Minister’s irony

It is very true that the Liberals are looking for an opportunity in the teachers’ job action to find a “wedge issue”

The Black Press Editorial in the Mirror on Friday, March  2 made some very important points about the introduction of legislation to end the teachers’ Job Action.

It is very true that the Liberals are looking for an opportunity in the teachers’ job action to find a “wedge issue”, because of how far they have slumped in the polls. They are using this draconian legislation to demonstrate their disdain for public sector unions in order to try to attract voters back who have moved to the B.C. Conservative party. In an effort to lure back those voters, they are even bragging about how “conservative” their budget is. In the midst of all this politicking, the students and teachers of B.C. are the victims. The editorial also makes reference to the government’s refusal to increase public sector salaries, the so-called Net Zero mandate, in comparison to MLA salaries. The average MLA received a 29 per cent salary increase just a few years ago and continues to get a cost of living adjustment every year. If they really believed in Net Zero, they should be refusing to take an increase in every year that this mandate covers.

Education Minister George Abbott says he is “concerned for the vulnerable children who have been negatively impacted by the teachers’ job action.”  The irony of that statement is that the impact of this job action is infinitesimal compared to the impact of Bill 22. Not only does Bill 22 not restore the class size limits and guaranteed support services for students with special needs that the B.C. Supreme Court ruled were illegally legislated away in 2002 (Bills 27 and 28). It goes further in removing minimal class size limits that were later introduced in Bill 33, so now there are no class size or composition limits whatsoever for grades 4-12. (The number 30 is stated but only needs the principal or superintendent to rule that a particular class is “appropriate for student learning”. This rubber stamping of classes going over the limits is done on a regular basis – more than 100,000 oversized classes in the last decade in B.C.).

The editorial also mentions that Kevin Falcon will not raise the corporate tax rate until at least 2014.  The voters in B.C. need to know that because our B.C. Corporate Tax Rate is the lowest in all G8 countries, we have already been paying more in MSP premiums into the government’s coffers than the corporations pay in taxes.  And now we are going to pay another four per cent for MSP, just to help balance the budget. The shamefully high child poverty rate, as well as all the other B.C. ministries in crisis, do not count. We just need to balance that budget!

Finally, on a personal note, I have been reading dozens of letters from teachers describing the conditions in their classrooms, and what alarms me is that I know that when they are read in the Legislature this week, the Liberals will sit across the floor listening and they will not care about those kids and those teachers.  Every one of them should have to spend a week in a variety of public school classrooms before they pass that horrific legislation that wipes out all provisions for reasonable class size and composition. Maybe then they would understand that balancing the budget should not be done at the expense of the kids and workers in this province!

Elaine Thompson

Primary Teacher and 1st Vice President of the Campbell River District Teachers’ Association