Anne Lagacé-Dowson, Robert Green and Trudy Mason discuss cuts to parental leave and the Couillard government’s austerity agenda.
By Robert Green | Published Sept 1 2014 by Ricochet
The beginning of the school year should be a time of great optimism and excitement for teachers. We’re energized by seeing our colleagues again and excited to meet the students we’ll be teaching for the year. Our thoughts should be focused on making our classrooms more welcoming, our lessons more engaging and our contributions to our school community more meaningful.
Unfortunately, for too many teachers across Canada the positive feelings that normally accompany the beginning of the school year will be overshadowed by more negative sentiments: uncertainty, frustration, anger and above all the feeling of being profoundly disrespected.
Nowhere is this more true than in BC. The province’s teachers have been on the picket line since the spring as part of the latest chapter in an exasperating decades-long struggle with the province’s Liberal government. The bad faith demonstrated by the government over the course of this struggle boggles the mind. While the media wants to malign BC teachers as greedy, the heart of this dispute has always been about protecting quality of education for students by reducing class size. After teachers gave up salary concessions in the nineties in order to win class-size reductions (greedy bastards!) the BC Liberals went on to unilaterally remove these provisions from their contract in 2002. Continue reading
By Robert Green | Published Aug 27, 2014 by The Montreal Gazette
Along with just about every teacher in the province, I was left speechless by Liberal Education Minister Yves Bolduc’s statement last week that “no child is going to die from (budget cuts) or stop reading because there are already books” in school libraries.
That such words would be uttered by a minister of education is just baffling. Either Bolduc is unaware of the very serious impact of denying Quebec’s schools the resources they need to get kids excited about reading, or he simply doesn’t care about the quality of education in Quebec’s public schools.
That this statement happened to also have been made by a man who saw no problem double-dipping into Quebec’s public coffers for over $200,000 in personal gain is downright infuriating.
Thus far, the government’s attempts at damage control have done little to restore confidence. While Bolduc has apologized for his statement and both he and Premier Philippe Couillard have affirmed that it’s important for school libraries to be able to purchase new books, neither has provided an alternative that won’t affect the province’s most needy students in other ways. Both have made vague suggestions that school boards should choose to cut elsewhere.
This of course raises the question of where exactly school boards should cut. Continue reading
By Robert Green | Published August 9, 2014 by Ricochet
In a move that seems perfectly symbolic of the sort of politics his government represents, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard announced this week that the five members of the government commission charged with reviewing government programs and recommending where to make cuts will be paid the tidy sum of $1.03 million for about eight months of work. Commission President and ex-Liberal cabinet minister Lucienne Robillard will take home $265,000 for explaining to average Quebecers where they must make sacrifices.
The message being sent here is unmistakable: Tough choices, sacrifice and austerity are for the common people, not Quebec’s elites.
Though his government has been in power only a short time, this is not the first time it has sent such a message. The government’s first budget contained cuts to school boards that are likely to seriously affect the services provided by already underfunded public schools, while leaving the subsidies wealthy families receive to send their children to private schools untouched. Apparently it is for the children of Little Burgundy to shoulder the burden of repairing Quebec’s public finances, not the privileged children who live up the hill in Westmount.
In fact this message is nothing new. From the PQ’s “deficit zero” politics of the late nineties to the Charest government’s attempts to “re-engineer the state” in the 2000s, Quebec’s political leaders have for years been saying that average Quebecers need to make do with less, that government spending is “out of control” and that we as a society are “living beyond our means.”
In 2010, Finance Minister Raymond Bachand called for a “cultural revolution” of austerity. This revolution led directly to the longest student strike in Canadian history and the defeat of Bachand’s government. Now back from exile, and sporting a new leader, the Liberals are set for round 2.
However, a cursory examination of Quebec’s recent spending trends shows a very different picture. With the exception of a spike in stimulus spending following the 2008 economic downturn, Quebec’s expenditures as a percentage of GDP have been trending downward since the early nineties. Even at the height of stimulus spending in 2009-2010 Quebec was spending significantly less as a percentage of GDP than it was in the early nineties. This is hardly a picture of out-of-control spending.
So if spending is not the cause of our current economic predicament, what is? The answer lies on the other side of the balance sheet, in revenues rather than expenditures. Continue reading
Anne Lagacé-Dowson, Robert Green and Dino Mazzone discuss the Liberal youth-wing proposal to abolish CEGEPS with Tommy Schnurmacher. Click here for the podcast.