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Bob Green Innes,

.... as your new ......

Trustee, Ward 4, Public System.  

.... for a return to sustainable, traditional, family based values and education.....

Questions posed by Teacher Unions - click to jump

Generally I have no problem with unions, believing that unions are necessitated by bad management. I am also becoming more sympathetic of the need to curtail the power of global corporations, now bigger than many countries. Henry Ford realized that workers had to live well enough to become good citizens, and to be good customers. A good employer believes in keeping workers safe from the dangers of industrial accidents. Hamiltonians understand the history of Stodgy Stelco vs Daddy Dofasco. Strikes occur but do not generally affect the public, except in the case of a monopoly. One can always buy from the competitor, which incentivizes both sides to resolve their differences*.

Public sector unions are another matter. Large public sector unions effectively form a blanket monopoly, and have the public over a barrel. The politician can act tough, but eventually must cave in as the public becomes more frustrated. So the unions always win, even if arbitrated. Arbitrators merely split the difference in demands with no regard to the taxpayer, who is supposed to be served by the politician - who is hiding behind the arbitrator, who can be easily blamed. Vicious victorious circle. It is politics which allowed public sector unionization in the first place. Politicians like the system, since their own benefits can riff off of union benefits, as fixed behind the arbitrator's 'shield'.

Mike Harris, in trying to grapple with this monster, made things worse. He won a battle but not the war for the public mind. The side effect of amalgamation was that unions became bigger. Bigger unions by nature, are more militant and more inflexible, reflecting that bigger management, by nature is more egotistical, and also more inflexible. Bigger management always demands much higher pay, which unions point to as unfair. Look at what hospital administrators make these days. Unions have a point.

Thus, both big management, big politicians and big unions (public sector) have set themselves above the lowly taxpayer and, over decades, have widened the gap until teachers are 3x the average wage and top brass are 10x-20x more than average which is about $25k with few benefits if any. (See below for some data) Salary accounts for 3/4 of the entire public budget. This, (plus technology) is why classrooms are starved of basic supplies (pencils, paper, texts). Private sector (corporate) management has become just as bad, but for different reasons. The situation is becoming untennable. Education, vital though it is, has become a sacred cow. The middle class is being eroded and the working class is being crushed by natural competition with China and other factors. Something will have to give.

My own belief is that unless we manage change, we will eventually be forced into some kind of crisis like Britain in which processes become messy and outcomes unpredictable. Much better to adjust quietly before chaos erupts, as it appears to be doing in the US. If they blow up, it will spill over. We are not isolated. I go into this on another page.

To understand what our options are, I first ask you to imagine a world in which ALL workers in the world belong to the same union. Nirvana, our unions would say. I doubt it but will let you ponder such a scenario. Generalize your thinking so that instead of dollars, try to imagine how the economic pie is shared among all, when comparative advantage is equalized, then translate that to the real world in which the bad boy capitalists have options, but no compunctions. Your imagination might find guidance in the example of Russia, pre Gorbachov.

My own inclination is to break the pot. Break the system into smaller units competing in the market. Balance with smaller political footprint and other measures. Smaller units are naturally more human, competition has a chance of encouraging flexibility, and humane working conditions, especially when it starts from such an egalitarian situation as exists now. Principals should be more empowered and schools should be encouraged to form small groupings so as to enable special classes and special supports where there is enough need. This may necessitate some kind of shuttle service during the day. If unions want in on this, they must prevent a monopoly situation where the child-customer has no choices when there is a strike. For instance, at least in cities the public might be able to cope with a strike at a single school or say, half of the english teachers.

Questions from Unions
My answers are therein

Larry Grantham
Hamilton-Wentworth Elementary Teachers' Local

1. What do you feel are the main issues confronting the HWDSB?

A. Money, misdirected priorities (equity, standards, deadwood, inflexibility, lack of choice, etc as per my top page.

2. How can relations between the Board and its employee groups be improved?
3. What is your position on teaching as an essential service?
4. What should the HWDSB's approach be to private or corporate partnerships?
5. What is your position on the contracting out of Board services?
9. What do you feel is the value of E.Q.A.O., considering E.T.F.O.'s request for a two year moratorium on standardized testing?
10. What is your position on the linking of teacher performance and test scores to merit pay as is occurring in the United States?

A. Questions 2,3,4,5,9,10 are statements more than questions and indicate a desire to entrench the status quo that I am not happy with - if I were, I would not be running. As far as I am concerned, the fear-of-union-strike TAIL is wagging the taxpayer DOG. I am open to all alternatives without bias or prejudice for or against the union. The ideas of the teachers are already well represented but we are in head to head competition with nations like China which graduates millions of engineers, pianists and everyone in between. Cost is a critical factor and the tax burden in Canada is significant at about 40% of the economy.

