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Are the NDP’s star rookies in danger of losing their seats?

Catherine Fife and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath celebrate their provincial by-election win with supporters in Kitchener-Waterloo, September 6, 2012. DAVE CHIDLEY/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Catherine Fife and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath celebrate their provincial by-election win with supporters in Kitchener-Waterloo, September 6, 2012. (DAVE CHIDLEY/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

In conversations about who the next Ontario NDP Leader after Andrea Horwath might be, the names Catherine Fife and Jagmeet Singh almost invariably come up.

It’s probably worth mentioning, then, that there are people suggesting both those MPPs – neither of whom has been at Queen’s Park very long – are at risk of losing their seats this election.

In the case of Ms. Fife, New Democrats themselves are acknowledging she’s in a tough fight to hold on to the Kitchener-Waterloo riding she won in a 2012 by-election. The former school-board chair has been a standout member of the NDP’s caucus since winning that race – among other things helping lead her party’s efforts to recruit other candidates. But her local profile and popularity won’t count for quite as much in a general election, and there’s at least some prospect of the Progressive Conservatives reclaiming the seat that Elizabeth Witmer long held for them previously.

Jagmeet Singh, the NDP MPP representing Bramalea-Gore-Malton, talks with members of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Malton on June 7, 2013. (FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Jagmeet Singh, the NDP MPP representing Bramalea-Gore-Malton, talks with members of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Malton on June 7, 2013. (FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

With Mr. Singh, it’s more the Liberals who are doing the speculating. His Bramalea-Gore-Malton seat should be safer than Ms. Fife’s, since the charismatic 35-year-old lawyer won it during the last general election and has been very visible since. But the Liberals seem to think that they’re cutting into the New Democrats’ Greater Toronto Area support to give them a legitimate chance of reclaiming  the only suburban riding Ms. Horwath’s party currently holds, and insist their internal polling backs that up.

Mr. Singh is such a force of nature that it’s frankly difficult to imagine him not winning again. But if he or Ms. Fife were to lose, it would be a big blow to the NDP – the sort that, if it were in the context of disappointing province-wide results, could ironically help trigger a leadership race.

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Filed under: Ontario Election

Back to school, back to dealing with school issues

With the drama of bargaining, picket lines and rallies finally in the past, teachers, parents and students can now turn their attention to returning to classes next week. That means all those back-to-school pointers and advice columns the rest of Canada read before Labour Day are suddenly relevant for readers in B.C. Here’s a sampling:

Resist the back-to-school overspending tyranny

A helpful personal finance column by Rob Carrick urges parents to mind their budgets by thinking twice before upgrading perfectly good technology, skipping a few extraneous items on school-supply lists and saying no to those buy-one-get-one-half-off-another sales.

Read the full article here.


 

How to help kids stay cool about back to school

Psychologist and author Sara Dimerman advises on preparing kids for expected anxieties at different school levels. For example:

Grade 1 is both exciting and anxiety-provoking. Your child is likely standing tall knowing that he has joined ranks of the older kids. However, he may also be apprehensive about taking on more responsibility and spending recess on a different playground. … Rest assured that these feelings and behaviours are normal and it’s a good idea to tell him so. Share that even teachers feel nervous before school begins again. Go for a walk around the exterior of the school and spend some time in the new playground.

Read the full article here.


 

The top three back-to-school stresses for teens

If you’re the parent of a teenager, here’s more advice to help you anticipate students’ stress, from columnist Anthony E. Wolf:

Talk to them. Let them know that you understand that the beginning of school can be stressful. It can seem a little strange, even overwhelming, getting back into a routine, but all kids feel this way. Reassure them that if they do feel apprehensive about it, they are not alone.

Read the full article here.


 

Kids’ snacks that make the grade

Growing kids need to refuel every two to three hours to keep their blood sugar (glucose) levels stable as sustained blood sugar means kids will have more energy to concentrate in class and participate in after school sports. The added calories from snacks provide an opportunity to boost your child’s intake of important nutrients like calcium, iron and zinc.

What kinds of snacks? Dietician and columnist Leslie Beck suggests things like edamame, trail mix and fresh fruit and yogurt.

Read the full article here.

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BCTF members ratify new six-year contract, ending B.C. teachers’ strike

BCTF President Jim Iker announcing ratification vote results on Thursday.

BCTF President Jim Iker announcing ratification vote results on Thursday.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation membership has voted 86 per cent in favour of a new contract, ending the teachers’ strike that has kept more than half-a-million students out of the classroom.

Of 31,741 ballots cast, 27,275 were in favour of the new six-year contract, BCTF president Jim Iker announced Thursday night. There are roughly 41,000 members in all.

“With the ratification of the new collective agreement, the strike and lockout are now over,” Mr. Iker said. “Teachers and students will be back in school on Monday.”

Mr. Iker said there was a “strong vote of support for the collective agreement” despite the fact the union did not get everything it needs.

