Letters to the Editor

Taxpayers’ beef with union, not workers

According to the mayor’s recent press release, the City of Penticton has offered the union a fair contract. In addition, community centre employees keep their jobs at their current rate of pay and benefits. New hires come in at a lower rate. This is fair to the current employees and fair to the taxpayers, as it brings wage levels of new civic employees down to more realistic levels. 

CUPE overwhelmingly voted to strike. Did the union give their members a chance to vote on this contract? I think not. Instead they gave them that tired old line: We need the power of your strike vote; the stronger the better. Obviously the union cares little for these community centre employees as that action removed the obligation of the city towards these laid-off employees. This is about power and the union’s ability to keep the community hostage by withholding services.

In my opinion, the refusal of CUPE to present this fair contract to its employees ends what the city considers its moral obligation to look after the community centre employees until they retire or quit. The city now must give its attention to the taxpayers and what benefits them. Council has a duty to the taxpayer to investigate privatization and leave the subsequent hiring of community centre employees to whatever company wins that contract — to hire or not rehire; to pay wages and benefits at their discretion. 

I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I have said this before. Most of the employees at City Hall are very good employees and our neighbours and good citizens. They will still be friends, neighbours and good citizens when this is over. We should give them respect and our sympathy during these ongoing negotiations as the union has proved it cares little for the fate of the laid-off community centre employees; they are just pawns in the union’s thirst for power. 

The taxpayers’ beef should be with the union. City employees live under the misguided belief that the union is wonderful because the union gets them above-average wages and benefits that not only are onerous to the taxpayer but have no basis in reality. Under similar circumstances, we would accept those same unrealistic wages and benefits. It is long overdue for the union to expect the taxpayer tiger they are holding by the tail to turn around and bite them.

Elvena Slump

Penticton

Disabled in dismay

Well, it’s that time of year again. I am referring to income tax filing time.

So, having all my paperwork set to go, I had a look at the previous few years or so. What did I see? The same amount each year. I am not sure how much the cost of living has gone up for about the last, say, six years. I’ll bet it is a fair bit. 

When was I given a bit more money to cover the cost of living? I do not recall, however, I believe it was close to 10 years ago.  Not by my own fault at all (I did not ask to get crippled by pain issues), I only receive full provincial disability benefits. I receive less than half of the rate of what I read as the minimum that a single person ought to get to live on. 

Thankfully, I am in subsidized housing. Even so, to increase my income to a livable level, I have a few options. I can work at getting suitable part-time work, which I have been, and still am doing. That is work that I can manage, while dealing with constant pain and physical restrictions. So far, no luck for this 55-year-old. Another is to collect empty bottles and such for the refund money, which I do.

The other is what a lot of folk in my position do, which is to deal in illicit drugs, like pot or selling prescription pain pills. This one I do not do.

I am set to vote for the NDP for the first time in my life. Why? To see if they will raise the disability rate.

I don’t wish to add to the debt my children will bear because of any additional provincial debt the NDP may incur with their typical, spending programs. That said, I must do what I must do. Please let it be known to everyone that these rates must go up.

Please, I’m begging all those in a position of power to please increase the provincial disability rate. Lives do depend on it.

D. Ken Shaw

Penticton

 

 

Volunteers needed

Have you been touched by cancer? The Canadian Cancer Society operates a unit office in Penticton, staffed by volunteers, and we are now looking for canvassers who have three or four hours to donate during our Daffodil Month of April. 

If you have this time to spare during April, please consider becoming a door-to-door volunteer in your community. Training is provided in person, with online resources and with a kit. Each time you knock on a door, you will be delivering a message of hope, that one day we may create a world where no Canadian fears cancer. 

Fundraising is an important part of the society’s ability to provide support to cancer patients and their families, research on cancer prevention and treatment, and health promotion in our community. We need your help. Please call us at 250-490-9681 to register for our orientation meeting during the first week of March or drop into our office at 74 Wade Ave. E. and indicate your willingness to help.

Lois Fedorak & Jean Corrie

Co-Chairpersons, Daffodil Campaign

Canadian Cancer Society, Penticton Unit

 

The HST hot potato

Kevin Falcon claims little mention was made of the HST when meeting with a few signed-up Liberal supporters.

