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UPDATED: BCTF calls out B.C. education minister for talking to media

B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender says he has not broken a media blackout imposed on the government and striking teachers as negotiations between the two parties continue with a mediator.
Peter Fassbender
Education Minister Peter Fassbender. File Photo Dan Toulgoet

B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender says he has not broken a media blackout imposed on the government and striking teachers as negotiations between the two parties continue with a mediator.

Fassbender told the Courier the media blackout concerns details of what’s being negotiated.

“And I’m not speaking about any of those kinds of details,” he said Thursday afternoon.

As minister of education, Fassbender said he’s tried to help parents “understand what is happening, what opportunities are available to them... I do refer to things that have been in the public realm previously if I’m asked because that’s already in the public realm.”

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation criticized Fassbender for a round of recent interviews he did about the strike.

The BCTF released a statement on behalf of its president Jim Iker Thursday morning expressing this frustration.

“Education Minister Peter Fassbender’s recent media tour is a clear contravention of a media blackout that the BCTF, BCPSEA [B.C. Public School Employers’ Association], and government agreed to when Vince Ready first engaged in the bargaining process,” the statement says.

“It is unhelpful that the minister is again playing politics in the media instead of allowing bargaining to resume behind closed doors,” it continues. “It shows a lack of integrity and highlights the government’s ongoing attempts to derail meaningful negotiations.”

The BCTF and BCPSEA announced Aug. 14 that veteran mediator Vince Ready has agreed to monitor talks and start mediation once he believed it would be productive.

“The parties agreed that they will not engage in public discussion pending further discussions with Mr. Ready,” the Aug. 14 press release from the BCTF stated.

“Today, I am calling on Peter Fassbender to honour the media blackout and instruct BCPSEA to immediately begin intensive mediation with the assistance of Vince Ready,” the Aug. 21 statement from Iker read.

Fassbender talked to reporters about the government’s bcparentinfo.ca website, which includes bargaining news, information about caregiver support for parents, student achievement information and learning resources. He said the $350,000 spent to establish and promote the website hails from the government’s communications budget.

Fassbender said the claim it costs the government less than $40 a day per student to have them in classrooms with teachers is “absolutely not the case.”

“The $40 a day is based on the estimated number of students and the savings that the province may realize if a strike continues,” he said.

Tuesday, Sept. 2, is meant to be the first day of public school in Vancouver.

crossi@vancourier.com

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