Posts tagged ‘Austerity’

September 6, 2014

Hey, premiers, leave them teachers alone!

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.

British Columbia

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.

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August 29, 2014

Will the Liberals ensure schools get proper funding?

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.

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August 27, 2014

Pay The Fucking Teachers – a rant

By Wes Borg | Published June 26, 2014 by My Dumb Blog

A rare (I promise) and unsolicited rant from this particular comedian:
Pay the fucking teachers. Shut the fuck up and pay them a lot of money.
Don’t hesitate. Don’t argue. Just suck it up and give the fucking teachers whatever they fucking want.
An educated public commits less crime, makes more money, and has a lower birth rate. They probably even fucking swear less often.
Education is the magic fucking bullet to get us out of the economic, political and environmental shitstorm we are about to be swimming in.
Education is not just the magic fucking bullet, it’s our ONLY fucking bullet.
There are currently 7 billion people on this planet.
In the year 2000, there were 6 billion.
That’s a BILLION extra people since Destiny’s Child was a thing.
Wrap your fucking mind around that one.
During Beyoncé’s career, from “Bootylicious” to “Drunk in Love”, the world’s population increased by over 16%. (Don’t blame Beyoncé, she’s just trying to entertain the nice people with her music and titties.)
Oh, and the oceans are about to start rising, flooding cities and wiping out entire fucking islands over the next 50 years. It’s going to happen, and we have NO IDEA how to even just SLOW IT DOWN.
So we are about to have way too many people living on less and less land.
How the FUCK do you think that’s gonna work out?!
Oh, and we’re almost out of oil.
Now obviously “the rich are going to move to the higher ground” (Geoff Berner) and start shooting anyone who comes near the compound, and religious fanatics are going to say it’s God’s Will or some other stupid shit, but the only hope for the rest of us is that the kids growing up today get fucking smart, fucking fast.
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August 11, 2014

The Hypocricy of Austerity

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.

rich_get_richerThough 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.

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August 6, 2014

Who should pay for Quebec’s deficit, the rich or the rest? CJAD’s Gang of Four debates the politics of austerity

austerityAnne Lagacé-Dowson, Robert Green and Matt Gurney discuss the politics of austerity in Quebec with Tommy Shnurmacher. Click here for the podcast

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June 17, 2014

Support B.C. teachers’ battle against unlawful education cuts

June 15, 2014

A response to Jim Wilson’s letter “Education won’t be able to escape budget belt-tightening”

By Robert Green

On June 13th the Gazette published a letter entitled “Education won’t be able to escape budget belt-tightening” by Jim Wilson. The letter was an attack on my recent op-ed about the injustice of the Liberal government’s austerity measures for education. As Mr Wilson is a well known commentator on Quebec’s English school system whose writing has been often published on this blog, I feel it is important to publicly respond.

The whole reason I submit articles to the Gazette is to stir up public debate. Though I strongly disagree with the positions Mr Wilson takes in his letter, I am more than happy to debate these issues with him. I hope this exchange of ideas will be interesting and informative for readers.

As Mr Wilson’s letter raises a number of points and poses a number of questions, I will deal with them one paragraph at a time.

Robert Green makes one point that I fully support: that public funds should not be used to support private schools. However, he fails in his principal arguments that the budget means that “the neediest students are asked to make serious sacrifices” and that cutting the private-school subsidies would do much to remedy the overall financial situation.

Actually my principal argument was not about remedying the province’s overall financial situation so much as it was about the injustice of imposing austerity on the public education system while leaving generous subsidies for the rich to attend private schools untouched. I’m surprised that someone who claims to oppose public subsidies for private schools doesn’t share my outrage over this blatant injustice.

A secondary point of my op-ed was to show that there is no good reason to exempt private school subsidies from sharing in the burden of austerity. The private schools claim these subsidies save the system money. However, this is a highly questionable claim due to the other forms of government support private schools receive (listed in my article) in addition to the 60% tuition subsidy. While the FAE’s claim that there are significant savings to achieve by integrating private school students into the public system may also be somewhat questionable, even if this reintegration is cost neutral it is still extremely worthwhile as it will eliminate the significant social costs associated with an education system that is segregated along class lines.

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June 12, 2014

Austerity by any other name would smell as foul

An edited version of this article ran in the June 11th edition of the Montreal Gazette under the title “A bad budget for education

By Robert Green

There’s a very good reason the Couillard government wants to avoid using the word “austerity”. The word has become associated with a villainous act that evokes the names of such detested figures as Ebenezer Scrooge and the Sheriff of Nottingham; the act of taking from the poor to give to the rich.

However, avoiding the use of the word austerity may not be enough to prevent Quebecers from seeing the villainous truth behind the recent Liberal budget.

The Leitão budget is clearly moving Quebec in the direction of Choice #2

The Leitão budget is clearly moving Quebec in the direction of Choice #2

Nowhere is this more true than with respect to the Leitão budget’s implications for education. While Quebec’s wealthy will see no change whatsoever to the generous subsidies they receive to send their children to elite private schools, the province’s most needy students will be asked to make do with less.

The Leitão budget has extremely serious implications for Quebec’s public schools. It imposes cuts of $150 million for 2014-15, restrains growth in spending to a paltry 2.2 percent for the years following and freezes hiring for administrative posts.

The reason these cuts are so serious is that they are being imposed at a time when Quebec’s public education system is already in crisis.

