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Hudak: Gas plants need the sponsorship-scandal treatment

The Progressive Conservatives were in Ottawa Thursday repeating their call for a judicial inquiry into the gas plant cancellations in a bid to whip up interest in the scandal across the province.

PC Leader Tim Hudak has called for an inquiry into the billion-dollar project for gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga that were never built. But the party has had some difficulty pushing the issue outside of the Greater Toronto Area.

So in Ottawa, Mr. Hudak raised the spectre of the Gomery Commission, comparing the gas plants to the sponsorship scandal that brought the leaders of the federal Liberal party before a judicial inquiry.

“Not too far from here, Justice Gomery did his work,” Mr Hudak said. “… If we want to restore the faith of investors in Ontario in taxpayers in their government, we need a judicial inquiry just like the Gomery Commission when it comes to the gas plants scandal.”

To demonstrate the point, Mr. Hudak brought along a rock named Billy.

Short for Billionaire, the rock – a piece of the Mississauga plant, they say – is a prop the campaign uses to remind people of the impact of the scandal.

Mr. Hudak also used local concerns to drum up attention to the gas plants.

“A billion dollars out of your pocket, you didn’t get improvements at CHEO [Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario]. You didn’t get improvements to [Highway] 417 or uploading 174,” he said, referring to a plan to hand control of the regional highway from the city back to the province to handle maintenance costs and upgrades.

On the bustim hudak
Filed under: Ontario Election

What to expect Saturday and Sunday from the B.C. teachers’ strike

A sliver of optimism is visible this weekend as the two sides in the B.C. teachers’ strike remained silent Friday while lead negotiators met behind closed doors. Nevertheless, emotions continue to run high for parents, students and teachers, and there are several signs of that as the strike is almost certain to stretch into a 10th day of cancelled 2014-15 classes on Monday.

10 a.m. Sunday, Vancouver

A so-called “super rally” calling for arbitration is being organized at the Vancouver Art Gallery downtown for Sunday morning, plainly backing teachers. From the organizers:

This is going to be big. Organized by parents, backed by students. Arbitration is supported by public officials across the province, including the Vancouver City Mayor. We want to hear your voice in support of public education.

Attendees are being asked to wear red, and the rally will begin at the gallery’s north plaza. More details here.

5 p.m. Sunday, Surrey

A peaceful protest in support of public education will take place at Holland Park on Old Yale Rd., according to organizers.

Reported elsewhere

Raffi Cavoukian, the beloved children’s entertainer who has made no secret of his support for teachers and anger at the provincial government, wrote a blog post for the Huffington Post Friday detailing his position.

It pains me to conclude that my provincial government lacks heart, and it has its priorities backwards. It views public education as a costly burden, not an investment in kids, our future, and a requirement for enlightened culture.

Christy Clark Is Balancing the Budget at the Expense of Kids and Teachers

I’ve been reflecting on why the months-long dispute between the B.C. government and teachers has shaken me so. Why should I be this bothered about a labour dispute? Why am I so mad at Premier Christy Clark and Education Minister Peter Fassbender — aren’t there two sides to any story?


 

In a letter sent to The Globe and Mail this week, one teacher pulls no punches in his disdain for both sides but especially the union, and ends up supporting a legislated settlement:

Dear Editor:

For three months the teachers’ strike has seriously hurt students and parents, and sullied the image of the province. So a solution is long past due.

The BCTF is fighting an ideological, polarized battle against the government and has no intention of stopping its action, despite its futility, despite its cost to member teachers, despite its cost to students, despite its cost to public education (which it purports to defend).

Individual teachers cannot bring this strike action to an end. Article 1 of the BCTF Code of Ethics states: “The teacher acts in a manner not prejudicial to job actions or other collective strategies of her or his professional union.”

Parents are divided and busy making arrangements for their children, so their pressure, while appreciable, is not enough to end the strike.

So there is only one party left — the government. They have essential services law. The Minister of Labour can say the dispute threatens the health, safety, and welfare of people in the province, and especially students.

The ball is in the government’s court. Further inaction by Minister of Education Peter Fassbender is inexcusable and should cost him his job.

Jim McMurtry, public school teacher, Surrey

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Ontario teachers donate $100k to BCTF

Unionized teachers in Ontario have tossed another $100,000 into the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s hat to support striking teachers.

The Ontario Teachers’ Federation (OTF) and three affiliate members — the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation — announced the decision in a news release issued Friday.

