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.


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.

Check her record before you spin us a new one

This is a message for Premier Christy Clark’s spin doctors

We understand that you have a difficult task. Your client’s approval rating is at 31%, the third lowest amongst premiers in Canada. Her government is scandal-ridden. It’s going to be quite the battle to convince voters to give her another chance in May 2017.

But if you’re going to have any hope of success, our advice to you is to check her record before you roll out your next marketing ploy.

The “almost abused” story idea was brilliant in that it targeted a section of the electorate who are very vocal in their disapproval of your client: women who are parents and who are very active on social media.  Facebook Moms your industry calls us.

Because all women live with a constant fear of being attacked and could relate to a story about an attack, this was definitely a deft move. You knew that most people would miss the part of the story that revealed that there was no actual sex involved in the attack other than that the attacker was male.

We noticed this little detail because we remember a time during the teachers’ strike in 2014 when your client went on television to tell parents who had children in public schools that teachers were demanding unlimited massages in their negotiations with her government.

It turned out that that was not true.

When you prepped your client for that broadcast in 2014, the detail you missed was that she had already agreed with the nurses union about the benefits of massages. It was not what teachers had asked for; it was not what teachers were fighting for.

This boldfaced misrepresentation of the truth caught our attention not only because massages are one of our favourite gifts on Mothers’ Day, but because it was the first time we had a clear example of how convincingly your client can tell us that white is black.

We had missed her government’s shell game in 2002 when the massive cuts to education funding began, when they started telling us that they were providing more funding when it was actually less.

At the time we were too busy to notice the slick sleight of hand.  As you marketers know, we Facebook Moms juggle many jobs.

So when our children’s school supply lists got longer and longer, and the occasional fundraisers became more regular, we didn’t pay much attention, attributing that to changes in classroom activities.

But during the 2014 strike we had a very rude awakening. We learned that teachers had been spending a lot of their own money on classroom supplies. We learned that many students with special needs were not getting the support they needed. We learned about three-year waiting lists for psychological assessments. About libraries without librarians. About leaky roofs, mould, rats and asbestos at the schools our children attended.

We channelled our anger into action. We wrote letters to our MLAs, we signed petitions, we camped outside MLA’s offices, we protested in front of the Legislature, we begged your client to fully fund public education.

In response we got scripted speeches and a lot of bafflegab about billions of dollars. We were assured that our children were attending one of the best public education systems in the world.

We didn’t believe your client and her minions.

We believed what we saw with our own eyes in our children’s schools.

And so we organized ourselves.

We formed FACE.

We formed PAN, and PPEN.

We began to do our own research and recorded what we found.

When we uncovered the truth about public education funding, we began to demand answers. We made a lot of noise, loud enough for your client to begin to dribble out crumbs of funding through highly publicized media events.

We remained unimpressed.

Your client’s favourability was not increasing.

You had to do something to change that because there is less than a year before the next election.

And so, while massive media attention is being focused on sexual violence against women, you thought that your client could ride that wave of awareness with a story of her own.

But, before you advised her to make her story public, you should have checked her record.

If you had, you would have known that when she was Deputy Premier, her government cancelled all core funding to women’s services in the province. Cancelled it.

You would have known that when her government gutted Legal Aid funding it disproportionally affected women who were seeking justice in the courts.

You would have known that these two actions have resulted in thousands of women, who have actually (not almost)  experienced sexual violence, not having any access to counselling support or to justice.

On the day that your client made her disclosure, just one of the organizations that rely on fundraising and donations in their work to support women, had a waiting list of 200 women who needed counselling for the trauma that they had experienced. With only a skeleton staff, it will take WAVAW years before they can get through that list.

We know that there are thousands more women waiting.

To our astonishment, when the facts about the decimation of supports for women were revealed in responses to your client’s disclosure, she maintained that funding was not the issue, that it was more important that the “culture” be changed.

Did she mean the culture she was perpetuating by shaming women about what they wore?

Perhaps the culture that needs to be changed is one where a politician uses any means necessary to manipulate voters through media spin.

Before you organize your client’s next smoke and mirrors show, know this: while we Facebook Moms fight for the full restoration of public education funding, your client has now made us more fully aware of where else our focus should be.

Not exactly the result that you wanted, is it?

So, take our advice: check your client’s record before you spin us a new one.

Prison Reading

prison reading

My heart skipped a beat when I saw your face on the front page of the newspaper, my mind racing back to the day that photo was taken at school. Your smile is so brilliant. Your eyes have that mischievous look I remember well. You would use that smile to charm yourself out of trouble so often. But that smile won’t charm the warden when you join the prison population this week.

Many within that population have something in common with you. 77% of them had learning disabilities when they were at school.

When I first met you when you entered high school, I remember how hard you struggled to pay attention in class. You could not sit still! Your body wanted to move and so I let you leave the classroom whenever you needed to. But you could not do that in all your classes in high school where paying attention means sitting still.

I remember all those drawings you made instead of writing notes. The creatures you drew were fantastical, the products of a very creative mind. But for some reason, that mind could not make sense of what you read, no matter how hard you tried.

