aside: The onion of outrage

Why am I here? Why did I write this blog? It was the government’s fault. They really p*ssed me off.

THE ONION OF OUTRAGE

This blog happened by accident.

As I mentioned before, I talked to Kevin Rebeck after his testimony on the first day. As he left me, he said “Ok, and now for the media.” I watched him walk away with dubious worry. The burden of the rights and well-being of 111,000 public sector employees was clearly weighing on him, and I was thinking –the media? I don’t think they can help you.

See, most journalists have neither the time nor the legal expertise to take Rebeck’s case to the people of Manitoba. But, thanks to some health issues and my background in law, I did.

Even so, that was how blog came about. It isn’t why.

Why did I do this? Why spend so much time and effort and my own resources on a cause I had no immediate stake in?

The reason is simple. I was furious. This wouldn’t have happened if the Government of Manitoba with its games and heavy-handed, draconian behaviour hadn’t made me so mad.

You can see how that all unfolded as I peel back the layers of the Onion of Outrage.

 

LAYER ONE – KNOWING THE LAW IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Who does this? 

This started as soon as I heard that collective bargaining was protected by the Charter. All tight then, Manitoba, why are we here? If you know that you cannot make laws that substantially interfere with collective bargaining in the Province, then why did you do it?

It seems to me that when considering what measures to take, whether it is balancing the budget, saving money, or planning parades, a government in Canada should know what the law is, know what the legal limits are, and plan not to break them.

But here, it seems clear that the government knew that the Public Services Sustainability Act was going to be unconstitutional before they put pen to paper.  

Deliberately making an illegal law? That’s ridiculous. And outrageous

LAYER TWO -SCAMMING AROUND  TO TRY TO GET AWAY WITH IT

I see you, scumbags.

I was really hoping that there was some other explanation for the passed-but-not-proclaimed business. I suppose I should know better. OMG.

I see, you know your law is undoubtedly unconstitutional, so your goal is to try you to scam the system so that you can try to get away with it. I don’t care if it wasn’t Nova Scotia’s idea. You adopted it, and apparently with some glee – hee, hee, hee, look at us getting away with our illegality.

Humpfh. What bogus venality. Intelligence would mean finding away around the law legally. You get no credit for breaking the law by bringing a law you know is illegal, and then trying to game yourself out from under the consequences illegally.

Where are the grown-ups in the Government of Manitoba? This is outrageous.

LAYER THREE – PRETEND CONSULTATIONS

Stop embarrassing me.

It was really painful to listen to Kevin Rebeck’s testimony. He is such an honest and willing guy. You could tell from his story, and the documents they quoted from, just how hard Rebeck and the rest of the union leaders in the Fiscal Working Group were trying, trying to help, and trying to understand.

You could that the government was playing games, even before you knew exactly what they were up to. The responses, and non-responses, given by Gerry Irving and Rick Stevenson to the Fiscal Working Group were so suspiciously cheesy. It was clear that they were just going through the motions, and that the last thing they wanted was anything close to reasonable input from the unions. Besides, how could the unions solve a problem when the government didn’t really want them to know what it was.

But then, we learn, as Rebeck did – long after the consultations were over, and only because of ths lawsuit – that it was all just another stupid “let’s get away with it” game, because the legislation was already drafted, and the government had no intention of making any changes.

I see, so if consultations are required, or if they help us defend the PSSA as being constitutional, then, by all means, let’s pretend to consult and then legislate anyway. It’s as disrespectful and rude as it is disreputable. You guys are sleazeballs. And that is outrageous.

LAYER FOUR – LOOK AT ALL THE DAMAGE YOU’RE DOING

What is wrong with you?

This part was so hard, and there was so much of it. The destruction to collective bargaining in the Province caused by the PSSA just went on and on.

It started with the University of Manitoba and UMFA begging the government to let them negotiate proper wage increases, ones that they both wanted, ones that the University had long promised, and itself sorely needed. But no, this government doesn’t care about the University of Manitoba, its staff, or its students, and their goals and aspirations. All they care about is whether the timing might be inconvenient for one of their press conferences.

And of course, given the ridiculousness of the press conference Minister Wishart held, where the government admitted that they were paying for the 2% limit on school tax increases by paying their teachers less thanks to the un-proclaimed PSSA, perhaps they should have been holding them. You managed to make it clear that you were already applying the PSSA and how unfair it was in just a few sentences.

It took so many sentences in all the evidence and argument to consider all of the damage. For any government to be so irresponsible is totally outrageous.

LAYER FIVE – LOOK AT HOW STUPID AND SHADY YOU ARE

What is this, Zimbabwe?

So, you guys aren’t just doing damage, you are doing it with such sleazy style. You were at least consistent, I suppose, but this isn’t exactly admirable behaviour.