6. How do you see parents becoming more engaged in the school community? What roles are appropriate or not appropriate for parents to play?

A. More and more, the state is taking over the role of parents and parents are being more and more restricted. This is a mistake in my view that I would like to see reversed. Policies like equity fly in the face of traditional understandings that were far more sustainable than the unhealthy nonsense promulgated as the new reality. If equity policies are not abolished, I believe the state may have to get out of the business of sex ed altogether, perhaps having parents fill that role exclusively, either through their own efforts or some agent of their choice. Almost all the liberal minded policies enacted since Trudeau started the ball rolling should be re-examined or better yet, tossed out. His only good and necessary-for-Canada policy was bilingualism (not multilinugalism - which might be the subject of a future blog).

7. What is your view of the relationship between trustees and teachers and trustees and senior management?

A. Incumbent trustees have been there too long and are too politically correct and non transparent. We need term limits, more transparency, more local (principal) control, more choice and competitive labour markets. Something has to give and whether the union tries to stop it or not, something will give. Better to swallow the medicine while things are stable than wait until things become unstable. That is my too-naive hope.

8. What is your position on "Programs of Choice" offered by the HWDSB?
Answer to come as time permits.

CUPE 5167 Questions for 2010 Candidates For School Trustees

1.Why should you be a Trustee?

A. To carry the will of the people as I see it provided the people endorse my understanding through their vote. The notion that trustees should be experts or experienced is a falsehood broadcast by incumbents and those interested in maintaining the status quo. Expertise resides in the administration not the politicians. Present incumbents have been there too long, etc., etc. as per my top page

2.Have you worked with Community groups, political campaigns and school councils?

A. No. I am not generally an advocate of volunteerism, which, other than kid's sports, arts, music, church, etc., seems more like a crutch than a solution. The whole business of politicians making pretty photo-ops at their fav doo-good thing disgusts me, especially when they get in and don't do anything about it. The founder of food banks realistically hoped for the demise of food banks but had no idea how to ensure that happened other than, let me guess, more socialism. Political campaigns - yes, this an area of interest, particularly when I sense that change is necessary. See links on top page.

5.How would you ensure that the monies allocated to Special Education or Libraries are received and used by those departments?

A. Work to ensure there is more transparency in the system (ie. put accounts online per open-government concepts). A complete overhaul is needed for special needs kids - see my thoughts on allowing more local choice.

7.Do you think the education funding formula can be fixed? Should the province completely overhaul it?

A. The role of the province is far too heavy and has allowed remote radicals and ever larger unions to highjack the system. It is too top heavy. There should be more control at the principal level and choice for parents as to which school they send their children to. The province should act more as a balancing mechanism than a funding mechanism, seeking only to help out weaker areas such as the far north.

8. How would you help the Board achieve appropriate professional development for all Board employees?

A. Parents feel that there are too many PA /PD days as it is. All such efforts should be relegated to the summertime. Competitive pressures should be introduced, deadwood should be cleared out and teachers should not be coddled as if they were children. Teachers should then be free to develop their own career goals within the context of an open market for their service - just like everyone else.

3.Do you think there is a role for the private sector in public educations with regard to contracting out of our services, or private - public partnerships ?
4.What will you do to foster positive relations with support staff?
6. Do you think it is appropriate that school boards save money by asking support staff to take on multiple duties and do more and more Supervision?
9. What is your opinion on contracting out or privatization of public services (i.e. public money supporting private enterprise for profit)? Please explain
11.If you are elected Councillor, how would you vote on contracting out of municipal services?
A. As per above, questions 3,4,6,9,11 are really self serving statements, not questions. Please see above for my approach to these issues and unionism in the public sector.

These questions are not applicable to trusteess but I'll have a go anyway in case you are interested!!

10. What policies and or programs would you initiate to maintain and enhance public services? Please explain.

A. This question is really about cost, which at present is too high, mostly because of public sector gold plated wages and benefits compared to taxpayers. Please see above for my approach to the whole union issue. Candidates always promise to find efficiencies but this is difficult for any large organization, public or private. Politics and multiple objectives encourage the octopus to grasp and grow. The only solution is smaller government. A step in the right direction is open city government as per this link.

12.What actions will you take to create the necessary pressures to develop the "Brownfields" and will you push this development prior to developing unserviced lands? Please explain.

A. Brownfields before farmfields for sure. Unfortunately the taxpayer is on the hook for cleaning up brownfields. This must be done incrementally - fix a few, sell them, fix some more with the proceeds. Mayoralty candidate Victor Veri has some good ideas on this that I think folks should investigate.

