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Outdoor education providers hurting due to BCTF extracurricular ban

Gord Campbell is worried about the future of the Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre due to teacher contract negotiations dispute.
He is not alone in his worries.
He is one of 13 B.C. outdoor education providers who signed a letter addressed to Education Minister George Abbott and B.C. Teachers' Federation president Susan Lambert, which asks that the parties "agree to an independent mediator and that both parties sign a mediated contract over the summer."
Charles Jago was appointed as mediator in the dispute between the B.C. Public School Employers' Association and the BCTF. The BCTF has a court case underway to quash Jago's role as mediator because it believes he is biased.
Earlier this spring, teachers withdrew from extracurricular activities as a way to protest Bill 22, which imposed a six-month cooling off period while a mediator (Jago) worked with both sides —  and made any strike activity by the BCTF illegal.
Due to public school cancellations of extracurricular camping trips, Campbell said May was "very lousy" for the non-profit society that runs the camp at Tribune Bay on Hornby Island.
Some schools will come during June but the groups will be smaller and many are just doing day-trips rather than overnight trips as usual.
Although he's pleased some business was retained, Campbell expects only about one-third of the normal traffic through the centre for the month.
Normally he would hire 21 staff — this year that number is down to five. Many people who will be left without a summer job are students or people beginning careers in the outdoor education industry.
"I feel bad for the young people that are supposed to be working for us," said Campbell. "It's tough. It's not like they can go somewhere else because everybody else is feeling the same pinch right now."
Strathcona Park Lodge's co-executive director Jamie Boulding, who sent out the letter, said the lodge was quiet this spring with over 40 per cent of schools cancelling their trips. Over 70 per cent of the lodge's overall business comes from B.C. public schools in the spring.
While spring is when most public schools come to the lodge, many public schools also come in the fall normally.
"We'd certainly be out more than $100,000 in revenue in those six weeks (in the fall) if the public schools can't come," said Boulding, adding deposits are usually made six to eight months in advance — but that isn't happening this year.
Campbell hasn't seen many bookings happening either.
"This is when groups would have finished booking for the fall," he said. "We have very few right now that are booking for the fall, and of course, we have groups that are already thinking about booking for next year (spring) and if things aren't settled, you know, it's going to have this ripple effect."
Boulding and Campbell each said they are not taking sides in the dispute; they just want the dispute to end.
"We really want things to be settled," said Campbell, adding he believes everyone would like an end to the situation, including teachers, government and students, as well as businesses. "So there's four legs on that chair or stool to be balanced and right now it's not working for anybody so we would just like it to come to a head."
writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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