NS Liberals retreat in fight against teachers, students

by Robert Devet

What a mess. With less than 48 hours notice the government closed all schools to students today, leaving parents, scrambling for daycare. Parents, students and teachers were mad as hell. The government’s argument that safety could not be guaranteed while teachers worked to rule convinced nobody.

img_9229Feeling the heat, in a day full of surprising twists and turns including rumors of a bit of a caucus revolt, the Liberal government beat an embarrassing retreat.

Rather than start the process of imposing a contract on the teachers, as planned, we’re back where we were on Friday. Tuesday teachers will work to rule, and kids will report to school. Talk of risk dissipated, and left the government’s clumsy effort to turn public opinion against the teachers fully exposed.

It simply didn’t work at all, witness the radio call in shows, the countless comments on social media,

And witness the 1,000+ parents, teachers and students who gathered at the Grand Parade in Halifax, prior to descending on Province House.

“This is about our children. This is about our teachers, and to support our teachers’ needs, Trish Keeping, one of the organizers of the rally, told an enthusiastic crowd.

“We don’t have enough school counselors in this province to look after our kids. We don’t have enough psychologists in our schools to look after the mental health of our children. Wherever the money is going, it’s not going into the schools,” she said.

“When teachers in our province have to buy their own books for their classroom, and their own art supplies. and their own science project supplies, and they are paying for kids’ lunches, than that is unacceptable.”

Liette Doucet, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, received a rousing welcome from the crowd.

“It’s a victory for our students that they will be back in class tomorrow, and that our teachers will be there ready to teach them,” said Doucet.

“I would like to thank you for putting pressure on our government, and would ask you to keep that pressure on, because we still don’t have a contract and the government still has not addressed the conditions in our class rooms. This government is not listening to teachers, parents or students.”

img_9242-e1480980835449“I love you guys, you’re awesome,” said a visibly touched Doucet.

Others spoke as well, parents, grandparents, teachers, Danny Cavanagh on behalf of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, and Kenzi Donnelly, a high school student, who together with a few others managed to mobilize students all across Nova Scotia in support of the teachers.

“It’s easy for us youth to think we don’t matter because we’re not of voting age, not yet at least. But that our group is taken so seriously, that means a lot, said Donnelly.

“We felt so disgusted how our government was treating our teachers. That was not okay with us. It’s super important to us to let the world know that what teachers are saying is true,” said Donnelly.

Tellingly, both the Nova Scotia Parents for Teachers and Donnelly’s Students for Teachers Facebook groups came together very quickly and took off beyond organizers’ expectations. The latter group now has 18,500 members. That’s a lot of members for a small province.

“I am absolutely delighted with the numbers that came out today, and the people that joined our group, Larry Haiven, one of the driving forces behind the parent group, told the Nova Scotia Advocate.

“Of course the government gave us a bit of help. They’re into free fall and they have a revolt in their ranks. When we started our group we had 400 people, and we thought that was really great. Then there were 1000 members, and now we are up to 18,000,” said Haiven.

“That gives you an idea of how strong the sentiment is in the province against what the government is trying to do.”

First published at the Nova Scotia Advocate

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