Janet Fraser’s vote for NPA school board chair questioned by Green running mate

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      Today’s Vancouver school board would look different if Mischa Oak had been elected on November 15 instead of his Green party colleague, Janet Fraser.

      “I would have supported Patti [Bacchus] because of her strong stance in standing up to the provincial government on fair funding for public education,” Oak told the Straight.

      On December 8, Fraser cast the deciding vote that ousted Vision Vancouver’s Bacchus from her position as board chair in favour of the NPA’s Christopher Richardson. In the November 15 election, Bacchus received 73,551 votes—more than any other trustee—while Richardson took 58,081 to place last on the nine-member board.

      Oak, a teacher who placed 14th, said Fraser’s vote has caused Green supporters to question whether the party will pursue the progressive agenda it has promised.

      “I really feel like that’s not what the electorate wanted,” he said. “Janet is going to have to do a lot of work to make sure that she is supporting progressive initiatives.”

      In a telephone interview, Fraser maintained her vote for Richardson was about issues and not politics or Vision versus the NPA.

      “What I’ve seen over the last six years with Patti Bacchus as trustee and as the chair of the board is that the board and the provincial government have entrenched their positions,” Fraser explained. “I’m hoping that with a new chair, we can have a different approach and maybe get better funding for our students.”

      In the spring, a dispute over teachers’ salaries and classroom sizes developed into the longest teachers' strike in B.C.’s history.

      Fraser, a first-term board member active in the Marpole community, maintained it was that sort of rocky relationship with the province that drove her vote. She dismissed arguments that she would support donations from Chevron making their way into Vancouver classrooms, a program that the NPA supports and which became a key election issue dividing it and Vision in the weeks leading up to November 15.

      “I thought that a change could lead to a better outcome,” she said. “I certainly don’t want people to think that because I voted with an NPA chair that every subsequent vote will be with the NPA.”

      In a separate interview, Richardson said he does intend to take a more reconciliatory approach to talks with the provincial government.

      “We’re aware of the financial or fiscal constraints,” he told the Straight. “But within that envelope, we’re hoping that we can convince them that their money is well-invested in our children.”

      Asked about the Chevron issue, Richardson, a chartered accountant, said he does intend to see the school board revisit policies on advertising and donations. (On November 19, the Straight reported on Fraser saying the same.)

      For her part, Bacchus, said she knew Fraser’s vote against her was coming.

      “It was pretty clear that we weren’t going to be working together,” she said in a telephone interview. “They [Greens] tend to be fiscally conservative and not very supportive of labour and that came out in our discussions with Janet Fraser.”

      Bacchus questioned the benefits of a school board negotiating with softer hands.

      “Most school boards have tried that,” she said. “It hasn’t really, in my opinion, made much of a difference. I think we know where the B.C. Liberals stand on public education. We do have the second-lowest per-student funding in the country.”

      Bacchus noted she was reelected for a third term and took more votes than any other trustee in 2014, and argued that gave her a mandate to continue with Vision’s tough stance in negotiations with the province.

      “This frees us up to be even more aggressive in our advocacy,” she said.



      Nicholas Ellan

      Dec 9, 2014 at 2:34pm

      In the course of the campaign, Mischa Oak struck me as a Green candidate that truly understood what was at stake in the school board election. He worked extremely hard to engage with parents and teachers, was very supportive of Patti Bacchus' strong leadership, and made it clear that he would be an ally working together with a board that had proven itself extremely effective in advocating for students. That's why he earned my vote.

      I heard none of that from Janet Fraser. In fact, I heard very little at all. The editorial she wrote for the Straight during the campaign was frankly wishy-washy, demonstrating no understanding of current political issues facing the VSB. As a result, I did not cast a vote for her.

      This is a clear demonstration that not all candidates are created equal. Unfortunately, with the long-form ballot we have now with well over 100 names on it, it is virtually impossible for voters to acquaint themselves with all the candidates and make an informed decision. Time for a change.

      ursa minor

      Dec 9, 2014 at 2:52pm

      This is why I don't trust the Green Party - they let their elected officials say and do whatever they want regardless of party policy. Other parties pass a specific platform at a Convention and run on that platform, while the Greens trade on their novelty and not being 'beholden' to special interests. When Fraser votes to dismiss a progressive School Board Chair, not being beholden looks more like not being accountable.

