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:
 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.