Christy Clark must explain role in provoking school strikes

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VICTORIA— Christy Clark must release documents detailing the role she played in provoking strikes at B.C. schools, say B.C.’s New Democrats.

“The B.C. Liberal government was caught trying to provoke a full-scale strike in B.C. schools,” said New Democrat leader Adrian Dix. “Premier Clark needs to release the documents that show the government’s meddling and apologize to the public for her plan to throw children, their families and our school system into chaos for political gain.”

After examining evidence from cabinet documents the B.C. Supreme Court found that the B.C. Liberal government was deliberately trying to provoke a full-scale strike at B.C. schools in the lead up to the last election.

A child who entered kindergarten when Christy Clark was first made education minister will graduate this year having spent all their years in school in larger classes with fewer supports because of her unconstitutional legislation.

“We have written to Premier Clark, asking her to release these cabinet documents so B.C. families can judge whether the B.C. Liberals were serving the public or themselves in their dealings with teachers,” said New Democrat education critic Rob Fleming. “If her government is not deliberately undermining the education of our children there should be nothing to hide.”

BACKGROUNDER:

Timeline of Christy Clark’s 12 years of chaos in education

An entire generation of students in British Columbia have been forced to learn in larger classes with fewer educational supports because of Christy Clark’s unconstitutional attacks on our public education system. For the last 12 years our school system has been used as a battleground by the B.C. Liberal government for their political gain. That’s why New Democrats are asking the premier to release cabinet documents detailing her government’s plans to provoke a full-scale strike in our schools.

Here is a short history of Premier Clark’s political meddling in education:

January 2002: Christy Clark, then education minister, led the B.C. Liberal government’s attack on school children with Bill 28, legislation that removed the right of teachers to bargain for smaller classes with more student supports.

  • What Christy Clark said: “This bill… marks a move toward a more flexible, more responsive, better-managed system that meets students’ needs, one where students’ needs win out over mathematical formulas, one where decisions are made by all the education partners in the system, and one where meeting students’ needs is the absolute number one priority.” – Christy Clark, Hansard, Jan. 26, 2002
  • The truth: Far from providing more “flexibility and choice,” more than 1500 teacher librarians, ESL teachers, special education teachers and school counsellors were laid off. Classes became larger, with fewer supports.

“The government prohibited terms in a teachers collective agreement restricting or regulating a board’s power to establish class size and composition; assign a student to a class; determine staffing levels or staff ratios; or determining the number of students assigned to a teacher.–Madam Justice Susan Griffin, 2011 BCSC 469, section 250

April 2011: The B.C. Supreme Court ruled that Premier Clark’s legislation was unconstitutional. The B.C. Liberal government did not appeal the ruling.

  • What Christy Clark said: “We need to go back and make sure that we address the issues that the court raised and we absolutely will do that. You know, I think whenever you bring in legislation ten years later turns out not to have worked, you have to take responsibility for that absolutely. Every time, you want to get it right and that time, we didn’t get it right.” – Christy Clark, CKNW, April 14, 2011
  • The truth: After admitting that she “didn’t get it right” Premier Clark’s government began laying the groundwork to introduce legislation that B.C. Supreme Court called “virtually identical” to the law that was struck down as unconstitutional.

March 2012: The B.C. Liberals pass Bill 22, education legislation that is “virtually identical” to the previous law that was struck down as unconstitutional.

  • What Christy Clark said: “This week our government introduced the Improving Education Act. Its aim is to keep teachers in class by suspending job action, setting a cooling off period, appointing a mediator in an attempt to break new ground with the union.” – Christy Clark, CKNW, March 3, 2012
  • The truth: Far from aiming to “keep teachers in class” Premier Clark’s government “thought that a teachers strike would give the government a political advantage in imposing legislation that the public might otherwise not support. It felt that the timing of legislation to deal with a teachers strike and failure of collective bargaining could fit conveniently with the timing of legislation to address the Bill 28 Decision repercussions. The government planned its strategy accordingly so that it could have one legislative initiative at the end of the one year suspension granted in the Bill 28 Decision.” – Madam Justice Susan Griffin, 2014 BCSC 121, 384

Oct. 2012: After imposing a carbon copy of her original unconstitutional law on B.C. teachers Premier Clark claimed that her government wanted to achieve “stability” in the education system:

  • What Christy Clark said: “It’s worth thinking about what could be achieved, for example, with a 10-year deal for teachers. Imagine a child in Grade two starting this year could go all the way to Grade 12 without any threat of labour disruption.” –Christy Clark, Prince George Citizen, Oct. 2012
  • The truth: “The government had a strategy in mind that it would be to its benefit if negotiations failed and if collective bargaining resulted in a strike and impasse.” – Madam Justice Susan Griffin, 2014 BCSC 368

Jan. 2014: Christy Clark’s legislation is again struck down as unconstitutional. After 12 years of chaos in the public school system, the B.C. Supreme Court finds that the B.C. Liberal government has been trying to orchestrate a province-wide shut down of schools with full scale strikes for political gain.

  • What Christy Clark said: The first time her legislation was struck down Premier Clark said “we’re going to have to make sure we get on a different footing with the teachers’ union, just as the court has suggested.”- Christy Clark, Globe and Mail, April 14, 2011
  • The truth: “Their strategy was to put such pressure on the union that it would provoke a strike by the union.” – Madam Justice Susan Griffin, 2014 BCSC 121

A copy of the letter from Dix and Fleming to the Premier can be viewed here.