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EDITORIAL: Premier should pay attention to B.C. teachers dispute

Premier Christy Clark has been in the Tri-Cities so often in recent weeks , she might as well take up residence again.

Premier Christy Clark has been in the Tri-Cities so often in recent weeks, she might as well take up residence again.

Of course, the meet-and-greet sessions with local business, arts and ethnic groups are more about lubricating votes for an upcoming byelection than anything else, and while it's great to see the premier here, perhaps there are more pressing concerns that require her attention.

If we could be so bold, we might suggest education should be top of mind for the premier. There has been no date set for the byelection to replace Iain Black while schools are labouring under job action that has turned routine administrative tasks such as supervising recess and exams, and filling out report cards into major headaches.

As yet, the premier has given no indication of her willingness to step in and legislate an agreement for the province's teachers, a smart move on her part given the fact that negotiations, though not fruitful, are still taking place.

But in a week, the legislature will return and then we expect to see some well-thought-out plans for labour negotiations as well as info on how the province intends to deal with Bills 27 and 28, on class size and composition, which it has until April to resolve.

There is much speculation as to whether the BC Liberal government will continue to play tough with teachers, given the premier's previous role as education minister when bills stripping class size and composition from the teachers' contract were passed. While the changes may have given districts more flexibility and autonomy, they also created problems in the classroom and ramped up the dysfunction between the teachers and the government to an all-time high.

Against this backdrop, the BC Public Schools Employers' Association and the BC Teachers' Federation are supposed to be negotiating under a government-imposed net-zero mandate. Both sides are far apart, although hopeful that some agreement can be made.

Will the government step in with some money to address these issues? Hopefully, yes, although the money won't be enough to make B.C.'s public school teachers happy.

No one likes legislated settlements and the chances of Clark smoothing the waters is slim, given her record. But something needs to be done to help resolve the current impasse.