Trash talk: a least one city gets the message on waste

Post by Mike Klassen in


Maybe he can avoid the media this way: Robertson collects garbage

Gregor Robertson has been avoiding media questions regarding the dismissal of 38-year veteran employee Carlene Robbins, but that's not to suggest he's been idle. As The Province reports today, Robertson has been out working behind garbage trucks. "They’re tough jobs," says Hizzoner.

What will be "tough" is the political debate over garbage likely to unfold during the 2011 election campaign. There is a very good chance that some NPA candidates will campaign on a pro-contracting out plank for services like waste. The collective agreements for City workers all run out in 2012, which means that whoever wins the next election will be in the always challenging position of settling with CUPE locals.

When it came to the 2007 labour disruption, and every one that has happened before it, the way unions strap the employers over a barrel is through disruption of garbage collection and landfill service. It is something no city should have to go through, nor is it something that should ever happen again. This is why the NPA must make garbage & waste a key platform plank.

Simply put, voters must decide whether they are prepared to go without garbage service for lengthy periods in the future or not.

This is not to say that those who are currently collecting Vancouver's waste must be pushed out for a private alternative. Several cities have put their waste services out to tender, and after considerable pencil sharpening by unions, in-house services have been chosen by cities like Phoenix, AZ. But the bottom line of any agreement with unions must be to keep garbage & recycling collection an essential service, and the city's Delta landfill must not be put behind pickets.

When it comes to the waste we create, one Canadian city seems to get, or rather, give the message. The topic of waste has never been more engaging than in what the City of Toronto is doing with their Chuck & Vince – "We Want It!" video campaign.

Chuck and Vince want your electronic recycling materials – see video

The Chuck and Vince videos were a creation of the city's marketing department before Rob Ford became mayor, but it is the new administration that is pushing for sweeping changes in the way Hogtown's waste is collected. After campaigning on a promise to contract out garbage services, the City of Toronto is now making noises that they are moving forward with Ford's agenda.

While the City of Vancouver may have ended up saddled with a 17.5% increase in pay over 5 years for their employees (causing the so-called "Brodie Dividend," after Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie broke ranks and settled first with CUPE), they did get one very important concession from their workers – the ability to contract out.

To date no one at the City of Vancouver has whispered the phrase "contracting out," even during the budgeting process where a multi-million dollar shortfall was revealed. You can expect that to change during the upcoming election season, in particular when it comes to waste.

No government in the future wants to have another destructive disruption of garbage collection service, and just like in Toronto it will be a winning issue for the NPA should they decide to take it up.

- post by Mike


The NPA needs to look at what happened in Coquitlam when the contracted out the services. Coquitlam ended up paying way more for the service then it did when they were city employees and the service ended up being absolutely atrocious.

We spend so much time trying to devalue peoples work, especially the work of people who deem who are not doing so-called skilled work. When the garbage service was done by city workers the service was excellent. The workers were community driven and it reflected on how the streets looked. They not only picked up your trash, they cleaned the streets as they went and they tied themselves to the community. We had on 2 occasions where trash workers caught thieves trying to break into houses on our street.

@towoozy. Sure, anyone looking to change our current system should look at case examples from all over, and not just Coquitlam. The upside of what went wrong in that city is they were able to fix the problem. If you bring on any supplier who doesn't measure up, you move onto someone else.

Finally someone willing to talk about privatizing garbage services. Nobody in Vancouver's unionized media will dare approach the issue. I for one do not want to have another strike impact my life again. This should all be done by the private sector. Hallelujah.

PS after the next election, at least we know the mayor has the chance at a second career :-) Instead of spewing out garbage, he'll be picking it up.

@ Tim
Great points, but correct me if I'm wrong, aren't these contracts coming up before the next civic election?

as for the Mayor's next career....funny!

I'm embarrassed... on auto pilot today I responded without reading the article... oh dear...busted.

Why does it not surprise me that a silver-spoon West Van kid who has mainly played tuba and soccer most of his life, and whose rich step dad funded his juice company, finds doing real labour "tough"?

for the sake of the environment, and the city budget, we need to consider the Seattle model. Right now we have no less than 6 haulers picking up commercial garbage in the same laneways along with the city crews dealing with residential waste. Commercial recycling is almost non-existent beyond cardboard because of dumpsters.

Precinct garbage collection with a robust recycling component - both residential and commercial, covering residential and commercial users(commercial could be billed privately, just like they are now) cover all issues (including abandoned garbage so we don't have another city crew chasing around picking up 1 item at a time)and those contracts go out to tender every 2 years. (or whatever the norm might be). If the contractor does not do a good job - find someone that will. The city could bid on those contracts - why not!

2 barriers - union pressure, and waste hauler pressure - both don't want to give up turf, and don't want to be accountable for the service they deliver.