Extorting public sector employers with threats that if they didn’t follow the PSSA, they might lose their funding? What’s next, if you give anyone more than the PSSA lets you, we’ll come break your knees?

And what’s this slimy stuff from the Arlingtonhaus negotiations? Follow the PSSA or lose your funding, but don’t tell the unions that this is what you are doing? Why? Because we would rather you follow our disingenuous communications strategy? Let’s state that as it is – make sure you comply with the PSSA, but if anyone asks you, make sure you lie.

Threats and thuggery? I expect better from the Government of Manitoba. This is outrageous.

LAYER SIX – WHADDYA MEAN, THERE’S NO ECONOMIC REASONS?

Get outta here …

If that all wasn’t bad enough, then, we came to the Government of Manitoba’s economic evidence. Up until that point, I was willing to believe that saving money was a legitimate need, and presumed the government had one. It didn’t mean that what they were doing was justified, because it was, as we’ve seen, so wildly illegal, but it would at least mean that they needed to do something.

It dawned on me slowly, as witness after witness testified for the Government of Manitoba, and talked about our financial situation, that none of them were saying anything that would demonstrate why we might need all hands on our economic deck. In fact, even the government’s economic expert said we were cruising.

But you are doing so much damage – look at the unions, and the University of Manitoba, and the whole public sector. You are trashing it totally. How does that jibe with your claim about maintaining the quality of the public services Manitobans have come to expect?

How can anyone recklessly create such wanton destruction to the very services and institutions they are responsible for, and why would anyone do so when THEY KNOW THEY DON’T NEED TO? Outrageous.

LAYER SEVEN – MATERIAL MISSTATEMENTS IN THE PROVINCE’S ACCOUNTING

OMFG!!!! 

Of all my outrages, this was the worst. Yes, I was disgusted and furious with my government for all the other garbage that had gone on, but OMG, I have never seen anything like a government lying in their accounting.

If you remember from the testimony of Aurel Tess, then our Provincial Controller, the so-called disputes they were having with the Auditor-General seemed pretty innocuous, at first. But when Smorang-the-Smasher got a hold of him, boy oh boy was it bad. The Government of Manitoba has committed accounting fraud, and when challenged by the Auditor-General, they just did it again.

That’s bad enough, and grounds, on its own, for a call for the Premier and his cabinet to get the hell out of government. But why were they doing it? Because they wanted an excuse to cut more public services, to wreck more of our structures and institutions, and they wanted that excuse so badly that they didn’t care that it was false.

OMFG. I stomped all the way out of the courthouse and all the way home. I have never seen anything so ridiculously outrageous from a government in power in the Province of Manitoba.

CONCLUSION

The Onion of Outrage

So there you have it, the onion of outrage.

Too many games, too much sleaze, and far too much not caring about how much damage was being done. They must have thought that they had a chance to get away with it. And, thanks to the legal knowledge gaps in the Circle of Correction, they were probably right.

Democracy is premised on people having the required information. There can be no eternal vigilance without it.

You cannot make an informed choice about who to elect or not elect without the relevant facts. And while you might take it on faith that your government is acting as appropriately as expected, unless you find out what is actually going on, that faith is too often misplaced.

One of the greatest ironies about the rule of law, is that, while there is probably no better way to inform the public about governmental misdeeds than the careful examination of evidence that takes place in a courtroom, due to the law’s dense technicalities, there is probably no other place in democracy that is less accessible to the public and less understood.

I hoped, with this blog, to correct that a little.

And because I was so angry, I thought that helping my fellow Manitobans and Canadians to understand what happend here just might do our democracy some good.

previous Post

The Trial Begins

Setting the scene in Courtroom #210 as the trial of MFL v. Manitoba begins. We get some background and meet the players.

Opening Statements

The proceedings begin with opening statements. Here, the lawyers for each side give us an outline of the course they are going to take (and why it is going to take 13 days to get there).

The Testimony of Kevin Rebeck

The President of the Manitoba Federation of Labour testifies about consultations between the government and some Labour leaders prior to the PSSA being passed. They weren’t very fruitful, and there seems to have been some question as to whether the government was being truthful.

Passed but Not Proclaimed?

Why is the government waiting to proclaim the PSSA? I thought there was a financial emergency, and dire warnings of our precarious fiscal position. But it has been 2 1/2 years. Don’t they need it yet?

The Testimony of Elizabeth Carlyle

Elizabeth Carlyle gets cross-examined about what happened in a negotiation between CUPE and the Winnipeg School Division. It wasn’t a lot, and it doesn’t sound as though it was very good.

