Currently, the internet is alive with discussion of public education in British Columbia and I’ve gathered a few elements from different sites to create a composite of opinions that reflect my view that an unnecessary dispute serves no good purpose.
Ian Reid wrote about Liberal maneuvering as they aim to provoke this fight over education. It’s part of a game of divide and conquer through which strategists hope to arrest the party’s free fall. Without reversal of fortunes, next year most Liberal MLAs will be resuming their regular, mostly less remunerative, careers. Luckily for them, unhappily for taxpayers, most defeated members depart with generous severance pay and pensions.
What caught my eye at Ian’s The Real Story was a contribution by the always coherent commentator G. West. It included this statement of events in Victoria:
“My contacts in the bureaucracy confirm that there is little effective planning or consultation going on in any of the important ministries; that the legislative program is a pathetic mess and that the advice and experience of veteran civil servants is being ignored. Legislation is being presented before it has been properly vetted; new agencies and functions are being created without any thought to who will staff and run them; appointments are being made in a frightful and ad hoc fashion; professional advice about legality and constitutionality is being ignored.”
Yikes. However, I too heard rumblings out of Victoria that Liberals consciously chose to proceed with Bill 22 in a form their legal advisers believe will not survive court challenges. However, the political aim is conflict, not good government.
Joel Bakan is a professor of law at the University of British Columbia. His award winning work examines the social, economic and political dimensions of law, and he has been widely published. The legal expert wrote Constitutional and international law at risk under Bill 22 in the Vancouver Sun:
“The B.C. Liberal government is poised, once again, to violate the legal rights of workers, this time with Bill 22, which, if it becomes law, will prohibit teachers from striking and limit their collective bargaining rights.
“In 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the government had violated the Canadian Charter by imposing legislative restrictions on the rights of health workers to bargain collectively. In April 2011, the British Columbia Supreme Court followed that decision to rule that legislation concerning teachers was unconstitutional, and thereby invalid, because it prohibited bargaining on class size, class composition and the ratios of teachers to students.
“It is those very same restrictions that the government now seeks to reinstate with Bill 22, a disturbing disregard for such a recent judicial declaration that they are constitutionally invalid.
“…[Bill 22] it almost certainly violates international law as well as constitutional law. Governments are obliged to govern according to law. That is what distinguishes democracies from tyrannies…”
While researching previous court action, I noted something that reflects devious behaviour of the education ministry. It may also explain why high level mandarins seem to have keys to the treasury. A cynic would suppose that people doing dirty work get to extract special rewards.
Rick Davis, a superintendent of achievement in the education ministry, had the highest expense account of any provincial employee in the last fiscal year. The amount: $77,657.
This is the same Rick Davis that Madam Justice Susan A. Griffin chided in her reasons for judgement in British Columbia Teachers’ Federation v. British Columbia. Examples:
“ …Mr. Rick Davis, also set about to informally gather information from school administrators, designed to illustrate problems with class size and composition limits. …The government filed his affidavit evidence in support of its position…
“ However, Mr. Davis’s knowledge of problems was collected from school administrators. Mr. Davis did not have any first-hand knowledge of the problems cited, all of which were based on hearsay.
“ I have approached Mr. Davis’s evidence cautiously, as his affidavit evidence tended to characterize the facts less than objectively…
“ However, when Mr. Davis was pressed on this affidavit evidence in cross-examination, it became clear that it was not accurate…
“ The evidence that the government relied on in the hearing before me, to support its assertion that class size limits were causing hardships to students and parents, was anecdotal hearsay. It was so vague and unsubstantiated that it was impossible for BCTF to challenge it meaningfully. It would be unfair to give it any weight for the truth of its contents…”
Clearly, the Liberals have not been playing an honest hand for some time.
In 2011, the courts slapped the government over unconstitutional legislation but Justice Griffin gave them until April 2012 to resolve the issues. Instead, the Liberals are bringing in new legislation that will certainly be found unconstitutional too. But, they stoke the fires of political confrontation and push issues down the road to shortly after next year’s scheduled election.
It’s a devious strategy, designed to produce conflict. If they succeed, they’ll consider themselves brilliant strategists. If they don’t, the next administration gets to deal with one more stinky mess.
Public education will suffer, children will be disadvantaged and respectable teachers will be disparaged. Liberals are ok with those effects if it gains them political advantage.They are dishonourable and unscrupulous – but consistent.