Robbins SCE Research
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Of BC Teachers and 'softwood'
  May 04, 2006

A random digit dialing of 514 respondents throughout the lower mainland of British Columbia including: Burnaby, Coquitlam, Delta, Maple Ridge, New Westminster, Pitt Meadows, Port Moody, Surrey and Vancouver City. This ROBBINS poll was undertaken between April 28-May 1, 2006 and features a margin of error of 4.75%, 18 times out of 20 @97% competency.

Question #1
How likely would you now be to support a teacher’s strike in ANY circumstance?
Very Likely    04 %
Likely    32 %
Unlikely    35 %
Very Unlikely    29 %
Question #2
In your opinion, should individual schoolteachers be compelled to follow directions of the BC Teachers Federation no matter what?
Yes    33 %
No    67 %
Question #3
In your opinion is BC Liberal Education Minister Shirley Bond ‘doing enough’ to ensure that problems relating to the education system are sufficiently resolved to avert a strike or similar type work stoppage?
Yes    41 %
No    55 %
Question #4
Do you support legislated class sizes for most grades K-12 of 30 pupils per classroom OR is it your opinion class sized should be smaller?
30 Students per class    52 %
Less than 30 students per class    48 %
Question #5
Whose position on education funding are you more inclined to believe?
BC School Boards and Trustees    36 %
The BC Liberal government    43 %
Neither    21 %
Question #6
Which of the following choices BEST depicts the type of wage settlement BC Teachers should expect?
One that is similar to the one the BC Government Employees received    22 %
20% over a three-year period    04 %
10% over a three-year period    63 %
5% over a three-year period    11 %
Question #7
Which of the following statements BEST describes how you perceive the recent Conservative government settlement on softwood lumber?
I believe Prime Minister Stephen Harper deserves “the credit”    29 %
I believe the previous Liberal government under Paul Martin deserves “a lot of the credit”    19 %
David Emerson was involved with softwood negotiations for both Liberals and Conservatives and he deserves “a lot of the credit”    17 %
All of the above    35 %
Question #8
Which of the following applies to you?
I have a child or children in grades K-7-    18 %
I have a child or children in grades 7-12    23 %
I do not have any children in either K-7 or 8-12    68 %
Commentary
Facts-Respondents who are “very likely” or “likely” to support “a teachers strike in any circumstance” are overwhelmingly inclined to ALSO be of the opinion that “school teachers should be compelled to follow the direction of the BC Teachers Federation no matter what”.
A small minority of respondents who are “unlikely” to support a strike also believe “individual school teachers should follow BC Teachers Federation”. A small minority of respondents who do not believe individual schoolteachers should follow the BC Teachers Federation are likely to support a strike.
Respondents who are of the opinion that BC Liberal Education Minister Shirley Bond is ‘doing enough’ are ‘split’ on “unlikely” and “very unlikely” from Question #1. Respondents who choose “unlikely” and “very unlikely” in Q#1 are overwhelmingly inclined to support legislated class sizes of ‘30’. The vast majority of respondents who believe the BC School Boards and Trustees over the BC Liberal government, also support a strike but are not always inclined to believe individual schoolteachers should follow the BC Teachers Federation “no matter what”. Does this mean that the public assumes that BC School Boards and Trustees favour BC Teachers?
A significant majority of respondents who are “unlikely” or “very “unlikely” to support a strike AND who say “No” in Q#2 AND who believe that class sizes should be smaller than 30 AND Do Not believe either BC School Boards, BC School Trustees, or the BC Liberal government, SUPPORT Prime Minister Stephen Harper, AND David Emerson’ efforts on softwood lumber AND (many) of these respondents have children in K-7 (and most of these do not have children in grades 8-12 as well. {BC Conservatives gain an approximate 20% advantage over Liberals on softwood lumber agreement}. (Federal Opposition Liberals would be wiser to give credit where it is due and take credit where it is due and let Jack Layton speak to any potential loss of jobs).
A majority of respondents who support a strike ALSO support a 10% raise over (3) years while many respondents who are “unlikely” or “very unlikely” to support a strike ALSO support teacher raises similar to the ones recently accepted by the BCGEU or a 10% raise over 3 years. Supporters of Shirley Bond’s ‘efforts’ (Q#3), and of the BC Liberals (Q#5) support a teacher’s raise similar to the one received by the BCGEU or 10% over 3 years.