The HST is just like having a loaded hot potato stuffed into our mouth — the butter melts and the spud cools down. The potato didn’t let the butter know it had no choice but to melt as it had no way of knowing what was going down.

 The HST pain and blistering like the heat from the spud will linger — eventually subsiding — but the memory will file a valuable lesson to repel the next political hot potato to come our way. 

Like Egypt, it’s time for B.C to get rid of those politicians that do their citizens harm and start with a clean slate, if there is such a thing.

If I was forced to choose a Liberal leader, it would be to bring back Gordon Campbell and his patented no-name brand of bad government.

 A horrible thought, but B.C was familiar with the Campbell way of serving up deceit and manipulating the public trust, and I can’t fathom any of his once underlings being any different.

The truth is we simply don’t need any political party to mind the piggery in Victoria, as most of the time they are missing in action.

Ted Azyan

Osoyoos

 

 

Smoking ban hypocritical

In 2009 the B.C. provincial government placed a smoking ban on all provincial parks. Then the provincial government placed a ban on smoking in your vehicle with a minor present. Now local governments are placing bans on their parks and recreations.

I am a smoker who desires to quit. Personally I agree, but I do believe they infringe on human rights. Smoking costs our health care system, second-hand smoke harms the innocent. There are a number of other issues that place the public in harm’s way.

Mental health issues are littering our streets and placing a strain on all our social services. Drug and alcohol addictions create petty crime.

Did the government create laws for mandatory treatment or rehab? Is there stronger penalties or no tolerance laws? Is there psyche evaluations done for first-time addictions offenders and domestic violence?

Governments are unwilling to address this issues for many reasons. The main reason is they are afraid to infringe on human rights.

Governments always claim the smokers place the public at risk and burden the health care dollars. This is true, but it is also true that mental health, addictions and related issues place a larger strain on the taxpayers dollars. Mental health, addictions and related issues impose a greater threat the public safety.

I’d ask government to stop being so hypocritical and face up to the social issues of mental health. Stop the burden of debt.

Carrie-Ann Dambrowitz 

Osoyoos

 

A hot topic

With all the talk about driving while using cell phones and the mission impossible to stop the abuse, I have this to add.

 What about all those early morning lip-smackers that use drive-through take-out service for their cup of hot java and a jelly doughnut to help open their sleepy eyelids?

Could a person blame the line server if an accident should occur and the hot fix should spill on the privates.

 Chomping and drinking the hot stuff can be of equal distraction as using a cell phone, could it not? How about driving in a nightgown, pajamas, bikini, etc.

Man alive, there are so many distractions while driving that will never go away unless the lousy cheating driver behind the wheel wakes up and smells the coffee and practises some common sense and courtesy.

Tom Isherwood

Olalla

 

Facts support mayor

Could Pat Trainor please explain to me and all other taxpayers where he thinks the money is coming from to run our cities and governments (re: his letter “City headed in wrong direction” in the Feb. 16

Western News).

I don’t think Pat Trainor has any idea. Maybe I can help a little. Most if not all the money to run our governments comes from taxpayers that work for business, people like Mayor Ashton and some of his councillors. Without businesspeople there are no wages, and without wages there are no taxes. There, isn’t that simple? But by the sound of your letter I don’t think you would understand that.

Like I stated in my previous letter, the city has made a fair offer to the union on two occasions and the union, not the employees, of the PPC has rejected it.

Nobody would have lost their job, would have had a reduction in wages or benefits, nor would they have lost their seniority. There where no threats of privatization or any other conditions. Those are the facts Pat Trainor. 

Your berating of Mayor Dan Ashton and council tells me that you are very immature and that you really don’t know what you are talking about.

Bernie Strohmann

Penticton

 

 

Living wage not a crime

Re: the letter “Union demands carry cost” by Helena Falaan in the Feb. 16 edition of the

Penticton Western News.

Ms. Falaan should do her research before claiming she has deep concerns about CUPE “…bringing in an outside union agitator, Barry O’Neill…” I’m not sure what dictionary she is using (no doubt the same one the mayer has). Since Mr. O’Neill is the president of CUPE BC, why is she so surprised to see his involvement? His participation in this dispute is part of his job description.

