BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Campaigning begins

Columnist Richard Rolke provides some thoughts on election advertising

We’ve seen the television advertisements over and over again.

A group of enthusiastic teachers tell us how they love their jobs and are proud of their students.

But the optimism is quickly shelved and the focus shifts to students being negatively impacted by a lack of one-on-one time, overcrowded classes and fewer special needs resources.

“After a decade of government cuts, more of them are struggling,” say the teachers.

They then go on to provide voters with advice leading up to the May 14 provincial election.

“Let’s elect a government that gives kids the education they deserve.”

Not once is a political party mentioned but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that it’s the Liberals being referenced when the discussion revolves around classroom cuts.

And it’s doubtful the BCTF is leaning towards the B.C. Conservatives as the education saviour as that party has vowed to rein in spending.

So that means the union is urging the public to cast ballots for the NDP.

Given the tone of the ad, cynical viewers may wonder if Adrian Dix has promised that certain actions will be taken in return for the union trying to rally the troops towards an NDP win?

That scenario is unlikely as previous elections have shown that the newbies can’t always proceed with grandiose plans until they get a look at the books. Are the finances actually in line with what the outgoing politicians portrayed?

That is a situation the Liberals faced when they took over in 2001, and it’s possible for Dix if he ousts Christy Clark from the premier’s chair.

It would be premature, and irresponsible, for anyone to categorically promise that  classroom sizes will shrink and more teachers will be hired until they know the money exists.

It should also be pointed out that declining enrolment continues to be a critical problem for most school districts, including the North Okanagan-Shuswap, where the student population has shrunk by 25 per cent in the last decade. Given that we’re not having babies like we used to, is the next government going to consider additional payroll the best use of already limited dollars?

By running the ads, the BCTF is likely just being over-eager that a like-minded party will soon be in Victoria and the endless conflict with the Liberals is coming to an end.

Obviously it is the union’s right to participate in the democratic process, but it may be setting the NDP up for expectations that can’t be reasonably met.

Also, the ad may leave many rank-and-file British Columbians with the impression that labour is not only pulling the strings of the NDP, but is setting the public agenda. And in always polarized B.C., similar refrains can be heard about the often close relationship between the Liberals and big business.

It will be interesting to see what the general response to the BCTF ad is.

For some, it will reinforce what they already thought about the state of education in the province. While for others, it will  back up long-standing concerns about the influence third parties have on the people’s business.