Education Minister Mike Bernier fires Vancouver school board

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      The provincial government has sacked elected trustees comprising the Vancouver school board.

      Following months of controversy, B.C. Education Minister Mike Bernier announced Monday (October 17) that the board was fired for not passing a balanced budget.

      Bernier also said that in addition to this failure, there are also allegations of bullying by certain trustees against senior staff.

      The education minister has appointed former Delta school superintendent Dianne Turner as official trustee for one year.

      "What we have witnessed from the Vancouver school board is a misplaced focus on political tactics rather than responsible stewardship,” Bernier said in a statement.

      The board had until June 30 this year to approve a balanced budget required by provincial legislation.

      Trustees on April 28 cast a split vote against the budget. Trustees belonging to Vision Vancouver and the Green Party of Vancouver on April 28 outvoted those with the Non-Partisan Association. The budget presented by staff was arrived at after slashing more than $20 million in services.

      The cuts went ahead as required by provincial legislation even though it had no support from a majority of the board trustees.

      The board was expected to reconsider its position on the budget in a meeting scheduled in the evening of Monday (October 17).

      Bernier didn’t wait for that meeting to happen.

      “This step has been taken despite the possibility that the board may now be willing to pass a balanced budget,” Bernier said in his statement. “It is impossible to have any confidence that a potential last-minute change of position on the district budget signals a fundamental change in the attitude which has so far led the board to refuse to follow the law.”

      Bernier also mentioned allegations of bullying, now the subject of an investigation by WorkSafeBC.

      “I have received letters of concern from people inside the school district. A large number of senior district staff are off on medical leave,” the minister said.

      When the June 30 deadline passed for the board to pass a balanced budget, Bernier told media that he wasn’t firing the trustees yet.

      “By me firing them is only playing into their politics,” Bernier said at the time. “I don’t want to play politics.”

      Bernier ordered instead a forensic audit of the board to be conducted by a former B.C. deputy minister of finance.

      In his statement Monday (October 17), Bernier said: “Special Advisor Peter Milburn was appointed to report on the VSB's financial and governance practices. I received his draft report Saturday and it deepens my concerns.”

      According to the minister, he was supposed to release Milburn’s report today but could not because of a privacy complaint filed by a Vancouver school trustee.

      The said complaint was filed by Vision Vancouver school trustee Patti Bacchus.