Mungall Barred from speaking for Constituents after Liberals shut down debate on Bill 22

Posted: March 13th, 2012

Debate on education Bill 22 came to a sudden close Monday, rendering Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall unable to speak for her constituents. The Liberals enacted time-allocation Monday afternoon to shut down debate on all aspects of Bill 22′s second reading by end of day. As a result, Mungall was denied the opportunity to express the opinions of the many educators, parents, and students who have taken the time to inform her of their concerns on this legislation.

“They have shut down debate on this bill and I will no longer be able to let the Legislature know how this legislation will affect people in my region,” says Mungall.

“I have received close to 100 letters from Kootenay residents, and I have read them all. I am truly grieved that the Liberals lack of respect for democracy will bar me from doing my job to represent the people of Nelson-Creston.”

After voting against time-allocation, Mungall was allowed eight minutes to speak to the NDP’s amendment to Bill 22. This amendment struck down the forced legislation of a contract and put both parties back to unrestricted mediation as requested by the BC Public School Employers Association and the BC Teachers’ Federation.

“I implore [the Government] to please support this amendment so that we can do a better job in this province of working with the very people who put our children’s best interests first and foremost every single day, when they walk into that classroom to teach our future generations, who might one day be in this House and hopefully will learn from the lessons of today that mediation is always better than legislation,” said Mungall. To view all of Mungall’s short speech, click here.

Late Monday, Mungall voted in favour of the amendment for mediation, but it was defeated when the majority Liberals voted it down. Then the Liberals forced the vote on Bill 22 even though Premier Christy Clark had yet to speak on this significant piece of legislation.

New Democrats have been clear that Bill 22 weakens class size provisions. It removes the protections for special needs students and class composition limits. It puts an end to real mediation and imposes a disrespectful process on teachers. Mungall will continue to call for mediation and oppose Bill 22.

DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(HANSARD)

HOUSE BLUES

MONDAY, MARCH 12, 2012

Afternoon Sitting

M. Mungall: I rise to support the amendment that has been put forward by the NDP opposition.

First, if I can just beg your indulgence for a quick minute to explain to my constituents who are watching at home, why I’m speaking to the amendment and I haven’t had the opportunity to speak to the full bill. That is because we are under time allotment today.

We will be wrapping up all debate on second reading of Bill 22 by the end of today. I was one of the last few speakers for the full bill, and that means I will not get a chance to speak to that, so I’m very grieved to say I will not be able to represent all the concerns that my constituents have on this bill.

But I will speak to their concerns about mediation over legislation, and that’s exactly what this amendment is about. It’s about bringing the two parties involved with negotiations for our BCTF collective agreement back to mediation and to remove the restrictions that are imposed by Bill 22.

I think part of the reason why it’s so necessary to go this route is that the very nature of Bill 22 and its legislation unfortunately demonizes teachers in this province. The very act of doing this fails to recognize that they truly are indeed working for the best interests of all of our students.

Nothing reminded me of that more than a letter I received from Debbie Sabourin from Salmo. She writes that she has been teaching for 28 years, and she says: “I love the parents I see every day, and I love the community I work in. The students in my current class and over the years of my teaching career mean the world to me.”

Her words are reflected in the dozens and dozens of letters that I have received over the past few weeks in my office. I was hoping to do more and share more of them with us here today, but unfortunately, time prevents me from doing that.

So here we have the fact, and a good example here from Ms. Sabourin, that teachers are truly working in the best interests of their students, and they want to be able to put those items that they have particular concern around, like class size and composition, onto a table for mediation.

They’re not alone. The B.C. Teachers Federation is not alone in calling for mediation. In fact, the B.C. Public School Employers Association feels the exact same way. They are the ones who have been negotiating. They are the provincial agent to negotiate with teachers on their contract, and they have also called for mediation.

In fact, I will read a quote from the Nelson Star. It’s from Mel Joy. Mel is not only the chair of school district 8, but she also chairs the B.C. Public School Employers Association.

This is what she has to say: “Our board believes legislation is not the answer…. Having a negotiated agreement is the best for both parties.” The BCPSEA and the BCTF are both clear that they are willing to get back to the table. They are willing to work with the mediator, yet this government has ignored that and chosen to go with legislation.

What I find most interesting about this are the words from Joel Bakan. He is a UBC law professor, and he wrote a very interesting article on March 6 in the Vancouver Sun.

He puts forward that this type of legislation that the Liberals have put forward is actually breaking international treaty law and, as well, puts into question our constitutional laws and this government’s ability to adhere to both. I’ll just share what he says in his article.

“Bill 22 also flies In the face of Canada’s international treaty obligations. On no fewer than ten occasions, half of which concern teachers, the Freedom of Association Committee of the United Nations International Labour Organization has found the B.C. Liberal government to be in breach of labour treaties.

“In a recent report concerning legislation similar

concern teachers, the freedom of association committee of the United Nations International Labour Organization has found the B.C. Liberal government to be in breach of labour treaties.

“In a recent report, concerning legislation similar to Bill 22, the committee noted as particularly problematic the tendency of this government to legislatively prohibit strikes, impose rates and working conditions, circumscribe the scope of collective bargaining and restructure the bargaining process. The proposed Bill 22 does all of those things and more. As such, it almost certainly violates international law as well as constitutional law.”

Joel goes on to say: “Governments are obliged to govern according to law. As a fundamental democratic principle, the rule of law is seriously jeopardized when governments play fast and loose with constitutional and international laws as this government is now doing with Bill 22.”

Madam Speaker, it is clear to me that Bill 22 in its current state, as proposed by the Liberals, is woefully inappropriate to deal with the current dispute between the BCTF and the provincial government on their contract. We need a mediated settlement. It is possible. Both sides are willing to go there. So why won’t the Liberals?

I implore them to please support this amendment so that we can do a better job in this province of working with the very people who put our children’s best interests first and foremost every single day when they walk into that classroom to teach our future generations, who will one day be in this House and hopefully will learn from the lessons of today that mediation is always better than legislation.

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