My Speech on the Steps of the Legislature, February 27, 2012

Speaking on the legislature steps February 27 2012

It’s good to stand here with members of the BCTF, and supporters of public education, in solidarity for the preservation of the British Columbia public school system and for the working and learning conditions of students and teachers in BC public schools.

The Victoria Board of Education unanimously carried a motion that directed the chair to write a letter supporting a negotiated settlement, to be sent to George Abbott. It’s been sent. Here’s the short form: [on my shirt] Read my shirt! Negotiate, don’t legislate!

I’m grateful for Twitter, because that’s where I found out – from Vancouver School Board chair Patti Bacchus – that the BC School Trustees Association’s provincial council approved a motion Saturday to urge mediation.The vote passed by a 32-27 margin during a provincial reps meeting in Vancouver.

So I’m pleased that I can stand here in support of a mediated settlement – which is the next best thing to a negotiated settlement, given the provincial government currently using this building that belongs to the citizens –with backing from the provincial body I now belong to.

But – to use one of Christy Clark’s favourite interjections – “You know what? “you know what – I’d be here anyway.

By now we’ve all been introduced to Annette Zero. She’s an imaginary friend of the current government. Imaginary because the so-called hard times we hear about have been created by the BC Liberals’ own policies. You’ve all heard of the Story of Stuff video, The Story of Broke by now. We’re not broke!

In June 2001 the BC Liberals took office and enacted massive tax cuts that transfered wealth to province’s richest families and individuals, and British Columbia ‘s most-profitable corporations – and seriously diminished government revenues.

As a direct consequence, BC’s most-vital public services – and free public education is a fundamental public service, perhaps the most fundamental – have been slowly starved.

BC’s corporate-income tax rate was 16.5 per cent before 2001, and today is just 10.0 per cent. Many profitable corporations pay even less than that.

Premier Christy Clark was heard to say during question period in this building on February 14 after being asked about another BC mess, the massive backlogs in BC’s courts, “It just doesn’t add up.”

If Christy Clark is having trouble with the reasons for her difficulties and British Columbia’s financial state, there are many people here today whocan help with that homework.

I’m told – admonished even – at every level that as a trustee I’m only a “resource allocator”.

I’d love to have some resources to allocate – like the 26% of the BC provincial budget that public education was able to use in 1991,not the 15% it gets now. Like the $3 billion stolen from public education and public school students since 2002 and Bills 27 and 28.

Section 93 of the Constitution Act , 1867 enshrines the ultimate responsibility for operating the educational system as a responsibility of the legislature.

So I stand here with you to demand that the provincial government restore 1991 funding levels for public education that are completely sustainable if there were a corporate tax rate that supports social justice and social goods and not the 1%, and that this government step out of the corporate tax-cut created net zero box it has backed itself into.

Changes to the School Act and teachers’ collective agreements have to be driven by principle, not expedience.

School trustees across this province stand with you – no legislated contract!