Letters to the Editor: November 4

The firing of the Vancouver School Board; The perils of electoral reform

Vancouver School Board

On behalf of the Cranbrook District Teachers’ Association, I would like to express my utmost concern regarding this government’s decision to fire the Vancouver School Board on October 17, 2016. The use of legislation to terminate the work of these elected trustees is a blatant interference with the democratic process.

These trustees were elected to represent the needs of students in their community. To that extent, they did. Using their only means to express concern over the underfunding of their schools and programs, they chose not to sign off on their balanced budget in June, 2016. The budget was followed as though it was passed, and the Vancouver School Board decided to end their protest and approve the budget on the evening of October 17. The board was fired earlier that day, just hours before approving the budget.

This action has done nothing more than divide a community and deplete citizen’s faith in this government’s ability to honour the democratic process. Rather than engage existing mechanisms that allow for parties to resolve disputes, this government chose the easy way out by “getting rid of the problem”. We only have to watch the evening news to see how ineffectively this approach works in other places.

Our local Trustees in SD5 are strong advocates for public education and the students they care for. They are actively involved in the schools, PACs, DPAC, and community committees which impact students’ daily lives. They work diligently to bring issues to the forefront to make things better for our students. Unfortunately, their many advocacy letters to the government go unanswered which speaks volumes of who is in charge of education in our province.

I would ask that the Liberal government stop trying to silence the voices for children, stop hiding behind their random acts of funding in an election year and get on with the serious business of public education and investing in our children.

Shelley Balfour, President of the Cranbrook District Teachers’ Association.

Electoral Reform

Electoral Reform will move political input a step away from Canadians. It’s like the election is the be-all, end-all and happens in a vacuum, having no related effect on other parts of our Canadian democracy.

No one is asking about possible consequences.

It’s instructive to learn internationally, from Italian, Israeli and now Icelandic election results. Those nations’ “art” of assembling national control is more a chancy roulette wheel than creating a well constructed government. Perpetual coalition governments!

Many Canadians have an irrational romantic notion about minority governments. Perhaps that’s why the chattering class who campaign for Electoral Reform choose to ignore the reality of electoral tinkering. The election only selects the players. Those players choose how they will play the game, and with whom.

We should have learned something in 2008 when the Liberals and NDP plotted with the Bloc, our nation’s separatists, to wrench control from CPC.

The foundation of the Liberal/NDP coalition was a well behaved fox in the chicken coop. It took a mini constitutional crisis to get Canada’s ship of state back onto an even keel.

The foundation stone of British Parliamentary democracy is the election of MPs who control the government by supporting budget expenditures by “confidence” votes. A Prime Minister MUST formally report a failure to the Canadian head of state (the GG). The GG must ask the PM to form another cabinet (government) to present a budget to the MPs to ask for their majority approval.

The inevitability of electoral reform is that it will result in permanent negotiations of coalitions. The selection of the Canadian Prime Minster will come from a process of “horse-trading” behind closed doors.

In many nations it takes weeks following the general election to sort the mess. At the end of the secret process, just like the selection of the Pope in Rome, Canadians will see a puff of white smoke in Ottawa.

Isn’t Canada the envy of the world for electoral stability? Remind me. What are we trying to fix? And why is there no debate about this by the talking heads on our TV screens?

Jim Abbott, Wasa