Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail recently wrote an op-ed entitled “ B.C. Teachers Go Back to War.” (Globe and Mail , Feb. 5th. I eagerly read it, having always enjoyed Gary Mason’s stuff and, as a retired public school Principal on a bloated public pension, (which is apparently ruining the Canadian economy), I’m still interested in the travails of B.C. education.
But I finished the article feeling as if I had just read a column delineating General Custer’s gross inhumanity while placing equal blame on the Indians.
The column contains a good chronology and analysis of twelve years of questionable bargaining practices by the government and its team.
Mr. Mason explains the government’s contract-stripping legislation in 2002 and 2012; both ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. In addition, he clearly explains how Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin judged that Government bargaining strategy had been to goad teachers to strike in order to drum up public and political support for back to work legislation.
He also lucidly explains why teachers have never trusted the Liberal government and how they have proven unworthy of trust in the future. He correctly points out that the government’s main bargaining goal “ten years of labour peace” given their behaviour, is now “laughable.”
One would think that having so completely impeached the government’s behaviour in bargaining with educators that Mr. Mason might be willing to conclude that B.C.’s twelve-year “battle” in education was caused by the unconstitutional, dishonest, and unethical behaviour of the government. The inescapable conclusion of Mr. Mason’s facts is that there wasn’t a twelve-year battle in education, but a twelve-year, one sided, drubbing.
That’s what his article proved; but it wasn’t what his article said.
Not content to indict the government’s behaviour in bargaining with teachers, Mr. Mason, felt it necessary to “tell the other side” of the story; how the B.C.T.F. is equally culpable in the education “battle”. He offered considerably fewer facts to substantiate this part of the piece.
He says that for years, teachers were partially responsible for “ utter intransigence at the bargaining table.” One could be forgiven for thinking that it’s difficult not to be partially intransigent when one is offered zero, zero, and zero, or legislated back to work, or goaded into strike action. In fact, educators did accept contracts totaling 8 years; the five-year “Olympics” labour piece deal, 2006 until 2011 (for less than the cost of living), and of course, net zero for 2011, 2012, and 2013, only accepted in order to avoid punitive back to work legislation: hardly intransigent.
Mr. Mason also says that the B.C.T.F. has been a proxy for the N.D.P. for years. Is it surprising that educators might tend not to support B.C.Liberals , given the treatment they have received by successive Liberal governments; treatment that both the Supreme Court and Mr. Mason outline in such damning detail?
Mr. Mason then indicts the B.C.T.F. for saying that it would take hiring 6,600 teachers to return B.C to the average Canadian student teacher ratio.
“Where does all this money come from?” he says, implying that teachers are somehow responsible for the deterioration of B.C.’s public education system. I’m sure Mr. Mason was just as vigilant during the twelve years of education bleed – “ hey, where are all these cut jobs going to”?
And what kind of a title is “B.C. Teachers Go Back To War”? Is that what we are to glean from a piece whose factual information not only indicts the government’s behaviour but simultaneously explains teacher resistance over the years.
Gary Mason doesn’t usually have a blind spot on issues; he does on education.
He shows it with statements such as, “ Jim Iker… doesn’t seem like a hardened idealogue, there to push one agenda and one agenda only: complete control over all things education in B.C.” That’s anger, and yellow journalism.
Mr. Mason directs his acrimony towards the B.C.T.F. not teachers, a device used to great affect by those who like to allow people a target other than good old Mrs. McGilicuddy the grade six teacher; it’s the evil union not teachers who are unreasonable.
And he throws in the mandatory “pox on both your houses” statement – another anti- teacher cliché designed to establish teacher culpability;
“… and as usual, it will be kids and parents caught in the crossfire, voiceless…”.
But as Mr. Mason so aptly explains, there was no crossfire – he and the Supreme Court prove unequivocally that there was only one side shooting. The other “side” was alternating between ducking for cover and capitulating.
While Mr. Mason’s article contains solid factual information about government’s culpability for twelve years of discord in public education, it is spectacularly disappointing that Gary Mason, despite what he himself proves, still can’t bring himself to overcome his anti – teacher sentiments and identify, without equivocation, the only court identified villain of the piece.