If anyone wondered how far the BC Liberals would go to rid BC of union jobs that pay decent wages and benefits, Bill 75 leaves few questions unanswered.
Also known as the Significant Projects Streamlining Act, this legislative hammer gives a few individuals the ability to overturn just about any government decision provincial or municipal. And of course those individuals are none other than Gordon Campbell and his cabinet buttered up by a few of their big business friends.
Bill 75 is designed to fast track major transportation projects, water and sewer infrastructure, independent power projects, Olympic construction and whatever else the premier or his cabinet designates provincially significant. But when Phil Hockstein, the executive vice-president of the Independent Construction Association of BC (and one of the most rabid anti-unionists in the province), proclaims his support for this draconian act, working people had better take cover or prepare to fight.
We should be absolutely clear about what Campbell and his cabinet can do under Bill 75. In the Lower Mainland, the RAV line is controversial because it opening the door for non-union construction and operation of the line. City councillors in communities in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) backed laws to make support of the project contingent on public operation by union workers. Under Bill 75 a complaint from Phil Hochstein could set the wheels in motion for the BC Liberals to overturn any local rules that would prevent the project from going ahead.
Concerned about the spread of private liquor stores, the City of Vancouver considered placing restrictions on private stores. Such by-laws could now be deemed not in the interest of the province and overturned. Outside the Lower Mainland, communities prepared to pass regulations and bylaws to protect local residents from environmental and health damage caused by fish farms could be trumped by a simple decree of the Premier or one of his cabinet ministers.
Provincial government intrusion into local governments is a backlash to the work of CUPE members who elected progressive councillors and school trustees in November 2001. In communities throughout the province, our elected officials are working hard to protect us from one of the most antilabour governments ever elected to power in this country. These efforts are the fruit of our political action. In communities like Prince George, where hundreds of union jobs will be lost due to privatizating BC Rail, progressive councillors and others fought hard against their own mayor to defeat the privatization bid.
Community members in every corner of the province would do well to support the efforts of locally elected representatives in the ensuing fights that will take place over this draconian legislation.
In the end, Bill 75 may prove to be the legislative stroke that galvanizes British Columbians to say enough is enough. No doubt it will begin with the community representatives we helped to elect and the union members whose wages and benefits are on the line.