On a related note, since Helena is so troubled with ‘outsiders’, she may wish to weigh in on the City of Penticton’s use of a very expensive lawyer/hired gun from Alberta. Why didn’t they just use their very capable director of human resources to represent them in this set of negotiations with their staff? Oh right, they got rid of that position in March 2010, knowing full well the CUPE contract had expired (not to mention the IAFF, and soon the IBEW) and needed renewing. 

Ms. Falaan, if the mayor and certain councillors get their way, you’re going to have to ask for a raise from your boss. Using the shiny new privatized community centre will cost you and everyone else in Penticton a lot more than it used to (just look at the Kelowna’s H2O rates). But I have a hunch that will be OK with you — just as long as the workers in this facility make the same or less than you, because $10 an hour jobs are the stuff great communities are made of, right?

If your boss doesn’t agree to give you that raise you’re going to need, I hear Mayor Dan Ashton is looking for a campaign manager in this fall’s municipal election. I understand he’s considering two slogan ideas: ‘a race to the bottom’ and ‘it’s a crime to earn a living wage in Penticton’, that should be right up your alley.

Raymond Paul

Penticton

 

Privatizing centre will carry consequences

As a parent, a teacher, and a community member, I am incredibly disappointed that Penticton council is exploring the privatization of our community centre. Public facilities, like our community centre, serve an important role in communities, and private businesses serve other roles. It is simply erroneous to state that a private company could fill the same role as a public community centre and do so without changes to services or costs.

It is important for tax dollars to be allocated prudently, but, a business runs with the goal of making a profit. If the Cleland Theatre, the convention centre, the pool and the entire facility become a business wouldn’t that affect the cost to the users?

Private MRI clinics provide the same screening that public health care MRI facilities do, but the patient must pull out their wallet after the service. Yes, tax dollars make up the difference, and I don’t believe it should be any other way.

A number of writers have addressed this issue and made some very nasty comments regarding CUPE workers. These writers claim that the union workers are the sole cause of financial issues at City Hall. This is rhetoric used to cloak another agenda. This is not just a union issue, it is a community issue.

The groups and organizations that use the community centre represent a wide range of citizens in Penticton. Swim clubs, theatre groups, dance schools, community sports leagues and many more. These groups cannot continue to operate the way they do if facility costs skyrocket. As I said, to simply state that the community should “get rid of the union” and give the facility to a business because a business would run a lean, mean operation is a position that does not demonstrate an appreciation for the entire picture. Past experiences, here and elsewhere, have proven that taxpayers would not benefit, they would suffer from a lack of opportunities and likely see an increase in costs.

Is a community simply a collection of houses arranged along a gridwork of streets? 

The folks who want the centre privatized, in my belief, don’t use the centre or attend events held there. It seems that one of the ‘warehouse’ effects of the new economy is everyone wants a gourmet menu at fast food prices. We are constantly being force fed the idea that we cannot get good value when we run a public service through a public entity. If you’ve put your child in swim lessons, or been involved in or attended a community theatre performance, or really used our community centre, you know this is not the case. If we are a community, we must be build our community.

On the matter of jobs and pay I am also disturbed by the idea of privatization. Why would we support paying people less? What do these “overpaid” workers do with their money? I believe they spend it, for the most part, in Penticton. What will happen if a private company takes over and pays employees at a lower rate? Well, first, those “overpaid” workers may relocate to communities where they can earn a decent wage. Second, the privatized employees, paid at a lower rate, will spend less in our community and likely won’t be able to purchase homes and therefore not be taxpayers of the City of Penticton. Lastly, the corporation that pockets the profits from operating the community centre will take those dollars out of Penticton. How is this scenario a win for taxpayers or residents?

Complicating this already thorny issue is the shared use agreement with the school district. In a long-standing arrangement with the school district, the city ‘trades’ use of gyms in schools for ice time, pool time and other city facilities. In a world where everything is privatized (except the school district facilities) why would a business make such an arrangement? The school district will not have shared-use access to privatized facilities and likely will not be able to offer programs like swimming and skating for elementary schools. In turn, community leagues and groups will be forced to pay full price for school district facilities, and that will have detrimental effects on their activities.

