A Christmas to Remember

On December 25, 1976, I experienced the real meaning of Christmas in an unforgettable way. My then fiancée, Jeanie, and I left Langley early in the morning to spend Christmas with my parents in Williams Lake. At 6:30, in a forested area near Spuzzum, the engine of my car blew up, leaving us stranded on the side of the road. What to do? No cell phones in 1976!

There was a house some distance away with smoke coming out of the chimney and we dared to ring the doorbell. “Merry Christmas!” was the hearty greeting from the nightgown-clad couple who wouldn’t let us say anything until we were comfortably seated in the kitchen with a hot cup of coffee. We finally explained our unfortunate plight and they called the Greyhound station in Hope to arrange a pickup by the next bus, they towed our car off the highway where it would be safe, and fed us breakfast. They had an electric organ and, being musicians, we spent the next hours playing and singing Christmas carols together like old friends.

Giving, sharing and loving – isn’t that the heart of Christmas? I hope that you can share that spirit this Christmas with friends and family and maybe even total strangers that ring your doorbell at 6:30 on Christmas morning.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all from the BCRTA Board of Directors!

Gerry Tiede
President

Speak Up For Pension Security by Dec 21!

The security of our pensions is of highest importance to BCRTA members and all retired persons in Canada. The Government of Canada has recently announced a consultation on enhancing retirement security.

Act fast – the government has set a deadline for submissions of December 21, 2018.

It is easy to participate. Here’s how:

Click https://bcrta.ca/pension-consultation/ and you will be directed to a government site with a feedback form. Enter your name, email and region. Then you may enter a short statement of what is important to you.

Here are a few starter ideas for comments that our Pension and Benefits Committee suggest you include – in your own language. Pick one or two and personalize them with your thoughts.

  • Pension members should not live in fear that their defined benefit pension benefits might be surrendered, leaving them with a less secure form of pension.
  • A person’s pension is a contractual promise, paid for personally and by their deferred wages from their employer. Contracts must be honoured.
  • Pensioners should not be the most vulnerable when a company goes bankrupt. The pension plan should have first claim on the company assets or there should be a national pension insurance program to protect the pensioner.

When you’ve personalized your feedback, hit the ‘Submit’ button and pat yourself on the back – you’ve exercised your democratic right!

A high participation rate sends a message that pension security is an important election issue!

BCRTA Advantage Program Offers Shopping Value

BCRTA members are encouraged to view potential savings from our Advantage Partners. Our Advantage Partners offer significant savings on items you use every day, and gifts, too.

Here is one example: join BCRTA Partner Perkopolis and get 20% off movie tickets for the movie lovers in your family.

Here is how to do it:

Tuned In and Teched Up

Being involved in many organizations, including my role as Rector’s Warden at St. Stephen Anglican Church in Summerland, and as a director of the BC Retired Teachers’ Association, I have been amazed at the remarkable adaptation of my peers to the computer and technological age. In my university days, computers ran Fortran with magnetic tape, were programmed with punch cards, and took up the whole basement of the Computer Science building. If you could program it to print your name you were considered a computer guru. The greatest ability required was to not drop the stack of three hundred punch cards because if you did then it was back to square one!

Computers have come a long way and so have my senior cohorts who can discuss coding, programming, hard-drive efficiency and memory capacities as if they were Primary teachers reading Dick and Jane books to their students. They keep in touch on Facebook and other communication platforms, text with dexterity, and are as attached to the latest model cell phone as any secondary school student. They know the latest types of laptops, notebooks, tablets and printers and are able to compete with the generations following us.

As for me, I have great difficulty programming the thermostat for the furnace at the spring and fall changeovers, I get frustrated trying to find the time or date on a computer screen, and I have fond memories of slaving away over a portable manual typewriter to write a paper for university classes. Remember those lovely typewriter erasers that you licked with your tongue and then promptly tore a hole in the page you were working on?

I am one of those sad, time-frozen old timers that still likes the feel of an analogue watch on my wrist – you know – the ones that have a self-wind mechanism that makes a clicking noise when you move your wrist! When I want to know the date or day of the week I like to go to the freebie wall calendar with garish colour photos of scenes of Canada, received from a local business. I also like to jot down my appointments on the calendar and see if I can fill in every date box. I love my landline telephone. The answering machine means I have the option of not returning calls if I don’t feel like it. I like to drive my car which does not require a university degree to decipher all the electronic gizmos. In my car, if you want heat, you slide a lever to the red mark, if you want to listen to the radio, you push a button, and if you want to back up you actually have to turn around and look out the back. (I have to admit that I am not particularly good at that of late, so watch out!!) I like to read a book that looks and feels like a book and I would rather read a Michael Connelly novel than emails and Facebook messages. I would rather take a walk or go for a sail than sit in front of a screen and a keypad.