Your learning disability had been recognized by teachers while you were in elementary school but that was at the time when the new funding formula for school districts was starting to have an impact. With cuts to the number of school psychologists, waiting lists got longer and longer. And when choices had to be made between you and a student exhibiting violent behaviour in the classroom, your suspected reading disability was seen as less urgent. After all, you were funny and kind, not violent.

You were well-loved by your friends who helped you with your school work more than they should have. But they were also charmed by that smile and all the cartoons you drew. Your skills were always in demand whenever there were group projects that demanded creativity. That was something that you could do even if you could not write an essay.

With the help of your friends and your teachers who did what they could, you struggled through each year of high school, without any support, without an Education Assistant to help you, without a Learning Support teacher, without an IEP ( Individual Education Plan) which would have helped your teachers to know how best to help you.

Your parents too were at a loss with what to do. They could not afford the costs of having you assessed by a private psychologist, the only alternative to the long waiting lists in schools. They both had minimum wage jobs and tried the best they could for you and your siblings.

You seemed changed the last time I saw you when you were in Grade 11. You were waiting to see a Vice-Principal, after being caught smoking marijuana. Your eyes had lost their sparkle, and you only smiled ruefully in response to my question about why you had been doing drugs. Later, I wondered if it was a way you found to numb your frustration.

What else was numbed in you on your journey from student to armed robber? Was it a part of you that needed nurturing while you were still at school? Would your journey have been different if you had had the support you needed to learn? Could we have prevented your role as an armed robber if we could have prevented your becoming a school drop-out?

As a prisoner, taxpayers are going to spend $117 788 on you each year.

As a high school student, you were funded at $6900 per year, $988 less than the Canadian average

During the 2014 labour dispute, the government of Christy Clark maintained that funding students to the Canadian average was outside of the affordability zone for taxpayers. Could taxpayers have been spared having to pay $117 788 each year for your housing as an inmate if your school district had been able to provide the help you needed to learn to read and to write?

It’s a pathetic irony that you’ll likely get more help for your learning disability in prison than you ever received in school. But perhaps it will be in prison that you will finally be freed from the frustration you felt whenever you tried to read and write in school.

We know you can help


I cannot believe that everyone who voted for  Premier Christy Clark completely supports what she is doing to public education in British Columbia.

I cannot believe that there are no people of integrity and ethics within the BC Liberal party.

I cannot believe that all BC Liberals are ignorant followers of a leader whose views they do not question.

I cannot believe that all BC Liberals think it’s a good idea to consult with a corporation, Cisco Systems, instead of professional teachers, about what is best for children in schools.


I can believe is that there are BC Liberals who are economic conservatives but social progressives, people who believe in the importance of access to a good public education as critical to the strength of a democracy.

I can believe that there are many BC Liberals who have had teachers in their lives who made a significant positive contribution to the adults they became.

I can imagine that there are BC Liberals who are wondering how they can support teachers without leaving their political party.

In any fight for social or economic justice, it is those on the “inside” who can make a huge difference when they reach out to those on the “other side”.

In South Africa it was White people who worked with other White people and also with Black people who were critical to ending Apartheid.

It is men who talk to other men who can end the scourge of violence against women.

In Rwanda it is the Hutu women working together with Tutsi women who are continuing to rebuild their country.

Even in the world of finance, these conversations happen, as when billionaires not only tell other billionaires that massive economic inequality is not good for anyone, but who do something about bridging that gap.

Those kinds of conversations can happen here too. We would love to have conversations with people who voted for the BC Liberals in the last election but who are feeling squeamish and uncomfortable with what is happening in the courts, in our public schools.

We are appealing to BC Liberals of conscience, BC Liberals who walk with integrity, who uphold Canadian values of fairness and equity, to speak to your peers in the party. Speak to them about what you feel is at stake if public education continues to be underfunded and your leader continues her crash and burn attack on the BCTF that started 12 years ago.

Are you truly okay with school districts having to close school libraries? Are you okay with students in distress not having access to a counsellor? Is it fair that students who need support for their learning do not have a learning specialist teacher?

Is it what you wanted when you voted for your leader?

Do you really want a two-tier education system in the province where only those who can afford $18 000 per year tuition have access to small classes and full learning support? Can all BC Liberal supporters afford to put their children into private schools?

We know that you are shocked when you realize that a beginning teacher, after 5 years of post-secondary education, only makes $48 000 per year and that it takes that teacher 10 years to get to their maximum salary.

We understand why you would not have known this. Given what you are told on the news, it’s understandable that there are many aspects about the labour dispute with the teachers that you do not know about.

We understand that it is often confusing and frustrating to sort out the truth from all the rhetoric and posturing and sound bites. But we know that you have been trying to do that, to listen to teachers tell about their experiences in classrooms, how they can’t help all the students who need help.

We are asking you to help to ensure that all businesses, not just the LNG industry, have well-educated, skilled workers.

We are asking you to remember that the investment that pays the biggest longterm return for a company and for a country is the investment in the education of children.

We are asking you to do what you can to protect all that made us feel so proud to be Canadian two weeks ago on Canada Day.

We are asking you to help to keep our democracy strong, to keep Canada as a beacon of hope in the world.

We hope that you will help.

We know that you can.