Bill 18: BC Liberals aren't prepared to listen

Although it may have been a bad week for Premier Clark, at some point she needs to take a long hard look at why her party, her Cabinet and her government are in such disarray. If she were prepared to take that look, I would suggest she have another read of Bill 18, the Advanced Education Statutes Amendment Act. First introduced in November of last year, it has caused something of a firestorm in colleges, universities and institutes across BC because it proposes to strong arm faculty who want to be active in both their local faculty association and the Board of their local institution.

Had the Premier taken the time to listen, she would have realized just how out-of-step Bill 18 is. She would have realized that for as long as there have been public post-secondary institutions in BC there have been faculty-elected representatives on the Boards of those institutions. And for just as long, there has never been any bar on whether faculty-elected representatives could also be active in their local faculty association.

All of that will change with the passage of Bill 18. Faculty will now have to pick between being active in their union or active on the Board of their institution. Forcing that kind of a choice flies in the face of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees many rights. One of them is freedom of association and Bill 18 tries to punch a hole in that basic right.

Premier Clark has stumbled on many issues in her short term as BC's Premier, everything from Senate reform to local rapid transit expansion, so to some extent the misstep on Bill 18 and its Charter violations aren't a real surprise. But that doesn't make her government's decision to press ahead with this Bill any less tolerable. Her Minister of Advanced Education has been inundated with thousands of letters from faculty and community representatives from around the province, all calling on her government to withdraw the Bill and respect basic rights. Like the Premier, the Minister fails to understand the problem she is creating.

The simple political calculus that the Premier and her Minister of Advanced Education need to do at this point is to figure out how they can stop the growing dissension, not just within their party, but more importantly, the dissension between her party and BC voters. Passing Bill 18 doesn't help Clark's cause at all. Far from it; it only confirms for the thousands that wrote those letters that this government doesn't listen.

About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.