Labour Council Endorses Three By-election Candidates

Photo by Darryl Schmidt

Photo by Darryl Schmidt

Kamloops–The Kamloops and District Labour Council has endorsed Bill McQuarrie, Jeanne Marr and Leslie Lax for the upcoming municipal by-election in Kamloops.

“We believe Bill McQuarrie, running for Mayor, and Jeanne Marr and Leslie Lax for council, have the best interests of working and vulnerable people in mind. They have solid ideas for strengthening our community both economically and environmentally and the personal constitution to stand on their positions,” says KDLC President Barb Nederpel.

“These candidates all took strong positions against privatization, contracting out, and are in support of a Living Wage, food security and a number of progressive positions the KDLC also supports.”

The endorsement process started with an invitation to all candidates and those who responded positively were asked to fill out a questionnaire, and once submitted, they were invited to participate in the forum. The questionnaire elicited responses around issues such as how to conduct municipal core reviews, local and ethical procurement policies for the City, improved and accessible transit, and how the city can prepare for the effects of climate change.

“The questionnaire gave the candidates a chance to contemplate issues they may not have been exposed to, and it allowed us to gain a well-rounded understanding of the candidate’s values that we knew we couldn’t get to with a two-question public forum.”

“We know the work of municipal governments has a profound impact on workers and their families and the communities they work and live in. That’s why we work hard to engage our members in civic issues,” says KDLC President, Barb Nederpel.

The original format was to have individual round tables on key topics for the labour organization, however, it became problematic when a large majority of the candidates responded positively to the invitation.

“Usually we have four or five participants — even in a regular election,” says Nederpel.  “But this by-election seems to have brought out a high number of candidates who value the work that unions do and have a progressive vision for their community. We had 22 participants in total.”

The two questions posed at the forum regarded the Living Wage and contracting out of municipal services.

“These are core issues for labour. If someone works full time they should be able to live above the poverty line and be able to fully participate in society. Contracting out municipal services generally means citizens get lower quality or reduced services and drives down the wages of the workers for maximum profit for the contractor.”

The KDLC endorsement committee immediately grappled with their decision of who to endorse, a process Nederpel says was the hardest they have ever went through in a municipal election.

“There are a lot of really good candidates and if we were in a regular election, we would have endorsed several of them.”

But with only one mayoral seat and two council seats, they decided to back only three to increase the likelihood of progressive candidates being elected.

She added that others candidates like Bill Sarai, who is running an enthusiastic “voice of the people” campaign, and Glen Hilke, who has the most front line experience and dedication to his community, are also very strong.

Not all of the candidates followed the required endorsement process and three showed up to the forum to participate – posing a procedural challenge for the Labour Council.  As a democratic organization, Nederpel put the question to the audience twice before the audience relented.

“These candidates made the effort to be there and I was happy they were able to heard.”

One of the council candidates who failed to follow the endorsement process, but showed up anyway, was Kevin Krueger. He later walked out of the forum out of apparent frustration with having to follow the process that all the other participants were easily adhering to.

“We had no indication he was coming as he didn’t respond to the invitation, nor did we even imagine that he would seek Labour Council endorsement.”

Nederpel claims when Mr. Krueger was an MLA, his BC Liberal government dramatically altered employment standards leading to the precarious working conditions in BC today, dramatically impaired oversight for employment standards and workers’ ability to seek fair retribution, and froze minimum wage for a decade.

“So we were really surprised he came. But I made every effort to include him and he was treated like everyone else despite his history with many of us in the room.”

Nederpel acutely remembers when Krueger’s government contracted out hospital workers in 2004.  Over 9,000, predominantly women, laundry and dietary workers lost their jobs when the services were contracted out to multinational corporations. In addition, the 43,000 workers also had their wages cut by 15%, dramatically altering people’s lives. So when the second question was posed to Mr. Krueger about contracting out, Nederpel expected a well rehearsed, typical response.

“But he stated that ‘everyone does, there are times when it is appropriate, and the answer is no’.  It’s not really clear by this answer if he is in favour of contracting out or not, but history shows that he is. Then he just walked away from the mic and straight out the side door…it was just strange.”

Sparks flew during the “challenge” part of the forum where candidates were encouraged to elaborate, debate, or support each other’s responses.

“The challenge format really allowed us to get a good understanding of the candidate’s points of view and knowledge and their ability to stand up for what they believe in. It was a great success and we’re happy to have provided this service for our community.”

Questionnaires:

Bill McQuarrie

 

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