Firstly, thank you for being here. I have appreciated all the responses to my writing since I started this blog in April 2014 at a time when the relationship between public school teachers and the provincial government in British Columbia was quite fractured.
Between then and May 2017, my writing focus was mainly on concerns about public education in our province although I occasionally explored ideas about the education project itself.
Now that we have a new government, one that does not see public education as a burden on the public purse, I intend to focus a bit more on the “life” part of the “essays on education and on life” in the sub-title for this blog. I’m doing so because I am not only a teacher.
I am also a daughter of a mother who has dementia.
I am someone who lives in co-housing, continually learning what it means to live in community.
I am also quite concerned about climate change and the kind of future we are creating for our children.
And in all these spaces in my life, there are ideas to explore. I’d like to do that more.
But, I will also continue to use writing to untangle the questions that come with being a teacher of teens from whom I learn so much.
I hope you continue to read what I write because without your presence all this will be an empty echo.
If Christy Clark wins the provincial election on Tuesday, what shall I tell my students? When corruption and callous disregard for the marginalized can be so richly rewarded, what incentive do my students have for being good? When cheating does not preclude you from occupying the highest office in the province, why should they listen to my warnings about plagiarism?
What happens to our society when what we teach about ethics and citizenship inside our schools is not reflected in the reality outside our classrooms?
We’re all familiar with the adage that children learn what they live, that they don’t pay as much attention to what we say but they’re always watching what we do.
What are we doing, British Columbia?
Are we really going to reward 16 years of malgovernance on Tuesday?
My students will be graduating soon in a province that has the “worst-performing economy” for young people and some of the highest tuition fees in Canada. They’re more than likely to join the increasing numbers of post-secondary students using food banks. They’re also unlikely to be able to afford a home and will have to seriously consider whether they can afford to have a family, daycare costs being what they are.
And while they’re dealing with all that, they’ll also soon be responsible for the massive debt that the BC Liberals have accrued over the past 16 years to say nothing about the huge contractual obligations they’ll be saddled with, courtesy of Christy Clark’s pay-for-play politics.
Are we collectively going to say that that’s all okay on Tuesday 9th May?
When the NDP were last in power, we did not have young people leaving the province in mass numbers for a better life somewhere else. We did not wait 6 hours in emergency rooms. We did not pay tolls to cross bridges. And we did not have 3-year waits for psychometric assessments for students with special needs.
Imagine you and your family of 12 live in a home meant for a family of 5.
Imagine that you win a government grant that will allow you to build a bigger home.
But you can only get the money under certain conditions.
You will have to provide documented proof that your house is over-crowded by showing that every room, including the bathroom, the kitchen, and all the closets, are always in use, 24/7.
You will have to guarantee that none of the 12 family members will move out in the next 5 years.
And you will also have to guarantee that the new house will be ready for occupancy within 3 months despite the builders telling you that they need 9 months to build the home.
Given these conditions, would you believe that the government had any intention of actually providing the grant in the first place?
Well, imagine how teachers feel because this analogy describes how the Ministry of Education is going about implementing the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in at least two districts with overcrowded schools.
The Ministry says they’ll provide more classroom space in the form of portables but only if the District can prove the overcrowding by 28 April and also if the District can guarantee that the portables will be ready on 1 September.
They demand that all these conditions be met despite knowing full well that in order for portables to be ready by September, they should have been ordered by February this year.
Yes, the Ministry is complying with the Supreme Court ruling.
Just not in a way that will actually work for students in overcrowded classrooms.
The B.C. Liberals want voters to believe their promise of a future so bright they’ve got to wear shades, but all I can think about are the 331 children who have died in government care since Christy Clark was elected in 2013. There is certainly no bright future for them.
In the 2013 election we were promised “families first” but we soon discovered that it was only the families of the very wealthy, the ones who could afford $10 000 a plate dinners, whose concerns would be heard by the premier.
The newspaper wraparound election ads promise us a “strong” B.C. but on what foundation is the future of our province being built?
Conventional wisdom has it that a society’s future is predicated on the strengths, skills and knowledge of the youth but if we look at the way young people in this province have been treated by the B.C. Liberals since 2001, our future has a shaky foundation.
Unlike older generations who enjoyed steady employment, younger people will have to get used to a world of precarious employment: temporary, casual and seasonal work that make up the bulk of the jobs that the B.C. Liberals boast about.
And while they’re struggling to make a living, our younger generations will have to find a way to manage the burden of all the contractual obligations made by the B.C. Liberals when B.C. Hydro and I.C.B.C have been completed plundered in the cause of a “balanced budget”.
As if that’s not enough, they will also have to pay for the clean-up costs of environmental disasters, like the $40 000 000 for Mount Polley spill, since one of the advantages of those corporate donations is the deregulation that allows mining companies to siphon profits from our natural resources without concern for environmental destruction.
Sometimes I enjoy watching ads. I look forward to seeing Westjet’s latest Christmas surprise and I never tire of watching the Tangerine ad that honours difficult work days. I especially enjoyed the pro-diversity Superbowl ads this year from AirBnB, Coco Cola, Budweiser and 84Lumber. Their messages pushed against rising xenophobia and instead promoted human decency, the idea of one human family, the concept of “we”.
