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Three Important Provincial Elections this Fall

Canada has three important provincial elections this fall, which could strongly effect education across the country.  BC will go first October 19th, followed by NB October 21st and SK October 28th. For the time being, we can set aside musings of an early ON election although Doug Ford is tempted to go before the federal election expected in 2025, Education, is the second largest expenditure of any province which many see to be one of the great influences on societies, always looms large in provincial elections. 

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BC is undergoing significant political change

 

Although the governing NDP, under premier David Eby, still leads every poll by 10 -12%, the opposition is now led in the polls, by the BC Conservative Party (BCCP), previously on the endangered species list, who are now the main contender, with only 4 seats in the legislature over the BC United Party (BCU) AKA the former BC Liberals due to a name change. The small but influential BC Green Party is now challenging BCU for 4th place. According to 338 Canada, a polling aggregator, the situation is shaping up like the chart below. 

chart 1 (2024).jpg

Projections for every seat can be found on the 338Canada website. 

 

https://338canada.com/bc/districts.htm#google_vignette

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It would seem Kevin Falcon made two critical political errors. The first was the name change from Liberal to BCU and the second was expelling John Rustad, now the BCCP leader, from the BCU caucus due to Rustad’s climate change denial. As a results the BCU may become extinct. 

 

It is axiomatic in BC politics, that if you want to defeat the BCNDP, who can sleep in late, and still count on 40%+, there better be only one party on the center-right. The problem is that BCU and BCCP are quite different. BCU is a Howe Street, real estate outfit, with tentacles out to the resource forestry and mining concerns, basically a rich man's establishment party.. It is urban, multicultural, Rainbow+, and anti conspiracy theory. On the other hand, BCCP is a rural, xenophobic, homophobic, climate denying, antivax, socially conservative, redneck intersectional wingnut coalition. Even Crazy Glue can hardly hold  this alliance together for a week, with all its centripetal forces.

 

This situation is fraught with danger for educators. The BCCP program calls for reexamination of all textbooks and curricula for “balance” to make sure they are politically “neutral”. You only need to imagine what “neutrality” means for the environment, 2SLGBTQIA+, gender relations, a promised end to SOGI, and the like. Equal time for climate denial , and other absurdities. All we need are learning materials that tell the truth. 

 

This is a critical election for the NDP because a win means they can sink even deeper roots into the BC electorate, while likely preparing to meet a single right wing foe around 2028. 

 

Education is a major Issue in New Brunswick this Fall 

 

New Brunswick is an interesting case for our FPTP system, as the Liberals are polling 2% higher, but the PCs are set to win a narrow victory, all to say it's close. The chart below shows the numbers. The PC vote seems slightly more ‘efficient', which is what pollsters call it when you get more seats from fewer votes, than your opponents. 

 

The Greens have replaced the NDP as the main ‘progressive’ option although NDPers consider Greens to be Liberals who compost. The Liberals are strong in the French, Acadian north plus the east including Moncton. The PCs are strong in the Anglophone south and west including Fredericton and St John. The Greens have 2 of their 3 potential seats in Fredericton. The Peoples’ Alliance is a populist, conservative party with an anti-bilingual (anti French) inclination. 

chart 2 (2024).jpg

As far as education problems, NB has many, chronic problems topped up by a few new ones. Lately, it seems, hundreds of students with disabilities, including disruptive behavior disorder, are simply being sent home, on “home instruction”, since the schools can’t cope with them. They are not getting much more than 2-3 days help, meaning they will quickly fall seriously behind, NB has a serious teacher shortage which compounds this problem. The NBTA, the teachers’ union, complains annually about under-resourced classrooms.

 

Much of this, of course, are the characteristics of education in one of Canada’s poorer provinces. Test scores are low, and remaining low. Child poverty runs around 18%. It may be time that all involved come to understand that problems are unlikely to be mitigated, so long as child poverty is unaddressed. Exhaustive research, over the decades ties low educational achievement and disruptive behaviour,  directly to poverty, This cannot be addressed in schools alone. A great start would be free breakfast clubs and free hot, nutritious lunches in the poorest schools like Wab Kinew is doing in Manitoba. The number of schools involved can grow annually as money is available. Poor families get enormous family budget relief and well fed students perform better.  

 

The province also has unresolved language issues regarding the issue of French Immersion for some but not all students leading rightfully, to charges of elitism, as upper income, higher achieving families try to keep FI for themselves, or perhaps some model of ‘bilingual education for all’ can be implemented. It almost seems like a debate NB cannot afford to have. 

