B.C. Liberals need to change course after a decade of ignoring truckers

John Horgan
John Horgan
John Horgan

BY JOHN HORGAN

B.C. New Democrat Leader

 

THIS week, 600 hard-working container truck drivers lost their jobs. While we have long known that many drivers were going to lose their jobs, what’s missing is transparency about who is making the decisions and why they are being made.

All truckers are asking for is for this difficult process to be done in an open manner, and they are asking the premier to do her part to ensure that things are being done fairly.

Unfortunately, while Premier Christy Clark said all the right things last March – when she raced to take credit for ending the labour dispute between truckers and Port Metro Vancouver – these days, it seems she has moved on to the next photo op.

It’s hard to take the premier at her word.

After all, it was her government that ignored the concerns raised by truck drivers as far back as 2005.

In 2005, members of the Vancouver Container Truck Association stopped work, effectively shutting down Port Metro Vancouver. While the dispute was resolved and truckers went back to work, the issues underlying the dispute were never fully resolved.

Those underlying issues came up again in 2013, and representatives of UNIFOR-VCTA – the union representing the truckers – warned that a large-scale disruption was imminent if the provincial and federal governments didn’t take action.

But the B.C. Liberals did nothing to resolve ongoing issues and avoid a work stoppage.

Finally, in March 2014, truckers were forced to go on strike.

Rather than working productively to end the dispute, the B.C. Liberals blamed truckers and called for back-to-work legislation.

New Democrats stood with truckers and protested the legislation, filibustering the bill for hours to give both sides time to solve the dispute outside the legislature.

When the dispute was resolved with the 14-point plan proposed by mediator Vince Ready, the premier was first in line for a photo-op claiming that the end of the dispute was the result of her and her government’s hard work. She even went so far to call labour issues “a big part of her premiership.”

She failed to mention the years her government had spent ignoring these issues – years when they could have been resolved without the shutdown of the port, which brought heavy storage fees for thousands of businesses and disrupted the lives of hundreds of truckers.

Today, when truckers are looking for answers, the premier is nowhere to be seen.

Again, the province is showing no leadership, and Premier Clark is avoiding key questions about decisions which have left 600 truckers out of work.

On February 1, the premier will become responsible for much of this system. If she truly cared about truck drivers, as she claimed to last March, she would be back at the table, working to ensure that the criteria used to determine which companies received licenses is not only transparent, but that in this case it was applied, and applied fairly.

Instead, she is pointing fingers elsewhere and doing nothing to mitigate job loss or ensure quick action on the transitional support needed.

After a decade of failing to address the concerns of truckers outside of photo-ops, Premier Clark and her B.C. Liberal government have shown time and again that you just can’t take them at their word.