That is old school politicing and getting stale. Garbage is always a popular topic come election time as well as the use of the "garbage" strike to scaremonger citizens into voting NPA.
All the strikes I have been involved at the City of Vancouver have been orchestrated by the NPA. The last one in particular was really a lockout. Mike and Dan know the real truth on how that all came about.
Facts are that the private Waste Hauling industry has taken a run at the City in the past, on more than one occasion. With NPA governments in power they were shot down. Reality is that the people of the City are happy with the service and our crews are competitive with the privates, particularily since they have retooled and mechanized the systems. All the private company bids include the transfer stations and the landfill. That is where the real money is and that is why we should never give it up. Owning and managing the disposal sites is what sets us apart from other large Cities. Why not tell all the citizens how much we profit from these facilities?


So, let's really look at this push to contracting out idea. First, one reply has already mentioned that the city does well in covering it's costs by including transfer station and landfill fees so the contractor would want to cut heavy into that. Do the crews not perform other duties when conditions such as snow fall impede collections? Next, the new crew will very very likely to be UNION people and if not will be so VERY quickly. Hey Teamsters, get ready to organize!!! And finally, get ready for a strike by the employees of the outside contractor.

The man who wouldn't say a word on the Pandora Fire & Victims is yet again pulling another photo opp. identical with the one where he visiting the shelters. What a joke! His Worship doing manual labor. One could only puke a little. I liked your pictures, however, how does Garbage Robertson picks up on himself?

@Maggie This is the kind of brain dead polemic that gives partisan commentary a bad name. If you don't have anything sensible to add to the discussion go away.

I doubt there is much economic benefit to be had by simply switching to a private contractor and it does not give ironclad protection from strikes. But a comprehensive waste management and recycling plan that covered both private and public services - there could be an opportunity for the NPA there. Good topic for discussion, that's for sure.

And another one in PoCo who saved an elderly lady that had fallen into a bush.

@Steven. Thanks. The goal here is to sustain garbage and recycling services, and to remove it as a tool for union bargaining forever. It is not about beating up on a CUPE local, as some firebrands might want to suggest.

Citizens are sick of these tactics. They poison political dialogue and no one ever wins. The next gov't must tackle this issue for the long term good of the city.

The Thought of The Evening

“I didn’t know that Vancouver’s City Hall in partnership with CBC offer such a successful job shadowing and placement program. It seems that there is hope for a productive life after politics, for Gregor!”

Robertson plays the ‘Man of The People’ Routine in a, what else...a TV reality show, the only reality that he is comfortable with. I’m still not buying it. Allow me to be skeptical on this one. I know Peter Judd inspired him to do the stunt, once in a while, vanity cufflinks and such, but a garbage route for His Worship? That’s too much! LOL

His handlers must be having a laugh at him, a big one. Did it ever occur to anyone on 'team' Gregor, that the last “Man of The People’ routine was played by George W. Bush? And he was wearing a cowboy costume, where Gregor was wearing...none?

What’s to be expected next?
Adopting a Filipino baby from East Van for a full weekend? Raising the only Amish barn for the homeless in the DTES with a liquor store up front? Peeling onions and potatoes for Ballem’s Kitchen and then serving hot soup at the Robson Square’s Ice Rink? That would be the day.

On second thoughts, what do I know, he may be...the ‘Man of The People’...only, the Hollyhock People!

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

The Thought of The Day

“At the Court of Forth there is no one brain dead. They are all brain...missing. “

First Steven, I think you would not be able to recognize ‘Polemics’ if it would hit you... Second, your response to Maggie is exactly the type of self nominating, people’s advocate (which clearly you are not, response, that may give Vision a second term. In my book, Maggie is on my team. Steven, you are not going to win against a proven vicious Vision bunch, by wearing silk stockings, cashmere suits and velvet gloves during the next election. If more people would arrive to the same conclusion as Maggie here, there would be an election going on...

Read your ‘substantial’ comment. Again. You know what? Your comment is as relevant as a wart on witch’s nose. Not only that we know by now that the Uberfurer Ballem does not endorses City Caucus consommé inside the Hall, but whatever anyone advises them, on any of the local politics blogs, they will get the treatment of the ‘Fucking NPA hacks’, guaranteed.

I know that. You know that. They know that. So, IMO, better apologize to Maggie, for being such a jackass, and pray for 50,000 more like her to go and vote accordingly come next November.

And if you are curious, you can tell me to go away, too! See if I care.

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

I think Mike Magee should have been on the show. Lord knows his daily reality is cleaning up after his boss (the mayor) every single time he opens his mouth.

'Robertson plays the ‘Man of The People’ Routine in a, what else...a TV reality show, the only reality that he is comfortable with.'
The best descriptive line I read about the Mayor since he's got elected!
Oh, Glissy...

I'm enjoying this blog with some nice posts, have you ever considered a detailed post on how to tile a floor? I'd be willing to help you with your research if you are interested, or do you think this is somewhat out of your area of expertise?

If you wanted to learn how to tile a floor you should go to the Home Depot site.

Since this is a blog on Civic affairs...we are right on topic.

Is this the best Gregor's deflectors can come up with... I do understand you're running out of comments as the Mayor is working you overtime to counter his missteps.... writers fatigue?

The upside of what went wrong in that city is they were able to fix the problem. If you bring on any supplier who doesn't measure up, you move onto someone else.

Check out!

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