The teachers’ negotiating conflict with the province, the LNG dreams of countless jobs propagated by Premier Christy Clark, and the Star’s recent headline story regarding poverty in Nelson, are all related stories in the “grand scheme of things.”
The teachers are right in this struggle, right not just for their own interests but for the public good, though I hear criticism of teachers from friends and relatives: they do not sympathize with teachers’ pay demands. The ugly fact is, they are envious of teachers and want to see them suffer lowered standards of income, because many people have been seeing their standard of living slip since the 1980s. Lowered teacher incomes are no solution to social challenges, among which poverty is number one.
I tell these envious critics of teachers, pay is the least of our issues. At bottom the issue is whether a government can tear up contracts, defy our courts’ orders to make restitution for destruction of a contract and justify all it does by saying, the Province cannot afford the expense that the teachers are demanding.
I stand by teacher pay demands, of course, but not for my own interest only.
To turn to teachers’ situation and your story on Nelson poverty: the BC Liberals are playing the politics of envy, and the best way I know to combat that is draw attention to it. The research has been done and the results are clear. The general standard of living of Canadians has been deteriorating at the same time as the gap between the one-percenters (super-rich) and the rest of society has yawned into a chasm since the 1980s. The fight against the corporate order, its devastation of ecologies and the injustice of its wealth-distribution, is not served by attacking teachers for their middle-class incomes.
Envy is ugly. Teachers keep the middle class from shrinking, and that is a good thing. Drag teachers lower in the social scales and the degradation of the middle classes in Canada worsens.
Do not let Clark tell us she serves us all when she serves only the narrow interest of the old-energy-resource corporations (oil, gas, coal, hydroelectricity). Stand up and declare that we do not consent to the agenda of weakening organized labour, as has been pursued in many states in the US and some provinces of Canada. It is time to turn the tide against greed, and reverse direction on lowered taxes for the rich and their companies.
BC has to afford to restore the spending that Gordon Campbell cut when he broke a fundamental trust, the trust we all have that contracts are binding and cannot be broken. If we let the Liberals set this precedent in stone, we are all going to suffer the consequences of living in a state where government is superior to its courts and its constitution.
Premier Clark is in love with LNG, the solution to all our problems. Jobs, jobs, jobs will flow from the fountains of natural gas development, she says. What other duty does she have except to ensure that commodity corporations can extract natural resources, and make jobs for us as the by-product? This shallow woman seems to have no sense at all of a common good that overrides corporate needs.
Clark, like a majority of Western leaders today, seems ready to identify the common good only with jobs, and jobs only with what private capital can create. Christy Clark and Margaret Thatcher likely agree that there is “no such thing as society – only individuals.” (As we know, a corporation is, in legal fiction, an individual, and has the rights of an individual.)
Teachers are professionally committed to a concept of public good: it is a good thing for society to have well-educated citizens. Society takes precedence over private profit, a truth that was self-evident for much of Canada’s history, yet is questioned now.
Wake up, Canadians! We are losing the kinder, gentler society we once enjoyed.