“Speaking on behalf of 160,000 teachers in Ontario’s public education system, it is an honour to stand in solidarity with the BC teachers,” OTF President Rian McLaughlin said in the news release. “Their struggle is our struggle. The BC teachers have been in this conflict for over ten years and it is time for the BC Government to admit their mistakes.”

Earlier this week, various B.C. unions came together to give and loan the BCTF nearly $9-million. (Read our story on that here.) That money goes into a general hardship fund, from which teachers struggling financially can apply for interest-free loans. It’s unclear if this latest contribution will go into that same fund.

Last spring, a group of Ontario teachers’ unions donated $2-million, which helped pay for a fourth day of strike pay.

The average B.C. teacher has lost at least $6,000 since the start of the strike.

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What to expect Friday from the B.C. teachers’ strike: Rallies, and hope at the bargaining table?

As parents and students prepare for rallies at at least two Vancouver schools Friday, news reports tell us there was a meeting Thursday between B.C. government negotiator Peter Cameron, BCTF president Jim Iker and mediator Vince Ready, and another planned at an undisclosed location Friday.

8:15 a.m., Vancouver

Noon, Burnaby

On Thursday, a catering owner posted to Facebook about a difficult job he’d taken on the day before: difficult because he was confronted at a Maple Ridge civic anniversary event that included an appearance by B.C. Premier Christy Clark.

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Chart: Number of B.C. public service employees with contracts vs. number without

One reason the B.C. government refuses to go to arbitration with teachers is because it fears other public-sector unions would seek a comparable deal to whatever the BCTF is awarded — something an arbitrator would decide. And there are more than 160,000 public employees without contracts for the current bargaining cycle:

Contract status of B.C. public service employees

By number of employees (Total: 316,103)

SOURCE: B.C. Ministry of Finance (as of July 18, 2014)

From a balanced-budget perspective, there could be a larger burden than these numbers suggest. As Justine Hunter reports today, most of the collective agreements yet to be negotiated are by their nature more expensive: the ones for doctors, nurses and post-secondary educators.

B.C. government rigid as most expensive public-sector contracts yet to be inked

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B.C. Premier comments on teachers’ strike

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark listens during a gathering with cabinet ministers and First Nations leaders in Vancouver, on Thursday September 11, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark listens during a gathering with cabinet ministers and First Nations leaders in Vancouver, on Thursday September 11, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Premier Christy Clark had a media availability at a meeting of B.C. cabinet ministers and First Nations leaders moments ago and, not surprisingly, the questions quickly turned to the teachers’ strike.

A few of her remarks:

On rejecting binding arbitration:

I, as a leader, and the [B.C. Teachers' Federation] as leaders of their union, were elected, among other things, to negotiate agreements. I am not prepared to step away and shirk that responsibility by giving it to somebody else. I feel a duty to do this. In addition to that though, we know what binding arbitration would result in: higher taxes. So I have a duty to resolve the agreement in a way that’s fair and respectful for teachers and that’s fair for taxpayers across the province. It’s a pretty broad responsibility; difficult things to try and balance but I’m determined to do it.

On legislating teachers back to work:

My position on [ending the strike] hasn’t changed. I want to get a negotiated agreement; I intend to get one. I think as long as we keep our eyes focused on that goal, it will remain in our reach. The minute we take our eyes off that goal, I think it will begin to elude us. I think a negotiated agreement is good for the teachers’ union and I know it’s good for kids in the long-term in B.C.

On international students dropping out of B.C. schools and her upcoming (Oct. 9) trade mission to India:

I’m very hopeful that schools will be back – in fact I’m certain schools will be back – in session by the time I go to India. It’s a major, major source of international students for us potentially. [It's] the fastest growing middle class in the world and [does not have] enough educational facilities. They need to partner with B.C. to try and help their dreams come true in that country.

On the current level of anger and emotion in the labour dispute: 

I understand that for a lot of people, this is hitting them very personally; for teachers, hitting them in their pocketbook; for parents and students, hitting them in their education, concerned about their future. I want to get those kids and those teachers back into their classes. The only way we’ll do that is if we keep our emotions level and approach this as thoughtfully as we can. That’s really what’s incumbent on those of us who are the leaders on each side of the table, on the government’s side and on the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s side. I think we’re going to be able to do that. Despite some of the emotions, understandably, that we see in the public, and in the union membership, as long as the leaders decide we want to treat this thoughtfully and rationally, I believe we can get an agreement. I really do.

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