Interviewed by Ken Novakowski
Geoff grew up in Toronto and Ottawa and had a comfortable middle class upbringing. He became interested in left wing politics when he attended the University of Toronto, where he worked on the university paper and at the student radio station.
Geoff moved to British Columbia in 1974. In 1978 he became the editor of The Fisherman, a newspaper published by the UFAWU (United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union). He held that job for 12 years. In the interview, Geoff discusses the complex issues in the B.C. fishing industry, the challenges the union faced, and the unique ways they took on those challenges. This includes the 1989 strike in the industry, which Geoff describes as the first trade strike.
In 1990, Geoff went to work in communications at the HEU (Hospital Employees’ Union). This was during the time that the Harcourt government was making shifts in the delivery of health care, de-emphasizing acute care delivery, and putting greater emphasis on community care. Among other issues, he comments on the development of the HEU’s job action strategy of rotating strikes by department, which was used successfully in 1992 to gain pay equity in the master collective agreement.
After he left the HEU, Geoff became the communications director in the Glen Clark government. In speaking about this job, Geoff makes interesting comparisons to the John Horgan government. He also shares views on the conduct of the NDP’s opponents, the media, and the labour movement. A highlight for Geoff during this time was the signing of the Nisga’a Treaty.
Geoff joined the staff of the B.C. Federation of Labour in 2001, just as Gordon Campbell was elected premier. This was a tumultuous period in B.C.’s history when the NDP was reduced to two seats in the legislature and the Campbell government unleashed its legislative program of tax cuts, contracting out of health care services, the tearing up of collective agreements, and many other measures opposed by the labour movement and progressives.
Geoff began working as executive assistant to Larry Campbell when he was elected mayor of Vancouver. After Larry Campbell was appointed to the Senate, Geoff re-joined the B.C. Federation of Labour. He also continued working in civic politics and was a key person in forming the Vision civic party. He ran successfully for a position on city council in the 2008 municipal election and served in that capacity until 2017, when he resigned his seat to accept the job as chief of staff to Premier John Horgan.
Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry; Canadian Press; Wire Service Guild; “The Fisherman”; COPE, (Coalition of Progressive Electors); Fishermen’s Union (United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union); salmon fishery; racism; canneries; Native Brotherhood; Indigenous women in canneries; trade war strike; 1980 UFAWU strike; 1989 UFAWU strike; BC Packers; Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO); free trade agreement; General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); Japanese Fishermen’s Association; UNIFOR; CAW; Industrial Relations Council; political action; Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU); British Columbia General Employees’ Union (BCGEU); community care; Shaughnessy Hospital; British Columbia Nurses’ Union (BCNU); anti scab law; pay equity; Green Party; confidence and supply agreement; the media; IWA (International Woodworkers of America); Nisga’a Treaty; B.C. Federation of Labour; Translink; Vancouver transit workers’ strike 2001; Non-Partisan Association; four pillars strategy; Vision; TEAM (The Electors’ Action Movement); Rod Mickleburgh; Thomas Berger; Joe Mathias; George Watts; Jimmy (James) Gosnell; Joy Thorkelson; Tom Siddon; Vince Ready; Frank Rogers; Tomekichi Homma; Mike Harcourt; Carmella Allevato; Mike Harcourt; Glen Clark; John Horgan; Jim Sinclair; Joy McPhail; Jenny Kwan; George Puil; Gordon Campbell; Angie Shira; Jim Green; Sam Sullivan; Larry Campbell; Philip Owen; Tim Louis; Fred Bass; Carole James; Raymond Louie, Tim Stevenson; Heather Deal; David Cadman; Gregor Roberston; Kashmir Dhaliwal; Setty Pendakur; David Eby