Autumn of our discontent

Teachers strike; Where are the municipal candidates?; Temporary foreign workers.

Carolyn Grant

I’m going to say this once and then let the sad matter of the teacher strike/lockout settle into the dustbin of history.

You had all summer. You had a mediator — who obviously knows what he is doing — at the ready, or Ready, if you’ll pardon the pun, and you couldn’t even agree to meet.

When you finally, finally meet face to face, in four days you have a deal. Four long, tense days, but nonetheless. Four. Days.

So we have to ask ourselves, what finally motivated an end to this protracted labour dispute and gave us a resolution?

And I have to say PR. With both sides looking worse and worse in the public eye, with parents calling for an end to the strike and losing patience with both sides, the motivation to finally settle this mess suddenly appeared. Hey, they don’t like us. They really don’t like us! Maybe we should talk. Maybe we can find some sort of common ground and get this settled.

And lo and behold, it was so.

Maybe someone should have thought of it in June.

In any event, six years of labour peace in the school system is almost at hand.

In the electoral system, there is never any real peace, because the next election is always just around the corner.

Our next election is municipal and I have to ask — where are the candidates? The writ has been dropped so to speak, the call for candidates has gone out. So where are they? In Kimberley, we have one (!) candidate for Council — Darryl Oakley, who has declared and one candidate for Mayor (Coun. Don McCormick). Rumour is rampant about who will run and who won’t, but no one else has stepped forward.

In Cranbrook, incumbent Mayor Wayne Stetski has declared. And two persons have declared for Council — Jim Elliott and Wes Graham.

I have watched a lot of municipal elections over the years and usually by this time, you have a pretty full slate of candidates. If you haven’t declared by the end of August, you are usually making an announcement in early September. So where is everyone? Is it possible that the addition of an extra year to the municipal cycle is making it just too onerous a commitment? Let’s hope a whole pile of candidates are just waiting for the timing to be right.

Federally, Employment Minister Jason Kenney says that his government’s changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is a success as applicants for work permits are down 74 per cent. So more jobs for Canadians. The only problem is, in tourism-dependent communities, such as Kimberley or Whistler or Invermere or Jasper, temporary foreign workers fill in a lot of jobs in the ski industry.

Matt Mosteller, of Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which operates several ski resorts including the Kimberley Alpine Resort, told the Calgary Herald that finding specialized ski instructors and food and beverage staff is a constant challenge for the company.

Under the new rules, if a company wants to hire a temporary foreign worker — say as a ski instructor — they must pay a $1,000 processing fee per visa application. Ouch. There are approximately 500 to 600 temporary foreign workers hired by the ski industry in Western Canada every winter, according to David Lynn of the Canada West Ski Areas Association. Ouch times 500. That’s a big blow to an industry where the profit line can be us unpredictable as the next snow fall.

It may be outcomes like this that give us reason to be grateful the wheels of government usually work at glacial speed. Yes, we all decry how long it takes to affect change, but look what happened here. The issue was fast-tracked, a quick solution was found, a Minister cries, Success! And a whole lot of communities find themselves falling through a hole that wasn’t foreseen. Too bad for us, I guess.

Carolyn Grant is Editor of the Kimberley Daily Bulletin