The Testimony of Dr. Mark Hudson

Remember when the faculty at the University of Manitoba when on strike in November of 2016? Dr. Mark Hudson is here to tell us why it happened. And he fills us in on what was happening between the University and the Province behind the scenes.

The Testimony of Tom Paci

Tom Paci appears on behalf of the Manitoba Teachers Society. His story? A quest for justice for Manitoba’s 15,000 teachers and an appeal to the gods of justice – how can we be bound by the PSSA when it is not law?

Indirect Taxing & Discriminatory Taxation

If a tax by any other name would be as taxing, could wage freezes be indirect taxation? And if members of public sector unions are paying more in taxes to support public services, would this qualify as discriminatory taxation?

The Testimony of Michelle Gawronsky

The leader of the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union recounts her experiences since the advent of the PSSA. Everything she says about her automatic approach to understanding concerns and finding ways to solve problems makes me think ” leader, leader, this is a great leader.”

The Super Six Speak

Six experienced union negotiators come to tell us about what has been happening in their collective bargaining worlds. We learn more about what the PSSA means for public sector unions and their collective agreements.

Labour’s Collective Bargaining Expert

Dr. Robert Hebdon testifies about the impact of the PSSA on collective bargaining in Manitoba’s public sector. It isn’t good.

The Testimony of Sheila Gordon

We end the union tales of collective bargaining under the PSSA in passed-but-not-proclaimed limbo with MGEU’s GEMA. Sheila Gordon, MGEU’s senior negotiator was there. And she is here to tell us how those negotiations did not go anywhere.

Labour’s Read-ins and One Last Reveal

You never know what read-ins from discovery might reveal.

The Testimony of Richard Groen

Richard Groen, an Assistant Deputy Minister from the Ministry of Finance, testifies about the Province’s budgets and such.

I was expecting him to demonstrate what all the financial fuss in 2017 was about, you know, why our financial ship was sinking so much that we needed all hands on deck. But …

A No-Compete Treat for the Labour Market?

I don’t understand why the government doesn’t think it should have to compete in its own labour market. It does everywhere else.

The Testimony of Garry Steski

Is it wrong to admit that before this I didn’t really know what a bond market was? Well, I do now, and we learn a little about how Manitoba’s bonds were affected by the fiscal challenges in 2016. Or not.

Bean Counters, Businessmen & Business of Government

If businessmen go into government to bring the principles of good business to government, then shouldn’t they act like good businessmen when they get there?

The Government’s Collective Bargaining Expert

It is best to talk about what happened here as little as possible. So we’ll talk a bit about the importance of turkey instead.

The Testimony of Aurel Tess

How a short day of seemingly tedious technical testimony on Manitoba’s Summary Financial Statements turned into a most unpleasant surprise.

Politicizing the Provincial Comptroller

Ok, Manitoba. Politicizing the Office of the Provincial Comptroller?

That takes the poop-cake.

The Government’s Economics Expert

The government’s economics expert, Dr. Livio Di Matteo, has a motto he lives by: Agimus Meliora – Let us do better.

It makes me wonder, Manitoba, can’t we do better than the PSSA?

Labour’s Economics Expert

Dr. Eugene “the Earnest” Beaulieu testifies that the PSSA is not only not necessary, it is a harsh measure that puts an unfair burden on public employees.

Bye Bye, Dumbo

Let’s take one last look at the Elephant in the Room, and then say goodbye.

The Mandamus Application

A day of argument about whether a statute that says “the Minister SHALL FORTHWITH” means that the Minister can decide not to do something and make up his own reasons for why he shouldn’t.

Decision on the Mandamus Application

Justice Keyser, the judge on the Mandamus Application, has spoken. Here’s a hint – MGEU wins.

Bill 9: We’re Gaming Again …

Before we begin all the good stuff, Garth Smorang has some objections to yet another litigation game the Government of Manitoba is playing.

Labour’s Final Argument

Labour’s last stand. Shannon-the-Hammer and Smorang-the-Smasher pull it all together and wrap it all up.

There is an awful lot of it, so Labour’s final arguments have been separated into four separate posts, which start here …

Butt-First Buffoonery

How did the Government of Manitoba get to such an embarrassing PSSA place? They backed into it.

The Government’s Final Argument

Forget the Elephant-in-the-Room.The Government of Manitoba has got many other ways to try to move the goalposts, as they try to change the game.

Kind of seems like they know they are losing.

Labour Replies

The Finale of the Finale. Labour replies.

(This means we are finally done. At least with the evidence and arguments.)

The Onion of Outrage

Why am I here? Why spend so much watching lawyers and judges and reading endless cases? It’s a pretty simple answer.

I was mad.

The Decision is In!!!

The Honourable Justice Joan McKelvey has ruled. Labour won. The PSSA is unconstitutional.

This is what she decided and why.