VANCOUVER, B.C. — Although the next provincial election is still tentatively a year away, the majority of the trustees on the Vancouver School Board could already be in campaign mode.
Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier, who also serves as B.C.’s Education Minister, has become their key adversary. This is because he has the legal authority to fire any school board in the province that doesn’t submit a balanced budget by the end of June.
He is now set to meet this week with VSB Chair Mike Lombardi. Four members of the Vision Vancouver civic political party found the support they needed to reject the $24 million cuts needed to balance the 2016-17 budget — when a Green Party trustee added her vote to theirs.
Bernier expressed his disappointment, and took the time to positively recognize the four members of the defeated minority.
Green trustee Janet Fraser says she decided just last week she couldn’t support cuts said to range from teaching positions to cancellation of anti-homophobia programs and elementary student band classes.
But, Bernier says the board has rejected what his ministry believes is $37 million in annual savings through the closure of under-capacity schools.
There’s still time for the board to submit a balanced budget by the end of next month. But if cuts are to be made involving union members then union notification must be given this month.
For the moment, Bernier sees firing the board as a ‘knee-jerk reaction’ and doesn’t include it among his current options.
Former Board Chair Patti Bacchus doubts Bernier will fire the board, but there’s also concern about repercussions; if given no other option, he passes on his legal right to do it.