Well, it’s officially spring here in la la land. And for the last six weeks, I’ve made a point of getting up early every Saturday and Sunday to use my cheap-as-borscht Y2Play Pass to ski on Grouse Mountain until noon; catching enough runs before the snow gets slushy in the warm spring sun. It’s not Whistler, but it is only 25 minutes from my house.
As I admire some of the most expensive real estate in the galaxy on the way down the Cut, I realize that it might still be winter 3,000 feet below me in the streets of Vancouver and its surrounding burbs. The winter of our discontent.
Or, if you don’t mind the poetic allegories, a joyless Mudville, where the Canucks have once again struck out.
As you read this, the team that won the Presidents’ Trophy two years in a row and came only one game from winning the Stanley Cup in 2011, has gone down to an ignominious defeat in the first round of the playoffs to the Los Angeles Kings.
On behalf of the restaurants and bars of B.C.: “Oh the pain.”
In part, this has to do with the on-again, off-again goaltending of Roberto Luongo. But it also has to do with the attempted decapitation (metaphorical and otherwise) of star Daniel Sedin after being elbowed in the head by Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith in March.
Keith was given a piddly five-game suspension for causing Sedin’s concussion, arguably robbing Vancouver of a goal or two . . . or three in the first round. One of my clients said to me that if the Canucks lose this week, its Duncan Keith who stole several million dollars from the cash registers of British Columbia’s bars and restaurants.
Fortunately, Sedin came back for game four, and with Cory Schneider in goal, the Canuckleheads won the game and stayed alive to lose . . . or win another day.
But Schneider’s performance has amazed Vancouver sports fans to such an extent that there is a general acceptance around every water cooler in the province that, win or lose, Schneider is Vancouver’s No. 1 goaltender now and soon it’ll be “So-longo Luongo,” despite the no-trade clause in his contract. Throwing players under the bus is de rigueur in a city that has towering and often unrealistic expectations of goalies and provincial politicians.
Turning to those other B.C. blood sports, politics, and labour disputes, the B.C. Liberals lost two byelections to the NDP on April 19. The NDP victories were predicted in advance by just about everyone who has predicted that Luongo will be traded.
B.C. politics are among the strangest and “wackiest” in Canada (that pun was deliberate for you old-time Socreds). The dynamic this year includes the resurgence of something called the B.C. Conservative Party, which seems to be a collection of old federal Reform Party members, older Socreds, small government advocates, anti-HST campaigners, low taxers, global-warming deniers, and flat-earthers, who either don’t understand that two right-of-centre political parties splits the free-enterprise vote, or they actually want an NDP victory in the next provincial election so they can create a new “free enterprise coalition” from the rubble. (To build a new world order from the rubble, I guess you have to start with rubble.)
Meanwhile, the biggest elephants in the political room are the B.C. teachers, who are either working “bell to bell” for the kids, not doing any extracurricular activities for the kids, not writing report cards for the kids, or they’re striking for the kids. They want to be paid more money (not for the kids) even though they have one of the most generous pension plans in the province, and get summers, Christmas holidays, and spring breaks off.
Yes, we all know they do a good job. We all do a good job. Drinks and pats on the back for everyone who does a good job! Gold stars and participation marks all around. But which hospitals should the government close to give the teachers all they want, because their demands may well cost an extra $2.9 billion. Maybe if they’d supported the HST, B.C. would have some money to raise their salaries. Alas, they didn’t. You reap what you sow.
Some of their demands have been mind-boggingly ludicrous. A 15- to 20-per-cent wage increase to bring B.C. salaries into parity with the best-paid teachers in Canada? Fourteen days bereavement leave for the death of friends (does that include Facebook friends?). No wonder the government legislated them back to work with stiff fines if they returned to the picket lines.
As Global TV reporter Keith Baldrey wrote in the Surrey Now last year:
What other union member gets two weeks paid leave for the death of a friend (plus two paid days for travel), a half year’s paid leave to care for someone else (not necessarily a family member), another week’s pay to care for a child, plus paid leave to do union work? Throw in a new bonus that would see veteran teachers get an entire year’s pay just for retiring, and you can see that BCTF negotiators inhabit a completely different world than their counterparts in either the public or private sector.
One teacher in Victoria actually had her class of Grade 1 students write letters to the Minister of Education to protest the introduction of back-to-work legislation, called Bill 22. Said the handwritten letters from the 6 year old pawns: “I hope that you will talk to teachers and solve the problem like we do. We need to stop bullying! Please stop Bill 22.”
To raise a red flag in front of a bull in a china shop (and to really mix my metaphors), if I were a teacher and really wanted more money, I’d either move out of the Lower Mainland or Victoria where house prices are ridiculous, or I’d look for another job. The problem is, there aren’t that many jobs that let you go home by 5 p.m., take your summers and Christmas holidays off, and healthily retire at 55 or 60 like many teachers are now doing on a fabulous pension. “Freedom 55,” said a teacher friend of mine over a drink last year, “is really for teachers.”
Striking “for the kids” doesn’t help much if you have a kid in Grade 12 this year trying to get into university. It’s been a disastrous year for them. But to give credit where credit is due, some teachers have complained to me about their union having been hijacked by the radical left. They’ve managed to navigate in this political (and, dare I say, ideological) maelstrom by actually teaching their classes, providing marks, encouraging students, coaching sports teams, and giving letters of recommendation for scholarships. They’ve more or less ignored the party line promulgated by the union commissars. They are all saints and there’s a place in heaven for them.
But for the ones who are still demanding bereavement leave for the death of Facebook friends, a 15-per-cent pay hike, and who are threatening to flaunt the law unless they get everything they want (including waiving the $400-per-day penalty for striking that teachers will face if they return to the picket lines), all I can say is this: I have to obey the law, even if I don’t like it. Why can’t you?
There is no joy in Mudville or la la land this spring.