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City Holler

Trish Kelly explores the issues and challenges that face our growing city.

Vancouver School Board's loss could be parents' gain

These school board trustees were not fired, but simply had their future freed up, writes Trish Kelly

A empty classroom is pictured at McGee Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Schools will remain empty like this one this week as the ongoing teachers strike continues into its second week of the new school year.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A empty classroom is pictured at McGee Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. Schools will remain empty like this one this week as the ongoing teachers strike continues into its second week of the new school year.

On October 17th, Mike Bernier, our provincial Education Minister, announced that he’d fired all nine Vancouver school board trustees. Across the city, jaws dropped with a thud. Followed close behind was a chorus of support from parents and lovers of democracy, who rose to defend the elected board that had championed the interests of students in the face of a dozen potential school closures.

But I choose to think of it in a different way. I choose to think that these school board trustees, vocal advocates of public education, were not fired; Minister Bernier simply freed up their futures. Freeing up someone’s future is a  human resources expression for canning someone in the most optimistic way, with confidence that something better for the firee is just around the bend, something wonderful neither party can even imagine until the guillotine flies.

While Bernier could have found ways to simply neuter and demoralize the VSB trustees, he instead freed them up for a future, possibly, in provincial politics. We can choose to be aghast at Bernier’s dismissal of an elected board, or we can get excited about the possibility that at least some of the trustees could now become candidates in the upcoming provincial election.

Let’s consider the very popular trustee Patti Bacchus. In the 2011 civic election, Patti Bacchus received more votes than anyone else elected to school board, park board, or city council. In fact, the only person who received more votes than her was Gregor Robertson. Bacchus also received 13,875 more votes than Suzanne Anton, who lost the mayor’s race to Robertson. In the 2014 election, Bacchus again received an impressive amount of votes. In the school board race, she scored more votes than anyone else. Across the Vision slate, more votes were cast for Bacchus than any other Vision candidate, except for the mayor.

If Bacchus, who was named education editor for the National Observer on Monday, was looking for a new outlet for her education advocacy, she could throw her hat in the ring, and run this spring against the Liberals who ousted her. She’s certainly got more qualifications to be our Education Minister than Bernier, whose twenty year career in oil and gas may make him good at torching things, but not so much safeguarding our public education system.

Perhaps Bacchus could run against Suzanne Anton in the South East Vancouver riding of Vancouver-Fraserview. Bacchus has outdone Anton at the polls before, and this time she could be lifted up by the wrathful passion of Vancouver’s parents. They’re quite a force. Years of underfunding have made Vancouver parents powerful fundraising machines, which Bacchus could harness to run a strong campaign against Anton. And lord knows, Vancouver parents deserve a cathartic release like electing their best champion to provincial government.

Trish Kelly lives and writes in East Vancouver. Follow her on twitter @trishkellyc.

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