BC Chamber of Commerce Breakfast with Minister of Health Services, Kevin Falcon
On the morning of the BC Chamber of Commerce monthly breakfast meeting with a Cabinet Minister at the Club, I slid into my standard businessman apparel of navy blue blazer and grey slacks and flipped on my stingy-brim fedora. The guest of honour for November was the Honourable Kevin Falcon, Minister of Health Services, formerly Minister of Transportation, a big time Gateway project booster and opponent to giving aid to businesses that suffered losses during the construction of the Canada Line.
I jumped on the Skytrain and rode to the Burrard Station. On my walk from the Burrard Station to the Terminal City Club I bumped into a friend who was also going to the breakfast meeting, along with many others from the paramedics union. However, they weren't going to be joining me for eggs and bacon. They were going to be outside the protesting the contract settlement that Falcon had recently imposed on the paramedics.
When we reached the Club there was already a crowd of protestors milling around outside in the rain. I turned my back on my friend and slipped inside the warm and comfortable confines of the Terminal City Club.
And all I had to do was walk in, past the reception desk, up to the Ceperley-Walker Rooms, put my name on one of those sticky nametags convention-goers are all familiar with and I was inside “the room.” So completely civilized.
“Help yourself to coffee” said Denise Douglas, Director of Corporate Memberships. And I did. Along with a couple other people. As we were pouring coffees we introduced ourselves to each other. Knowing ahead of time what would happen; I had gone to Budget Printing on the weekend and had a set of cheap business cards made up. My email address has “Left Coast” in it and one individual looked at that, raised his eyebrow and said, “You’re not with the people outside, ARE you?” while pointing to the word “Left”. I quickly chuckled and uttered, “No, of course not” and hoped that my voice had sounded natural. It must have because at that point the momentary tension in the room dissipated.
One conversation I joined centered on how the unions were so hung up on this idea that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The people in my small circle sort of chortled at that idea. It was pointed out that so many public sector union contracts would need to be negotiated in the months following the Olympics and the concern was voiced, wondering if the unions would be reasonable this time around, would they be able to face the “economic reality” and would the government have money for signing bonuses this time around. The general consensus in our small group was that there would be no money for bonuses and the unions were unlikely to be reasonable. I didn’t see how there was any benefit in arguing the point.
Gradually the room filled with people and they formed their small cliques and talked in hushed tones, sipped coffee, and good coffee I might add, and occasionally opened their small circles to allow a new member in.
At one point I saw one of the men that I had been introduced to earlier and looking for a new group to join, I walked up to him and joined his group. Without realizing it, I had joined the group of Karl Gustafson from the Lang Michener Law Office, another individual who I believe was Peter Bentley of Canfor, and Bruce Hurst, partner with Reid Hurst Nagy Inc, Certified General Accountants. From what I gathered, these were the men who had essentially paid for our breakfast. At this point I thought it better to not present my business card with the “Left Coast” written on it. I’m actually not even sure these men noticed me standing there while they were talking.
Shortly after 7:30 someone got up to the microphone, which he fumbled with and could not get functioning, and then called everyone’s attention. He said that unlike their typically punctual breakfast meetings, this meeting was going to start a little late because the minister was not yet in the building.
Close to 8am the Honourable Kevin Falcon arrived. The giant of a man, John Winter, President and CEO of the BC Chamber of Commerce welcomed Falcon, and then had Craig Knight of VANOC say a few words. Knight pointed out that at each place setting was a paper outlining how a business could sponsor a student work term at VANOC…for a mere $7500. Knight then showed a short video clip that made you feel all warm and fuzzy about the Olympics, then said thanks, and stepped down from the microphone, which was now working.
Kevin Falcon was introduced as someone who is not afraid of controversy and making tough decisions, “as we saw out front this morning”, at which point everyone chuckled. And the Canada Line was mentioned, the Golden Ears Bridge was mentioned, and the Gateway project. And then Falcon approached the podium and just started talking to us.