A weapon to change the world

Those who educate children well are more to be honoured than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well. ― Aristotle

This week the BC Teachers’ Federation and the BC Government are in Supreme Court, duelling over a number of education issues, including class sizes and compositions and special-ed resources. The dispute dates back to January 2002 when BC Liberals introduced legislation that teachers challenged as unconstitutional on the basis that it deprived them of collective bargaining rights.

The BC government believed it had the right to impose legislation that unilaterally overrode provisions of existing collective agreements and that prohibited future collective bargaining on the same subject matters. Madam Justice S. Griffin held that most of the controversial legislation was unconstitutional. She included this sagacious comment in the reasons for judgement:

[380] The legislation undoubtedly was seen by teachers as evidence that the government did not respect them or consider them to be valued contributors to the education system, having excluded them from any freedom to associate to influence their working conditions. This was a seriously deleterious effect of the legislation, one adversely disproportionate to any salutary effects revealed by the evidence.

However, that was far from the end. Liberals were determined that being at war with public school teachers was a political issue that might pay dividends.

Justice Griffin suspended the declaration of invalidity for 12 months to allow the government time to address repercussions of her decision. Their response was to pass new legislation that essentially reenacted the terms that had been found unconstitutional.

It was a cynical response that further disrespected teachers and demonstrated the BC government intended to pay little attention to directions from the Supreme Court. This unveils an uncomfortable reality: the government holds purse strings that can punish or reward each and every program or person functioning in BC courthouses. Whereas citizens who ignore judgments are at peril, governments, because they fund judges and the courts, are not.

What promises to be a lengthy trial of the issues is underway and, if the BC Government loses again, they might simply reintroduce more legislation and keep the issues unresolved for another decade.

Legal skirmishes have been ongoing since the April 2011 decision. The BCTF was denied right to inspect many important documents and had to go before Justice Griffin to gain access. In dealing with reluctance to deliver documents, a comment of the judge was revealing,

9] However, the problem with the Province’s argument is that it is too broad: it would justify the government not producing any documents whatsoever. Furthermore if the documents do reveal a good faith bargaining strategy by government, they may help prove a defence to the Province’s actions; equally, if the documents reveal a bad faith strategy, then the plaintiff is entitled to explore this as part of the litigation.

As the trial unwinds, BC Liberals will have their anti-education astroturfing crews at work on social media and their mainstream media pals are still loyal. I noted one example on Global TV on the beginning day of the trial. The provincial government is claiming that another victory by teachers would have huge financial consequences. They’ve thrown out a number of $6 billion although without the slightest detail of its calculation.

Randene Neill, with an assist from Keith Baldrey, claimed that number actually came from the teachers’ federation. She said the following before tossing to Baldrey who spoke in circles but accepted, even reinforced, the intro, which said,

But the BCTF is throwing some big numbers around. Six billion dollars that it would cost taxpayers, they’re saying.

Yes Randene, those teachers are so greedy. There are no issues about class sizes, teaching resources, services to special needs children, extracurricular activities or general matters of education quality.

No, it’s all about selfish teachers determined to bankrupt the provincial treasury. But then, Randene, your notes didn’t explain the real issues, did they.

A person from Global TV told me a correction was made on the September 9 5pm Early News and I should “Live with it.”

I can’t verify any correction since that program is not available online. However, RTNDA rules say, “Errors will be quickly acknowledged and publicly corrected on all platforms.” I recorded this clip from Global’s BC site at 10:30pm Sept. 10, 2013, after the supposed correction:

From the Vancouver Sun:

The provincial government has pegged the cost of reinstating the provisions of the teachers’ contract at $6 billion. While BCTF president Jim Iker insisted that figure is unrealistic…

By the way, I caught Julie Nolin’s report on Monday’s CTV News at 6pm. It was excellent; an example of balanced coverage that explained the basic issues in this very complicated story. Vancouver’s Legends of Journalism would be happy with CTV and shaking their old grey heads at Global.

Categories: Education

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7 replies »

  1. Well Keith has to worm his way back in pack after straying ever so slightly during the election. But aren't they suppose to tell the truth at least?


  2. Randene “talking head” Neill tossing a softball to Keith “Dont rock the boat” Baldrey.

    I expected nothing less from either person. Propaganda, obsfucation, deflection, cut to commercial…….


  3. This government has no respect for anyone. One only has to look at their record for the past 12 years. Not a pretty picture when it comes to the poor, disabled, seniors, students, teachers, healthcare workers; normal, hardworking everyday people living cheque to cheque paying more and more and getting less and less. This government is not for the average citizen in this province.


  4. Respect is an issue for sure. Not only do Premier Photo Op and friends have no respect for mainstream educators, they demonstrate no respect for citizens. They assume that we are stupid and they can reframe the disputed issues to be something entirely different than what they are.

    For example, Ms. Bright Eyes claims to have cured the defects found in their legislation in the 2011 decision by J. Griffin by adding money to a special fund. However, at the heart of the lawsuit was the finding by the court that the legislation unilaterally removed the right to bargain working conditions and, under rulings of the Supreme Court of Canada, that cannot be done.

    Liberals know they are likely to lose again. They know but they don't care. They'll just feed us more lies and obfuscation.


  5. Would seem that open and come., are interested in deflecting long time issues, while desperately hoping that the LNG gamble has a hint of paying off. Seems the money is running out, and you can only interpret numbers so many different ways before the obvious questions get asked.
    Strangely, certain media players would rather encourage the ostrich syndrome in this province, after all the NDP were supposed to win, and inherit a scorched earth financial mess courtesy of the outgoing BC liberals, or so the consensus was during the election. However, a funny thing happened on the way to the election outcome….the BC liberals won, and inherited their own mess.

    Perhaps this has something to do with why there is no fall sitting, and the budget mess, along with the huge LNG gamble is so high profile in the Liberals agenda.

    Notice we have not heard much from the” what was an old and done party that is now new again” crew…

    The silence is truly deafening…


  6. “Liberals know they are likely to lose again. They know but they don't care.”

    Why should they care? After all, all of US, including the serially abused teachers are paying their legal beagles and all other costs.

    I like anon above's line about the LIEberals inheriting their own mess, just about the only good thing about the electoral outcome.


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