Appeared in Business in Vancouver – September 22, 2014
The abusive power of the neo-Marxist ideologues who have dominated the core of the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) for decades must be crushed.
If this doesn’t come from within, through a revolt against those further left than the New Democratic Party itself – unlikely because those who hold the BCTF’s 40,000 members in thrall won’t abdicate without one hell of a fight – it should come from outside, from the government.
Never again must students, parents and businesses, especially in smaller towns – not to overlook the moderate and even slightly left-leaning teachers who privately think that schools should never be shut down in labour disputes – be held hostage to the “progressives.” It’s intellectual duplicity that BCTF leaders claim to fight for abstract students while hurting the actual flesh-and-blood ones.
Let’s cut to this particular chase. Dr. Pat McGeer, a former BC Liberal Party leader in its gloomiest days, an outstanding cabinet minister (including minister of advanced education) in the Bill Bennett Social Credit government, and one of the brainiest and most widely accomplished British Columbians of his or any time, gave his sharply pertinent opinion in a letter to the Vancouver Sun editor soon after the BCTF strike began in June.
And plain and unadorned it was. Two proposals.
“The first is to pass legislation declaring education an essential service and strikes impermissible,” McGeer wrote. “The second is to eliminate the requirement of membership in the BCTF to be a condition for teaching in a B.C. public school.”
McGeer is ringingly right. Any private business, wielding monopoly power, that stopped services to 500,000 customers, and caused costly and anxiety-provoking inconvenience such as B.C.’s parents suffered, would be legislatively crushed like a bug by swift government action.
I was astonished on moving from Ontario, home of conservative premiers John Robarts, Leslie Frost and Bill Davis, to Vancouver where the BCTF president was a genuine card-carrying Communist – Jim McFarlane. You kidding me? Member of a Moscow-directed party, while the Soviet Union aimed missiles at Canadian cities? How could any thinking person countenance that? Answer: many didn’t think. Some did, too late.
No one wants to talk about it, but there’s still a rump of B.C. nostalgists and apologists for the good old Soviet Union that collapsed in 1989. The ones who marched for peace, Moscow’s definition. Called for “unilateral disarmament.” Invoked “moral equivalency” – between the West and mass murderers Lenin, Stalin, Mao. Of course favoured Uncle Ho in Vietnam.
They went somewhere, teaching an obvious destination, where they influenced the young – as a current university student, I can attest that the academy still makes brief bows to Karl. The environment is another, where BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything) is an ingratiating fantasy that keeps a straight face about how then to fund government welfare.
How radical, how much in the socialist “vanguard” that secretly makes many mainstream unionists uneasy, is the BCTF core? Someone with top-to-bottom experience in education pointed out: note presidents who serve only one year. That’s because they’re deemed “soft.”
One I knew doubtless shared conventional leftist views, but he was shrewd, pragmatic, nobody’s fool. Just not anti-capitalist enough.In my early teens, teachers were so poorly paid that they commonly took summer jobs – my oldest school friend, back to Grade 4, recalled that even her father, an elementary school principal, did so. (Recently a West Vancouver woman, bitterly damning the system’s allegedly poor provision for her autistic children, shocked even my good self by declaring that teachers still should – why pay them for a year when they work only 190-odd days?)
No support here for that. And none for the ideologues who openly campaign against B.C. governments – even the New Democrats are just too right-of-centre for them. Teachers, who likely will never make up their lost wages, deserve better.
© Trevor Lautens, 2014