But what is important for every retiree is to be engaged in activities that bring joy and fulfilment. Those who have become engaged in the wonders of technology are amazing people who demonstrate the value of continued learning, optimism for the future, and are taking advantage of improvements to their world. I am convinced that pretty soon we will be able to 3D print our own new organs for transplant as our originals wear out.

But for me there is still nothing better than a nice afternoon walk in the sunshine listening to my antiquated Sony Walkman MP3 with the music of the fifties, sixties, and seventies. I am locked in a time warp but I am happy!

Terry Green
Chair, Well-Being Committee

Keeping in Touch: BCRTA Online and in Print

The Communications Committee is pleased by the direction in which PostScript, Connections and the website are moving: the interests and concerns of BCRTA members are of foremost importance to us and the print publications are becoming increasingly relevant to readers – we have made timeliness, significance, and interest our goals for the content in both print publications. The website also has been revitalized and the content is developed with a view to what is important, current and made easy to access. Overall, the aim is to communicate a consistent message through our all our media. As Communications Committee members, we and our staff are moving toward the realization of these basic communications goals.

Tim Anderson, BCRTA’s Executive Director, has extensive knowledge and experience in communications and provides the lead on Postscript, BCRTA Connections Newsletter and the website. The Committee members work with the Executive Director to provide content, and BCRTA Office Administrator Kristi Josephson handles the business end of the publications.

The sub-committee members come from across the province and bring a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the role. The members of the PostScript Sub-Committee are JoAnn Lauber, Lecky Reynolds, and Libby Thornton, led by Tim Anderson and supported by Terry Green. The Connections Sub-Committee members are Steve Bailey, Marion Hartley and Pat Thiesen, led by Tim Anderson and supported by Charan Gill. The IT/Website Sub-Committee members are Carol Baird-Krul, Charlene Hodgson and Floyd Smith, led by Tim Anderson and supported by Sterling Campbell.

As we continue to refine our committee roles and publication processes, and strive to provide meaningful, interesting and important information, we encourage branch members to submit articles or suggestions for PostScript Magazine via email postscript@bcrta.ca. Letters to the Editor are also welcome. The deadline to receive articles for the next issue of PostScript is January 31.

The content of BCRTA Connections highlights the current and immediate work of the BCRTA – Board decisions and pursuits, committee endeavours, and BCRTA projects. We invite members’ ideas/suggestions/submissions for Connections, which is emailed to over 9,000 BCRTA members after each Board meeting – email us at connections@bcrta.ca.

The IT/Media subcommittee is working on two exciting projects: new video content to promote the advantages of membership in the BCRTA, and expert interviews. We also plan a “stand alone” issue of PostScript for active teachers, the aim of which is to promote the benefits of belonging to the BCRTA. Branch executives can contact Tim Anderson for help with developing a branch website.

Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy 2019!

Charan Gill
Chair, Communications Committee

SPECIAL REPORT: ARE BC RETIRED TEACHERS FALLING BEHIND?

The Pension and Benefits Committee was asked by delegates to the 2018 BCRTA AGM to examine the way the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) is calculated and applied to our pensions. The concern was that perhaps our pensions’ purchasing power was falling behind because the BC Teachers’ Plan Pension Board of Trustees uses the Canada Consumer Prince Index (CPI), and that might not reflect the actual rising costs here in BC. The committee has looked at various alternatives including using the BC Consumer Price Index, the Vancouver or Victoria CPI or an alternative calculation.

Thanks to the research by Al Cornes, there is a clear explanation of the history of how we first achieved cost of living adjustments, which is particularly interesting.

The key question we looked at was, “Would we have higher pensions if we moved to using an alternative CPI?” If you look only at the 2017 increase to our pensions the answer would be yes. In January 2018 our pensions increased by 1.6% which was the increase in the Canada Consumer Price Index, recorded in September, over the previous year. The BC CPI for the same period of time was 2%. This looks like the value of our pensions has fallen.

However, there is danger in looking at only a one year time frame and forming a conclusion. Quite a different picture emerges if you look at the data over a longer period of time. We discovered that using the Canada CPI rather than the BC CPI had the effect of increasing our pensions by almost 5% in the past 10 years – a gain of .465% each year. And looking over an even longer 30 year period we found that using the Canada CPI gave us a very significant 10% increase in our pensions compared to using the BC CPI. This is because the rates of inflation in some provinces, Ontario and Alberta specifically, have been much higher than the rate in BC with the result of lifting the Canada CPI’s average, to the benefit of our BC pensions.

The committee did not feel it was appropriate for the Pension Trustees to use a particular city’s CPI for several reasons. City-specific indices are more volatile and are not a reliable indicator of inflation for a larger area; they can be dependant on a specific economic condition such as the gain or loss of a large employer. Nevertheless, we found the same advantage; using the Canada CPI over the past 15 years increased our pensions by 3% over the Vancouver CPI and 7% over the Victoria CPI.

