of the Sun is that "band-aid solutions won't stop the mess that will result from a disruption of lab services."

We'll add to that. The echoes of Stelmach's wrath notwithstanding, Alberta needs first-contract legislation out of fairness. Not just to the workers, but to the public.


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