Before he announced the firing of the Vancouver School Board this week, B.C. Education Minister Mike Bernier phoned (now former) VSB chair Mike Lombardi. According to Mr. Lombardi, the courtesy call came 10 minutes before Mr. Bernier delivered the news publicly.
The conversation sounded nothing like this:
MB: Mike, it's Mike. That's pretty funny, we're both named Mike. Do you see the humour in that? I mean, we're both named Mike. I see it. Do you see it? Tremendous. Truly. Okay.
ML: It's a pretty common name, Minister.
MB: No, seriously. And I'm being serious here for a moment, I have to tell you Mike – may I call you Mike – is that okay? I'm not happy, Mike. You and your board are giving me a lot of headaches. Huge headaches. I'm not happy at all. Terrible, terrible things I'm hearing.
ML: But we're about to pass a balanced budget. We're meeting tonight to do that. That's what you wanted, right?
MB: I can't let that happen Mike, not like this. It looks bad. Really bad. I run a successful ministry. One of the the most successful ministries in the world. I employ thousands of people. We have people – India, China – we have people coming from China to go to our schools. It's tremendous. So good. The Chinese wish they could do what we do. Believe me. But you and your board – some of your board, I'm not going to say they're all bad – you and your board are making it very difficult. Very.
ML: So if it's so good – if we're the envy of the world – what's the problem?
MB: Don't twist my words, Mike. You do that. You're doing that. So dishonest. So dishonest. Just terrible. Like the media. So corrupt. The budget – the budget is one thing. You had a chance in June – you didn't do it. What can I say. But I have a report from a special adviser. A special adviser. Milburn. Peter Milburn. You know him? Tremendous individual. So good. I'm not going to tell you what's in it. I'm going to keep you in suspense. But I will tell you that it is bad. It is very, very bad.
ML: You're not telling me what's in it because of a privacy complaint.
MB: That's right – from one of your own people. You see? You're doing it. You're doing it again. People are leaving you, Mike. They don't like you. Six of them so far. Sick. So sick. I can't let that happen. The audits – believe me I know about audits. The bad behaviour – so bad. I'm holding a news conference in about 10 minutes to announce that you're fired – all of you, you're fired! Get out!
ML: I'm at home.
MB: Don't change the subject, Mike. This is a courtesy call. I'm doing you the favour of letting you know ahead of time so you can prepare. I'm very generous that way. I support a lot of charities. They do tremendous work. Very generous.
ML: But we're a democratically elected board. Voters put us here. You can't fire us just because you don't like our politics.
MB: I can and I just did. Check your e-mail. It doesn't work anymore. See, I can do that. The School Act, Mike. It's all in there. It lets me fire anybody I want. I'm playing by the rules here. That makes me smart. You should have passed a balanced budget when you had the chance.
ML: But I told you, we're doing that tonight. All the cuts are already in place anyway – it's just a formality.
MB: Too late. Much too late. You had your chance and you blew it. You totally blew it. You and your friends. What a mess. Huge mess. So sad.
ML: So what happens now?
MB: Dianne Turner takes over starting now. Tremendous woman. Brilliant. Truly. Nobody respects her more than I do. Brilliant.
ML: You know how this is going to look right? And you're heading into an election.
MB: Look at me, Mike. Do I look worried? I have people. The people know. They know. Our support is just tremendous. Truly. And it's growing. They know me. They love me. Wow. So good. So, so good. Okay. I gotta go. The cameras. So many cameras. People so interested in what I have to say this morning. It's unbelievable. Mike?
MB: You're fired! I just wanted to say that again. Okay, time to go tell it to corrupt media. So biased.
Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One, 690 AM and 88.1 FM in Vancouver.