The free enterprise crowd insists the economy cannot stand a cost of living increase for teachers and net zero is an immutable law of nature. As a thinking person I don’t buy it. We are not becoming Greece, even a cursory review of our fiscal position belies this insistent threat made by those who would consistently lower taxes without regard for public funding of the most important parts of our social democracy.
Net zero is why B.C. teachers are engaging in such heart-wrenching acts of resistance; the ongoing and unquestioning necessity of net zero. Not to say that B.C. is flush with cash and let’s dole out massive increases for everyone, that’s silly and no one has suggested we do so. Yet the claim that net zero is necessary or we turn into Europe is also silly. Yet somehow net zero became an unquestioned truth, a fundamental necessity to stave off all ruin and, not surprisingly, teachers who dared to question this truth are being attacked as selfish, greedy heretics.
Net zero is a political ploy, an obvious manipulation. It’s not an economic fundamental, but a strategy to cut off debate. Net zero only exists for those who believe without question in the truth of lower taxes, because as we have all been told incessantly, lower taxes create jobs. Do they? Do they really?
My entire adult life I have heard the fiscal argument that lowering personal and corporate taxes encourages economic growth, but think back, have you ever seen any evidence of this to be true? No one has ever said our economy is awesome, here’s a raise. Instead all of us in the middle class have watched our earnings decline, that of the working poor disappear almost entirely, while profits and earnings for those high income earners has increased exponentially.
How many tax cuts have the Liberals made in the last decade? At 10 per cent, do we in B.C. not have the lowest corporate tax rate in North America, yet the largest number of working poor and children living in poverty?
How many of the current issues around funding would be mitigated or disappear entirely if the corporate tax rate was something like 14 per cent or we accepted a modest income tax rate increase on those making more than say 50k?
Would the money leave B.C., would the sky fall, would we turn into France?
Or would funding be available for nurses, teachers, social workers and others empowered with the public trust to maintain our social contract take their cost of living increase and walk away from the bargaining table, not wealthy, but satisfied that they are valued, respected and that the services they provide are worth funding in a commonsense, fiscally responsible manner.
In my 18 years of teaching, funding to education has been cut, that is well documented. I have also never received a raise beyond modest cost of living increases (all I want or feel I need, frankly).
Although ridiculously contentious and politically motivated on both sides of the table, teachers and government have always managed to reach some sort of compromise – until now.
Why? Net zero.
This unquestioned belief in the truth of net zero is why I have made the heart-wrenching decision to not participate in extracurricular activities at my high school, why I will let down my Grade 12’s and for the first time in a decade, not read their autobiographies as they cross the stage at their graduation ceremonies; I can’t, not because my union has made me, we are free to make this difficult choices ourselves, but because we teachers are a principled lot and I for one, I can’t sit back and accept what I am convinced is an attack not only on collective bargaining, but an inevitable weakening of public education in the name of fiscal efficiencies.
I am aware of the cruel irony this decision creates.
I consider the honour of reading these autobiographies one of the greatest perks of my teaching career, yet I cannot participate because the Liberal agenda has left me no other avenue of resistance that anyone would actually notice.
I teach students to stand up for their beliefs, to speak, to resist, to protect what matters to them.
The irony is that in doing so, I am hurting my students as much as myself.
And why? Because of the seemingly fabricated, wholly cynically and entirely unfounded Liberal mantra of Net Zero.
Kelly Winston, Vernon