This weeks column for 24 Hrs Vancouver: Union proposal a fair one to settle this debacle.

Last Friday, British Columbia Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker called for the province to agree to binding arbitration to reach a resolution in the ongoing dispute with the government.

Iker proposed that all matters of compensation, benefits and preparation time should go to arbitration, leaving the matters of class size and composition, currently before the courts, to remain with the courts.

If the government had agreed, the BCTF would have called a vote of its members to return to work and get kids back into classrooms. On Saturday, Education Minister Peter Fassbender rejected the offer, saying preconditions would tilt the process in the teachers’ favour.

With the rejection of this proposal, this government has again shown zero interest in bargaining in good faith – something they have already been harshly chastised for earlier this year in a ruling by Justice Susan Griffin.

In the days before Iker’s proposal, Premier Christy Clark took to the airwaves in her own press conference that was not only inflammatory and provocative, but many also say was inaccurate. It took less than seconds for reaction from teachers, parents and press alike to discuss whether she had simply been poorly briefed or deliberately tried to once again provoke the BCTF.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

This was followed by more outrage when politically charged, anti-BCTF comments posted by government employees to the government-run Twitter and Facebook accounts for the BC Education Plan appeared – an action some say violated the government’s code of conduct. The comments were partisan in nature, and inappropriate for a government site.

These kinds of tactics don’t constitute good-faith bargaining on the part of the government and are indicative of another campaign to turn public opinion against teachers. There is no interest in mediating a real settlement because the government is asking teachers to agree to E80, a clause that would have them give up the ruling the court has already given on class size and composition…

READ the rest of this weeks column, Brent’s response, comment and vote at

Poll: Do you agree with the BCTF’s call for binding arbitration?


One vote per visitor, repeat votes have been blocked.

An open letter to the parents of BC on the ongoing teachers dispute

This letter was sent to me this morning by a parent in Surrey who has been very involved in the school system for a very long time, with hopes that it will assist other parents in understanding part of what’s going on right now in the teachers dispute.

“As a parent of children who have been in the school system since the late 90’s I have a unique perspective on the current negotiations. I was in the system when class size and composition were in the teachers’ contract and quite frankly when the system worked. Here is a little history that many parents don’t know.

 There is a fable that class size and composition provided hard caps in the teachers’ contract. In fact no they did not. Classes often went over the caps, but there was a mechanism in place through grievance that allowed teachers to grieve their working conditions if they were over the caps.

Arbitrators had the ability to provide more teaching time to the class or extra SEA resources or more time from specialist teachers for example. Why is the important to today? Because they could also award cash. This provided a system of better supports for all children in the classroom, but it also provided a tipping point where the grievances became too expensive and schools were built.


In 2002 the Liberal government introduced Bills 27, 28, and 29. Bills 27 and 28 dealt with the teachers and Bill 29 dealt with the Healthcare Workers. — Bill 27, the Education Services Collective Agreement Act, and Bill 28, the Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act. After the passing of the bills an understanding was created and the Healthcare Workers chose to take their case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and in 2007 was awarded the judgement below

Many thought the government would apply the decision in Heathcare Workers to teachers, however this did not happen and in 2011 Justice Griffin made her first ruling


It is important to note that Justice Griffin had one choice in disposing of the sections of Bills 27 and 28 that were ruled unconstitutional. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms dictate the disposal

  • (1)The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of Canada, and any law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is, to the extent of the inconsistency, of no force or effect. “


It is important to note that in the first ruling the parts of the legislation that stripped out the teacher’s right to class size and composition were voided and Justice Griffin gave the government one year to remedy the situation and deal with the cost implications of her decision. This ruling has never been appealed.

Rather than deal with the decision the government again passed legislation in the form of Bill 22. So off the BCTF went to court again. This time however Justice Griffin was less conciliatory.


Why is this important to today? Please see the beginning, arbitrators had the right to award cash for past grievances.

Due to the time that has been allowed to pass and the thousands of classes that do not meet the language on the contract, conservative estimates owed to teachers is now over a billion dollars. The government needs a way to negate the past damages.

Everyone asks why now for the strike?

It all comes down to the appeal set to be heard in the Court of Appeal on October 13 and 14th.

The government needs to have the teachers sign away their rights to Justice Griffin’s decision. The government can’t legislate class size and composition again they need to have a collective agreement signed that negates those rights.

The Supreme Court of Canada has reaffirmed, in 2011, its decision in Healthcare Workers that governments cannot use legislation as a way to circumvent the collective bargaining process and cannot use legislation to impose working conditions subject to bargaining.

 Essentially E80 and E81, of the BCPSEA offer, are a get out of jail free card for the government failing to address the issues in Justice Griffin’s decision, which is why you should not count on the government legislating the teachers back to work.

