Archive for Politics

Top Fassbender Twists

Every time I hear Peter Fassbender on the radio, I get really angry. He presents a lot of information in a way that is anywhere from mildly to extremely misleading.  The following are my top misleading views from Fassbender.

Mislead #1. The government is adding over $350M to a class size and composition fund.

Actually: The government is continuing with the existing $70M LIF (learning improvement fund).  This fund and amount has been in place for 2 years.  It is acknowledged that current funding is not sufficient.  They want to put the $75M LIF into the contract for 5 years, which is the $375M that Fassbender is talking about. It is not new money, it is an extension of what is currently used. Furthermore, Fassbender is not clear when he talks about the $375M. It is NOT $375M per year.

Mislead #2. The BCTF is not negotiating.

Actually: Anyone can go to the BCPSEA website and download the proposals from May onwards. From this, you will see that the BCTF has removed a lot from their original positions.  Most recently in August, the BCTF dropped the CS&C fund demand from $225M to $175M.  You will also see that the government has essentially not moved on any issue since mid June.

Mislead #3. The BCTF is asking for almost twice what other public sector unions got.

Actually: The BCTF’s wages are less than the rate of inflation and close to what other unions got (maybe it’s less, I’m not sure). Other benefits are about $5M I think, which is probably close to other unions.  However, the BCTF is also asking for an increase in prep time for elementary students.  This is a significant cost, put at around $65M. The government calls this a benefit.  Given that other public sector unions probably have no need for prep time, it stands to reason that any allowance for this issue would be more than what other unions got. If a person were to view prep time as something other than a benefit, then BCTF is getting the same as other unions in terms of wages and benefits.

Mislead #4. The government would have to raise a tax, such as a gas tax hike, to pay for the BCTF’s demands.

Actually: There are many ways to find money. Many people suggest closing a property transfer tax loophole that is allowing foreign investors to purchase multi-million dollar homes and properties while paying almost no tax (PTT).  Secondly, it should be noted that de Jong and Fassbender talk about gas tax, which is a regressive tax.  Regressive taxes hurt lower and middle income people more than higher income. Why wouldn’t they suggest a progressive tax (if a tax is needed at all)?

Mislead #5. The government has put $1B into education since 2002.

Actually: The government also downloaded many costs to the school boards, such as wage increases and hydro increases. There’s also this little dirty secret out there… costs have gone up in the past 12 years.  For a reality check, see this letter from a principal at a Coquitlam elementary school. They’ve seen their budget drop from $181,000 (2002) to $23,000 (2014).

Mislead #6. The contentious E.80 statement is harmless

Actually: a few lawyers have chimed in publicly stating that the “supersedes” statement is indeed something that the BCTF should have removed. It can set a lower standard from which negotiations would start from after the appeal at the BC Supreme Court. It also begs the question as to why this statement is not being removed, if it is so harmless.

Mislead #7. The BCTF have not given written proposals.

Actually: I’ve read through the proposals on the BCPSEA website. I think that must mean they’ve been written down somewhere, somehow. Government has also said that it took 2 days to get the binding arbitration scheme written down from BCTF. Personally, I could care less about this stuff.  It’s a distraction and disingenuous at best. It is obvious that both sides know exactly what is on the bargaining table, and insinuating otherwise is misleading.

Now, I’m biased in that I’m pro-teacher. But even when I try to get critical on Jim Iker, his explanations are pretty clear.  I may not agree with all of his choices or tactics, but I don’t think he is misleading anyone.  Iker’s main gripes are:

1. the government hasn’t put any new money into CS&C – true

2. the government hasn’t been negotiating – I’ve read the proposals, and would say this is true. The government is holding firm from beginning of June.

3. teacher wage demands are reasonable – fair enough

4. teachers in BC are among the lowest paid in Canada – true if you believe Stats Canada

5. teachers should get a bonus to make up for 3 years of 0 in wage increases. He says this amount is negotiable – true

Jack

Ahh, good old Taliban Jack. I say that with humour, as the very accusation of that nickname was so ridiculous that a person can only laugh at it.

Smilin’ Jack Layton

Hopefull Jack Layton

My Famous Tweet

Last week on CBC’s The National, my tweeted question was the first one that the At Issue presented and answered. Watch and listen to their response here.

