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Schooling the teachers


By the time their term is up four years from now, the B.C. Liberal Party will have made a lot of powerful enemies. Wielding an unprecedented majority in the Legislature, they have downsized the government workforce by a third, cut funding to hundreds of programs, overruled past legislation, overturned past judgements, reneged on assorted government contracts, and played an unflinching game of chicken with various public sector unions.

Premier Gordon Campbell is going to get the province back on its feet, even if it means knocking it down first.

Why? The main reason is to make the province more attractive to businesses that apparently need a ruthless government with no social conscience in order to thrive. Quality of life is evidently less a concern to these companies than lower taxes and the freedom to do what they want.

As much as many people hate this government, however, you have to admire how cold and unswervingly practical this government is. To trim the fat, it pays I guess you have to be lean and mean.

I believe they can balance the books in four years with this approach, and at the same time increase investment in the province and its resources.

At least I hope they can do it in four years, because if they continue to alienate voters at the current rate, they have about a snowball’s chance in hell of being re-elected for a second term.

I can think of about 45,000 people who will be casting their votes elsewhere – the teachers.

Before the teacher’s contract with the province ran out at the end of the summer, Campbell’s government passed legislation making education an "essential service," which makes it illegal for teachers to strike.

Stripped of that bargaining chip, but doubtful that the essential services designation would hold up in practice, the teachers boldly asked for a 34 per cent raise an smaller classes. They lowered that figure to 22 per cent, and during the latest round of negotiations, pared it down to 18 per cent.

Working overtime last weekend, the provincial government imposed a new contract on B.C.’s teachers that will increase wages by 7.5 per cent over three years. In another piece of legislation, the province set the responsibility of setting class sizes and workloads on the shoulders of our notoriously cash-strapped school boards.

The teachers walked out on Monday to protest these new laws, and were legislated back to work on Tuesday. The Premier then said that teachers who continue to strike would suffer the consequences, meaning they would likely be docked pay.