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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 7, May/June 2005

Coquitlam pipe plot

by Kathleen Thomson

This story is based on conversations reported to Kathleen Thomson by the CTF construction project manager.

In December, the Coquitlam Teachers’ Association (CTA) purchased most of the second floor of a building located on St. Johns Street in Port Moody. Construction and renovation began in mid-March. Our new premises are located directly above a kickboxing school and the rented campaign office of the BC Liberal candidate Iain Black, who hopes to be elected as Christy Clark’s successor as the MLA representing the Port-Moody-Westwood riding.

To install a necessary water pipe and hook the pipe up to existing building pipes, the plumber had to gain access from the Liberals’ campaign office. Strata law is clear: an owner must allow access to property commonly owned by all the strata owners, such as the area between premises where pipes, electrical connections, etc., are located.

After initially agreeing to a date when the pipe hook-up could occur, Iain Black’s office manager suddenly refused to allow the CTA any entry whatsoever. Here is the conversation held between our project building manager and Black’s office/campaign manager:

Black’s henchman (BH): We will not allow any entry of any teacher to our premises ever. Teachers don’t like us, and we don’t like them.

CTA project manager (CTA): But no teachers will be entering this office. A plumber, not a teacher, will be doing the pipe hook-up job. In fact, teachers aren’t even moving into this building until after the election is over.

BH: That doesn’t matter. We will not allow any teacher or any teacher’s plumber to enter our offices.

CTA: That doesn’t make any sense. According to both strata by-laws and the BC Business Tenancy Act, you must provide permission to hook up a pipe within 48 hours.

BH: No we don’t, and we will not allow it. If we did allow it, it would cost us thousands of dollars to debug the joint afterwards. We will not let any teachers in here until after the election.

CTA: That is not appropriate. The CTA is already incurring substantial additional costs because we have had to send all the construction workers home. All work has been halted because of your actions. And, do you seriously believe the CTA would break the law and try to install illegal bugging equipment?

BH: Teachers don’t like us, and we don’t trust them.

The Attorney General weighs in

A few days of construction-interruptus and various phone calls later (including one to the errant Christy Clark, who failed to respond and come to our aid):

BH: We will not allow any entry to the CTA. Besides, this matter is out of our hands and now rests with the provincial party.

CTA: How so?

BH: We have contacted the Attorney General, and he says campaign offices don’t have to follow strata rules, and that we don’t have to allow any entry until after the election. So go tell the CTA to live with it.

Liberals devise sneaky plan to try to procure campaign donation

A few days and various nervous breakdowns and mounting bills later:

BH to the CTA project manager: Okay, okay, we will let the CTA plumber in to do the pipe hook-up. Our candidate, Iain Black, is willing to go behind the back of his own provincial party and allow the repair to take place despite what provincial office says. However, we will be submitting a bill to the CTA for the costs associated with the debugging of our premises, and for the services of a security guard to monitor that no secret documents are tampered with.

A few days later, the pipe hook-up took place successfully, and was completed at 5:00 a.m. Exactly five hours later, at 10:00 a.m., I receive the following bill from the Liberals:

Cost for security guard (7 hrs. @ $17.50 per hr) = $122; Cost for debugging $395; Total $517.

The Liberals have refused to provide me with details associated with the debugging, such as company name, hourly cost, any possible discovery of a James Bond-like device lodged in the ceiling or cleverly disguised as a list. The reasons they cite: For security reasons, we don’t want the CTA to know any details about when the bug sweep actually happened, and we don’t want this issue to be traced, or to have the CTA use this in any campaign against us. Hmm. It may be too late for them already on that last point.

Needless to say, we will not be paying the above bill, and we are currently busy visiting all 77 of our school sites to talk about the election, and tell our building story in particular, to our teachers. It is having an electrifying effect; we don’t seem to be having too much difficulty getting volunteers for the election effort.

The pipe that was installed through the ceiling of the Liberals’ campaign office was a waste pipe. It would seem that, even in the case of plumbing, there exists great irony.

Kathleen Thomson is president of the Coquitlam Teachers’ Association.

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