Why Christy Clark wants to be seen as a saviour of education
These days, Premier Christy Clark won't shut up about education.
She's just raised the prospect of a 10-year deal with teachers, linking future wage increases to raises for civil servants.
Earlier this week, the premier announced up to $113 million in funding for a new Emily Carr University of Art + Design campus on False Creek Flats.
And last month, she visited Kwantlen Polytechnic University to speak about $12 million in B.C. government funding for the Chip and Shannon Wilson School of Design.
It's reminiscent of the lead-up to the 2001 election when a former B.C. Liberal leader, Gordon Campbell, also positioned himself as an education keener.
Back then, Campbell appeared in TV ads in front of school yards. He promised parents that education would be declared an essential service under the Labour Relations Code.
After that campaign, Campbell and his education minister—none other than Christy Clark—ripped up contracts with teachers. This was eventually ruled unconstitutional in court.
As a result of cancellation of collective agreements, the B.C. Liberal government siphoned $3.36 billion out of the school system over the next decade, according to the B.C. Teachers' Federation.
The government's own estimate was that $275 million would be saved each year by this move.
In light of this, it takes a lot of chutzpah for Clark to present herself as the education premier.
What she's put into the system recently is chump change compared to what she took out in the B.C. Liberal government's first term of office.
Why would Clark make a big deal out of education?
It's for the same reason that Campbell portrayed himself as an education saviour in 2001.
This issue is vitally important to many voters without strong attachments to either the NDP or the B.C. Liberals.
Elections in B.C. can be determined by three broad groups of voters: the so-called suburban soccer moms, new Canadians, and the young.
They all have a tendency to be less attached to political parties than other groups, plus they tend to make up their minds closer to voting day.
It's been widely reported that Clark has had a wretched time attracting female voters to the B.C. Liberal camp. Education resonates with many of them.
Education is also extremely important to new Canadians. A large number of them come from countries where schooling is held in extremely high regard.
Young voters are also more focused on education. NDP Leader Adrian Dix has reached out to them by promising to restore postsecondary student grants.
According to a recent Angus Reid Public Opinion poll, the largest number of respondents (34 percent) concluded that Dix is the leader "best suited" to deal with education.
Clark lagged far behind at 19 percent. But another 32 percent were "not sure". This explains the premier's recent attempt to present herself as a messiah on this issue.
Just don't assume that the premier won't do something radical after the election if she manages a come-from-behind victory in May.
She's already torn up contracts, so there's no telling what she might have up her sleeve in the future to offset the impact of B.C. Liberal government tax cuts.