Why We Should Be Worried About Democracy

I came across this blog posting a couple of days ago, where an NDP candidate reflected upon his campaign in the recent election: http://glenpearson.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/transitions-brutal-in-their-despondency/

This is strikes to the heart of what worried me the most about the election. From Harper’s reluctance to face the public and field questions, to pre-election smear campaigns run via tv commercials, to manufacturing public fears about crime and economic doomsday. The Conservatives have almost perfected campaigning in the 21st Century, where simple sound bites sent through the TV at a frequency that only money can buy creates an environment that overpowers the politician that tries to engage the public in a more honest type of debate.

I find it appalling that the Conservatives were spreading innuendo and falsities about Glen Pearson via a call center, all while Pearson was actually out in the community trying to meet and engage people. In my mind, this is American style Fox-News politics in the making, where all it takes is a bunch of $$, airtime and a loud mouth to make any ridiculous accusation become true.

I can accept that a majority of Canadians do not currently share my opinion of who’s budget is better, or exactly on what public spending should be targeted. What really bugs me is dishonest marketing used to sway people’s opinions, coupled with opportunistic policies that feed off of emotions like GST reductions and building prisons. The GST reduction was particlarly troublesome, as nearly every economist agreed that it was bad policy. Yet the Conservatives, who trump themselves as being the kingpins of economic policy, lowered the GST anyways because they knew it would get them votes. I guess that’s hold news now, but it speaks volumes to the principles the Conservatives hold.

Locally here in Vancouver this disturbing trend is replicating. Christy Clark, having seen the success of the Conservatives, has taken a page out their playbook. She is avoiding all public debates for her upcoming byelection. Let’s all hope she loses, if for no other reason than because of this.

Religion Quiz

I read a funny story in the Vancouver Sun about some results on a quiz on religion in the USA. I attempted the quiz myself and didn’t do that good on it, although I was in the 80th percentile compared to the USA population that had taken the quiz. I pretty much had to guess on a couple of questions about the Sabbath and about US Supreme Court rulings on religion in USA schools. The rest was pretty easy.

The funny part about this quiz is it reveals that US atheists and agnostics, as well as Jews and Mormons, know more about religion than do most of the strong majority of Americans who are Protestants and Catholics. Apparently one-third of Americans falsely believe that evangelist Billy Graham delivered the Sermon on the Mount! An earlier poll showed that 1 in 10 Americans believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife, and another 1 in 5 believe that Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple.

I sort of suspect that similar results would be found in Canada, minus the Billy Graham bit. The part that I find the funniest is that Mormons do better on the quiz than Protestants and Catholics. Mormons, you may recall, are the ones that think some dude living in New York state during the 1820’s was given a bunch of gold plates scribed with sacred text from God. (these are the same plates which said the men should have multiple wives, ie Bountiful BC).

Falcon and Merit Pay

Last week Kevin Falcon went on record with adding merit pay for teachers as part of his platform for his leadership bid. Seeing as it comes from Falcon, it’s no surprise that I have a few issues with his ideas.

To begin with, I don’t know Falcon’s motives for merit pay. Is it to save money, to get better teaching, or something else? From the reports I’ve seen summarized, research has shown that merit pay does nothing to improve teaching or learning. Making matters worse is the concept that merit pay would at all be tied to standardized test scores, or that better standardized test scores would be achieved if teachers were on merit pay. I’m not clear if Falcon has either of these on his mind but I suspect that they both play a role in his thinking. I think that standardized testing has a valuable role to play in education, but more in terms of specific tests designed for specific purposes and goals relating to policy and research. In terms of ranking students, schools or teachers, standardized testing makes little sense to me.

One of my biggest gripes with merit pay is the myth that this is how the “real world works.” As someone that was a mechanical engineer for 15 years, I think I can offer some insight into this. While merit has some influence on pay scale, my experience is that it lags behind other factors quite significantly. Supply and demand is a much stronger determiner for salary. A specific skillset that is desired but rare will fetch higher pay, regardless of one’s ability to master that skillset. The other factor that greatly influences salary is level of responsibility. The more things you have to do or be responsible for, the more you get paid. One can argue that levels of responsibility are based upon merit, and in some cases this is true. However, “in the real world,” promotions and employment are often products of nepotism, popularity, politicking, negotiating, timing, poor management and poor methodologies for employee evaluation. For teachers, this whole issue is moot since responsibilities are extremely even across the board with flat organizational structures. Falcon would also be surprised to learn that most companies give out annual raises to their employees. Yes Kevin, it’s true. Teachers aren’t the only ones that get paid more just because they’ve been working longer. Read the rest of this entry »

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