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North Island Rising: Forestry mediation

“This strike has impacted everyone here”

Harry Bains, Minister of Labour, reminded me this week of dads who try to get their kids to eat those brussel sprouts with the old and familiar, ‘I’m going to count to three’ trick.

You know the one. It goes something like: “If you two don’t start eating your vegetables by the time I count to three, you’re going to be in big trouble.”

Meanwhile, as dads, we are silently praying the kids don’t call our bluff; as truth be known, we actually have no idea or plan for what we’ll do once the count gets to three.

Well, Minister Bains (aka, the dithering dad) began counting when he just told the United Steelworkers and Western Forest Products (aka, those rascally kids) to settle their differences or…well…or else. And therein lies the problem, as there appears to be no ‘or else’ in this latest plan for settling the months-long coastal forestry labour dispute.

Just like dad, the Minister attempted to portray serious intent on Thursday (Feb 6/20) when he announced the appointment of special mediators, “with additional powers…to help the parties reach an agreement as soon as possible.”

Unfortunately, just like kids who grow up to realize the count to three game had no teeth, so too will both sides and the public see that nothing of any significance has actually changed.

The Minister explained that if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the mediators will recommend terms of settlement and both sides will have five days to accept or reject the recommendations. The count to three threat has gone to five but without real consequences once five is reached.

Minister Bains goes on to say he is, “confident that with the assistance of two of the nation’s top mediators, and the additional powers provided to them…” that both sides can achieve a deal.

These are the same mediators and the same union and company that have been unable to reach an agreement in almost eight months.

What makes the provincial government think the outcome will be any different when the mediators can only recommend and either party to the dispute can reject those recommendations?

It is a strategy suggesting they have little understanding of the concept that insanity is often described as continuing to do the exactly the same thing again and again while expecting a different outcome.

Thursday’s announcement was an attempt by government to cobble together something that appeared to be a solution but in truth wasn’t.

It was dad counting to three with fingers crossed that no one would notice he was just bluffing.

This strike has impacted everyone here and a statement like Thursday’s makes one wonder if we are not more aware of those harsh realities than Victoria.

Bill McQuarrie is a former publisher, photojournalist and entrepreneur. Semi-retired and now living in Port McNeill, you can follow him on Instagram #mcriderbc or reach him at


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