 For parents this is your decision.

The only way our kids will go back to school prior to the Appeal Court hearing is if government feels enough pressure to do so.

My question for the government is, if they are so sure they will win at the court of appeal, why not take out both E80 and E81 and let the judicial chips fall where they may?”

Patricia Enair, Surrey BC.

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: BCTF fights for teachers, kids.

This week, Brent and I address an issue often commented about on social media. Brent presents this week, and this is my response to him:

This week’s topic:

Should B.C. teachers remain unionized?

It’s more than a bit ironic that every anti-BCTF rant I’ve read during the ongoing dispute between teachers and the government fails to even touch on the egregious actions of the government over the last decade.

Frankly, it’s getting a bit old. And even more alarming is the suggestion that teachers would be better off without their union. I’ve said it before and I will say it again — I see nothing on the government’s side to indicate they truly value or understand that education is an essential step to growing our economy.

When making the argument that the teachers union is unreasonable, it’s convenient to not mention the longstanding legal battle that resulted in the government being admonished by the courts for failing to bargain in good faith.

Likewise, it’s convenient to fail to mention that the government illegally stripped class size and composition from the teachers’ contract, and it’s also convenient to forget to mention that testimony was given that the government deliberately tried to incite a strike with teachers.

I’ve always believed education is a cornerstone to a successful society, and history shows that where education is given a first priority by government, society benefits as a whole. Sadly, in this province, there has been a slow, but continual degradation of the entire system.

In a recent column, Brent and I addressed class size and composition, and how that impacts learning for all kids. These are two items that are critical to learning and success for every child in the classroom — the government should consider them basic essentials. But no, they don’t consider them essentials and have tried to get rid of both of them.

Read Brent’s column here.

This is just one example of why the teachers union is so essential. Class size and composition are considered working conditions and, as such, part of teachers’ rights in their contract. Without the leverage and continual battle of the union to secure these conditions, my children and perhaps yours, if you have children, would clearly be left hanging. The government simply doesn’t think it’s a big deal…

READ the rest of this week’s column, comment and vote at this link:

My column for 24Hrs Vancouver this week: Ministry Meddling is letting kids fall through cracks.

I’d like to start this week by offering congratulations to Brent on our one year anniversary of writing the Duel.

When Brent pointed out that our first Duel had been a debate over the merits of a 10-year deal between teachers and government, I felt more than a little sad that a year later there is still no sign a deal is imminent.

While I agree the bargaining process between the government and the BCTF is fatally flawed, laying the blame for this failure of process strictly on the BCTF for “petulant bargaining and punitive rotating strikes” is a fatal flaw as well. In last week’s Duel, I succinctly demonstrated how the government’s punitive and, at times, illegal actions were responsible for disrupting learning in classrooms for over a decade.

The suggestion that removing the issue of classroom composition from the bargaining process will help is not only preposterous, it shows a complete lack of understanding of how integral the issue is to the education system as a whole

As a parent of a child with special challenges and needs, I have witnessed and experienced — as have thousands of other parents in this province — the failures in our system.

While it is correct that the numbers show a loss of “identified students” over the years, what is not mentioned is why. Those children didn’t just disappear, or stop needing help. The ministry changed how students with needs were designated, which left many children who had previously qualified for help, without any.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

For example, gifted students are no longer recognized, which accounts for thousands of lost numbers. Children with ADHD –regardless of the severity — are also not included and receive no assistance, along with a long list of other disorders that the government refuses to recognize. Not helping these children succeed now costs society far more as they fall through the cracks and mature.

READ, comment and vote for who you think should win this weeks duel at

This weeks column for The Duel, 24Hrs Vancouver: BC Liberal Legislation to blame for education disruptions

The winner of the last duel on the Site C Dam was Laila with 74%.

This week’s topic:

As the B.C. teachers dispute escalates, which side is responsible for the disruption in student learning?

While the BC Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government took a break from contract talks over the weekend to further examine their positions, come Monday students, teachers and parents will begin to feel the impact of action taken on both sides.

Today is the first of several rotating strikes the BCTF is staging in school districts across the province this week. In response, the provincial government begins a partial lockout today as well, one that has been labeled by many as a botched attempt to punish teachers, but instead impacts students by limiting time teachers can be at school.

Concerns over cancelled field trips and extra-curricular activities, and unmarked exams, are creating tension and stress among students and teachers alike. The government was quick to say they would “tweak” the lockout terms to ensure those things wouldn’t happen, but some school events have been cancelled already. I say the government was once again trying to sway public opinion in its favour.

