Several municipal officials chose to support an event that ridiculed senior politicians
As many municipal leaders will tell you, when it comes to collecting tax dollars, they are the lowest on the totem poll. Cities collect only 8 cents of every dollar and these funds have to pay for roads, sewers, and a myriad of other services. It's perhaps for this reason that most civic officials are extremely careful to openly attack senior levels of government for whom they rely upon to help fund major infrastructure projects and programs.
With that in mind, a few weeks ago three prominent civic politicians in Metro Vancouver decided they were going to participate in the "Tappie and Crappie" Awards. The awards ceremony was held in a local park Vancouver and was hosted by the Canadian Union of Public Employees in BC (CUPE BC). On stage were Vision Vancouver Councillor Andrea Reimer, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan and New Westminster School Trustee Lori Watt. It also appears that Vision Vancouver Councillor Heather Deal was in attendance.
You would think Councillor Reimer of all people would understand the political jeopardy of supporting an event which mocks her provincial and federal counterparts. If you recall, she landed herself in a lot of hot water when she tweeted about the weight of BC Housing Minister Rich Coleman. She had to publicly apologize for that goof up.
If you watch the video of the ceremony, you will see organizers mock both BC Premier Gordon Campbell and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. As the civic leaders watched on and the crowd booed and hissed, one man jumped on stage with a Gordon Campbell mask complete with horns and shouted:
Profits first. Let's hear it. Profits first.
Then it was the Prime Minister's turn. More hissing and boos, then a woman appeared on stage with a mask of Stephen Harper (with horns) and said:
Nothing that is essential to human life should be for free. We think there is too much free air around and we're working on packaging that.
School Trustee Lori Watt's appearance on stage has been garnering quite a bit of attention in her home community of New Westminster. You see, Ms. Watt is not only a school trustee, she also happens to work for CUPE BC. In addition, the school district she represents is currently in a very delicate negotiation with the Province of BC to build a brand new (and very expensive) high school.
Needless to say, there are more than a few folks back home who didn't think it was politically wise of Ms. Watt to accept the Tappie and attend a CUPE BC event aimed at embarrassing both the Premier and Prime Minister. However, given CUPE is her employer and she was the one who brought forward a motion to ban bottled water in New Westminster, it is doubtful she had much choice in the matter.
A local columnist in the New Westminster News Leader took Watt to task for her participation in the Tappie awards ceremony. Here is what Chris Bryan had to say in today's edition of the paper:
Winners of the “Crappys” included Prime Minister Stephen Harper (“He’s like 90 per cent evil,” event MC Charlie Demers said) and Premier Gordon Campbell. Both awards were accepted by people in masks of the two, with devils’ horns. The other Crappy winner was “Corporate Bullies” (said Demers)—Coca Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé.
The question begs: Why was our school trustee at this event, ostensibly representing our school board? Is our school board on a political campaign against bottled water? Is it fighting private interests in the private sphere? I don’t think so. And I hope not. Not because I agree or disagree with the cause, but because that’s simply not the school board’s job.
Bryan makes some additional observations:
This school district is in the process of sorting out its high school capital project, worth about $130 million. And where’s that coming from?
Victoria. Or rather: Gordon Campbell & friends.
There’s a time for politics and a time for doing your job. Is Watt’s job to represent CUPE and aggravate the BC Liberals? Or is it to help expedite a solution for a new high school?
This capital project involves cooperation with at least one senior government, possibly both.
If Watt wants to campaign against them, she should do it after she’s finished her career as a trustee. And if she was actually at the Tappies “representing” the school board, as CUPE said in its press release, then the problem extends beyond Watt herself.
Although it may have been fun for Reimer, Watt and Corrigan to participate in an event which attacked senior levels of government, it seems like a "crappy" short-term strategy which will yield few long-term results.