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CUPE support key to Coquitlam school board election

The union representing school support workers was a major player in the Coquitlam school board elections last year.

The union representing school support workers was a major player in the Coquitlam school board elections last year.

Coquitlam school trustees elected to the board of education in November relied almost exclusively on donations from CUPE and spent little extra to garner votes.

CUPE local 561, which represents school support workers, was the largest, in fact, the only financial donor to campaigns for individual trustees in Coquitlam, writing cheques for $1,500 for Gail Alty, and Gerry Wallis, as well as Diane Sowden.

Humera Ahsanullah, meanwhile, failed to win either CUPE financial support or a seat.

Although Brian Robinson didn't get any financial donations from CUPE, he was supported by the Coquitlam Teachers Association which provided organizational support and funding for Alty, Sowden, Robinson and Wallis. According to documents posted on the Coquitlam city website, the CTA spent $1,892.44 on ads and signs to promote their chosen candidates.

According to campaign disclosures made available on city hall websites Monday, Sowden spent the most on her election campaign, $1,808, while Brian Robinson, a long-time trustee, spent nothing.

However, money spent doesn't tell the whole story because Sowden and Robinson were the top vote getters in the November, 2011 election, garnering 12,116 and 11,491 votes respectively.

And newcomer Ahsanullah managed to collect a respectable number of votes, 4,550, while spending only $853.

While concerns about union dollars supporting trustees hasn't been a big concern up until now because most bargaining issues are dealt with at the provincial table, unionized teachers are hoping that more issues will be bargained locally in the future. The issue is expected to be one of several dealt with by a mediator soon to be appointed to deal with the teachers' dispute.

CUPE contracts are also dealt with at the provincial level, although some issues are discussed locally.

Meanwhile, in Port Coquitlam, the only candidate to receive both CUPE campaign funding and endorsement failed to get elected. Bob Lee, who works as a paramedic for the BC Ambulance Service and is a CUPE member received $5,250 from CUPE local, provincial and national offices. He spent $5,172 for his failed bid.

The two winning candidates, trustees John Keryluk and Judy Shirra received no union support. Judy Shirra financed her $2,233 campaign herself, as did Keryluk, who spent $6,953 to win his seat.

Port Moody trustees Keith Watkins and Melissa Hyndes (board chair) were both acclaimed to their seat, as was Anmore/Belcarra trustee Holly Butterfield.


Gaily Alty

Raised: $1,500

Spent: 1,573

Votes: 10,000

.16 per vote

Brian Robinson

Raised: 0

Spent: 0

Votes: 11,491

0 per vote

Diane Sowden

Raised: $1,500

Spent: $1,808

Votes: 12,116

.15 per vote

Gerri Wallis

Raised: $1,500

Spent: $1,646

Votes: 10,896

.15 per vote


John Keryluk

Raised: 0

Spent: $6,953

Votes: 4,262

$1.63 per vote

Judy Shirra

Raised: 0

Spent: $2,233

Votes: 5,042

.44 per vote