Read Brent Stafford’s column “Parents should blame teachers for rotating strike action”

If you listen to the government’s side, it’s those wretched teachers who are responsible for disrupting children’s education with demands over wages and classroom composition. But when you look at the bigger picture, it’s clear that government itself has been responsible for a continual disruption in student learning since 2002 when it illegally stripped teachers of the right to bargain working conditions that directly impact student learning…

READ the rest of this weeks column, vote and comment at

This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Teachers should be praised for trying to fix broken classrooms

The winner of last week’s duel on civil disobedience was Laila with 67%.

This week’s topic:

Did the strike vote by B.C. teachers help or hurt their cause?

As results came in last week for the B.C. Teachers’ Federation strike vote, I couldn’t help but wonder how long it would take for the pro-government supporters to start spinning the news on social media. Within seconds of the live-streamed announcement the first anti-teacher tweets began, calling out those dreadful teachers for using our children as political pawns.

What they would like parents to forget is that the government calling out the BCTF for holding a “premature” strike vote is the same government that was recently criticized by a B.C. Supreme Court justice for failing to negotiate in good faith. For years, while the government has been pointing fingers at teachers, the only people using our children as political pawns have been those with the Liberal government.

As a parent of four, this strike vote didn’t fill me with sadness or gloom at all. In fact, like many other parents I know who were appalled by the court’s ruling in January — declaring the government tried to provoke a strike with teachers — I was buoyed by hope the results would show the government these negotiations need to be taken seriously.

Read Brent Stafford’s column

It hasn’t been the teachers who have been in the wrong all this time, it’s been the government. Teachers in this province used to have a collective agreement that ensured smaller class sizes and guaranteed crucial classroom supports that are essential to education — supports like special education assistants, counsellors and teacher-librarians. When the government stripped those rights out of the agreement, all kids suffered from a lack of access to the supports they need, with children who require special education support impacted the most.

The thing that’s bewildering to me in all of this is why the government refuses to see the direct impact of their failed education agenda in the classroom…

Read the rest of this weeks duel, comment and vote at


A must read by Les Leyne

Government conned parents and kids

“It’s a tale of a government secretly wanting to provoke a strike that year for political reasons. There are always cynics who read political motives into big public labour disputes. But it’s startling to see a judge blame months of disruption in schools firmly on the crass political motivations of a government. ”


“Ten years later, she was the premier of a government that, according to the B.C. Supreme Court, ran a lengthy con on parents and children to engineer some dim political advantage out of the argument created by the first bill.

Families first, indeed.”

– See more at:
Some might ask, why does this matter? Vivian Luk sums it up well in this article:

BCTF president Jim Iker called Monday’s ruling a triumph for teachers who have fought long and hard against a law that shortchanged a generation of children in B.C.

“These kids have gone to school in larger classes, and they’ve had less access to specialists like learning assistance teachers … and special education resource teachers,” he told reporters. “Their entire education, 12 full years, has been in an era of cutbacks, reduced services and underfunding.”

That Christy Clark would consider appealing this decision, is in my opinion, a slap in the face of parents, children and teachers. It’s time to end what appears to many, to be a personal vendetta of Clarks against the teachers union.

I would suggest to the premier, that she invest just one week of her time in classrooms where the impact of this bill in action can be experienced first hand. I’m sure there would be no shortage of teachers and parents willing to volunteer their classroom…and Premier Clark might actually understand  the impact of sloppy, punitive legislation in action.


This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Premier’s meddling derailed respectful tone of current negotiations

This week,I welcomed Brent Stafford to the Duel as we take on the question : Is a 10-year deal with the teachers’ union good for B.C.?

This week, I’d like to welcome Brent Stafford to the Duel, and wish him the best of luck. This week we take on yet another one of Premier Christy Clark’s Fantasy Island solutions for the province. This time, it’s the proposed 10-year contract Clark wants for teachers, which has predictably surfaced again post-election.

Like many parents, I have experienced up close the impact of labour disputes between the teachers and employers. So have my children. I don’t agree with some of the tactics that have been used by teachers and the union in past disputes — in particular not filling out report cards, which is the only indicator many parents have of how their child is performing in school. Many people agree with me on that point, whether they are parents or not. Clearly it is our children who suffer when job action escalates.

Read Brent Stafford’s column

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation has historically been seen to work on an agenda that isn’t always supported by its own members. Recognizing that there had to be a better way to conduct bargaining and negotiations, teachers and the BC Public School Employers’ Association sat down and agreed upon a respectful framework to continue talks. It appeared to be going well — until Clark told the employers to toss out everything and push for a 10-year contract. It’s Clark’s way, or the highway, and it changes the current respectful tone of negotiations to one that’s clearly confrontational.

Read the rest of this week’s column, and vote for who you think shoud win at