These are troubled times in British Columbia and it is little if any solace that things are even worse elsewhere.
The current strike by B.C. teachers is not a good thing but really it is only a symptom of deeper and wider problems in both the public and private sectors and the whole society, and really the teachers deserve credit for being willing to invest $33 million (the value of their lost wages for three days) to draw more attention to the problems.
Probably no readers of this newsletter are unaware of the issues in dispute but it should be clear by now that the main issue is not teachers' pay but rather it is teaching and learning conditions in classrooms, which have been worsening for years or even decades and now have become intolerable, as the blog by Port Coquitlam teacher Cheryl Angst makes clear.
While Education Minister George Abbott this morning on Bill Good's show insists that almost all classrooms are capped at 30 students, what he "studiously" avoided admitting was that within those 30 students are too many horror stories of too many problem students disrupting the environment for the normal students because the school districts have not been receiving adequate funding to deal with changing needs.
Rather than invest in special programs for special-needs students, of which there is a wide range, the cash-starved provincial government since 2001 has been dumping them into normal classes and preventing the B.C. Teachers Federation from bargaining class size and composition issues, and now using the hammer of legislation to impose a politically-motivated net-zero mandate.
Yes there are other issues such as seniority trumping talent, and union protectionism preventing the ouster of bad teachers, but the basic problem here is that the Gordon Campbell Liberals badly mismanaged the province's finances and now there is not enough money to deal with such problems and the solution of the Christy Clark Liberals is to blame and demonize teachers, such as we heard recently when she repeatedly referred to the B.C. Teachers union even though she well knows their proper name is BCT Federation.
The real story here is that the B.C. Liberal Party governments have botched their opportunity to hold office and now to try to get re-elected they are resorting to ever more desperate and unethical strategies, such as blatantly lying about the finances in 2009 and such as in this case trying to manipulate the B.C. New Democratic Party MLAs into defending the demonized teachers' union (which is really what Bill 22 is mainly about).
Alas the main motivation of the Clark Liberals is not the best interests and well-being of the province and its people but instead it is their own personal interests, including power and money but also a maniacal desire to continue coverups of scandals such as the B.C. Rail sale and many others in which they and their backers are personally guilty.
We're getting some new insights into that motivation from the blogosphere's revelations that Clark used the services of an Indo-Canadian gangster convicted of attempted murder to sell memberships for her narrowly-successful leadership bid, which story only came out after said gangster was spotted by Liberal MLAs Dave Hayer and Kash Heed among the people invited into the Legislature by the Premier's Office staff to hear the recent budget speech.
Clark has since distanced herself from said gangster by claiming she didn't know him, which may be true, but that doesn't change the fact that she and her campaign supporters used dubious and unethical tactics to win the B.C. Liberal Party leadership in 2011 and thus make her Premier such as getting said gangster to get new members with PINs able to be used to vote for her, not to mention the information and allegations from blogger Alex Tsakumis that she has been prone to using such tactics all the way back to her tainted and overturned win of the SFU Student Council presidency many years ago, possibly even including the ouster of former B.C. Liberal Party leader Gordon Wilson in 1993 and the defeat of Wilson as leader of the B.C. NDP by Ujjal Dosanjh in February, 2000 (both of which involved busloads of non-anglophone Indo-Canadians).
Indeed Clark's days as Premier appear to be numbered and she may not even last to the end of this year because her colleagues increasingly are frustrated with her style of operations and continuing blunders, which included being a destructive force when she was Minister of Education and Deputy Premier in the early years of the Campbell regime and thus the author of many of the current-day problems in education, notably the illegal law (cct) which prevented the union from bargaining class size and learning conditions, not to mention her ostensibly peripheral role in the B.C. Rail sale scandal which unofficially caused her to resign from politics before she was caught up in it.
So after several years as a moderately successful talk show host she was recruited by influential backroomers such as Patrick Kinsella to run for the party leadership after Campbell had dirtied his own nest beyond repair and thereby maintain coverups of that and other scandals, which she has done.
Most recently she was so far inexplicably absent from an event Friday in Vancouver in which Telus Corp. announced $3 billion of investments including a $750-million office and residential complex and 1,300 jobs. Perhaps it related to the recent purge of staffers from the B.C. Liberal Party office.
But one of the worst scandals which no one will be able to cover up forever is the structural damage done to the B.C. government finances and the provincial economy by the Campbell Liberals' outrageously skewed fiscal priorities, which amounted to major tax cuts for large businesses and wealthy individuals which effectively knee-capped the provincial government's finances and forced present Finance Minister Kevin Falcon into presenting an severe austerity budget in order to suppress legitimate wage demands from the teachers and other public-sector unions, which strategy has included low-balling the revenue forecasts and using other tricks to hide cash so that it will be available for a pre-election spending splurge next year, as I detailed in previous issues of this newsletter.
How bad is it? Well just look at the crazy carbon tax, which is being levied unnecessarily against cash-strapped school districts and hospitals, the proceeds of which go in large part towards people and businesses that do not really need tax cuts.
Yes tax cuts can be useful strategies to stimulate investments and job creation or to ease burdens on low-income families but what the Liberals have used tax cuts for has been mainly to pay back influential players who donated big money to their election campaigns.
Tawdry is a good word for that and corrupt is another but one could argue that the best word for that is criminal.
As BCTF president Susan Lambert has said, "The government has tabled legislation that will make everything worse." That's true in education but it's also true in many other fields, and should not be allowed to continue any longer.
In my opinion Christy Clark should resign before she is ousted, not unlike the situation that faced former Social Credit premier Bill Vander Zalm back in 1990-91, or else those Liberal Party MLAs who still claim personal integrity should leave the caucus and sit as Independents, but this disgusting Machiavellian politicking by Clark and her backroom managers must end soon, one way or another.
For a detailed analysis of the unethical knee-capping of B.C.'s fiscal capacity, see the recent article by Will McMartin on the Tyee website
And for my detailed analysis of the follies in and around the carbon tax, see the Common Sense Canadian website
For a look at the unfunded liabilities hiding off-book in B.C.'s finances, check out Laila Yuile's recent blogs
And for the latest news about Christy Clark's leadership problems, follow Alex Tsakumis.
I'll have more to say later this week.John Twigg is an independent journalist based in Vancouver and specializing in politics, business and economics. He is a former long-time member of the Victoria Legislative Press Gallery, a former financial editor of the Regina Leader-Post, former press secretary to Premier David Barrett and a graduate of University of B.C. He was born and raised in West Vancouver and is descended from pioneer B.C. families.