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

Where is your outrage, citizens of BC?

http://imcreator.com/free/people/rebel
http://imcreator.com/free/people/rebel

Yesterday it felt good to be one of thousands marching in BC to challenge the misogynist rhetoric of a narcissistic president. It was cathartic to walk with so many whose protest was displayed on signs philosophic and poetic all around the planet, from Alaska to Antarctica.

But today, when I think about what is happening in our own province, I wonder when we will see thousands take to the streets to protest the egregious actions of the BC Liberal government and Christy Clark?

While big money gets to feast at her table, children with learning disabilities struggle to keep up with lessons in mouldy portables, waiting for the crumbs she was so “excited” to promise.

While 914 dead bodies pile up in morgues, she ignores the health crisis in our streets, refusing the common sense solutions suggested. 

While people are turned away from clinics and waiting in emergency rooms starts at 3 hours, she flits around the province meeting with billionaires who benefit from tax cuts.

While youth who have aged-out of care die alone on the street, and while teens in government care  “fall” out of windows in hotel rooms, she grins at more funding-by-photo-op events.

And lets never forget that there is an entire generation of students who were subjected to overcrowded classrooms and decreasing resources while, for 15 years, her government spent millions in attacks on the constitutional rights of teachers. 

This list could go on and on. There are over a 146 examples of the  BC Liberals’ callous disregard for ordinary citizens in this province.

But, where is the outrage?

2015-BC-Child-Poverty-Report-Card-Summary-FirstCall-Page2-2015-11-1
http://still1in5.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/2015-BC-Child-Poverty-Report-Card-WebSmall-FirstCall-2015-11.pdf

People around the planet are afraid that Trump will reverse all progress to mitigate the effects of climate change, while here in BC, alarm bells warning about increasing fossil fuel emissions with LNG are largely ignored.

Yesterday, parents around the world marched with their children, future citizens,  who will inherit the world we leave them, while here in BC the fact that one in five children lives in poverty seems to not be enough to demand more of a government whose “families first” campaign slogan rang hollow.

We seem to be dazzled by the ads promising us a world of opportunities while all around us the suffering of the sick, the poor, the disabled and the elderly at the hands of Christy Clark’s crew barely registers acknowledgement.

The seed for yesterday’s march was planted by Teresa Shook, a grandmother who refused to allow her despair about Trump’s election victory to lull her into apathy. She wrote on her Facebook page: I think we should march.

What words will it take to shake the citizens of BC out of their apathy?

The Essential Selfishness of School Choice

Brilliant analogy !

gadflyonthewallblog

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Say your friend Sheila invites you over to her house.

Sheila has just made a fresh pumpkin pie.

She offers you a slice.

You politely refuse, but she insists. She hands you the knife so you can take as big a piece as you like.

You start to cut and then ask, “Does it matter where I cut from?”

Sheila says, “No. Take whatever you want.”

You don’t like crust, so you cut a perfect triangle piece from the middle of the pie.

Sheila’s face reddens.

This wasn’t exactly what she meant, but what is she going to do? You took your slice, and now the rest of the pie is ruined. No one else can take a whole piece. Your choice has limited everyone else’s.

That’s what school choice does to public education.

It privileges the choice of some and limits the choices of others.

Advocates…

View original post 1,471 more words

After the win, counting the losses

She’s excited about our Supreme Court win. Premier Christy Clark, who as Minister of Education in 2002, introduced legislation that violated teachers’ constitutional rights, and set in motion 14 years of students’ suffering, is excited that the Supreme Court of Canada has said that she was wrong.

What I wish she would feel is remorse.

What I feel is grief.

My elation at hearing the news of the end of a very long struggle for teachers, was followed by anger and then sadness about all that has been lost over the past 14 years.

Because of the B.C. Liberal government’s legislation in 2002 and again in 2012,  thousands of students lost the opportunity to have a school psychologist assess their learning disabilities as well as the opportunity to have their learning needs supported by education assistants.

