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Ottawa’s right wing Mayor responsible for public transit strike

(By John Stokes from The Canadian) Ottawa Mayoral election in 2006, resulted in the victory of unexperienced businessman Mayor Larry O’brien over the alternative choice of the politically seasoned and progressive Alex Munter. All those voters in the City of Ottawa who made such crass decision, including members of business communities, arguably have little to complain about, concerning the current Ottawa public transit strike. Ottawa’s mayor is a right wing ideologue, who had remarked during the visit of U.S. President George W. Bush to Ottawa, to the effect that it was the “best day of his life”.

Mayor O’brien has handled the strike of OC Transpo drivers in the manner that one might expect a political disciple of George W. Bush to handle it. That would be, in a manner that is ideologically driven by “neo-conservativism”, and not as a socially responsible mayor.

Ottawa’s biggest transit union said it would have ended its strike immediately if the city accepted a “middle-ground” position, suggested by a federal mediator, that the municipality had previously rejected.

“Our members would be back to work in less than 24 hours if Mayor O’Brien accepted the mediator’s proposal,” Andre Cornellier, president of the union, says in the statement. “If the mayor is not willing to listen to the federal mediator, then it is his decision that the residents of this city should suffer through a long and difficult dispute.”

Minutes after the offer was made by the union, O’Brien rejected it because the mediator’s proposed settlement didn’t give the city control over scheduling – the city’s key demand.

Ottawa’s public transit dispute is not about money as many strikes tend to be. It is about the quality-of-life. OC Transpo drivers are striking against efforts by the Office of the Ottawa Mayor to bring in regulations that would undermine the quality of working life of Ottawa bus drivers.

The Office of the Ottawa Mayor indicates that no other bus drivers across Canada or North America in general, have the rights that OC Transpo’s union seeks to protect. From a labour law standpoint, that’s immaterial. Why should any Canadian workers in any city, seek to reduce their hard fought rights to the lowest common denominator of “the rest of the world”? Perhaps other local transit unions should be emulating the example of the rights established by OC Transpo drivers.

A more productive workforce is fostered when employees feel that they have working conditions which affirms their quality-of-living.

Apparently, OC Transpo drivers by and large feel that the rights that the Mayor’s Office seeks to sabotage, would undermine a fundamental motivation for OC Transpo drivers to stick with the company.

Training new bus drivers is a costly process. It is fiscally responsible to foster a more productive work environment, where employee rights are protected, that minimizes sick days, and turnover.

Some Ottawa residents who cannot afford Canada’s most expensive taxis in the Ottawa area, have had to walk hours in freezing winter temperatures, that includes snow storms. Mayor Larry O’Brien’s apparent self-serving agenda undermines Ottawa small business during the critical Christmas shopping season.

The proposal established with the participation of the federal mediator of Ottawa public transit dispute is in the best interest of broad based fiscal management, and keeps Ottawa’s economy moving in a positive direction.

Indeed, the perpetuation of the strike has boiled down to the execution of an apparent ego-driven agenda by a right wing ideologue who seeks to “control” rather than to act in the best interests of the diverse Ottawa public.

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