Those respondents who DO NOT have children in K-12 are more likely to NOT support a strike by teachers, but believe (as most respondents do) that 10% or a similar to BCGEU settlement is fair for teachers. Respondents with children in 8-12 are more inclined to be ‘split’ on matters as between the BC Liberal government and teachers.
Commentary-There is no doubt about it, younger parents with children in K-7 support Stephen Harper and David Emerson, and don’t support the BC Teachers or the BC Liberal government, or School Districts and Trustees. The contrast here is that Stephen Harper AND (despite his past (present?) difficulties in his own riding) David Emerson are perceived by this group of respondents to be “getting things done”.
BC Teachers cannot strike again! They were successful with it once ONLY because the Campbell government created the right circumstances where it would be favourable. If a strike occurs again the BC Teachers and the Federation will be absolutely marginalized by the public (unless) the Campbell government pulls the same ‘stunt’ as they did in fall 2005 with aggressive legislation. Parents of young school age children will not be pleased at another disruption. People with no children in school “still paying taxes” will not be pleased at another disruption. Fewer people generally will accept another disruption. That’s the ‘bad’ news. The ‘good’ news is that the public accepts smaller classrooms of thirty students or less. The further ‘good’ news is that the BC Liberal government had the good sense to be pro-active and will put legislation forward calling for 30 students per classroom. This is the beginning of win-win. The further good news is that the public will gladly give the teacher’s a raise of around 10% over three years. ROBBINS has been telling the Gordon Campbell government for over three years that this is the definitive amount of raise to offer to the BC schoolteacher’s. Which Gordon Campbell will emerge to deal with the matter of more dollars for teachers? Premier ‘keep the ball rolling’, or Hannibal the headhunter?
Essentially, in September 2005 the BC Teachers made their point with the general public, taking well over 50% of support rising from a position of original ‘support’ likely much lower than that. Teachers have the opportunity now to reap the benefits of that political response and effort ‘today’ unless they ‘lose sight of reality’ and revert to an ‘us against the world’ mentality, their collective shortcoming.
Shirley Bond is doing a good job as Education Minister. It really isn’t for us to comment but we think the public has underestimated her work on this file, and suspect that if Premier Campbell gives her the ball, she will be successful. So far the class size legislation is a winner, but what we really like is the fact that parents will be able to find out more information about an individual teacher’s ability from the College of Teachers. Most teachers are really good, but some ‘stink’, they stink so bad they would make skunk blush, and if your child gets a stinker for one year their education is set back. Just as entrepreneur Jimmy Pattison said ‘not everyone is cut out for selling cars’, well not everyone is cut out for teaching and we need to weed out some of the really big stinkers and make sure our kids get the best teachers and the best education for the big tax dollars British Columbians are investing in them, particularly if teachers want Santa Campbell to fatten their wallets!
Premier Campbell participated well on the softwood solution, (save for some (likely) unnecessary comments afterward). This gives him political capital on further federal provincial negotiations, including the additional amounts requested for Olympic cost overruns. The Premier should not hold his breath on this front however because if the Federal government provides dollars for overruns they will be seen as not responsible with BC taxpayers dollars. The feds may have a responsibility on behalf of all Canadians with respect to the Olympics, but not if it means being fiscally irresponsible to taxpayers. No-one signed on for cost overruns!
The BC Liberals are believed by more British Columbians in the lower mainland than are School Boards and Trustees of the province because there are a large segment of respondents who “really don’t know what these people (Board and Trustees) do to earn their living”.
BC School Boards are not supposed to be political, however School Board Trustees are elected. The Trustees apparent desire to be ‘somewhat invisible’ and ‘sneaking back in’ at election time makes it difficult for respondents to take their efforts seriously because they “don’t know why they are there in the first place.” This coupled with extraordinary poor support in New Westminster, and lower support in Coquitlam and Surrey impacted negatively on overall support for School Boards and Trustees vs. The BC Liberal government.

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