It appears the B.C. Teachers Federation strike may end soon.
It is easy to blame the provincial government, or the union for the toll this labour dispute has had on both students and parents. However, the real architect of this unmitigated disaster for students and parents is former premier Gordon Campbell.
Policies enacted during his government’s first term, when he had a 75-seat majority in the provincial legislature, led directly to this situation.
The BCTF likes to blame Premier Christy Clark, who for much of the Campbell government’s first term was education minister. However, she was not the developer of education policy. Campbell, a former teacher, was. He was well-known to be a micro-manager, and he had pronounced views on what was wrong with the education system and how best to fix it.
The BC Liberals’ “New Era” campaign document, which they brandished as they went into the 2001 election, states that they wanted “excellence in education.” It stated the following: “The NDP’s rigid ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to education has hurt students, forced schools to cut services and diverted program funding to government-imposed labour contracts.”
The “government-imposed labour contracts” referred to is a contract the BCTF brokered with the province under the Glen Clark NDP government. That contract contained fixed class sizes, and was imposed on school districts against their will.
Campbell decided the contract had to be changed. So his government removed portions of it unilaterally, taking out class size limits.
That is the contract that Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin twice ruled was illegally altered by the government. She said the province acted illegally in its unilateral actions, breaking a legal contract, and called on the government to come up with solutions. The government is appealing her latest decision. Given the contract-breaking is unconstitutional, it is time to acknowledge that the Campbell government went too far.
The provincial government would be far better off to come to an agreement with the BCTF on class size and composition and drop its appeal of Griffin’s decision.
There must be a movement away from the nastiness between the two sides which has reached a zenith in this dispute.