Teachers in New Westminster

Ontario teachers pledge $1.5 million to help striking B.C. educators

Thousands attended a rally in Vancouver on Friday, one day after Education Minister Peter Fassbender said both sides were still far apart.

Thousands attended a pro-teachers rally in downtown Vancouver on Friday, where Ontario’s teachers promised to donate $1.5 million to striking B.C. educators’ depleted piggy bank.

The province’s teachers have been on a full-scale strike since Tuesday and the pledge from the east comes 15 days after the BCTF said its strike fund had run out of money, leaving the union unable to cover the cost of an escalating strike. Teachers were paid for three days of their rotating strikes in past weeks, $50 a day.

“We have committed now as of today 1.5 million in donations,” said Paul Elliott, the president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, on Friday (via CBC). “That number will grow because Christy Clark needs to know you are not alone in this. 60,000, 100,000 in Ontario alone are with you now.”

Friday’s rally – held near Canada Place, with supporters carrying signs saying “Teachers matter Kids care” – comes a day after Mark Brown, an independent facilitator who had spent the past year trying to help both the BCTF and Victoria come to a new deal, resigned from his post.

The union had called for a mediator on Thursday, which the Canadian Press reported pushed Brown to resign, also saying he felt he had lost the union’s confidence.

Also on Thursday, B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender told the public that the two sides were far from a deal, adding that the teachers’ union’s latest proposal was “unaffordable for taxpayers”.

“… Instead of moving us closer, (the BCTF’s) latest demands moved them further away from the affordability zone for public sector settlements,” Fassbender said, in an official government release.

“I’m disappointed. We are now further away from an agreement than we were a week ago. We want to give teachers a raise but the BCTF leadership is making that virtually impossible.

“We appreciate that brings with it the possibility that this strike could go on for quite a while. How long it will last is entirely up to the BCTF – but any hope of timely resolution will require the BCTF executive to be realistic.”