Tag Archives: British Columbia

Politicians Silence Advocates and Organizations

10816511New Orleans   There is no doubt by anybody anywhere that the Fight for $15 and in general the fight for living wages has been led by unions and community organizations in every country where the campaign has been fought: the United States, the United Kingdom, and, certainly Canada. No matter the tactics and strategy the targets have been moving corporations and public bodies and elected politicians to sign on and support the workers’ demands for living wages. As we have discussed, some public bodies, including city councils in Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York in the United States as well as particularly Vancouver and Toronto in Canada and even the national government in the United Kingdome have moved substantially on these issues after sufficient organizational and popular pressure. This is how it should be. This is the work we do. Ostensibly, this is how countries subscribing to some level of democratic norms should work.

Well, think again, my friends, not in the age of state and corporate partnerships in the age of neo-liberalism.

The ACORN office in British Columbia received a message marked URGENT from the British Columbia Federation of Labor because we are an active member of course of the Minimum Wage Working Group. The message was pleading that all “Fight for $15” activities would have to be suspended until the mid-October federal elections, a period of almost 3 months since Prime Minister Harper had “dropped the writ,” or called for the election, unusually early in order to trigger the expenditure freezes for the election, favoring the incumbent party. Normally for ACORN the time to increase the pressure on our issues is during election periods when politicians and parties are most vulnerable and our leverage is at its highest! So, what the frick?

I’ll let the message speak for itself:


As you know Prime Minister Harper has called the election earlier than expected. Additionally new rules have come into place regarding the participation of third parties during an election.

As a result of these changes the BC Federation of Labour is very limited in how it may participate during the writ period, specifically related to advertising. Due to the similarity of our Fight for $15 campaign to the Federal NDP’s platform promise of a $15 per hour federal minimum wage, any traditional or on-line paid advertising that we engage in to support the campaign may be considered election advertising under the Elections Act.

This in itself wouldn’t present a problem. However, the BCFED and all other federations of labour and labour councils are considered by Elections Canada to be one entity under the Canadian Labour Congress. Therefore, we are not permitted to register separately as a third party. This means we are caught in the same spending cap as the CLC. There is no additional room within that cap.

Due to these restrictions we must limit our Fight for $15 campaign activities to those activities that are not considered to be election advertising. This means we are limited to on-line engagement without placement costs and direct communication with our members. We can also submit letters to the editor and op eds.

We are not permitted to petition, leaflet, hand out buttons, distribute t-shirts or participate in any activity that advertises this issue to the public until after the election period. That means we will need to postpone many of our upcoming activities until after the election in October. We are very disappointed by this news and will be developing a new strategy to mobilize the campaign in an on-line capacity that complies with the legislation.

We are asking you to not distribute any materials including petitions, buttons, signs or leaflets that were produced by the BCFED during the campaign period. You, of course, may use your own materials, but please be aware of the requirement to register as a third party advertiser should you incur more than $500 in costs.

You get it? One of the parties, the National Democratic Party, had succumbed to the pressure and made $15 a part of their platform, therefore continuing to organize, advocate, demonstrate, and agitate for $15 suddenly was reclassified as not only electioneering, but advertising rather than action. A similar perversity was recently part of the rules in the United Kingdom federal elections with about the same limitations except 5000 pounds per group rather than 5000 Canadian dollars. Not much doubt that the Canadian Conservative Party might have gotten the idea from the UK Conservative Party, eh? Of course in the United States where anything about money in elections is dysfunctional, the one effort by the IRS to reign in 501c4 social welfare organizations on their political activity, despite the fact that the 501c4 status curtails such activity, was immediately derailed by Congress and then postponed and pulled by the IRS until after the 2016 election, despite the fact that c4s as social welfare front groups and SuperPacs are already flooding campaigns with money, taking over their management, and flaunting every known rule.

But the perversity of organizations being prevented from advocating for change so that politicians can dupe voters into whatever is past the pale. If there were ever rules that were made to be ignored, which is to say, broken, here is a prime example. When government attempts to silence people, it is time to roar.


A Victory for the Poor is Still Possible At Least in British Columbia

clawback2 (1)New Orleans        There are no good times to be poor, but these are especially hard times given persistent inequality and distorted public policies that throw a couple of nickels towards lower income families while opening the gateway to millions for those with big money.  All of which makes the ACORN victory in what might have seemed a hopeless campaign in British Columbia all the sweeter.

The issue centered on clawbacks, the inelegant, but totally accurate, term for the government forcing a refund from the poor.  In this case, we are talking about single mothers on benefit support in British Columbia, Canada.  When lightning struck and they received any child support, and throughout the world we know how spotty these collections always are, especially during the recent economic downturn, the government would then clawback an amount of money equal to the child support.  All of which insured that the single mom and her children would be frozen in place without much hope of breaking loose from their circumstances.  The rank injustice of this hard-hearted austerity measure by the Liberal (which means Conservative) government there became a huge and ongoing campaign by ACORN British Columbia over recent years.

Now with almost a billion dollar surplus ACORN’s tireless campaign and constant actions paid off and stopped the clawbacks, although as always it seems a small refund for us. means a bigger giveaway for upper income families.

The Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s national newspapers, reported on the victory this way:

After sharp and emotional criticism from advocacy groups such as ACORN B.C. over the past year, some of the province’s poorest parents – single mothers on welfare – will now be able to keep the child-support payments from their former partners starting Sept. 1.   Each month a single parent with one child is eligible for $945 in income assistance or $1,242 in disability payments. Under the old policy, those cheques are reduced by the amount of any child support received by a former partner….The policy change will return about $13-million over the next year to about 5,400 children in 3,200 families, Finance Ministry officials said.  The budget also lets people earn several hundred dollars more before they pay tax on any income more than roughly $19,000.

Vancouver 24 Hours filled in some other blanks in the story quoting Carole James, the opposition critic of the ruling government:

…the NDP applauded government’s elimination of the child support “clawback” that sees amounts deducted if parents also receive income assistance, saying that policy “never should have been there in the first place.”  “The credit for that goes entirely to the families who stepped forward and shared their stories. Some of them are here today, and we thank them for their courage for coming forward,” James said.   ACORN B.C., which has held demonstrations repeatedly to eliminate the clawback, called it a “huge victory.”

Of course the worm in the apple James also pointed out is what the government did with most of the surplus.

Carole James, New Democrat finance critic, said government gave more to the rich and neglected the poor and middle class. “Government put only $5 million towards tax relief for the very lowest earners in British Columbia, but the wealthiest 2% saw an astounding $230 million in a tax break,” she told the legislature.

ACORN won against all odds by keeping the issue front-and-center, and essentially making it too hard for the government to give more to the rich while literally taking food out of the mouths of single mothers and their children.  $13 million to stop the clawbacks, $5 million for low wage workers, and $230 million goes to the richest of the rich in British Columbia, but this is what it takes to win for the poor in these times of expanding inequality, and as every coach – and many an organizer – says, it might not be pretty, but a win is a win, and we’re glad to get it.


Enjoy this live version of Bruce Springsteen singing “Factory”