      The Greens also have no sense of realpolitik, replacing it with a dangerous, know-it-all smugness. A 'conciliatory' approach is not going to work with a BC Liberal Government whose only goal for Public Education is to destroy Public Education. The only reason Greens get any traction provincially is because the Liberals and their enablers in the media see them as the best means to divert votes that would otherwise go to the NDP.

      The real Green agenda: making you feel like you're making a difference while enabling more of the same.


      Dec 9, 2014 at 2:53pm

      I'm not surprised this comment was made by Mischa Oak. It is my understanding that Mischa was trying for a Vision spot on School Board and there wasn't one available for him. I guess this is when he jumped over to the Vancouver Greens. It should be noted that Mischa is a New Democrat. His comments should not carry much weight as a Green since really it appears he was a Green in name only, most likely he became an instant Green in order to get elected. The stance taken by Mischa Oak kinda reminds me of how Trevor Loke used his former status in the BC Green Party as he campaigned for a nomination with Vision. Eventually the public saw the opportunistic side of Trevor and I suspect the same fate may befall Mr Oak.

      Drive Dude

      Dec 9, 2014 at 2:55pm

      Thanks again COPE & Greens for your moral victory of defeating Ken Clement the only first nations School Trustee. Because of you he lost by 254 votes, and the NDP A candidate that snuck ahead of him is now the chair of our school board.

      Just like Ralph Bader handed George Bush the presidency so have you handed our kids over to the Conservative party of vancouver (aka the NPA). This is on your watch and we will not forget it.

      Patti Bacchus

      Dec 9, 2014 at 3:15pm

      Is a useless BCTF windbag just looking for attention. It's telling she would rather be a blowhard on the school board than someone with actual power. I guarantee the BC Lbs will extend an olive branch to the VSB for relegating her further down the food chain. Students are already better off.

      Patty also benefited from the ballot that her and her supporters are whining about (she was at the top). Enough crying from the sore losers. The people voted for change not the status quo.


      Dec 9, 2014 at 3:21pm

      I applaud Janet Fraser's decision to change the toxic status quo that is Patti Baccus.
      well do Janet.

      A one time believer in Vision

      Dec 9, 2014 at 3:51pm

      Those who are up in arms today over this issue should consider the inconvenient fact that Bacchus' time as chair was also one of termoil, partisanship, and dysfunction. I wish the new chair all the best, with the hope that children, and not bickering politicians will dominate the aganda.

      Fat Guy

      Dec 9, 2014 at 3:54pm

      Very interesting.... but wait until the draft 2015-16 VSB budget debates. That's when the new Green/NPA alliance will be tested in the arena of public opinion. Unless Christy Clark suddenly decided to throw a pile of cash at school boards, the VSB faces a huge funding shortfall and the new Board majority will have plenty of fun explaining why their strategy of playing nice with the premier ended up with big cuts to programs, bigger class sizes, etc.


      Dec 9, 2014 at 4:18pm

      Great to hear that Janet Fraser has put kids' education ahead of Patti Bacchus's own political ambitions. Perhaps reason, respect, and common sense can now return to the public voice of the Vancouver school board.


      Dec 9, 2014 at 6:41pm

      The NDP wing of Vision Vancouver is vewy, vewy unhappy. Like widdle cwybabies, they don't wanna share any power. WAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!

      The crap on twitter has been enlightening. Ugly. Bizarre rationales. Comments filled with the lowest form of invective. The talk of losers. If that's the best kind of supporters that she's got, I'm happy to see the back of the former Chair's head. Of course, this little come down puts her momentarily at a loss for cred in the provincial party. But I'm sure she and her goonies will rally.

      And ask yourselves this: with all her support, why didn't she get her people to share the love and ensure other candidates from her party were elected? SHE'S the architect of the Vision loss of power on school board.

      She needs to own that.