Like most political stories this one is long, complicated, and far from exciting. However, the Coles Notes version goes something like this: Earlier this year the Vancouver School Board was asked by the provincial government to cut costs by millions of dollars in its upcoming budget and to close some underutilized schools. However, the school board basically said sorry not happening and refused to bring forth a balanced budget. This was not the first time the board had disagreed with the provincial government over budget issues but was nonetheless seen as a pretty big slap in the face to the province. Fast forward to just a few weeks ago and the VSB had still not passed a balanced budget. To make matters worse, a bullying scandal also came to light which revealed that several staff members had complained of repeated bullying from board members... talk about drama.
So What Happened?
Well, basically the school board had a long talk with the province and realized they were in the dog house. As a result, the VSB reportedly was going to meet Monday night to finally pass a balanced budget and try to play nice with its big brother, the province. Unfortunately for the VSB, Education Minister Mike Bernier said 'sorry, too late' and took the drastic step of firing the entire school board Monday morning before they could even meet.
How Can This Happen?
Now you might be asking how can the province fire an elected board of officials. Well, here's the short answer: While the VSB is in fact made up of members who are elected every four years by the citizens of Vancouver, they actually have no 'real' autonomy. This is not to say they aren't a government body because they certainly are. The VSB sets the policies and budgets for the school district and is the governing body for the Vancouver School District. However, they are only legally allowed to govern because the provincial government has given its blessing (in the School Act) since education is a provincial responsibility according to the constitution... Put simply, the VSB is like a teenager that will never turn 18. It can do whatever it wants but when it steps out of line it still has to come home and face mom and dad (AKA the provincial gov). The VSB was given a time-out in recent weeks and when that didn't work they were grounded indefinitely because mom and dad always get their way.
On a Scale of 1 to Furious
As you can probably imagine, there are many different opinions and feelings on this matter ranging from happy to downright furious. Starting with happy we have the provincial government and those who thought the school board was stepping out of line by rejecting the wishes of the province. Then you have those who feel the school board was out of line but think it was wrong for the province to fire elected officials given that it defeats the entire purpose of holding elections to begin with. Then you have those that are extremely mad about the move including the municipal political party Vision Vancouver which had four of its trustee members fired in the incident.
Personally I have some mixed feelings about the firings but feel the province simply took it too far. Sadly I feel the firings are the result of deeply rooted political issues and a difference in opinions that stem a lot further back than just a year. However, to keep it short and simple I'll say this: The province legally has the right to fire the board but I don't think the current situation (being used as the reason) justified the firing of all board members. If there was in fact a bullying issue, those specifically involved should have been fired but to fire the entire board is completely absurd. Furthermore, having the board stand up for its constituents by rejecting calls for cuts and closures is simply the board doing its job and not falling victim to towing the party line. This is something that should be applauded to a point. I say to a point because I also feel the board can't simply say no and not work with the province on finding a compromise where both parties are satisfied. The current situation dragged on for far too long in my opinion and the province was likely quite frustrated. Regardless of their frustration though, the province did not provide a sufficient rationale for the firings and owes the people of BC a better explanation as to why they effectively stop the democratic process. If you're going to fire anyone, let alone an elected official, you damn well better have a very good reason which makes this nothing more than disgraceful politics.