The committee did not find another inflation measuring instrument that met the test of independence, accuracy and a long history of use. These criteria are all met by the respected Canadian
Consumer Price Index. Therefore, the Committee is recommending that we do not advocate for changes to the current practice.

Click here to see the full report.

On behalf of the Pensions and Benefits Committee,

Gerry Tiede
President

EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION GRANTS PROVIDE LASTING EFFECTS

We have just learned that a 2016 Excellence Award winner (Paula Curtis and her Health Science 12 students at H.J. Cambie Secondary) has been able to use one of our awards to help facilitate and put into motion the ‘Music and Memories’ Project at Pinegrove Place Care Home.

Partnering with the Therapeutic Recreation Department at Pinegrove Place Care Home the students worked on setting up personalized music playlists for the residents, which were recently delivered on iPods and other digital devices purchased with Excellence grant funds.

The students created a personalized playlist for each resident. It’s about the intimacy of residents listening to THEIR individual playlist music (that they have intimate connections with) on IPODS and headphones.

Extensive neuroscience research suggests that these musical favourites can tap deep memories not yet lost to dementia, as well as, improved cognition, communication, and quality of life for older persons with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia.

Katie Hrudey of Pinegrove thanked the teachers, students and the BCRTA Excellence program for their help in creating this inter-generational project. “With generous people like yourselves,” she wrote, “we are able to provide these wonderful and unforgettable experience for our residents.”

Stefan Cieslik
Chair, Excellence in Education Committee

Proportional Representation: Opinions For and Against

Two BCRTA Members Offer Thoughts on PR

British Columbia is having a referendum on what voting system we should use for provincial elections. The referendum is being held by mail from October 22 to November 30, 2018. Registered voters will get a voting package in the mail from Elections BC between October 22 and November 2, 2018.

See the official referendum website: https://elections.bc.ca/referendum

There has been interest from BCRTA members to discuss the merits of Proportional Representation. As a member-led non-profit association, it is not the role of BCRTA to take a partisan position on political issues. But we do advocate for the well-being of our members, and effective democracy is something we all desire. So in the interests of fairness and balance, we’ve invited two BCRTA members with differing opinions to each make their case.

Click on the icons below to view the articles.

Opinion: No, PR is a Bad Idea

 

First Past the Post (FPTP) is how BC has voted since 1871. BC once experimented with a form of PR. In 1952 voters got a ranked ballot (Alternative Vote system) in each constituency and Social Credit (SC) was elected, despite having less of the popular vote than the CCF (successor to the NDP). The SC removed the system the following year.

Since then BC voters have rejected PR twice. A 2005 vote on the BC-STV system did not pass the required thresholds of 60% in the vote or a majority in 60% of constituencies. In 2009 the BC Liberals re-introduced this and it failed again.

Now we have a third PR proposal. Why reject PR again? FPTP produces accountable governments. I know who I voted for and whether they won or lost. If they lost, I don’t consider my vote ‘wasted’. The “losing” side forms the Opposition. I know who to go to for help: my local MLA of any party.

The FPTP system, easy to understand, gives a real chance for a winning party to fulfill their mandate.

PR systems focus on the value of the party and not the candidate. Citizens sometimes vote for “Anybody but” and thus convey a lot of negative power. We may vote for a candidate we trust rather than for their party. A PR system puts party first.

The referendum includes three choices. Two have never been used anywhere and are theoretical: Dual Member Proportionality (DMP) and Rural-Urban Proportionality (RUP).

Under RUP, urban voters elect MLAs in huge regions one way (by STV, overwhelmingly rejected nine years ago), and rural voters choose a different way. All constituencies change. And we don’t know HOW the map of BC will be divided up. That’s a real Leap of Faith!

In DMP every constituency ends up with two MLAs—but your second MLA may be the candidate who came in not second but third or even fourth.

The third option and the one favoured by most PR supporters is Mixed Member Proportionality (MMP). This would mean reducing our 87 constituencies to perhaps 52 so we could elect “regional MLAs” from lists prepared by the political parties. This scheme might require BC to add as many as seven more MLAs. We don’t know the new boundaries or how many we will end up with.

Germany has a system like MMP – it recently took over five months for seven parties to form the government. The moderate second party gave up being the Opposition (government in waiting) in order to keep out the neo-Nazi party. Extremist parties proliferate. Now Sweden grapples with a populist anti-immigration party as PR requires nearly impossible coalitions to govern.

New Zealand voted for MMP in 1993 and neither major party has governed with a majority since (22 years). Candidates urge supporters to give their constituency vote to a minority party that will form a coalition with them. Yet PR proponents claim that PR ends that sort of strategic voting.

Voting for workable government is more important than dwelling on the overall provincial vote summary. Say no to PR.

German ballots are complicated.

A ballot from New Zealand

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer.