Your editorial of April 5 titled, “Was Vote Conflict Of Conscience?” is misguided and irresponsible.
The editorial begins with the observation that when Coun. Jan Chaboyer “voted against a motion (brought forward by Coun. Jim McCrae) asking the province to review the Labour Relations Act in the wake of the Brandon University faculty strike last fall, she was not in a conflict of interest.” The motion in question called on the city to “petition the Manitoba legislature to review the Manitoba Labour Relations Act, to ensure Manitoba employees and employers can operate in fair and respectful workplaces.”
Apparently Chaboyer’s opposition to this did not sit well with the Sun editors, so they invented the idea of a “conflict of conscience” to criticize Chaboyer for doing what she was elected to do, namely, represent the interests of the citizens of Green Acres Ward and others in the city who would otherwise have no voice in the debate. Why did the Sun editors think that she was in a “conflict of conscience?”
They suggest that “as president of the Brandon and District Labour Council and a purchasing officer at Brandon University” she should have excused herself from the debate. But Chaboyer didn’t do this. Instead she introduced a motion to table McCrae’s resolution and then, when that motion failed, made the obvious point that involving the Manitoba legislature in disputes at the university (or the City of Brandon) would not be of much use in dealing with the issues involved in these situations.
The Sun editors seem to believe that McCrae’s decision to bring this motion forward was inspired by his civic mindedness. I would suggest that other considerations were at play. During the BU strike, Vic Toews, a minister in the Conservative government in Ottawa, declared in a meeting with the Brandon Sun editorial board that the Manitoba premier should have ordered an end to the strike because of its harmful effects on the local economy. At the time I noted that, while not out of character, this statement was irresponsible. Could it be that one of the motives for the motion calling for an all-party review of the LRA is to try to embarrass the government — which is what Toews was attempting to do when he made his statement?
It is important to note as well that the City of Brandon is involved in an ongoing conflict with its firefighters, a conflict which I have suggested is a result of actions by the City to undermine the firefighters union rather than negotiate a mutually acceptable collective agreement. To achieve this end the City hired Canadian Professional Management Services Ltd. (a Vancouver firm) to take charge of collective bargaining and administration of labour relations.
I understand that Mr. McCrae (along with Mayor Shari Decter Hirst and councillors Corey Roberts and Len Isleifson) is a member of the city’s Personnel Committee, the body that presumably sanctioned the decision to hire CPMS. Is it possible that Mr. McCrae’s motion may also be motivated by an attempt to deflect attention from the way the City is handling its own labour relations portfolio?
Now, on the question of the “conflict of conscience” issue, think about this. Mr. McCrae is a Conservative (indeed, he was attorney-general in the Filmon government) and a big fan of Mr. Toews. Councillors Murray Blight, Isleifson, and Jeff Fawcett (and perhaps others) are also Conservatives, and also likely fans of Mr. Toews. If the “conflict of conscience” notion had any merit, surely the Sun editors would agree that these councillors should have withdrawn from the debate.
As I recall, the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, which represents employers in Brandon, also supported the idea of ordering striking faculty members back to work. Mr. McCrae is a chamber member (and was president of the Brandon Real Estate Board). He would seem once again to be in “a conflict of conscience.” Councillors Fawcett, Roberts and Blight are also members of the chamber, and, therefore, also in a “conflict of conscience.”
I won’t belabour the point. The implication is clear. The Sun editors applied a double standard in this situation; one standard was used to condemn Coun. Chaboyer, another to praise all other councillors for their civic-mindedness. The suggestion that Coun. Chaboyer was somehow or other in a “conflict of conscience” is bogus. I believe that the editors were seeking to undermine Chaboyer’s credible opposition to a misguided and irresponsible motion when it raised this issue.
The Sun editors should examine their own conscience with respect to this dreadful editorial.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 12, 2012