I feel compelled to write this letter and express my frustration with the Liberal government and the BCTF. Here we are after three months of a Teachers strike and a government lockout and there have only been 4 or 5 meetings and both groups have taken the summer off. The two parties are still arguing and posturing and they are no closer to a solution. We should have known that this was going to be a long labour dispute when both parties agreed to negotiate through the media.
The government is in an enviable position where they aren’t really loosing anything in this strike. In fact the strike benefits them. After years of budget cuts to our educational system where librarians, counsellors, teaching assistants, vocational programs, summer school programs and other support positions have been cut, the government now benefits by 12 million dollars a day by not paying teachers’ salaries. This is a conservative estimate as the government is actually saving additional costs by not paying the support workers who honour the BCTF picket lines.
The government’s response to this crisis has been the announcement that they will pay parents who children are under the age of 13 years with a $40 per day per diem to cover daycare expenses. I have been waiting for our news media to latch onto this proposed spending spree, but not one of them have dared to estimate the possible costs of this Liberal program. Apparently there are 550,000 students in the BC public school system. If these students are evenly distributed from grades K to 12 then my calculation of the costs of the give a way program is about 11 million dollars per day. The only reason the BC Liberals are giving parents money is to try and placate them, so that they don’t protest and put pressure on the government. They are trying to buy your votes.
We elect political candidates with the expectation that they will act promptly and decisively when we are confronted with a crisis. There is a CRISIS in this province that affects the teachers, support workers, businesses, students, foreign students and parents. I estimate that number to be about 1.5 million people or about one third of the population of this province.
I listened with interest when Christy Clark addressed British Columbians this evening on television. She didn’t express any concern about our grade 10 to 12 students who will likely lose an entire semester, if the strike is not ended. She kept reminding us of the outlandish demands by the BCTF and how this whole strike is the teachers fault. She didn’t take any responsibility for the strike, the failure in negotiations and she certainly didn’t provide us with any solutions to this crisis. She simply provided her spin on these events and how nothing further was going to happen until the BCTF altered their demands.
Let us not forget that the BC government can end this strike today by simply enacting Essential Services legislation and ordering the teachers back to work. However, there is so much animosity between these two groups that both sides have lost their objectivity. The government wants to use these circumstances to discipline the teachers by depriving them of their wages. The BCTF wants to have the issue of class composition and size resolved, even though this issue is before the BC Appeals Court and may even go to the Supreme Court of Canada. This issue alone could take years in the various courts to resolve.
This situation is analogous to a domestic crisis situation where two parents are arguing and fighting and the police are called to bring peace to the household. In this case, Christie Clark and Peter Fassbender are bullying the teachers, while the kids are in the background crying. Both parties are telling us how much they care about the welfare of our children, but their only real goal is to fight like hell and inflict as much pain on each other as possible. Just like a fight between spouses, the only way to get a peaceful and fair outcome is to have an independent party like a judge or arbiter hear both sides of the dispute and render a fair and impartial decision. The government needs to order the teachers back to work while this judicial or binding arbitration process occurs.
In the interim, we the taxpayers need to recognize that the continued erosion of our public education system is the single most important issue of our time. The BC government wants to implement an education system that mirrors the education system in the USA where the public schools are poorly funded and citizens who are well heeled send their children to private schools. We need to stop this government from wasting public funds by compensating parents for child care during this strike. These funds should be directed to finding solutions, so that these strikes and this conflict don’t continue to occur. Please write your MLAs and demand that the government stop this strike now. Go to your MLAs offices and peacefully participate in demonstrations where we demand that the government bring an end to this strike. This infighting and conflict needs to stop. Our main focus should be on developing an exemplary education system and not fighting with one another. Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.’ Our children need the best education possible, so they can effectively try to solve the problems of the world in the future. Thanks for reading my rant. Enough is enough already.