NDP MLAs take potshots at premier after judge ruled that government tried to provoke teachers strike
The B.C. NDP didn't take very long in this legislative session to put the government on the defensive.
A group of veteran MLAs took turns pounding the B.C. Liberals about B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin's recent ruling that government officials didn't bargain in good faith with the B.C. Teachers' Federation.
"Their strategy was to put such pressure on the union that it would provoke a strike by the union," Griffin concluded in her decision. "The government representatives thought this would give government the opportunity to gain political support for imposing legislation on the union."
The government has appealed Griffin's decision, which awarded the BCTF $2 million in damages.
NDP Leader Adrian Dix delivered the opening salvo, highlighting how the government's chief negotiator, Paul Straszak, acknowledged in court that his objective was to increase pressure on teachers so they would launch a full-scale strike.
Dix noted that Straszak also testified that he shared this information with the premier's deputy minister, John Dyble: "You need a social licence to legislate. It could be harder to obtain if there is a targeted strike versus a full-scale strike."
Next up, NDP MLA Rob Fleming mentioned that Straszak testified that he told cabinet: "Cabinet would be in an awkward situation in the context of a low-scale strike, meaning it's going to want to put an end to it, but the public won't necessarily see the need for the legislation because the kids are still in school."
Former NDP leader Carole James then asked about the extent of Premier Christy Clark's involvement in "a plan that included putting pressure on school districts to ensure compliance with her plan to ensure that a school strike would happen".
Another NDP veteran, Sue Hammell, came next.
"If this government is going to tell the Supreme Court it is wrong, will the premier at least release these documents so that British Columbians can judge for themselves whether the B.C. Liberal government was serving the public or themselves in their dealings with the children and schools in our province?" Hammell asked.
Then it was the NDP Bruce Ralston's turn to ask the government to release cabinet documents.
"The premier felt free, apparently, at a Liberal fundraiser last night to say that the judge got the facts wrong," the Surrey-Whalley MLA said, "but she won't order the release of the very documents that would either support or not support the opinion that she expresses so bravely before her Liberal fundraising colleagues."
Another NDP veteran, Norm Macdonald, asked why the government sent a letter to every B.C. teacher saying it disagreed with the ruling, which determined that the government had tried to provoke a strike.
In each instance, Attorney General Suzanne Anton stood up to say that an appeal has been filed, and that the record, in its entirety, will be heard and read by the B.C. Court of Appeal.
In the first question period in the legislature after a 200-day hiatus, the NDP clearly won the opening skirmish.