BURNABY—CUPE members were out in full force across B.C. on Saturday, November 15 taking part in community elections for municipal council, board of education and regional district representatives.
More than half of the 180 candidates on the CUPE endorsement list were elected. There were also more than 30 CUPE members running for office. Of those, close to half were successful, many of them first-time candidates.
Many communities in B.C. opted for more progressive leadership, including Prince George, Victoria, Vancouver, Burnaby, and Richmond.
Carlene Keddie, CUPE BC general vice-president, says the member-to-member information campaign local 1048 ran along with locals 3742 and 399 in Prince George was an unprecedented success. “We phoned all 1,380 of our members and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Nine out of 10 of our endorsed candidates were elected.”
Keddie says the results are a huge gain for the community as a whole as well as for labour, “We now have a mayor who will at least listen to our concerns.”
In Vancouver, CUPE 15 civic employees along with CUPE 1004 and CUPE 391 pushed hard for member involvement in the successful campaign to elect a progressive Vision/COPE/Green slate.
“It was great to see so many CUPE members participating and volunteering during the election campaign. This level of political activism in our union helped bring a progressive government back to Vancouver. We need officials who are going to strengthen our public services and make our neighbourhoods healthier,” said CUPE 15 president Paul Faoro.
In Burnaby, CUPE 23 civic employees president Rick Kotar praised the re-election of mayor Derek Corrigan and a progressive council, made possible in part by the efforts of local members. “We’re very happy with the results,” says Kotar, adding “We’ve always had an open door policy with Mayor Corrigan and been able to communicate with Council.”
In Greater Victoria, a number of new councillors were elected who support public sewage treatment. Kim Manton, CUPE 1978 Keep It Public campaign coordinator, who also assisted the Victoria Labour Council election efforts, says she is optimistic. “CUPE and the labour council worked with candidates before and during the election in an unprecedented way and as a result we have some stronger representation in the region.”
CUPE members also made inroads on boards of education. CUPE 402 president Laurie Larsen was elected to the Surrey Board of Education. Having narrowly lost in 2005, Larsen says she is looking forward to being a trustee. “I think that the work of CUPE locals and other labour activists really made a difference in this election, and I feel honoured to be recognized for the work I have done in the community.”
Larsen joins Terry Allen, president of Local 379, who was re-elected.
Louise Piper, president of CUPE 458, is newly elected to the Chilliwack Board of Education. Piper credits support and encouragement from CUPE and her family. “I ran because I felt strongly that the kids at risk in our district need help and that I can make a difference.”
CUPE BC is now in the process of compiling a list of all the candidates elected who were endorsed by CUPE, labour councils across the province or progressive organizations. The intent is to make sure that our community representatives know that they have our continued support.
Turnout for community elections is traditionally low, and this year was no exception. Across B.C. the average turnout was just over 22 per cent. Wells scored the highest with a 92.54 per cent turnout while the Bulkley-Nechako Regional District was the lowest with only 5.33 per cent.