Comox Valley MLA, an ex-teacher, talks about BCTF strike
North Island MLA Claire Trevena urged Comox Valley MLA and past teacher Don McRae to speak on Bill 22 earlier this week, so what are his thoughts?
During Monday's legislature, Trevena read out excerpts from a letter McRae wrote in 2008, when he was teaching at G.P. Vanier.
The letter noted his struggles with large classes and heavy workload, among other things. Trevena called on him to take part in the debate.
"I really hope that the minister will participate in this debate to give both sides of the House the full benefit of his experience as a classroom teacher," Trevena said at the legislature.
Later in the week, McRae told the Record he hadn't spoken on the bill in the legislature.
"We wish to have the NDPers speak and we want to get the debate on the record and then move forward to the next stage," said McRae, adding that he's unsure if he will speak on the bill at any point. "I don't know; it depends how the debate goes forward."
However, McRae said he's not defensive about the letter. What he's worried about is the government and the BC Teachers' Federation's inability to come to an agreement.
"What worries me most of all, is for the last 20 years, and arguably beyond, regardless of who's in government, every term has a conflict with teachers over contract and because of that they've got this dysfunctional relationship — and it goes on both sides," explained McRae. "Teachers haven't been dealt with as well as they could have been at the bargaining table because they haven't represented themselves as well as they can, and then by extension the students haven't been a beneficiary either."
As for the bill itself, McRae said many of the concerns he's heard from past teaching colleagues regarding stripping of rights "actually aren't in the bill."
For example, he said issues around seniority, professional development and supervision of teachers are talked about in Bill 22, but noted that the bill proposes mediation on them. He noted mediation is non-binding.
In regards to the stiff financial consequences for striking during mediation written into the bill by Education Minister George Abbott, McRae said the legislation hasn't passed yet.
McRae also said the net-zero is not something that is going away.
"Some people may not like it, (but) the government is committed to a net-zero mandate, you know, we're leaving the toughest recession in 70 years and 130 other agreements have been signed at net-zero; we just don't have any extra dollars to do this," he said.
When asked if he thought it was necessary to table Bill 22, he said negotiations were not moving fast enough.
"In the last seven months there's been 1,109 items put on the bargaining table by both parties and they've made some headway on nine of them, so they're moving negotiations at, best, a glacial pace."
"It would be a really good opportunity I think for both parties to actually just examine how the process works and realize it's not working and perhaps to come at it from a different angle."