Maybe I’m too soft when it comes to the notion of playing fairly, or maybe I’m upset because I abhor bullying in all its forms. Whatever the reason, I can’t stop thinking that there has to be something I can do; that there has to be some way to continue to advocate for my students’ learning conditions even though Bill 22 has passed.
I believe in our youth, I believe in public education, and I believe in democracy. I am convinced this new law does nothing to truly support any of those things. I know the learning conditions in my classroom will not be improved when I return to work on Monday. They won’t improve until districts receive adequate funding and the protections for students are brought back to the bargaining table. But Bill 22 makes it clear that that just isn’t going to happen despite a Supreme Court ruling requiring the government to do so.
What can one person do when a group is so powerful they don’t even have to follow the rule of law?
That’s a tough question.
I know the BCTF came up with an action plan at the recent AGM, but that’s the union’s plan. I want to do something meaningful on a more personal level.
I’m tired of being pushed around by a government that does not seem to represent anything I value, and has publicly expressed its disdain for the services I provide.
I am proud of the BCTF for launching a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of Bill 22. The union fought the government on Bills 27 and 28 for over a decade, and I’m confident the BCTF will do the same with Bill 22 if need be. (I don’t want to imagine what the public education system will look like if it takes another ten years to get more unconstitutional legislation off the books though. )
But while this legal battle is all well and good, I want to do something more; something that shows I believe in both public education and democracy – and, just like the BCTF’s legal challenge, my plan must reside within the bounds of the law.
Bill 22 makes it impossible for the BCTF to engage in any sort of legal job action, and any illegal acts will result in significant fines. I, however, am an individual citizen of this province and I have the same right to speak out against the government as any other citizen.
It is this realization that led me to do a little research.
As a registered voter in BC, I can stand up and act for change in more ways than simply voting every four years. In BC there is something called the Recall and Initiative Act (http://www.elections.bc.ca/index.php/referenda-recall-initiative/). Through this act, citizens have the opportunity to express their voice on issues they’re passionate about between elections by either petitioning to have an MLA removed from office or by petitioning to have a current bill scrapped or amended.
Organizations and groups are not permitted to exercise these options. Only individuals may do so.
All it takes is one person to speak out and say, “No, this isn’t right.”
I am one person.
Bill 22 isn’t right.
Here’s what I’d like to do to show the government I am serious about defending public education:
1) Put forward an initiative that calls for Bill 22 to be repealed (or at least amended).
2) Submit applications for recall in each riding where the MLA voted in favour of Bill 22.*
*I can’t submit an application for recall in a riding I don’t live in, but I’d like to hope there will be other individuals willing to stand with me in those regions. (I—and anyone else—can, however, register to volunteer as a canvasser in as many ridings as I wish in order to help out those who take the lead in those locales…)
Now, I can hear some of you laughing. You’re thinking I’m crazy, that I can’t possibly believe either of these tactics would succeed.
You’re probably right.
I am no Bill Vander Zalm, and I know my profession is despised by some members of the public as passionately as the HST. Plus, I think it’s darned near impossible to collect 40% of registered voters’ signatures in only 60 days to successfully have an MLA recalled, and even less possible to get close to 300,000 (10%) signatures from across the entire province in 90 days to force a new bill onto the table. To say my plan would be an uphill battle would be a gross understatement.
But then again, if a battle is worth fighting, the odds don’t matter. Besides, you’re guaranteed to lose if you don’t try.
I have to do something.
All it takes is one person.
One person to propose a new bill.
One person per riding to fill out a simple form.
I know it’s not simple once the paperwork is completed. Heck, it would be incredibly difficult. Over 6,700 people volunteered to help canvass for signatures when Mr. Vander Zalm put forth his initiative. But, you know what? I believe there are many, many people out there who feel Bill 22 is wrong; that under-funding public education is wrong; that ignoring a Supreme Court ruling is not only wrong, but illegal. And I believe these people are willing to “walk the talk” if given the opportunity. These people—individuals all—have the power to make a difference.
Or, at the very least, make the government take notice.
Imagine the reaction if recall applications for close to 50 ridings went in simultaneously! I cannot think of a stronger—legal—expression of dissatisfaction with the actions of the current government.
It’s entirely possible none of the petitions would succeed, but their existence alone would send a very loud message to the government about listening to the people it purports to represent.
As much as I might wish to, I cannot force the government to repeal Bill 22 and do what’s right for students. However, I don’t have to sit back and take it either.
There is still more I personally can do.
I’m terrified, but I’m willing to try.
In order for any recall campaign to have the best chance of being successful, it is essential that only one application per riding be submitted as the signatures from one petition cannot be counted toward any others.