Education takes a back seat with this lot

Column: 
January 2, 2020

Sometimes it’s not what you say, but rather what you don’t say that tells the story.

The very same day that the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation–via the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee–declared an impasse in the charade that was supposed to be the provincial collective bargaining process, there was Premier Scott Moe bombastically sharing his party’s 10-year plan to grow the province’s population and economy.

Somehow the Saskatchewan Party number crunchers had come up with what can only be described as wildly optimistic if not bordering on unrealistic and surely unsustainable goals.

Growing the population by close to a quarter of a million while adding 100,000 jobs by 2030 was what the Premier was sharing over breakfast with the Saskatoon chamber of commerce folks.

Moe shared how exports would grow by 50 percent, thus the need for international trade offices in Japan, India and Singapore. Huge growth is to be anticipated in both the agriculture and oil production sector while supposedly finding time to triple the Saskatchewan tech sector. He also managed to throw in this nugget: reduction of surgical wait times.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest it can’t be just me who didn’t hear a single word about the importance of having a well-educated populace to attain these lofty goals. It might be suggested that if we’re all of a sudden going to have the equivalent of a medium-sized city come to our province, then maybe, just maybe, there would be a need for more teachers and an adequately funded public education sector. Or, just to be mischievous for a moment, am I perhaps missing what wasn’t said?

Perhaps the lack of mention of education in this grandstanding exhibition, to say nothing of the evident disinterest in actually coming up with an acceptable contract proposal for teachers, is a subtle message that there might be plans to follow in the path of Moe’s chum Jason Kenney, who has seemingly made it his mission to completely undermine and destroy public education.

Lest you should think this is some sort of conspiracy theory, just contemplate for a moment the latest examples of largesse by the Ministry of Education in forming a committee to discuss classroom size and composition with specific restrictions on limiting any sort of influence by those “union” types from the STF. Can’t have that sort of anarchy after all.

There is also the laudable (or sorry, was that laughable?) salary offer of zero percent for teachers in year one and thereafter two percent for the following two years, as well as the most generous offer of all–that $20 million could be reallocated to enhance the overall value of the contract. It’s clearly just minutia to point out that it would come from the politicos taking a year off funding the Members’ Health Plan. You want to talk about creative bookkeeping.

I guess what is the hardest thing for me to fathom in all this is that the folks who are so reluctant to spend a dime on public education in all likelihood have children of their own or failing that, they might reflect on their own education. When we’re toting all these numbers, something just doesn’t add up.