There’s another ad on regular repeat on our screens these days that also attempts to evoke a common sense of purpose: the B.C. Liberal government “Our Opportunity is Here” ad. This is not an ad I enjoy watching at all.
Launched in late November last year, the ad campaign is supposed to be about informing citizens about government services and programs.
But I wonder if citizens see the irony in the launching of a campaign focused on government services and programs just weeks after the Supreme Court of Canada rebuked the B.C. Liberals for cheating a generation of students out of critically important services they needed for their education?
It takes a significant depth of cynicism to launch a $15 000 000 advertising campaign weeks after your government has been censured for actions that resulted in the removal of $4 billion in funding for education, a critically important government program.
But what is particularly galling is Premier Clark’s professed “excitement” at having the opportunity to invest in education that the ruling supposedly gave her, the same opportunity she discarded when, as Minister of Education, she introduced the legislation that the Supreme Court found in violation of the constitutional rights of teachers.
Piles of discarded opportunities dot the landscape of the BC Liberal’s legacy.
But some of the discarded opportunities cannot be calculated in dollars: these are the lost opportunities to have made a difference to an entire generation of students with learning disabilities, and students with mental health needs, while they struggled to keep up in overcrowded, under-resourced schools.
It’s for reasons like these that I see something different whenever those bright shiny “opportunity” ads flash on my TV screen.
Everyone working two or three jobs at minimum wage because one is not enough to keep up with the rising cost of living.
Everyone on social assistance trying to survive on $610 per month.
All first responders burnt out from dealing with the healthcare crisis in the streets.
Everyone who has spent 5 hours in an emergency waiting room.
Everyone disgusted by the “pay for play” $10 000/plate dinners.
Everyone distraught by the environmental destruction from Mount Polley, anxious about the threat of burst pipelines, angry at the obscenity of the grizzly bear hunt, frustrated with the state of BC Parks.
Everyone annoyed by the hidden taxes in BC Hydro increases, MSP fees, ICBC rates.
Imagine a province where people, not profiteering, come first. Where politicians actually behave like public servants, not sycophants for corporations.
Where politicians spend more than 30 days a year in the Legislature.
Imagine a province where foreign billionaires can’t buy political favours.
Imagine a province with a Poverty Reduction Plan.
With $15/hour minimum wage.
With $10/day daycare
With public education funded to the Canadian average.
Years ago I used to lament all the times I had stayed late at work while my daughter fended for herself at home. I couldn’t forgive myself for the times I had yelled when I should have just taken a deep breath. I still cringe when I remember how I didn’t recognize how much she was struggling with the changes in her life. I was definitely not a perfect parent.
But I came to realize that I was a good enough one.
Everything I did must have been good enough because she’s turned out perfectly fine after all.
I’m thinking a lot about the concept of “good enough” these days in the lead up to the election in May. After 16 years of a government that focused on slashing social services and enriching the already rich, I’d love nothing more than a new government to right all those wrongs, to put people before profit, to restore the threads of our shredded social safety net and to do all that it possibly can to protect our air, land and water from pollution and desecration.
I want a government that prioritizes all the issues that I think are important.
But I know that I’m going to have to settle for a good enough one.
I used to vote for the Green Party and the NDP alternately. I voted Green when two friends ran provincially and federally for office at a time when the evidence about human-made climate change was mounting. Voting for a party that put the environment first seemed logical given the fact that without a liveable environment, all other issues are moot.
When other friends raised questions about the social and economic policies of Green candidates, I ignored them. I didn’t want to hear that a party that would protect the environment had any flaws in its platform.
And then came the attacks by the Minister of Education on the Vancouver School board and I took note of how the Green Party member on the board responded. How she sided with those who bought into the Minister’s vilification of board members.
These days social media is abuzz with prognostications about the election in May. There are all kinds of predictions about how voting for the Green Party is really a vote for four more years of the BC Liberals. There are also lots of vehement rebuttals of this argument but, given that some ridings were won by the BC Liberals with just a few hundred votes in 2013, it’s hard not to consider the impact of a Green Party vote.
And so I’m going to vote for the BCNDP, not because they’re the perfect party, and not because I expect them to undo 16 years of BC Liberal rule anytime soon, or even that they will work right away on my personal top priorities.
I’m going to vote for them because they’re a team of good enough politicians who I expect to do the very best they can given the massive provincial debt they will inherit from the BC Liberals.
And I expect that when they can do better, they will.
I came to Canada the last time the NDP was in government in BC and I watched in fascination the unfolding on television of Glen Clark’s resignation over a deck.
If the same standards of intolerance for malfeasance were applied to the BC Liberals today, Christy Clark should have resigned when the first reports of the deaths of children in government care began to surface. She should have resigned when the lies about the health care researchers were revealed. She should have resigned when the New York Times’s revelations about her “pay for play” finally forced local media to look at our “wild west” of electioneering. And she certainly should have resigned last week when she was caught in a Trump-like lie about hacking.
It would be a challenge to make a credible argument that Christy Clark and the BC Liberals are good enough for BC by any measure, including fiscal management. The BC Liberal record is riddled with fiscal fumbling and a failure to be anything even close to “transparent“.
On the 10th May, I hope to be waking up to a new day in B.C. with a ‘good enough for now’ government working hard to be better at governing this province than the BC Liberals ever were.