Saturday, June 27, 2009

Election Squeaker -- Not Good News
You remember Andre Cornellier. He was the face of the Amalgamated Transit Union. Yes -- the union which left Ottawa bus users stranded for 53 days during the coldest part of the past winter.
Brother Andre has just been re-elected ATU president for another three years. But he didn't walk away with it. He had opposition. Leaving only 73 votes between him and his rival. Vote total: 689 for Cornellier and 616 for the union member with the cojones to run against him.
The closeness of this vote is an indication that Brother Andre no longer enjoys iron-fisted control of his union. Union watchers figured this out a couple of weeks ago when the rank and file refused to vote in support of an agreement Brother Andre and ATU international vice-president Randy Graham reached with the city which would have taken away the bus drivers' right to strike from future collective agreements.
In labor relations, timing is everything. The bus strike ended when the union agreed to let its dispute with the city go to arbitration. The arbitrator's report is expected sometime in September, but the arbitrator's signature will barely be dry on the document when it will be time to negotiate a new collective agreement.
Citizen Ellie's source within the ATU membership says the rank and file isn't interested in giving up their right to strike until they see what's in the arbitrator's report. The same source says the rank and file were divided on arbitration right from the get-go. Many felt another couple of weeks on the picket lines would have forced the city to cave in and meet their demands-- regardless of what Mayor Larry wanted.
An arbitrator cannot unilaterally take away a union's right to strike -- so the report will be silent on that issue. The city can't do it unilaterally either. Union members have to vote on it and Citizen Ellie's source says that unless OC Transpo is declared an essential service, the rank and file won't give up the leverage they enjoy with the right to strike.
It would appear that Brother Andre and Councillor Alex Cullen jumped the gun when they trumpeted that an end to bus strikes had been achieved. Somebody forgot something important. There's no agreement until the union membership decides.
A divided bus driver bargaining unit is probably the last thing Ottawans need. Especially when the bargaining unit is headed into a new round of negotiations. Can Brother Andre and Brother Randy make committments during negotiations which will be supported by the rank and file ? That's the big question remaining to be answered.
"Extortion" ? You Decide !
Councillor Alex Cullen's shorts are binding once again. This time he's in a state because a group of angry taxpayers are preparing a series of bus ads critical of the way the city manages our money.
The organization, Ottawa Taxpayers' Advocacy Group, issued a news release in advance of the bus ads. It stated: "Legal extortion by City Hall ? You decide." The news release claims Ottawa's property taxes are the highest in the country and the city is overstaffed and over-paid.
With regard to the over-paid statement, the "sunshine list" which names all city employees earning over $100,000 per year speaks for itself. It's a public document and can be accessed through the city's web site. (And what about councillors voting themselves extra funds for their office budgets ?)
Councillor Cullen tries to rebut the statement regarding the high property taxes by dragging out the old chesnut about the significant portion of property tax structure being set by the provincial government.
We know about the provincially-mandeated programs -- social assistance, childcare services, social housing, public health etc. which were downloaded by Mike Harris on to the shoulders of Ontario property taxpayers. There's a formula: 80% paid by province, 20% paid by municipality.
What Councillor Cullen neglects to say is that he and the other wealth-redistributers currently occupying seats around the council table decreed that 20% from the municipality wasn't enough and Ottawans could be more generous. Thank you, Councillor Cullen.
What Councillor Cullen neglects to say is that he and the other wealth redistributers currently warming the chairs around the council table also decreed that property taxpayers should subsidize over 50% of OC Transpo's operating costs -- and that's why, in Ottawa, we have the paradox of widows living on small fixed incomes (pensions) subsidizing bus fares so well-paid public servants can ride the buses on the cheap. Thank you, Councillor Cullen.
In Citizen Ellie's case, some 17% of her net pension income (net -- that's after income tax and other deductions at source) goes to municipal property tax. Of this, close to $1000 is her share of OC Transpo's subsidy. Thank you, Councillor Cullen.
Perhaps Councillor Cullen, in his capacity as a mayoral candidate, would like to visit Citizen Ellie's street during the spring run-off and whenever there is a heavy rain. Even if Citizen Ellie wanted to ride the bus on these occasions, she would need a pair of Wellies to negotiate the flood which makes the street impassable for pedestrians as it has no storm sewers ! Get out your hip waders, Alex ! There's a photo op for you ! Let's not even start on the subject of snow removal.
Is there a tax revolt in the making ? Could be. Citizen Ellie can't remember the last time irate taxpayers got together to sponsor bus ads (or any type of ads, for that matter) critical of how the city spends tax dollars. Now what we need is a mayoral candidate supported by a slate -- to unseat the wealth-redistributors on council who fleece us like sheep !
New posts usually on Fridays

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mayor-In-Waiting ?