I do not think that a community-minded individual who examines this issue in its entirety could come to any other conclusion than to keep the community centre a publicly owned and publicly operated facility.  Penticton is, after all, A Place to Stay Forever … not a Place to Pay Forever. 

Kevin Epp, president 

Okanagan-Skaha Teachers’ Union


Water concerns not addressed

A group of taxpaying residents tried to address water concerns in the Twin Lakes aquifer via the town hall forum. Area D Director, Bill Schwarz denied their request to be on the agenda.

Taxpayers of the Heritage Hills/ Lakeshore Highlands and their important concerns regarding Fortis’ towers, derelict premises and illegal dumping received the same treatment.

Our intention was to inform the public that there is another looming water crisis in another South Okanagan aquifer. There is also responsibility for those in authority to act with due diligence upon facts presented by area residents. The fact is that two studies state that Twin Lakes area aquifer is already maximally allocated or in peril of over allocation. The golf course resort development’s ‘mining’ of this aquifer will impact the water. There is insufficient compiled research of the geology, the hydrogeology, groundwater and surface water hydraulic interactions and interdependencies. There is no accurate quantification of this aquifer. The degree of science in this scenario is woefully incomplete, yet another developer is ready to start dynamiting rock cliffs and begin constructing a small suburb.

The Waste Water Treatment Plant appears to be situated directly atop the aquifer which we all draw from and will pump treated effluent directly back onto this vulnerable, unconsolidated aquifer. Gray water from 257 dwellings will irrigate a golf course with little or no organic mulch matter between the fertilized course and the aquifer underneath. There is less microbial life to counteract petrochemical fertilizers. It is not designed to remove pharmaceuticals or volatile organic compounds and will subject all life who use the aquifer to begin sharing eternally interacting medications and poisons. Petrochemical agricultural fertilizers will continue to enter the groundwater directly, fuelling the chemical frenzy.

There has been insufficient consideration about this “grandfathered” development in an area where proof of water has always been questionable and water abuse is observable. 

Director Schwarz states it was a different director responsible 17 years ago and doesn’t address the 2011 water reality. He is now the elected representative. He must address and change the laws which allow for automatic grandfathering for zoning and subdivision based on the results of a single well pump test in the last millennium. To do otherwise is to not represent the concerns of constituents, in favour of future uncertainty due to inaction.

Director Schwarz, you have position, power and political connections to begin the process to make this right. Do you have the will? How can we help?

Stephen Brown , Twin Lakes Area Aquifer Group

Kaleden

 

CRTC causing static

Canada as a nation is over-governed and in many areas over-regulated, both of which are a major drain on the public purse. One could add incompetently governed and regulated based on recent occurrences at the CRTC, a regulatory body that supposedly regulates all aspects of the communications and media industries in Canada.

I will preface my remarks by saying that I do not purport to be an expert on the CRTC or its mandate, but base my comments solely on what is currently being reported in the news. Based on the current comic opera that is now unfolding, and in spite of all the highly paid government bureaucrats involved, I am not sure that any “expert” in these matters currently exists.

A recent case in point is the following: The CRTC recently turned down an application from a company called Wind Mobile to provide mobile phone service in Canada, as that company did not meet the foreign ownership requirements. Allowing this company to operate in Canada would be beneficial to consumers, as it would reduce the current monopoly enjoyed by the three major mobile phone providers. Canadians currently pay the highest cell phone rates anywhere.

The federal government, supposedly using the same information on which the CRTC based its ruling, overturned the CRTC’s ruling and ruled that Wind Mobile met the foreign ownership rules as currently written. As a result, Wind Mobile began operations, and to date has reportedly signed up 250,000 mobile phone subscribers.

Apparently the Supreme Court of Canada has now overruled the government’s ruling, and found that Wind Mobile does not, in fact, meet the foreign ownership requirements and must cease operations. I do not know who brought the suit against the government’s ruling, but I assume that it was the phone providers who now enjoy this quasi monopoly, so that they can continue to charge the current exorbitant fees.

