The focus for much of the week in Victoria was the teachers’ dispute, although the government didn’t start to debate the bill which would end the dispute until Thursday afternoon.
Bill 22, or the Education Improvement Act, is a heavy handed piece of legislation. It will result in increasing class size, weakens protection for special needs students, and undermines free collective bargaining. I’ve had many calls and letters from teachers who are extremely concerned about the impact of the Bill on their ability to carry out their work, and particularly what will happen to their students.
What concerns me is that it is yet another attempt by the BC Liberals to play politics with the classroom. In 2002, when the current Premier was the Education Minister, she took away local control over class size and composition; that decision was last year ruled to be illegal. What is being offered now will do nothing to rectify the problems created. The new bill will allow an indefinite number of special needs students in a classroom. While the Education Minister says that means special needs students won’t be discriminated against, it is not in fact, good for those students to be in large classes without supports. What is needed are enough teachers, and teachers assistants, to ensure all students benefit from being in class.
We fundamentally believe in a well funded, strong, public education system. It is the great equaliser in our society; a good education should be a right for every child. I will be defending that and will be speaking in opposition to the Bill when I have the chance next week.The end of the week was also marked with another shocking report by the Representative for Children and Youth. Honouring Kaitlynne, Max and Cordon examines the circumstances surrounding the killing of three children by their father, Allan Schoenborn. It reveals a sad picture of a government in disarray, and where a family fell through the cracks. Recommendations for change in other reports have been ignored, social workers were overworked and what should be a protective system fell apart.
The government reacted quickly, saying it would put together a domestic violence unit. However I asked in question period where the money for this very necessary unit would come from, given there was not any extra funding for any part of the Ministry of Children and Families in last week’s budget.
I also raised in question period concerns about the frightening number of children and youth who are homeless
. The latest Metro Vancouver figures show that among the people on the streets of Vancouver include many younger than 12 and five who are babies. It is a shocking statistic and something we should all resolve to combat. We have committed to a province-wide poverty reduction plan, to try to fix some of the many problems which this government has created over the last 11 years.
Earlier in the week we challenged the government on its sell off of crown assets, in their desperate attempt to balance the budget. The Finance Minister has given a specific dollar value to the properties and lands being sold as $706m. However, he and his cabinet colleagues refused time and again to say which of our property and land was on the market.We also debated a motion about access to DriveABLE, the government program which assesses seniors’ abilities to continue to drive. I, and many of my rural colleagues, have heard from many constituents about the geographical accessibility of the tests as well as the appropriateness of the test. In rural areas the loss of a driver’s license is a problem for many seniors who do not have any other means of transport. I am hoping to have a public meeting about DriveABLE in the constituency in the coming weeks.
I am back in the constituency this weekend, with meetings in Campbell River on Friday; Saturday I’ll be joining women at early International Women’s Day celebrations.
I can always be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 1 250 287 5100 in Campbell River, 1 250 949 9473 in Port Hardy, or 1 866 387 5100 toll free; or you can friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena.