Opinion » Cybernaut


Bring on the scabs



Is the entire freaking country on strike? From sea to shining sea, disgruntled workers have walked off their jobs and picked up placards demanding everything from wage increases to increased benefits.

Public sector employees were striking in Newfoundland. Doctors are threatening to cut services in New Brunswick, and striking public sector employees across that province were ordered back on the job without a deal. School support staff in Halifax, Nova Scotia have also walked off the job, basically asking for more of everything.

In Quebec, provincial prison guards walked off the job demanding $8,000 more a year to bring their salaries into line with federal prison guards. Almost immediately afterwards, provincial prosecutors – the people who are responsible for filling the prisons – took a hike, asking for more money and lighter case loads.

The National Art Gallery of Canada narrowly averted a strike over wages recently with both sides agreeing to resume failed negotiations; at any moment these talks could collapse like a house of cards.

In Toronto, for an unprecedented seventh year in a row, it’s the kids who are being affected as school support staff headed to the picket lines demanding higher wages – they just couldn’t wait until summer break to air their grievances, which only goes to show that, despite their assurances otherwise, they had every intention of holding the students hostage.

In Calgary, transit workers have been on strike for the past month and a half, asking for more for wages and benefits. Replacement "scab" drivers have been egged and threatened with bodily harm for attempting to restore some kind of service to the besieged city.

Now we come to B.C., Vancouver and the Lower Mainland – in the past year, this part of the world has endured teacher strikes, ferry worker strikes, doctor strikes, medical support worker strikes, city worker strikes, garbage collector strikes, hotel and conference centre strikes – and the list goes on.

Vancouver is currently thumbing, bumming, choking and pedalling its way through an all-out transit strike that has forced more than 500,000 commuters to find other ways to get to work in the morning. Hospital support workers have reached a tentative deal that could evaporate at any time; nurses are offering limited services until their demands for higher wages and more nurses can be met; 911 dispatchers are alternating between manning the phones and manning the picket lines; paramedics are prepared to go on strike; and "work to rule" school support workers are shutting down schools on a rotating basis.

Even Whistler has been caught the strike bug, with our transit workers threatening to walk off the job on April 12 if their demands aren’t met: a new contract, a 13 per cent pay raise, and a lower ceiling for benefits.

While I don’t doubt that our transit workers deserve all they can get, it’s going to be hard to sympathize with their plight while I’m biking to work in the spring rain.

Their timing couldn’t be worse. First of all, it’s difficult to empathize with one group when every public employee in the province is on strike – all this discord is going to cost the province plenty to remedy, which really means that it’s going to cost the taxpayers.

Which brings me to my second point: it’s tax time in Canada and everybody is particularly sensitive at this time of year as to just how much of our hard-earned money is already going to government.

The third reason is economic – the economy of the entire province and country is on shaky ground right now due to a U.S. economic slowdown and a possible trade war with the States. It isn’t fair for public sector employees, who have more job security than the rest of us, to strike for more money and benefits while people in the private sector are in real danger of losing their jobs.

Hopefully the transit strike can be stopped before it starts, and if not, hopefully it can be resolved quickly and without resorting to either fare increases or tax increases.

In the meantime, it might be a good idea to have a backup plan.


Travel Options is sponsored by B.C. Transit and Environment Canada, and its sole purpose is to get people out of their single occupant vehicles and onto more environmentally-friendly modes of transportation. While public transit is a large component of their program, there is some good information on the alternatives, i.e. setting up a car/van pool program at your office, bicycle commuting, or working from home.


If you’re one of the few Whistler residents who doesn’t already own a bike, get on it. With the Valley Trail system linking every neighbourhood to every other neighbourhood in town, you can get almost anywhere in the community in no time at all. This site, Mountain Bike Review, rates and compares all of this year’s bikes.


This is the website of the U.S. National Bicycle Safety Network – unfortunately the Canadian government’s bike safety site is not nearly as comprehensive. Americans have soft skulls and skin, too, so the information is equally applicable in Canada. If you’ve never biked, it might be worth your time to read through some of the information provided. Even if you’ve biking for years, it might be a good idea to brush up on the basics, like hand signals.


If bikes have a drawback, it’s their portability – they’re incredibly easy to steal and, once stolen, to unload. It might be a good idea to visit Cycling B.C. and look into insuring your investment.