Public Affairs Update Header
September 8, 2014
In This Issue
B.C. public schools shut down by labour dispute
Mount Polley spill larger than previously thought
B.C. to begin budget consultation process
The Public Affairs Update is your weekly insight, perspective and analysis on politics in British Columbia and Canada.  This newsletter is brought to you by the largest, and most broadly-based business organization in the province, the BC Chamber of Commerce – the Voice of Business in B.C.

B.C. public schools shut down by labour dispute
The labour dispute between the Government of British Columbia and the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) continued last week. With no new negotiations scheduled and mediators saying the two sides are too far apart to reach a deal, there is no indication students will be returning to school in the near future. 

The two sides remain far apart on a range of issues:


Wages: The Province is offering a seven-per-cent increase over six years, while the teachers are asking for eight per cent over five years and a $5,000 signing bonus to compensate them for three years without pay increases.


Class size and composition: Teachers want $175 million in the contract’s first year and $225 million in subsequent years to hire more teachers to reduce class size and help special needs students. The Province is offering a $75-million Learning Improvement Fund that would be shared between the BCTF and education workers represented by CUPE.


Court grievance fund: The BCTF also wants $100 million over five years to deal with grievances stemming from two B.C. Supreme Court rulings that found B.C. Government laws restricting the union’s bargaining rights are unconstitutional. Negotiators for the Province want to set this request aside pending an appeal of the rulings.


Premier Christy Clark has called on the teachers to suspend the strike while bargaining continues, but angered teachers and their supporters by calling teacher demands unattainable. BCTF president Jim Iker said teachers will end their strike if the Province agrees to binding arbitration and to withdrawing a contentious clause that would give the B.C. government the power to nullify the BCTF’s court wins.


The dispute has left parents searching for various forms of child care. Thousands of parents with children 12 and under have applied to the B.C. Government to receive $40 for each day of school missed. Some parents have donated the money to teachers through a website called Families Funding Teachers. Other parents and students held demonstrations outside B.C. Liberal MLA offices. Meanwhile, enrolment in the province’s private schools is up 4.5 per cent this year.


Mount Polley spill larger than previously thought
The owner of the Mount Polley mine near Likely, B.C, mine says the amount of contaminated water and waste that spilled into the ecosystem was significantly larger than originally thought. 

Original estimates pegged the amount of waste at 10 million cubic metres of wastewater and more than four million cubic metres of sediment spilled into Polley Lake. Imperial Metals is now saying nearly 25 million cubic metres of contaminated water and mine waste spilled into surrounding waterways. This equates to approximately 78 per cent more than original estimates.


Steve Robertson, Imperial Metals’ Vice- President of Corporate Affairs, says repeated testing has proven water in the area to be safe to drink.


Currently cleanup and restoration efforts in Quesnel Lake and Polley Lake are ongoing. Work in Hazeltine Creek, however, will require sign off by engineers before the company can proceed.


B.C. to begin budget consultation process
The B.C. Legislative Assembly’s all-party Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services will hold province-wide public hearings regarding the upcoming 2015 Budget. Groups that wish to make a presentation can sign up online starting September 8, 2014. The hearings begin September 15 and continue through October 15. 
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This weekly report produced for the BC Chamber of Commerce by Fleishman-Hillard.  While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information included in this publication as of the date of issue, events and government policies are subject to frequent change.  Therefore, the BC Chamber of Commerce and Fleishman-Hillard cannot assume any responsibility for actions taken solely or principally on the basis on the information contained herein.