Deplorable Wildrose attack on new government negotiator offers a glimpse of what party leaders really think

Posted on March 21, 2016, 1:34 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: Kevin Davediuk, whose appointment as a senior public sector negotiator by the Alberta Government was announced on March 9. (Screenshot of Global News broadcast.) Below: Recently retired Canadian ambassador to the United States Gary Doer and the late Dennis McDermott, Canadian ambassador to Ireland.

The Wildrose Party’s troublingly vicious personal attack on Kevin Davediuk earlier this month illustrates the degree to which rigid anti-union ideology now dominates Alberta’s largest Opposition party.

Mr. Davediuk is the former corporate and union negotiator appointed as the Alberta government’s senior public sector labour-contract bargainer on March 9. His most recent position was as a senior negotiator employed by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, which represents unionized Alberta civil servants in addition to large numbers of public-sector health care workers.

Gary_Doer_2014The Wildrose attack on Mr. Davediuk’s appointment most likely began principally as cynical mischief designed to undermine anything done by the New Democratic Party Government of Premier Rachel Notley.

But the highly personal attack on Mr. Davediuk’s character by Wildrose Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt in particular tells a compelling story about the current Wildrose leadership’s McCarthyist attitudes toward unions and people who work for them, either as volunteers or staff members.

In this, it would seem, the Wildrose Party not only reflects, but now significantly surpasses, the hostility toward unions of the former Conservative federal government of prime minister Stephen Harper.

In a Postmedia news report that appeared in the tabloid and broadsheet versions of that Toronto-based publishing company’s Edmonton edition, Mr. Fildebrandt all but accused Mr. Davediuk of being prepared to intentionally throw the game in negotiations to benefit his former employer.

“AUPE will be negotiating from both sides of the table with no representation for taxpayers,” Mr. Fildebrandt told the Edmonton Journal-Edmonton Sun reporter. “This is little better than hiring the fox to guard the henhouse.”

If this does not meet the legal definition of a defamatory statement, it sails very close to the wind.

This union-baiting was soon repeated along the Postmedia barking chain as Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell quoted Mr. Fildebrandt doubling down on his assessment of Mr. Davediuk’s character with the claim the result would be “sham bargaining.”

McDermott-JPG“The NDP is flipping the coin here and both sides are tails for the taxpayers,” Mr. Bell quoted the Wildrose finance critic as saying. “This is the AUPE sitting across the table from the AUPE with the poor taxpayer not even represented in the room.”

Whatever you may think about unions in general or AUPE in particular, there is not a shred of evidence to indicate Mr. Davediuk would conduct himself in the way Mr. Fildebrandt suggests, and a considerable amount to the contrary.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I am obligated to say that I too am a former employee of AUPE and, in that capacity, I worked with Mr. Davediuk and hold his abilities and his character in high regard.

I also know of his reputation from the many years he spent as an extremely effective employer representative at the bargaining table. So if you ask me, the parties that ought to be most concerned by his appointment are those on the union side of the table.

In my experience, union contract negotiators (and their employer counterparts) are in this regard like professional hockey players and litigation lawyers: they play to win for whomever they represent.

Some of the best ones (and in my estimation Mr. Davediuk is one of the best ones) from time to time move from one side of the table to the other.

I suppose that’s why Mr. Harper, back when he was Conservative prime minister of Canada, hired a former union negotiator (and NDP politician) to represent Canada as ambassador in Washington, D.C.

Before serving ably as the New Democrat premier of Manitoba, Gary Doer, appointed ambassador to the United States by Mr. Harper in the fall of 2009, was for seven years the president of the Manitoba Government Employees Association, that province’s equivalent of AUPE, and also played an important role in the Manitoba Federation of Labour.

Who knows, perhaps Mr. Harper, no fan of unions generally, was impressed by the fact that back in 1984 Mr. Doer attacked the leadership of Canadian Labour Congress president Dennis McDermott – who, by the way, was made Canadian ambassador to Ireland by another Conservative prime minister, Brian Mulroney.

Regardless of the former PM’s reasoning, Mr. Doer effectively represented Canadians in Washington until his retirement 18 days ago.

The Wildrose leadership, however, now far surpasses Mr. Mulroney and even Mr. Harper in the purity of its harsh ideology. As far as the Wildrosers are concerned, apparently, employment by a union and perhaps membership in one amounts to ideological contamination and prima facie evidence of bad character.

As for the Wildrose Party’s cheerleaders at Postmedia, I doubt it would occur even to them to draw similar conclusions about a businessperson hired by a government to negotiate with corporations. And yet the same faulty logic would obviously be quite consistent.

The Wildrose Party’s conduct in this case should be seen as a warning sign of its attitudes about the rights of working people to bargain collectively. Mr. Fildebrandt’s unjustified character assassination of Mr. Davediuk is simply deplorable.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

17 Comments to: Deplorable Wildrose attack on new government negotiator offers a glimpse of what party leaders really think

  1. James Williamson

    March 21st, 2016

    The Wildrose Party’s position on Bill 6 concerns me. If elected, will they attempt to roll back employment rights for all, not just farm workers?