13.What actions will you take to resolve the garbage generation issue and promote recycling? Please explain? And how important is it that the City of Hamilton own and operate this municipal service? Please explain.

A. As per above, I don't care who operates any particular service. Government should generally steer, not row. Some public sector operatorship is beneficial however, just not the whole thing. I have been working on the dilemma of recycling for decades and until the system collapses in under the weight of public debts, nothing will happen. Once that crisis is reached, the folks on welfare will re-emerge into the sector that has been denied them (repair, reselling, collection, etc.) except for a few small projects (Hamilton's old Third Sector was one such project). Further mechanization of recycling is ok but machines are poor at extracting more than basic materials. Humans are much better and only need humane working conditions. Contamination is the bane of most mechanized processes. Source separation (by consumers) is cumbersome, costly but has certain advantages such as incentivization. But having vice presidents worry about chewing gum wrappers is not an effective use of his/her time. Manufacturers must be made to produce for ultimate social and consumer benefit - ie for reuse, reduction, and (my fav) spare parts interchangeability. Society must make more use of old parts in new applications - old windows in solar collectors, old motors into windmills, for example.

14.What action would you take to convince the Provincial Government to include Hamilton in the GTA pooling arrangement for the funding of "Social Services"? Please explain

A. Old Vic Copps once chained himself to Queens Park doors. If that's what it takes ........

15. Are you in favour of Community Councils and what role should they play? Please explain.

For Toronto, amalgamation was an answer, for Hamilton, amalgamation was a partial mistake. The idea was to give urban areas that carried burdens like welfare more support from the outlying areas that fed such requirements. But downloading and market value assessment came at a bad time for this city. Nonetheless, I feel the main problems we face are self induced (with a lot of help from the Spectator). We are responsible for fixing the mess we are in. While I have no problem with de-amalgamation, rural communities have to understand they can't expect to just send their problems to the city such as kids on welfare without sharing the burden. (Toronto's famous bus ticket solution is an alternative!) Communities such as Burlington benefit taxwise from sprawl through development charges; Hamilton takpayers got taken for a ride with development charges set too low so developers' pocketed more profit and left us holding the bag. Thanks incumbents!

* the exception to this in in mining where owners may be content to leave product in the ground especially if prices are low.

Here is some info to help folks understand why I think public sector workers are overpaid. It refers to city workers and came from a post by A Smith on Raise the Hammer. Teachers/administrators may not correspond exactly to his city-centric data so that a longer or different time period may be needed to show a similar divergence of wages. *********************************************************

In 2001, Hamilton had a population of 490,270 and 4,462 full time employees. Fast forward 8 years and Hamilton's population is 525,697, while full time employees number 6,183.

In 2001, the wage bill for city workers was $355,345K. In this bill stood at $656,149. In 2001, total Ontario wages were $242,939M and by 2009 they were $323,911M.

Hamilton city employee number increase 2001-09 = 38.6%

Hamilton population increase 2001-09 = 7.2%

Hamilton city employee wage/benefits increase 2001-09 = 84.7%

Total Ontario wage/salary increase 2001-09 = 33.3%

In per capita terms, Ontario wages have gone from $21,291 to $24,801, or 16.5% from 2001-09. In Hamilton, per capita wage/benefits per full time public employee has gone from $79,603 to $106,121 during this same time period, a jump of 33.3%, about double that of the average person.

If Hamilton's public full time employee roster had increased at the same rate as our population, in 2009 there have only been 4,784 employees. If we take the 6,183 we actually had in 2009 and subtract the 4,784 we might have had, we see that we are paying an extra...

1,399 workers * $106,121 average wage/benefits = $148.5M in taxes, or $282 per resident.

I ask you, is our city doing better than it was in 2001, back when we had fewer city workers per capita and their wage scales were closer to the average resident? *******************************

Hamilton 2008 Tax Rates

Residential - 1.6459%
Commercial - 4.5730%
Industrial - 6.4402%


R - 1.5876% , 0.9645 of 2008
C - 4.3239% , 0.9455 of 2008
I - 6.1243% , 0.9509 of 2008

Mississauga 2008 Tax Rates

R - 1.0348%
C - 2.6406%
I - 2.9882%


R - 1.0176% , 0.9834 of 2008
C - 2.5185% , 0.9537 of 2008
I - 2.8839% , 0.9651 of 2008

Have your say

Please forgive the primitive comment system - my first attempt to do this. It's a semi manual system so your comment won't appear right away. But fire away, let me know what you think. At this point, I set the system for about 5000 characters but will increase that as needed.

Please be patient -- hopefully you can check back for response in the next day or two. Thanks. Bob