Friday, May 1, 2015


First of all, let me ask you, 'How long do donkeys live?'
Secondly, I point out that since 2002 when Premier Christy Clark was the minister of education, she has been a polarizing personality in the continuing acrimony between government and B.C. teachers.

I repeat the question. 'How long do donkeys live?'
The BC Teachers Federation may want to research the answer to that question before they begin negotiations on a new contract in six years. The answer will generate either hope or despair. 

In 2002, Clark as Minister of Education and the B.C. Liberal government passed Bill 28, legislation that stripped the teacher's contract, taking away the rights of teachers to bargain key issues vital for teacher performance and satisfaction. This legislation was ruled to be unconstitutional by a subsequent court hearing. Then in 2012 when Clark was Premier and with Peter Fassbender in the Minister of Education chair, after years with no contract, teachers went on the longest strike while negotiations went on. And sure enough, Bill 22 was passed, which sought to repeat the rape of teacher rights. Following that, just one year ago, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin found that the new law was virtually identical to the old law and was a violation of the freedom of association rights of the teachers and ruled that the province did not consult in good faith before passing Bill 22. So, on both occasions, when Bill 28 and Bill 22 were legislated by the government, a B.C. Supreme Court Judge ruled the action to be unconstitutional.

Yesterday, by a ruling that will be questioned, perhaps appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, the Appeal Court, the highest court in B.C, in a divided judgment, 4-1, ruled that, “The legislation did not infringe on s. 2(d) of the Charter,” referring to the section dealing with freedom of association." No reason was given for the appeal to be heard by five judges instead of the customary three. Last year, only three of 453 cases brought to the Appeal Court were heard by five judges. The ruling went so far as to say that the Appeal Court ruled that the trial judge made errors when she found the province failed to consult in good faith.  It's an unexpected decision, a deviation from the respect customarily afforded to findings of trial judges. The one dissenting opinion came from Justice Donald. He did not agree that Justice Griffin had erred in her judgement or recommendations.

So in her press statement, Premier Clark noted that in the thirteen years since the original decision to strip the teachers' contract was made during her tenure as Minister of Ed, the educational system has not collapsed. She said yesterday, “I think we should take this opportunity to put disputes behind us and work together and aspire for the best education system anywhere in the world.” She offered a conciliatory note, saying that teaching is a "noble profession" as she praised their work.

While the B.C. Teacher' issues may be on national importance, and the Teachers Federation may seek to bring their appeal of this ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada, because there is a strong case since collective agreements were in force when legislation inconsistent with the agreements was passed, but there is no guarantee that the Supreme court will hear the case.

You may not favour unions. That's not the question or the point here. The reality is that unions exist and contracts are signed legal documents between unions and employers. Contracts are contracts before the law - but apparently not. That's just the way I see it today. But I would still like to know how long donkeys live.