There was enormous sympathy for striking teachers at a B.C. Federation of Labour—sponsored picnic at Swangard Stadium.
In a Labour Day interview with the Georgia Straight, B.C. Fed president Jim Sinclair said that after 18 months of bargaining, the B.C. Liberal government hasn't brought forth "one single dime" to address the central issue: class size and class composition.
"They're actually happy the schools are closed tomorrow," Sinclair alleged. "This is part of their plan to bring in vouchers and try and break the union. Because otherwise, they could have sat down and solved this after 12 years."
Two B.C. Supreme Court rulings have declared that the B.C. government violated teachers' constitutional rights by taking away their right to negotiate working conditions, including class size and the number of kids with special needs in each class.
At a news conference yesterday, B.C. Teachers' Federation Jim Iker said that there were 16,000 classes in B.C. last year that had four or more kids with special needs. In 3,800 classes, there were seven or more kids with special needs, according to Iker.
Sinclair said that a B.C. Supreme Court ruling has ordered the B.C. Liberal government to put money back into the system.
"The public want it back," he added. "Teachers want it back. Students need it. So I only conclude since they haven't put a dime on the table, they're not that interested in public education or making the system work."
The B.C. Federation of Labour president said that there's already a partial voucher system in B.C. That's because parents who put their kids in private schools have 50 percent of the school's operating funds covered by taxpayers.
"It's already a voucher system that most of think is wrong," Sinclair said. "So they're just going to increase that voucher system."
He also objected to tax credits being paid for certain types of tuition in private school.
Parents can claim tax credits for private tuition as a medical expense if the child meets certain requirements. Parents can also obtain tax credits for tuition at a school that "teaches exlusively religion", according to the Canada Revenue Agency.
"It's fundamentally wrong for the children," Sinclair said. "It's wrong for our society and for the country."
He added that Canadian society is built on public education, which is why he's opposed to public funds flowing into the private system.
"It's fundamental to have a decent education in order to participate in the economy," he noted.
From Tuesday (September 2) to Friday (September 5), the B.C. Federation will hold successive daily raillies in Surrey (at Education Minister Peter Fassbender's constituency office), Kelowna (at Premier Christy Clark's constituency office), Prince George, and Vancouver.
The Friday rally in Vancouver will take place beside Canada Place, where the B.C. cabinet meets in Vancouver.