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Real change? Madam Premier, the paramedics are waiting

Apppointed (not elected) Premier Christy Clark promised “change”. And as part of her honeymoon period in the public eye, the media has treaded rather softly in scrutinizing her early days in office.

She announced a raise in the minimum wage to be staged over time, but nevertheless welcomed by most British Columbians. Many were embarrassed by this rich province, with some of the highest living costs, having the lowest minimum wage in the country for far too long. So one of former premier Gordon Campbell’s most disgraceful legacies will soon be history. Good.

Clark also announced the government would give back to community groups $15 million of the $36 million Campbell had stripped from the community gaming grant pot. This is important money for  parent advisory groups, social agencies, arts and sports groups and other community organizations. Good.

And the referendum on the HST will be moved up to June instead of the previously-scheduled September vote.  Good.

But these three moves have one thing in common: they are all easy, stroke of the pen decisions, likely to draw public approval without Clark really getting her hands dirty in the muck of previous provincial government decisions and operations.

It’s time for Clark to start taking on tougher tasks.

And I don’t think there’s a better place for her to start than wading into the swamp surrounding the disgraceful treatment of the province’s paramedics by the Campbell government and its minions.

I have written about this many times before. (Search my site under “paramedics” for a full read) 

And as I have said before, I have no idea what a fair wage and fair working conditions would be for BC’s paramedics in both urban and rural communities. 

 But I do know one thing: to take away any public servants’ right to strike or protest or even negotiate an agreement, and impose a legislated settlement without mandatory binding arbitration is simply wrong. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

And that’s exactly what happened to BC’s paramedics in Nov. 2009 under Bill 21.

It is dictatorship at its worst.  Denial of fairness and justice.

BC is not Wisconsin; BC is not governed by right-wing Republican or Tea Party extremists. Most British Columbians of every political stripe  DO have a sense of fairness and justice. And to force people to work under imposed working conditions, wages and lack of basic rights is simply wrong.

Clark talks of “change”?  Clark speaks of her concerns for “BC families”?

Well, Madam Premier, BC paramedics have families too.

Get your hands dirty; take on a REAL challenge; wade into the swamp where paramedics’ rights were dumped by your predecessor.

Then we’ll know you’re serious about making a real difference.

Murray Dobbin is a blogger and retired journalist. This column originally appeared in his blog, Keeping it Real. Reprinted with Mr. Oberfeld's kind permission.