Christy Clark's battle with teachers is personal, argues educator

Premier Christy Clark - Mychaylo Prystupa
Premier Christy Clark at press conference Wednesday on the teacher strike. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

Premier Clark’s fight with BC teachers is a personal battle. Clark has waged an ideological battle with teachers that threatens to bring down one of the top public education systems in the world.

This is not the first time that Clark has attempted to “shift the balance of control back.” As a university student in 1988 Clark became the internal relations officer at SFU and immediately went to battle with the unionized staff of the student society. She won, claiming to want to “shift the balance of control back.” After becoming student body president in 1989 she was disqualified for not following campaign rules.

In 2001, as Education Minister in the Campbell government, she stripped the teacher’s collective agreement of class size and composition language, a move she was told was not legal; advice she did not listen to. By the time she had become Premier, the first of two court cases based on her actions had been won by the BCTF. The government, under her leadership, was told to rectify the guilty actions within a year. The government ignored the request of the court. The government did not appeal.

A short lived three day strike in 2011 ended up in legislation, Bill 22, which was again challenged in court. BC Supreme Court Justice Griffin found the government guilty of taking away the teacher’s charter rights, bargaining in bad faith and plotting to provoke a strike for political gain. They were ordered to restore 2002 class size and composition levels, bargain in good faith and fined the maximum of $2 million.

The court had found the Clark government guilty a second time. At Clark’s request and taxpayer expense, the government sought and received a Stay in the proceedings. They did not argue the legality of the court decision but that the money that had been taken away from BC’s most vulnerable children was too expensive for BC Taxpayers to return. The appeal will be heard in October.

When BCTF tried to enter into constructive negotiations with BCPSEA, and it looked like it would work, Clark fired the whole Board and replaced it with one executive. Talks with the teachers immediately took a nasty turn and returned to dysfunction.

To further complicate the matter Clark introduced her own ideas without public consultation in the BC Ed Plan and the BC White Paper on Education, the latter demanding teachers accept a 10 year term, reduced security and a plethora of other changes to the system.

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