The federal government now says that they will be appealing the Supreme Court’s ruling. The multitude of lawyers involved are no doubt laughing all the way to the bank as the merry-go-round continues.

The logical thing would be for the government to pass legislation to change the rules on foreign ownership for phone providers to improve the competitive environment in this industry. But then, no one ever accused the government of exercising logic.

As an aside, I understand that the CRTC has ruled that Internet providers can begin to charge for excessive downloading of content, thereby leading to increased cost for Internet users. The federal government is threatening to overrule the CRTC’s ruling. And so it continues.

Again, a logical person would say, clarify or revise the rules that the CRTC operates under or get rid of the CRTC or its managers, who apparently have a tendency to misinterpret those rules.

D.C. Bergman

Penticton

 

Water going to waste

It was recently revealed that Cancun’s water table and subsequent aquifer has been discovered to contain pharmaceutical drugs, illegal drugs, golf course pesticides and herbicides and fertilizers. 

While that really should come as no surprise, it is surprising that the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen and the province are entertaining the idea of putting a waste water treatment plant on top of the Twin Lakes Golf Course, which is on top of the Twin Lakes aquifer. Same pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides filtering their way down to contaminate the aquifer. 

Mexico is a Third World country with a largely impoverished illiterate population and does not have a Water Sustainability Act. We aren’t Mexico, and we have a provincial water act which proclaims to “have the proprietary rights to ensure the protection and sustainable use of water…” 

Why on earth wouldn’t the RDOS or the provincial government stop such a stupid proposal? Their mandates are to protect the citizens and the water. Maybe we’re kidding ourselves. We are no different from Third World countries. Here, as in Mexico, big money developers are the governing forces.

Lesley Armstrong

Twin Lakes

 

Privatization not just a union issue

This is an open letter to Penticton’s mayor and council.

Please, take a moment to read this report that I recently got from the Council of Canadians (www.canadians.org) and, in my analysis, what happened in Berlin is very much related to your current plan to privatize the management of Penticton’s community theatre, centre and pool.

I keep hearing you, Mayor Ashton, stating that this is about the union, CUPE 608, and it’s their responsibility to “get back to the bargaining table”. In reading your “Further Clarification… Fast Facts”, it appears to me to be grossly unfair and one-sided, completely downplaying the calibre and job skills of the present workers, in all their workplaces. As a member of the public and a citizen of Penticton, I really resent being presented with such one-sided and biased so-called facts. If this is how you go to the bargaining table, I suggest that this council needs a strong dose of how to bargain fairly and to be present and listen to the workers on the other side of the table. This sort of unfair bargaining is unfortunately too common, but please, have a heart and don’t go down that road. 

I don’t know how strongly I can state so that you get it, that this issue (the privatization of a public facility) for me and others who call Penticton home (union and non-union alike, seniors, families, etc.) is about preserving a public recreational service, and not just a union issue. 

As the Valentine presenters to the budget meeting stated, have a heart for this community that 30,000-plus call home and for the many thousands of people who have used the community centre services over the years and the many thousands who would not be able to use a for-profit community centre, because they won’t be able to afford increased fees under a for-profit service.

Once more, have a heart for the people of Penticton, and keep Penticton’s recreational services and community theatre, both publicly owned and publicly managed.

Brigid Kemp

Penticton

 

Support brightens day

On Feb. 13 I hosted a run for my running group that was created in the spirit of Valentine’s Day. I would personally like to thank the sponsors for all their contribution and support. 

The day was full of surprises and smiling faces. Thanks to Purdy’s Chocolates for the treats, Michael Hill Jeweller for jewelry complementary inspection and cleaning certificates and the prize, Clarin’s for the skin care products and Elizabeth Arden for the skin analysis and demonstration gift certificate, the Cannery Brewery for donating beer and a special prize, Peaches Lingerie for the gift certificate, Burger55 for the gift certificates (2), Melt Spa for hosting the end with the lovely foot treatments and gift certificate, and finally the Best Damn Sports Bar. Thank you. You all made it a fabulous day.

Leslie Zednai

Penticton


 

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