School boards are in financial crisis having already been cut to the bone thanks to the $640 million in cuts since 2010. Some have resorted to running deficits while others have sought to raise school taxes. The notion that school boards still have bureaucratic fat that can be cut without affecting services to students is contradicted by both the school boards themselves and public sector unions.

Schools are in crisis due to the growing number of special needs students – a crisis exacerbated by a large and growing private school system that is permitted to use entrance exams to filter out such students, causing them to flood into public schools. The spending cuts mean that there will be even less money for psychologists, child care workers, speech therapists and drug councillors. In other words, fewer resources that can offer children with special needs the fighting chance they deserve.

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May 19, 2014

We Need a Union Capable of Fighting and Winning in the Court of Public Opinion: Why I’m Once Again Running For MTA President – Part 4

By Robert Green,

Thus far in this series I have outlined two of the reasons I am once again running for the position of MTA president. In the first post I outlined my belief that the MTA needs to change its institutional culture to be more open to participation by the membership and less partisan. The second post explains why I believe the MTA needs to be more respectful of its own rules; particularly those rules associated with financial transparency. The third post looks at some of the ways we could improve our health insurance and asks members to consider whether the $300,000 QPAT removes from the plan annually is not a back-door fee increase.

austerityAnother important reason I’m once again running for MTA president is that I believe our union leadership needs to do much more to speak out in defense of public education and the integrity of the teaching profession. An effective media strategy can be a powerful means of creating pressure on the employer that can translate into real gains for our members and for public education.

Yet our current leadership seems utterly uninterested in engaging issues in the public sphere.

This was exemplified with the arrival of the Charter of Values as the central issue of public debate in Quebec. Given that this proposed legislation had such direct and severe consequences for teachers, I expected our unions to speak out. Here was an opportunity for the newly elected Mr. Sutherland to show that he could stand up for teachers and defend us in the public sphere. Sadly, unions representing teachers in English school boards were the last in Quebec to weigh in on the issue.

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April 21, 2014

Ontario teachers turn to free online resources amid budget cutbacks, study finds

By:  | Published Mar 31, 2014 by The Toronto Star

Ontario teachers are turning to free online resources in droves — more than textbooks and e-textbooks — marking a “significant change” in learning, says a new report that raises questions about how to ensure the quality of web materials used in the province’s classrooms.

The survey of 1,349 Ontario schools by People for Education found when elementary teachers need new materials, 36 per cent of school report they turn to the web for freebies, 31 per cent say print textbooks and 19 per cent online resources produced by publishers, for which there would be a cost.

Among high schools, one in three report teachers using print textbooks and one in four free web materials, says the report, to be released Monday.

“The world has changed very quickly and a lot of us assume you can find the information you need online — which you can. But a discerning eye for the information is very important,” said Annie Kidder, executive director of the research and advocacy group.

“…We do feel as if it’s a bit of a wild west out there in a lot of different ways. We’re not saying it’s wrong or bad, but we are saying we need to think how we can be assured that kids are getting really high quality material, whether it’s free online or not.”

Part of the move to free online resources is budget cutbacks. But unlike buying textbooks that must be on a list approved by the province, “(there’s no) well-established system for vetting the quality of the free online resources that is widely used,” says the report.

Read more: http://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2014/03/31/ontario_teachers_turn_to_free_online_resources_amid_budget_cutbacks_study_finds.htm

August 9, 2013

Video: Eat the Rich- An Animated Fairy Tale from the California Federation of Teachers

January 21, 2013

Video: Brian Jones discusses Real vs. Phony Education Reform

January 5, 2013

The Big Heist in the Great White North

Canada’s Housing Bubble and the New Economic Order

by MIKE WHITNEY | Published January 02, 2013 by counterpunch.org

Canada’s housing bubble has burst and prices have started to fall. Sales have dipped for 8 straight months as buyer interest has begun to wane. Housing sales in November dropped 12 percent from the same month last year, while previously-hot markets of Vancouver and Toronto saw declines of 28.6% and 16% respectively. Despite the media’s repeated predictions of a “soft landing”, Canada’s real estate market is headed for a bloodbath that will end in a wave of foreclosures, higher unemployment, slower growth, bigger budget deficits, and an aggressive campaign to implement harsh austerity measures aimed at dismantling the social safety net. This is the real objective of bubblemaking, to abolish the publicly funded programs that provide vital assistance for the poor, the elderly, the sick and the unemployed. Ballooning deficits provide the rationale for an assault on the institutions that protect individuals from the ravages of free market capitalism.

As was true in the US, Canada’s massive bubble was created by government and central bank policies intended to shift more of the nation’s wealth to large financial institutions via reckless credit enhancement. Low interest rates, lax lending standards, bogus appraisals, and giveaway gov insurance programs have all fueled a real estate boom which has more than doubled housing prices since 2002. At the same time, “household debt in Canada has risen by 135 percent, while disposable income and nominal GDP have risen by 54 per cent. Household debt growth over the past decade has risen nearly three times as fast as income growth, a trend that is clearly unsustainable. The average Canadian now has a record-high debt load equal to 154 per cent of their disposable income.” (“Is household debt threatening Canada’s economy”, The Globe and Mail) Actually, things are worse than the article suggests. Currently, the household debt-to-income ratio is 165 percent, up from 137 percent in 2007. That means that regulators, big finance, and the BOC have all been working together to inflate the gigantic bubble that’s is now beginning to unwind.

Read more: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/01/02/the-big-heist-in-the-great-white-north/