OP/ED: Chris Gardner on Voting in a Pandemic
They are six words we all expected, but prayed we would not hear.
On Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry announced, “We are in our second wave.” The number of COVID-19 infections continues to grow in B.C., and the economic aftershocks are rocking virtually every industry, including construction. Since John Horgan called the election four weeks ago, nearly 4,000 B.C. residents have been infected with COVID-19. By the time the votes are counted, the election certified, and a new cabinet is sworn in, that number could be close to 10,000 new cases.
I had the opportunity to be on the Michael Smyth Show on CKNW Wednesday morning. I was there to defend keeping the secret ballot for union certification votes, a democratic right that John Horgan is committed to stripping away from workers. There is absolutely no good reason to take away the secret ballot – to do so is a slap in the face of hard-working men and women in every industry in every part of B.C.
Smyth played a clip of Horgan saying the only thing on his mind right now is the pandemic. Well we know that’s simply not true. Horgan called an election in the middle of this pandemic – an election that was scheduled a year from now!
There are only two things on the minds of British Columbians today – the safety of their families and loved ones; and, whether or not they will have a job next week, next month, or next year. Horgan’s decision to roll the dice and gamble with people’s health is hypocritical and infuriating.
Over the weekend, I went to an advance poll in my neighbourhood. Instead of walking to the usual place at an elementary school a block away, I was directed to the cavernous concourse of BC Place Stadium. An election official waved me halfway around the stadium to the voting stations where election workers sat behind plexiglass barriers.
It is crazy to think that on one hand, we have all been asked to sacrifice so much, to stay apart and physically distant to get through the pandemic – while on the other hand, John Horgan has thrust us into a provincial election where Elections BC has to use BC Place as a voting station to bring people together safely.
So much of this election campaign has been absurd. The NDP claim to have a plan to build a replacement for the Massey Tunnel, but they have no environmental or Indigenous approvals, and the process has been stalled for years after they cancelled the new bridge already in pre-construction.
John Horgan’s plan to direct taxpayer-funded construction work to his handpicked group of 19 building trades unions under so-called “community benefits agreements” is, in a word, offensive. This plan cuts out 85% of construction workers (and 82% of trades apprentices) from working on big government projects, simply because they are open shop.
In 2018, when the policy was announced with great fanfare, the Times Colonist called on the NDP to “kill this idea before it goes any further”, and former Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said that “…it strikes of paying back political favours and is very troubling.”
We are coming out of a global health and financial crisis the likes of which we have not seen in a hundred years – this is the time when governments should be bringing people together, not dividing them, when infrastructure spending should be open to all who have the expertise and experience, and not just a favoured few.
Unsurprisingly, the lack of competition and the addition of layers of red tape and administration has driven costs way up: highway projects such as Kicking Horse (34% over budget), Illecillewaet (143% over budget), and Chase Creek Road (31% over budget) are just the start. Newly-released government documents peg the promised Cowichan Hospital would run at least 23% over budget (an extra $164 million!) if built under a CBA versus an open and fair procurement process. That is a lot of taxpayer money to leave on the table, money that could be spent on important projects.
Back to BC Place. I checked in, got my ballot, and voted for the only party that stands up for fairness for all contractors —the BC Liberals.