    Reply
    • PIGL

      March 21st, 2016

      Yes.

      Reply
      • F

        March 21st, 2016

        No. Read their platform

        Reply
  2. jerrymacgp

    March 21st, 2016

    You bet your sweet bippy they will…their labour relations policy can be summed up in three loaded words: “right-to-work”.

    Reply
  3. Art

    March 21st, 2016

    The Wildrose position is indeed concerning. The willingness of the media to accept it is outright alarming.

    Reply
  4. Northern Loon

    March 21st, 2016

    Perhaps it is time for Derek Fildebrandt to disclose where the funding for the so-called Canadian Taxpayers Federation comes from as using his own logic he will always make decisions to support his previous masters who funded him.

    Reply
  5. political ranger

    March 21st, 2016

    “rigid ideology” … this is what fundamentally defines Albertans David.
    Whatever else one might wish to say about governance in this province for the last 80 some years, you have to begin with rigid ideology, over and above anything like thoughtfulness or rational and learned policy.
    Now, as to switching teams overnite; at best, it’s extremely bad optics, extremely bad communications a’ la Bill 6. At worst, it’s blatant conflict of interest.
    This Notley gang is starting to rack up a fair number of slips. They had better start performing as well as they say they could lest they become their own worst liability.

    Reply
  6. TENET

    March 21st, 2016

    Wildrose is a pernicious, political, invasive species. Thank you for sounding the alert again. They share the same audience as Mr. Trump caters to and appeals to. I fear for America, and Alberta. Scurilous attacks on individuals or their character is a common denominator for The Donald and The Brian.

    Reply
  7. Rod Adachi

    March 21st, 2016

    “…with the poor taxpayer not even represented in the room”. Last time I checked unionized workers paid taxes. Quite the divisive tactic. Maybe it’s time to nickname the Wildrosies the Chicken Little party.

    Reply
  8. Paula

    March 21st, 2016

    The Wildrose expects from others what they themselves would do. And they have their right wing media to help them spread their poison.

    Reply
  9. Expat Albertan

    March 21st, 2016

    “As for the Wildrose Party’s cheerleaders at Postmedia, I doubt it would occur even to them to draw similar conclusions about a businessperson hired by a government to negotiate with corporations.”

    Oh, I can think of something worse than this – like a provincial political party of the conservative bent appointing a former oil industry executive as premier, all the better to ‘negotiate’ with a oil and gas companies for the benefit of Albertans. A certain Jim Prentice springs to mind.

    Reply
  10. Farmer B

    March 21st, 2016

    For those of us not involved in an union there is certainly a perception that the appointment of Kevin Davediuk as the government’s top negotiator doesn’t pass the smell test. Keep in mind the Wildrose party’s job is to oppose the government.

    As for bill 6 I read a stat the other day that over 80% of Alberta farms are family owned operations. The NDP exempted family farms so therefore bill 6 only applies to 20% of Alberta farms. If the NDP had properly consulted farmers beforehand and not rushed the legislation the end result would have been more positive.

    Reply
    • James Williamson

      March 22nd, 2016

      I don’t think a farm finds itself exempt simply because it is family owned. The exemption for some of the laws has to do with the relationship of the person doing the work to the owner. The Acts included in the Bill still applies to all farms.

      Reply
      • Farmer B

        March 22nd, 2016

        True enough, I stated that in the wrong context, if the employee is related to the owner enrollment in WCB is not required. The end result for the NDP was not what they originally intended and left a bad taste in many farmers mouths, plain and simple.

        Reply
  11. Chris

    March 22nd, 2016

    The previous PC government did this sort of thing all the time. It is why they were thrown out. Why the NDP is falling into this ditch is both disappointing, because they prominently vowed not to do this, and puzzling, from a strategic point of view.

    Reply
  12. Alberta Girl

    May 31st, 2016

    I fail to see what people think the oppositions JOB is? Is it not to counter argue policies etc.. that the leaders have on the table? Is it not to speak to the other side for Albertans? Is it not to make sure issues are non biased, in the best interest of, and are doing the best possible job for Albertans in a fair manner? After all, if there is nothing what so ever suspect in what they do, why be upset when it’s called out? Simply provide proof as to why it is not true and its over, no need to continually be offended b.c someone is pointing out those things that are, or could be wrong or unfair.
    I want BOTH sides of an argument, not one – that keeps people and governments as a whole as honest as possible. I think Derek was doing his job… is it not what you would want your party to do if they were the opposition? I think more people need to ask themselves that question and consider issues without their personal
    attachments to them and how they would want their party, in the opposition position, to act on their behalf. In the end its ALL ALBERTANS this government, and Albertans themselves, SHOULD WANT this government to be working at its best for.

    Reply

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