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Monday 26 May 2014

Today's debate at the legislative assembly - Oral Question on #BCED

You can also watch the QP here: Question Period



MONDAY, MAY 26, 2014
Afternoon Sitting

Oral Questions

J. Horgan: Well, we've had 12 years of B.C. Liberal meddling in negotiations with teachers, with trustees, with support workers. We've had 12 years of confusion. You could call it a generational confusion, because the kids that were in grade 1 in 2002, when the then minister or the current Premier capriciously ripped out class size and class competition language from a collective bargaining agreement and then was told by the courts to renegotiate that position…. A whole generation of kids has gone from grade 1 to graduation this coming month with uncertainty and unease as a result of the actions of this government — not one Supreme Court ruling, but two.

My question is to the Minister of Education. He has said: "The class-size issue is an oxymoron as far as I'm concerned" — we can debate the grammar of that — "because all the research in the world says class size does not determine outcomes."

I would disagree with that and so would thousands of other scholars. But instead of trying to explain when he had time to read all the research in the world, my question is: did he have time to read the convoluted explanation as to why we're locking people out this week when we should be at the bargaining table negotiating a fair collective agreement?

Hon. P. Fassbender: I appreciate the question from the Leader of the Opposition. I will say this. I think if his facts weren't on an Etch a Sketch, when he flips it over and it disappears, then maybe he could stay on track. I'm going to try and help the Leader of the Opposition and the members opposite. I'm going to try and help you understand the reality of what we have done and what we are doing.

This government is committed to negotiated settlements. If you look at our track record, we have been working very hard with the public sector to find negotiated settlements — to work together with trade unions — that respect their rights and also respect the rights of taxpayers in an economic climate that requires some tough decisions.

But it is not this government that initiated this current round of dispute. It is the BCTF that started limited strike action. It is the BCTF that ramped it up this week to rotating walkouts throughout the province. This government, since June, since we were elected, was prepared to sit at the negotiating table every single day to find a negotiated settlement. We are still committed to doing that. We are prepared to meet around the clock, through the summer, to find a negotiated settlement that respects the rights of teachers, of students, of parents, of other labour unions in this province. That is our commitment. That is our goal, because long-term stability is what is important in our education system.

Madame Speaker: Recognizing the Leader of the Opposition on a supplemental.

J. Horgan: As tempting as it is to talk about mechanical bulls and by-products, I think I'll just try and focus in on the minister's comment about the track record of the B.C. Liberals — not one but two examples that went to the Supreme Court and found that the government had contravened the chartered rights of a group of citizens in British Columbia. Not once; twice.

What did they learn from that? They learned more provocation, more disruption, more confusion. Let's be clear. I love to do that. This is what we hear from the Vancouver District Parent Advisory Council: "Everybody is confused." That strikes me as not a transparent approach. It's a confusing approach.
Will there be graduation ceremonies? Will we be marking exams? It took five pages in a letter from the chief negotiator, and I'm still not clear. I wasn't reading all of the information in the world, but maybe I could ask the minister…. This is a comment from the Vancouver District PAC association. This is all the PACs in Vancouver.


J. Horgan: Oh, I know that the minister is really concerned about this, so keep your mechanical bull to yourself for a moment, and we'll focus on this: "Parents are more willing to adapt to a one-day schedule change than they are to accept the long-term damage the provincial government is inflicting on the public education system in this province." Long-term damage.

My question is, to the minister: could he try and interpret for the people of British Columbia just what Peter Cameron is doing with the people of this province, and most importantly, the kids that are not in classrooms because of your provocation?

Hon. P. Fassbender: I am more than prepared to ride the wave of misinformation that is coming from the members opposite about what our intent was and what it has been. It is very clear. Mr. Cameron last week clarified exactly why we had to take the steps we did in response to the decisions that were made by the teachers union moving forward. But I would ask the members opposite: where was your concern over a year ago when we had almost a year of limited strike action while we were trying to negotiate a settlement? Where was your concern then when that happened?

Where were the members across the way? Where was their concern a week ago when the BCTF was initiating strike action? Where was the concern then? All I can say, and I say this with all sincerity…. There are none of us that want to see disruption in students' lives, in the lives of their parents and their communities, in the lives of the teachers. We are clearly still at the table, willing to negotiate, asking for a response that is measured and appropriate for everyone in this province.

First and foremost, stability has been our goal. It'll continue to be our goal, and we'll continue to negotiate that.

J. Horgan: A 12-year record of destabilizing public education. A child who started in grade 1 in 2002 has had 12 years of confusion as the result of this government's policies.


Madame Speaker: Members. The Chair needs to hear the answer and the question.

J. Horgan: Thank you very much, hon. Chair.

My question is to the "Let's be clear" Minister of Education. You've been provoking disruptions in the education system for 12 years. The court has found twice — not once; twice — that you deliberately provoked action so that you could take more pieces of a collective agreement off the table.
What steps will the minister take to ensure that this last month of public education for those kids who were disrupted in 2002 by the then minister, the current Premier…? What steps are you going to do to make those next 30 days an enjoyable experience rather than a chaotic one that rests right at your feet?

Hon. P. Fassbender: I think the Leader of the Opposition, as I said, has selective memory when it comes to the facts.

The facts are Madame Speaker…. We've had a decade of unprecedented labour peace in this province. Another fact for the Leader of the Opposition: just last week or the week before last, we signed another tentative agreement with the HEU that was within the framework. That was a five-year agreement.
I do not believe that even the members of the opposition, who have children and grandchildren, don't want what we want on this side of the House. That is stability, a focus on learning outcomes, a focus on moving forward in transforming our education system to meet the future of this country and this province.
We have learning outcomes. We have learning outcomes that lead the world, that show that we are delivering results. Yes, Madame Speaker, it's absolutely through the hard work of the teachers, who also deserve a fair and negotiated settlement, not labour disruption initiated by their own union.


R. Fleming: It's déjà vu all over again, Madame Speaker, with these guys. This government has a unique ability to insult the province's teachers.

Last week the Premier said she would resolve bargaining by locking everyone in a room until they'd get a deal. Good. But then she look to the airwaves mere hours later and said teachers are only motivated by greed. She told a radio station that for teachers: "It's all about money. It's never about the quality of education."

Wow. I thought it was this government that wouldn't let bargaining talk about class size and composition issues on the table in this dispute. Can the Education Minister describe how the Premier insulting teachers and then locking kids out from their lunchtime activities and extracurricular activities can in any way help create…?


Madame Speaker: Members.

R. Fleming: Can the minister describe how the Premier's sum total of her statements on teachers last week in any way helps this week in getting us closer to a settlement to achieve trust and respect at the bargaining table so that our schools in British Columbia are stable and secure?

Hon. P. Fassbender: I appreciate that the critic for the opposition is again taking facts and twisting them to their purpose.

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