The provincial government is going to court to block the release of information that led a B.C. Supreme Court judge to conclude the Liberals tried to provoke a school strike for political gain.
In court documents filed on Tuesday, the government said it will seek to overturn a B.C. Supreme Court order that teachers’ working conditions be restored to what they were before 2002. And it moved to appeal the judge’s decision in that case to permit distribution of a complete version of the union’s final argument.
The document is more than 200 pages, and includes material from secret cabinet documents the teachers’ union calls “shocking.” John Rogers, a lawyer for the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, has said the documents show the government tried to reduce teachers’ pay and cancel leaves to provoke them to escalate job action in 2012.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin noted in a highly critical judgment last week that “the government thought that a teachers strike would give the government a political advantage in imposing legislation that the public might otherwise not support.”
Justice Griffin ruled the teachers’ union could distribute its final argument, but gave the province a month to appeal. The government said earlier this week it had not decided, although the notice was filed on Tuesday.
NDP Leader Adrian Dix called for the release of the cabinet documents in an open letter to Premier Christy Clark earlier this week. “[Justice Griffin’s] ruling details a conspiracy at the highest level of your government to provoke a strike in our schools, throwing children and their families in to chaos for political gain,” he wrote. “We are calling on you to release these cabinet documents, which Justice Griffin called ‘highly relevant,’ to the public as the first step in an apology to British Columbians.”
The Liberal government in 2002 introduced Bill 28, which removed language regarding class size and classroom composition from the teachers’ collective agreement. Justice Griffin in 2011 ruled it was unconstitutional and allowed a year to remedy the issue. The province introduced Bill 22, which Justice Griffin found to be “virtually identical.”
She also levied a $2-million penalty against the government, saying it failed to negotiate in good faith.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Tuesday restoring conditions to 2002-levels could cost taxpayers about $1-billion.