Getting by with a little help from Facebook friends

Lana Payne
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American author James A. Michener once claimed: “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.” Of course, Mr. Michener was more than a good writer, having won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

This idea of writer as rewriter is something many journalists have contemplated in their careers as they write and tell other people’s stories.

Columnists too, I suspect.

But sometimes, inspiration can be in short supply. Or just as often the problem can be an abundance of matters vying for attention: news, politics, bad public policy decisions, injustice.

In times like these, I have discovered a solution. Ask your Facebook friends.

As I have found more than once, social media friends are full of wonderful ideas, opinions and thought-provoking analysis.

They are cheeky, funny, engaged and smart.

They have a love-hate relationship with politics.

To all those social media friends who helped write this column this week, thanks for sharing your thoughts, opinions and irreverent musings. Mostly thanks for the conversation. Here’s the rewrite.

Employment insurance, political appointments, de-funding advocacy, eroding collective rights and finding the silver lining were just some of the topics included in the social media conversation.

The Harper government’s Budget 2012 changes to employment insurance, which came into effective in January, have people confused and fearful.

Designed to force people into low-paid jobs, to commute long distances any time of the day or night to a job that doesn’t have to match one’s skills had many pointing out the flaws of such a plan.

Policies like this one will have a downward pressure on the wages of all working people as well as productivity. (Yes, I have a few labour market experts as friends.)

The so-called EI reforms ignore the realities of the country’s diverse labour market and economy and will hurt businesses with non-

standard operating years, cutting into their local labour supply. (This was my two cents.)

Some friends raised the issue

of the growing attack on collective rights by Conservative politicians, including the federal Conservatives and Ontario’s Tim Hudak.

They point out that the weakening of workers’ collective rights will erode many of the gains made by unions for all working people as well as make it that much tougher to push for new gains. Many improvements won at the collective bargaining table have raised the bar for all workers.

Unions have been, and continue to be, extremely important in fighting for a social safety net and enhanced rights, and for things like employment insurance, public pensions, minimum workplace rights, equal pay, same-sex benefits and health and safety laws.

Mr. Hudak is proposing a “work-for-less” law similar to those in place in some U.S. states where workers can opt out of paying union dues, even though they benefit from the union’s collective bargaining. It’s a law that will condone freeloading, but is ultimately designed to weaken unions, depress wages, erode working conditions and quell dissent.

The appointment of yet another older and privileged man to the position of lieutenant-governor for the province raised the dander of some friends.

A federal government that is coming down hard on the unemployed while the elite continue to receive plum appointments was a little too rich for some friends to swallow.

The case of Conservative Senator Mike Duffy — who has been accused of abusing the privileges attached to one of those plum jobs, while Conservative politicians vilify the unemployed for being “bad guys” — was not lost in the social media conservation.

Senator Duffy is claiming a housing allowance for Ottawa, but in order to qualify for that he must prove that he is a resident of Prince Edward Island, the province he represents in the Senate.

According to news reports this week, Senator Duffy was not on that province’s voter’s list and not considered a resident based on the rules for property owners.

Yet, he listed Cavendish, P.E.I as his primary residence, claiming over $42,000 since September 2010 in expenses for living in the Ottawa region.

At the same time, the minister responsible for employment insurance, Diane Finley, spent last week demonizing the unemployed and ordering Service Canada employees to meet fraud penalty quotas, whether there is fraud or not.

One Facebook friend raised the loss of provincial funding to a long-established organization that advocates for people with disabilities and how this fits, or doesn’t fit, with the Newfoundland and Labrador government’s inclusion strategy. A contradiction, one might conclude.

Still in the midst of the bad news, there was, as one friend pointed out, a spot of justice.

The Canada Industrial Relations Board dismissed a complaint by the St. John’s Airport Authority accusing the union representing striking workers of failure to bargain in good faith.

The board, in a decision that read like a first-year university lesson in labour relations, told the employer and their lawyer (something they should have clearly understood) that there is a big difference between a failure to bargain in good faith and “hard bargaining.”

The decision noted that the duty to bargain in good faith does not “require one party to agree to every demand made by the other. … While the parties are clearly engaged in hard bargaining there is no evidence that the union is not bargaining in good faith.”

And in the middle of a discussion about double-dipping and what many see as a system that continues to reward political buddies, a newly married Facebook friend had this to say: “Anything happen that made you happy? Sometimes everyone gets used to us firing out the negative stuff, but could there be a silver lining anywhere?”

Silver linings? I am thinking social media conversations with friends who have glorious, critical and bold points of view.

And there you have it: the

news from my Facebook friends. Rewritten.


Lana Payne is president of the

Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by email at

Her column returns Feb. 23.

Organizations: Service Canada, Canada Industrial Relations Board, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour

Geographic location: Ontario, Ottawa, U.S. Prince Edward Island Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Aunt Lizzie
    February 12, 2013 - 10:45

    Lana Payne's community of Facebook friends is obviously nothing more than a socialist echo chamber. Thankfully, it is not representative of the Canadian electorate.

  • carogers
    February 11, 2013 - 17:32

    It would be nice if people would vote Harper out but so far he has managed to win and dispite many reasons why he should not have won such as questionable tatics leading up to the election and even on the day of election; what with the Robo calls Still he remains in office. I can only say from your lips to Gods ear.

  • allan moulton
    February 09, 2013 - 13:12

    Excelent Job by Lana Again... Her message needs to be repeated over and over by all of us, She has earned the respect of not only Those in the Labour Movement, But the General Public... and Yes Employers as well.... workers in this province are so fortunate to have someone with Her Courage,Determination and Passion in their corner, as together we continue the fight for justice, and a better province to live in.... Much credit goes to people like Lana Payne !!!!

  • Allan moulton
    February 09, 2013 - 07:35

    Excelent Article Again By Lana.... Raising points that need to be raised over and over by all of us on a daily basis, Lana pulls no punches and tells it like it, she has earned so much respect through out the province and Nationally not only from those in the Labour Movement but the General Public and Yes... Employers To... Workers are all Extreamly Fortunate to have her passionate voice and Expertise in Their Corner... Great Job Again and thanks for including your Facebook Friends !!!!!!

  • james ash
    February 09, 2013 - 07:29

    well said lana; I truly believe that mr. harper and all his corrupt buddies will get the swift kick in the ars at the polls in the next election; either that or this G8 country is headin for something that it has never faced ...poverty..and the u.s. would have proven there political system is definitely better then ours in dealing with crooks in high ranking positions in government. jim