B.C. parents are hopeful that veteran mediator Vince Ready could help resolve the stalemate between teachers and the province, but their optimism is tempered with worry as September – and the start of classes – rapidly approaches without a deal in sight.
The B.C. Teachers' Federation and the B.C. Public School Employers' Association announced last week that they had met with Mr. Ready and he had agreed to monitor the situation and begin mediating when he thinks it will be productive. Both sides declined to provide further updates Tuesday.\
(Read up on the issues and history of the education labour dispute with our explainer Q&A.)
"Vince Ready is probably the best negotiator in the country and one of the top in the world," said John Puddifoot, a father of two teenagers and the first vice-president of the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils.
"If anyone can bring two sides that are so far apart together for a settlement, he can … but that is conditional on both parties listening to him. And if they're not willing to listen … it doesn't matter how good a mediator you are."
The BCTF had called on Mr. Ready back in June to help them resolve the dispute but he declined, saying he was too busy.
The province's 40,000 teachers launched a full-scale strike in June, cutting the school year two weeks short, after several weeks of rotating walkouts and other job actions. Among other demands, they're calling for the government to address issues such as class size and composition.
Angela Wall, a Gibsons mother, said she's skeptical that classes will begin any sooner than October. "People think the government is going to wait and then legislate them back," Ms. Wall said. "That's how far apart people think [the two sides] are."
But Victoria parent Michele Sealey said she and her 13-year-old daughter Aziza are still hoping for classes to start on Sept. 2. Realistically, however, she says it's more likely school will be postponed for at least a week.
"Vince Ready is a mediator, not a miracle worker," Ms. Sealey said. But, she added, she's much more optimistic now that he's gotten involved. "I have a lot of faith in that man," she said.
Cole Poirier, who is entering Grade 12 at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary in Vancouver, is worried about losing valuable class time.
Mr. Poirier is in the international baccalaureate program, which allows him to earn a high-school diploma that is recognized around the world.
The program is demanding, and a late start would mean cramming a lot of course-work into an already tight schedule.
"Unfortunately, since it's an international program, I'm quite confident that there will be no accommodations made for us," he said.