B.C.’s biggest municipal workers union is offering to reimburse members who take time-off to campaign for left-wing candidates in Vancouver’s Oct. 20 civic election, just as it did during the 2014 election.
Independent watchdog Dermod Travis says this is further evidence the NDP B.C. government botched campaign finance reform that was supposed to ban unions and corporations from stuffing big money into political campaigns.
“Everyone — unions and business groups and property developers — knows very well what the spirit of the law was meant to be and they should be rising to the spirit of the law, not plummeting to the letter of the law,” said IntegrityBC’s Travis.
An Oct. 15 memo marked “urgent” on the CUPE Local 15 website and email from secretary-treasurer Sally Bankiner offered to help members book-off from their regular full-time positions.
“CUPE BC is working with locals and the Vancouver and District Labour Council to engage voters in the fast approaching city election for mayor, city council, school board and park board,” Bankiner wrote. “For progressive labour friendly candidates to get elected we need members to help get the word out.”
CUPE Local 15’s website says it has 6,000 members with 19 employers in Metro Vancouver, including Vancouver municipal, education and community workers. The memo did not mention any names of candidates, but VDLC has already endorsed former Burnaby NDP MP Kennedy Stewart’s bid for mayor with a slate of candidates from the OneCity, COPE, Vancouver Greens and Vision Vancouver parties for other positions.
CUPE B.C. is a registered third-party election sponsor, but Local 15 is not. Third-party sponsor organizations can spend $150,000 province-wide.
Bankiner’s memo said work will involve calling fellow CUPE members, knocking on doors, helping with office tasks or organizing and motivating volunteers.
“Training will be provided, so even with no previous campaign experience any Local 15 member will be able to provide vital help to this effort. CUPE BC will be reimbursing Local 15 for your wages and benefits for all days you are booked off to provide assistance,” Bankiner wrote. “This is a great opportunity to be involved in an exciting, positive campaign to make Vancouver a better place to live and work.”
Bankiner was not available for immediate comment.
Travis said the confusion causes public cynicism.
“They should not be searching for loopholes when they know very well what the intent was and it is regrettable that they chose not to follow the intent and the spirit of the law,” he said. “It is hoped that the government, after Oct. 20, will finally recognize it is time to overhaul B.C.’s election legislation from top-to-bottom and get it right before we go into any other election cycle.”
In 2016, Local 15 scored a 7% wage hike for its contract through 2019. The deal covered almost 4,000 workers who perform inside work for the city and park board, Ray-Cam Cooperative Association and Britannia Community Services Society.
During the 2014 civic election, this reporter revealed how CUPE Local 1004, the city’s outside workers union, spent its $70,000 political action fund. The funds were matched by the union’s B.C. and national headquarters. It sparked allegations of conflict of interest from the NPA and an unsuccessful court petition to remove Gregor Robertson and Geoff Meggs from public office. Vision Vancouver launched a defamation lawsuit against the NPA in the dying days of the 2014 campaign, which was later settled out of court.
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