What shall I tell my students?

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?

https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2015/11/10/Christy-Clark-Ghostly-Government/

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?

The BC Liberals inherited a surplus when they won the election in 2001. A surplus. This may be shocking to learn given the massive amount of disinformation about the NDP’s governance last century.

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.

Schools had libraries and librarians. People with disabilities had bus passes. Frail seniors in nursing homes did not wait hours to go to the toilet. No one died after waiting for help in a hospital emergency room.

This does not have to be so. We can be so much better.

For the sake of my students, please vote for a future they can believe in, one that gives them hope for a better B.C.

Let’s uninstall the malgovernance of Christy Clark

Parsimonious. That’s the word John Horgan used to describe the pattern of education funding over the past 16 years during a two hour discussion he had with a group of teachers yesterday.

If he had not already impressed us with his passion and genuine concern, his intellect and ability to articulate complex ideas would have sealed the deal.

It was so refreshing to have a conversation with a political leader who speaks in sentences that make sense, not in sound bites filled with lies and obfuscations.

It was enlightening to watch him be self-deprecating and witty while at the same time serious about the huge task he would have to turn around 16 years of malgovernance.

Like the malware that renders computers inoperable, Christy Clark’s governance is like a virus that has afflicted this province for too long.

John Horgan is the antidote we’ve been waiting for.

Portable Classrooms Catch 22

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.

http://www.southnewtoncommunity.com/uploads/2/1/2/0/2120305/portable-classrooms-at-tamanawis-secondary-school-in-surrey.jpeg?419

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.

For more details about this travesty, please read this piece by Laura Barker, First Vice President of the Surrey Teachers Association.

Whose future is bright?

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.

Families who could not afford daycare were not heard.

Families forced to choose between paying rent or buying food were ignored.

Families trying to survive on minimum wage did not factor into the premier’s concerns.

For whom is the premier promising a bright future?

Certainly not the children with learning disabilities who struggled to learn in overcrowded classrooms, the casualties of 15 years of deliberate defunding of public education.

Certainly not adults wanting to complete their high school education or those in post-secondary institutions who are increasingly using food banks to cope with high tuition fees.

Perhaps the bright future is only for students in private schools that have enjoyed a 66% increase in government funding since 2005?

The newspaper wraparound election ads promise us a “strong” B.C. but on what foundation is the future of our province being built?

The Mount Polley Spill. Image from THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

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.

Cracks in our future foundation are already evident with a new report revealing that we have the worst economy in the country for young people.

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.

The more I think about it, a future under the B.C. Liberals is only bright if you happen to be a corporation, one of the many whose donations made international news.

If you can’t afford the $10 000 a plate dinners, the B.C. Liberals have little to offer you besides more of what we’ve been subjected to since 2001: increasing poverty, increasing housing costs, increasing deaths while waiting for ambulances, increasingly longer waits to see medical specialists, increasing deaths while waiting in hospital emergency rooms, increasing deaths of children in government care.

What the B.C. Liberals offer is so bleak that accepting their promises would be like paying for “protection” from the very mob who have already destroyed everything.

A decimated social safety net, a huge debt burden, and no viable plan to mitigate climate change  portends a future that is anything but bright for B.C. under Christy Clark’s leadership.

Our Opportunity is Here

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.

Some of these discarded opportunities have dollar figures attached to them: the $3.02 billion that we lose by shipping raw logs out of the province; the billions we lose in revenue each year because the royalty we collect for our natural gas resource is almost negligible.

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.

Some discarded opportunities are simply heartbreaking as when the Ministry of Children and Families prioritizes the balancing of their budget above saving the lives of the 120 children who died in government care last year alone.

It’s for reasons like these that I see something different whenever those bright shiny “opportunity” ads flash on my TV screen.

http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/home/featured-services/featured-services-language/english

OUR

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.

OPPORTUNITY

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.

HERE

Early voting begins on 29 April.

OUR OPPORTUNITY IS HERE

The B.C. NDP: ‘Good Enough’ to do better than B.C. Liberals ever did

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.

john_horgan_bc_ndp

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.

Later I started to notice how often Andrew Weaver supports the BC Liberals and Christy Clark, and how much time he spends attacking John Horgan.

Given Christy Clark’s political record since 2001, starting with the gutting of all social service budgets when she was Deputy Premier and her government’s tarnished environmental stewardship reputation, I find it difficult to understand why Horgan is the target of Weaver’s attacks.

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.

Dear Minister De Jong

Dear Minister De Jong,

Thank you for your voicemail message expressing your regret that I was not home to share with you my priorities for a balanced budget. Perhaps it was a good thing that I was not available for your call because I have a feeling you don’t really want to hear what I have to say about your government’s fiscal management record.

Firstly, I don’t think we could even agree about the topic of our conversation since I see a balanced budget as an oxymoron, like fresh-frozen or pretty-ugly. A budget is a forecast, not a fixed entity. It’s a projection that is at best an estimation of what spending will be.

Remember when you budgeted $63 million for fighting forest fires in 2015 but ended up spending $198 million instead? Didn’t that “unbalance” your budget? I noticed the “unbalanced budget” did not end the world as we know it, for some reason.

Secondly, for a political party that continually boasts about its fiscal management, you have a really shoddy record when it comes to taking care of our public purse. How could good fiscal managers have ballooned the debt by 45%? What did the citizens of BC get for the extra $20 billion that’s been added to the debt since 2011?

http://bit.ly/2lw4emf
http://bit.ly/2lw4emf

I know what corporations have received: tax cuts that they don’t need because they can already defer the payment of their taxes, hide their money in tax havens, and use tax loopholes to avoid paying taxes altogether. So they don’t really need your help, do they?

Come to think of it, I actually do know what the citizens of BC got for the tax cuts: a shift to hidden taxes with increases in BC Hydro, ICBC and MSP rates, and more tolls to pay for crossing bridges on the way to work.

We also got longer waits for ambulances. We were turned away from medical clinics. We had to find money to spend on tutors for our children who were not getting learning support in overcrowded classrooms, courtesy of your gutting of public education funding.

Would a good fiscal manager have spent money  on lawyers for a 15-year fight over teachers’ constitutional rights, a fight that your government knew it would not win?

There are many examples that clearly show your government’s fiscal fumbling but I think the most perfect example of this is the recent car windshield repair issue.

When your party took power in 2001 you scrapped the NDP policy that ensured that ICBC would pay for windshields to be repaired.  Your BC Liberal government only wanted to pay for windshield replacements. And now, 15 years later, you discover that your policy actually cost more money than the NDP policy did.

I suspect that if we took a close look at the budgets of all BC government ministries, we would find multiple examples of the “windshields” that could have been “repaired” for a fraction of the cost of “replacement”.

Take the Ministry of Children and Family Development, for example. I’m sure a forensic audit of the ministry would reveal a lot of cracks that, had they been repaired, as Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond suggested in 92 reports over 10 years,  the kind of calamities that no child should ever have to endure, could have been prevented.

But, the top priority in Minister Stephanie Cadieux’s 2015 mandate letter is to balance her budget.

When 120 children die while in government care and more than 740 receive critical injuries, I hope you can understand why what you see as a balanced budget, I see as a death sentence.

The moment you can explain how a balanced budget can prevent another Paige dying on the streets, then I would love to have a conversation with you about budgets and priorities.

Sincerely,

A. Taxpayer-Citizen