Alex Cullen wants to be Ottawa's next mayor.
He wants it so bad, he can taste it.
There he was, earlier this week, at a National Capital Commission news conference; carefully seated in the front row in order to get his mug on TV, should the cameras turn to the audience for some cover footage.
Councillor Cullen hasn't formally made his announcement, but he's doing everything he can to position himself for the November 2010 municipal election.
"Experience". That's his favorite word -- as in council is working well now that Mayor Larry has taken himself off because Acting Mayor Michel Bellemare has experience. A sly dig at Mayor Larry's lack of council experience prior to getting himself elected to the top job.
Lord knows Alex Cullen has experience. First elected to Ottawa's city council in 1991, he's been a fixture at city hall ever since -- except for the period betrween 1997 and 1999 when he represented Ottawa West in the provincial legislature.
Councillor Cullen's biography on the city's web site ( stresses his experience with community associations (he was president of one) and NGOs (he's been a member of a number of boards). It details the various municipal committees he's been part of -- more experience. But it is strangely quiet about what he did in the period between graduating from university and finding his "job for life" at city hall. One supposes that if he had started a high-tech company from scratch, made a success of it and turned himself into a millionaire in the process (as Mayor Larry did), he'd have boasted about it. Guess he didn't do that.
He also runs -- in marathons as well as in elections. But again his biography is silent about his 2007 running with the bulls in Pamplona. Animal rights organizations (such as PETA) are not overly fond of those who participate in this prelude to Spain's bloody bullfighting season. Guess he doesn't want to lose those votes. Don't think Mayor Larry ever ran with the bulls. Advantage: Mayor Larry.
Councillor Cullen is a big fan of social engineering -- especially when he's the one promoting the engineering as he did a week ago when he proposed that all city employees who are paid the minimum wage be given an immediate increase to $13.25 an hour. He also wants contractors who do business with the city, or companies receiving annual economic development grants from the city to pay their employees the $13.25 per hour. Disadvantage: taxpayers.
When Citizen Ellie heard about this, thoughts of Chicago and New Orleans immediately sprang to mind. Everyone knows these are two centres of excellence when it comes to civic politics -- where the municipal pols over the years have made an exact science of vote-buying and pay- to- play. Councillor Cullen's proposal sounds an awful lot like vote-buying and pay-to-play -- regardless of his fine words about helping workers meet their needs...... yadda yadda......
What about the working poor who aren't lucky enough to work for the city ? Or work for the province. Or work for the feds ? There are a lot of people working in retail and in the hospitality/tourism industries in Ottawa earning minimum wage.
We are starting to see two classes developing in this country. Public sector employees who enjoy good wages, job security and a wide range of fringe benefits are at the top of the heap. The rest of us -- who are being taxed into penury to pay for them -- are at the bottom .
When he makes these proposals, does Councillor Cullen give any thought to seniors desperately trying to remain in their own homes, whose property taxes eat up a large percentage of their net pensions (after income tax and other source deductions) ? What about these people ?
Councillor Cullen's proposal would make him very popular with the city hall unions. Councillors Rainer Bloess and Steve Desroches, voices of sanity on this council, see it for what it is -- a new floor on which the city's unions will want to base wage differentials. Disadvantage: taxpayers.
On another front, Councillor Cullen may not be as sure of his election to the mayor's chair as he purports to be. Otherwise why would he be so concerned about contributions by developers to election campaigns ? He must be afraid a "unite the right" candidate is going to come out of the woodwork with a big war chest.
He's been making a lot of noise about "double-dipping" -- i..e. a development company making a donation to a particular candidate, and the president/ceo of the same company making a personal donation to the same candidate. The candidate benefits twice. Of course this never happens with union contributions -- don't you believe it !
He says he doesn't take campaign funds from developers. A noble position. So it's to his benefit to ensure that other mayoral candidates don't get any campaign contributions from developers either. But how about union contributions ? Shouldn't they be limited too ?
All of this got Citizen Ellie to wondering just where Councillor Cullen and some other members of council who share his penchant for social engineering get their campaign funds. To this end, Citizen Ellie has sent off a cheque to city hall's election office to obtain copies of the campaign contribution records of Councillors Cullen, Holmes, Doucet, Deans, Bedard and Legendre.
Watch this space. All will be revealed in due course.
Glebe Doings
Doucet's Disciples (aka Glebe Community Association/Friends of Lansdowne Park) are holding another of their come to Jesus meetings on June 14.
How many of the so-called "Friends" are part of the same bunch who want the air conditioning unit on the roof of a Glebe seniors' building turned off because the noise is hurting their sensitive ears.
Not much thought being given by this "it's all about me" crowd to the comfort of the seniors left to swelter and possibly die in an airless building during Ottawa's hottest months.
New posts usually on Fridays