“We all know that this deal isn’t perfect, but it does provide gains for teachers, it protects our charter rights, it increases support for our students,” he said.

“There will be more classroom and specialist teachers in schools to help our students; our teachers on call will get fair pay for a day’s work and all our members will get a salary increase.”

However, several teachers have said they are not happy with the new deal. (Read our story on that here.)

Education Minister Peter Fassbender issued the following statement after the BCTF’s announcement:

“We have one of the best public education systems in the world, and that’s in large part because we have such great teachers.

“We can now focus on the path forward. This long-term agreement is an historic opportunity to work together for students – to enhance their education experience and to support their achievements.”

Mr. Iker said no lost time will be made up, though former education minister George Abbott has suggested otherwise:

Meanwhile, Thursday’s turnout was higher than the past few ratification votes:

Find more in the story on our main site here.

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Scenes from teacher ratification votes across B.C.

From Andrea Woo:

Just spoke with five teachers outside the voting site in Vancouver and three of them voted against the tentative agreement. The two who voted for it did so grudgingly, saying they couldn’t afford to lose any more money on the picket lines — some have lost around $10,000 — and that they’re worried public perception will turn against them if they vote no. All of them are disappointed with the agreement, but feel it will pass. Several long-time teachers have told me that if they were just starting out today, they wouldn’t get into teaching.


 

Many local teachers’ associations set up information study sessions and voting meetings for teachers today, and tweets show throngs of teachers eager to participate in the process.

From Coquitlam:

From Saanich:

From Surrey:

From Vancouver:

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What to expect Thursday as B.C. teachers vote on the tentative agreement

 

Brentwood Bay Elementary teachers from left to right: Rhayna Archer, Fiona Mosher, Carmen Di Lucca, Jacqueline Jim and Aimee Lampard in Brentwood Bay, B.C., will be among the teachers voting Thursday on whether to ratify a tentative settlement  that would end the strike which began in June. (Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail)

Brentwood Bay Elementary teachers (from left to right) Rhayna Archer, Fiona Mosher, Carmen Di Lucca, Jacqueline Jim and Aimee Lampard in Brentwood Bay, B.C., will be among the teachers voting Thursday on whether to ratify a tentative settlement that would end the strike which began in June. (Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail)

B.C.’s 40,000 public-school teachers will cast their votes today on the collective agreement achieved by the union and the government after marathon bargaining sessions over the weekend. Results of the vote will be released at 9:30 p.m. in a news conference by BCTF president Jim Iker (streaming link here), and we’ll have them available in a story on our B.C. teachers’ strike topic page.

Study sessions are being held this morning for members so they can learn more about the proposed six-year deal and ask questions. Online, the union posted a one-page PDF entitled “10 reasons to vote yes” as commentators online debate the merits of the agreement. The proposed contract includes a 7.25 per cent salary increase, improvements in extended health benefits and the teaching-on-call rate, an education fund to address class size and composition issues, and money to address retroactive grievances.

The question being put to teachers is this:

Are you in favour of ratifying the agreement-in-committee reached on September 16, 2014?

The deal must also be ratified by the employer. According to a letter sent to parents in the Central Okanagan school district by superintendent Hugh Gloster, the province’s 60 school districts have until 3 p.m. Friday to complete their own ratification vote. If BCTF members ratify Thursday night, however, schools will be open Friday morning and teachers doing prep work will be on the payroll.

Reported elsewhere

Private schools are reporting an overall 5 per cent uptick in enrolment in B.C. over last year, a sign that some parents weren’t prepared to wait for public schools to open. Rates vary across the province based in part on independent schools’ capacity to accept new students, but history shows the public system may have lost many students for good. Says Peter Froese of the Federation of Independent School Associations of BC:

“In our experience, based on past labour disruptions in the public sector, we find that the families that have chosen independent schools in… our fixed structures — they tend to stay.”


While many questions about the school schedule will be worked out at a local level by school districts or even individual schools, there are mandated hours of instruction for public school students in B.C.:

Under the School Act’s school calendar regulation, school districts must offer the following minimum hours of instruction annually: 853 for kindergarten, 878 for grades 1 to 7, and 952 for grades 8 to 12.

With reports from Justine Hunter, Andrea Woo and The Canadian Press

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Could B.C. teachers end up voting no to the tentative deal?

As details of the tentative agreement between the teachers’s union and the government emerged Tuesday, the terms of the deal came under increased scrutiny, especially by teachers. Though it’s hard to tell how broad the support is for the ‘vote no’ movement, it has caused a lot of chatter online in the past 12 hours (UPDATE: See our full story on this subject). Here are two points of view as teachers prepare to vote on Thursday:

Argument for voting no, by Tara Ehrcke:

Staffroom Confidential

Argument for voting yes, by Sandy Garossino:

Should teachers accept the contract? (with tweets) · Sandy Garossino

What’s your opinion?

 

Photos: Darryl Dyck for The Globe and Mail (left), Rafal Gerszak for The Globe and Mail (right).

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