Thousands more did not have opportunities to learn the skills for a trade in a safe, well-equipped shop class or to learn science in an actual science classroom instead of a mouldy portable.

There were no opportunities for a generation of students to pursue interests in art or music when so many of these classes were cancelled in the pursuit of balanced budgets in school districts.

We will have no idea how many people could have been prevented from joining the 77% of the inmate population with learning disabilities if they had had the support they needed while still children in a public school.

We also will have no idea how many students with mental health issues could have been helped before they became one more statistic.

http://www.portlandtherapycenter.com/blog/helping-children-deal-with-grief-and-loss
http://www.portlandtherapycenter.com/

I won’t speak for the losses experienced by parents. I’m sure they will. What I do know is that when fundraising activities increased dramatically in an attempt to compensate for the drastic funding cuts, parents had to adjust their household budgets. They also found themselves purchasing more fundraiser chocolate, wrapping paper and calendars than they really needed. After more than a decade of family time spent on fundraising, I know they are exhausted but I wonder how they feel about Christy Clark blaming them for the legislation that created the situation?

As for us teachers, we were in the invidious position of having to pay for both sides of the battle to restore our rights. We paid for our defence through our union dues, and we also paid for the government’s attack on those rights through our taxes.

In addition, since 2002, we have lost significant amounts of salary whenever we engaged in actions to alert the public about what the government was doing to our students. During the most bitter of these in 2014, some of us lost our homes as a result of five weeks of holding the line for public education in this province.

So many losses.

None of them exciting.

Can you see the big picture?

Dear Journalists,
Two years ago we asked for help to unravel the connections we uncovered between multinational technology corporations and our B.C. government. We hoped that an investigative journalist could dig below the surface of the story of education in BC and help us to connect the dots.

Because we believe that public school classrooms are no place for the promotion of the private profits of corporations, for a long time we have been vocal in our resistance to the creep of corporations into our schools. Now we are soliciting your help because it seems that corporations have an ally in their quest: the B.C. Ministry of Education.

The Ministry’s sudden promotion of coding in schools took us by surprise. We could not understand why or how coding zipped up the priority list of what is needed in schools ahead of seismic upgrades and repairs to leaky roofs. We had not seen it mentioned anywhere in the roll-out of BC’s new curriculum documents. And we tried hard to understand how we could teach coding without computers even while we were assured by the Minister that we didn’t need computers for the task.

But our confusion has recently ended. We now see that computer coding is the key that will provide an open door for corporations to enter public school classrooms and access what they see as a most valuable commodity: our students, their future consumers.  

school-privatization-cartoon1

Not only will our 500 000 public school students provide a motherlode of information for marketers through the data-mining of their online behaviours, but the sale of necessary technology to school districts will provide corporations with billions of public funds.

A big slice of that $5.5 trillion pie.

Take a look at the following “dots” and see if you come up with the same picture that we do:

The Learning Partnership has multiple corporate partners/funders:

All of these groups joined previous Minister of Education Fassbender at the Wosk Forum on K-12 Education in January 2015.

Can you see why alarms are ringing for teachers and for parents when we notice so many corporate links to our public classrooms?

What we see is a pattern emerging that looks very familiar. It’s a pattern we’ve seen unfold in other countries where the project to  privatize public education is more advanced.

We have also seen multiple examples of the failure of Milton Friedman’s injunction to ignore the pedagogical and democratic ideals of public education in the pursuit of private profit siphoned from the public purse.

We hope that you in the media will prove us wrong, that you will show us that our public education system will not go down the same path to privatization as the deteriorating public education systems in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States.

Please investigate these links so that you can assure us that our children’s future is not being sold to the highest corporate bidder.

Respectfully,

Public School Teachers

(This post is the result of  a collaboration with fellow teacher, Bruce McCloy,  who provided most of the research.)