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Local MLA says debate on teachers contract could take days


Pictou Centre MLA Pat Dunn expects it will take at least five days before he will be able to cast his no vote on legislation that will force teachers into a new contract.

The Progressive Conservative education critic said Monday that opposition members know very little in regards to what the Liberal government intends to put forward as part of the new bill, but there will be time for debates and public presentations at law amendments.

The Progressive Conservative education critic said Monday that opposition members know very little in regards to what the Liberal government intends to put forward as part of the new bill, but there will be time for debates and public presentations at law amendments.

“We understand they (the Liberals) are going to force them to take accept a new contract, but what kind of contract it will be I don’t know.”

Premier Stephen McNeil announced Saturday he'd be tabling the legislation on Monday after teachers voted against a third tentative agreement on Thursday. This was delayed until Tuesday because of a blizzard that struck the province.

This was the third contact teachers had voted against.  Work to rule has been in place in schools province-wide since Dec. 5.

The first reading of the bill is now expected to be heard Tuesday followed by the second reading soon after.  This will be followed by debate, law amendments, committee of the whole and then back to the legislature for a vote.

“The only way something can happen right away is if all three parties agree without any opposition,” he said. “Normally the process could take up to five days.”

He said the 17 opposition members are given an hour each to speak on the bill and during law amendments, when the public is invited to speak, each speaker is given five minutes.

The weather will be major factor in determining how many people speak during law amendments and if they can get to the session, Dunn said, adding he has seen law amendment sessions take place throughout the night, which might stop some from participating.

Dunn said he is disappointed the way things have gone between the province and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.

“I really can’t understand it,” he said. “It was totally unnecessary to get to this point. Positive things could have been done to give faith to the teaching profession that would have improved it.”

He said some changes needed could cost very little to implement such as putting forward a discipline policy with teeth, working through on a good attendance policy and having a serious look at its social promotion that allows everyone to pass from Primary to Grade 9.  

“I really think they should also slow down the initiatives from the top to the bottom,” he said. “The teachers’ working environment is the students’ learning environment. The complexity of the classroom today is that you have four or five groups of intellectual ability so the planning and data they have to do is incredible.”

Better mental health services, educational assistants and resource teachers are needed, a further cost, and should be addressed as well, he said.

“The thing I couldn’t understand is that the government was going to spend $20 million on a committee to find out the problems but it didn’t include any grassroots teachers on the committee. All they would have to do is sit down with teachers and spend the $20 million in the classrooms.”

In light of the fact that the legislation will probably be imposed during Teacher/Staff Appreciation Week, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is asking members to send a message to the province through social media and the hashtag #underappreciated.

“Teachers are already feeling devalued by the treatment they have received from this government. They are tired of being threatened with legislation that erodes their right to a fair collective bargaining process. They are upset about having their calls for urgent reforms in their classrooms ignored. For the last two years, the minister of education has done nothing but try and divide teachers from their students and families and it has taken a toll.”

 

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