 

To add insult to injury, Tory premier Higgs is on a crusade to dial back sex education in NB especially with regards to 2SLGBTQIA+ issues and specifically gender transition. This seems like a populist fight, picked to position the premier for the election, in a tight race, more than sincere concerns for child welfare, but that, shamefully, is politics. Safe to say, there is little chance that any education problems will be solved or even seriously addressed in the present NB political environment. With a weak, almost nonexistent, NDP there is no political force dedicated, primarily, to fight for the poor, notwithstanding the fact that poverty is the 400lb gorilla in the room. 

 

Saskatchewan Looks Better, but Not Quite Good Enough. 

 

The NDP has been climbing back in recent years ever since they lost their old rural demographic that defined the 

CCF-NDP up to premier Lorne Calvert in 2001. Larger and larger farms and agribusiness has restricted the NDP to Regina, Saskatoon and the far north mainly Indiginous area. 338Canada has the aggregated polls and projections as in the chart below. 

Chart 3 (2024).jpg

The Buffalo Party,and the Green Party are each showing less than 1%. The Sask United Party is farther right than the Sask Party, economically and socially. 

 

The NDP will likely make a substantial jump in seats to the 23 but not close the deal. They are predicted to take 9 seats in Saskatoon and 8 in Regina plus 3 in the north. 

 

Saskatchewan is plagued with educational problems. Some are long standing, others are self inflicted. The federal government is really responsible for the education of “on reservation” First Nations students and generally does a miserable job, primarily connected to On Rez poverty and underfunding and its depressing related issues. SK at 17% has the second highest % of FN behind Manitoba.Inner city poverty in the cities also has a strong FN overlay. SK has 22% child poverty, 3rd worst in Canada, and this is at the root of all educational issues. It is difficult to recruit and retain teachers, due to wages below the Canadian average which brings in a chronic ‘classroom struggle’ with STF, the teachers’ union. Poverty brings in its wake, disruptive behaviour and low achievement often attached to learning problems. When these reach a critical mass, in any particular classroom, learning for all students slows to a crawl, teachers become frustrated and many leave, creating a vicious downward cycle . PISA international test scores are low and falling. 

 

Chronic underfunding leaves school divisions struggling to meet the demands of STF for better wages, plus class size and composition considerations.Failure to fix classroom issues feeds teacher retention issues. 

 

Saskatchewan needs to dump its parsimonious SKP government and spend some serious money on schools, but even this will yield only marginal improvements until poverty is addressed in a resource rich province. Feeding the kids breakfast and a hot nutritious lunch like Manitoba, would be a good place to begin. 

Should Progressive Education Activists be Concerned about Organized Social Conservatives?

 

Between opposition to covid restrictions in schools, and enmity to transgender issues, and gay straight alliances, as their latest crusades, social conservatives seem to keep popping up in school boards and provincial elections. The threat of a new party to contest BC school board elections seemed to fizzle, but the anti 2SLGBTIA with a desire to roll back SOGI (sexual orientation gender identity) curriculum seems to have metastasized to the BC Conservatives (BCCP) a much stronger organization.See link. 

 

https://globalnews.ca/news/9185095/parentsvoice-bc-school-board-elections/amp/

 

There is similar pressure in Alberta through the influential right wing pressure group Take Back Alberta (TBA).where full funding of private and religious education is on the agenda, Parents for Choice is the mainstay of this agenda. 

 

https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2023/08/29/Social-Conservatives-Plan-Alberta-Schools/

 

This piece from Saskatchewan explains the far right connections of the “ parents’ rights agenda.

 

https://saskdispatch.com/articles/view/the-far-right-web-behind-the-parents-rights-movement

 

They are connected with this group, 

 

https://action4canada.com/

 

On a personal note I was surprised, but not surprised, to see that two trustees of this POV, were elected where I grew up in Grey and Bruce Counties, in Ontario, Bluewater District School Board. Local observers tell us however,that they are somewhat ineffectual. 

 

When we combine this with NB premier Higgs running on an anti sex ed platform we get a picture of a nation wide effort that is very hard to judge on a scale of concern. Over many years, we have seen these organizations move on and off the radar with certain issues, like antivax and issues of sexual orientation. Anti “woke” is a recurring theme south of the border when Parents for Liberty are leading book bannings, teacher firings, and slanderous campaigns regarding “grooming” and trans book readings. 

 

Our expectation is that this movement should rise to the level of concern, but not alarm, especially in Canada. They come and go over the generations with flare ups back as far as “Red Scare” campaigns in the early 1950s. The world is changing and some on the far right, motivated by fear, can't seem to handle it. 

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