B.C.’s Public Education Crisis is a Feminist Issue

by | August 24, 2014
filed under Can-Con, Feminism, Politics

classroomB.C.’s 41,000 public school teachers have been off the job since June 17. That was the day that the government responded to the BC Teachers’ Federation’s partial strike action with a lock-out, closing schools for the summer two weeks early. But this long summer may be far from over.

The employer’s association, BCPSEA (representing school boards, whose hands are largely tied by the government’s funding levels), has set August 25 as the deadline for an agreement if school is to open on time in September.

The teachers are asking for two things:

Neither of these things can even begin to be addressed without more money on the table. B.C.’s base funding drags $1000.00 per year  (about 15%) behind the national average.

Ironically, while B.C. is at the bottom of the heap for per-student funding, it is at the top for children living in poverty (Statscan,  Income of Canadians, 2011). Our economy is strong, but nearly one in five children is poor. This is a big problem for schools, because poverty increases the numbers and the severity of special needs among children.

Child poverty and low school funding are also related to the status of women.

Children are poor because their parents – usually their mothers are poor. Mothers are poor partly because women still get lower wages than men, and are concentrated in lower-paid sectors of the economy.

The best sector for women’s wages is the public sector, where female-oriented public sector unions have worked hard to fight the gender pay gap.

But the BC Liberal Government has a 13-year history of bad faith in dealing with public sector unions like the BC Teachers’ Federation.

Before the Liberals’ forced contracting out of hospital jobs in the early 2000s, the Hospital Employees’ Union negotiated some of the most fair and forward-looking procedures anywhere for assessing the true value of work; pay equity procedures that gave gender-blind ratings for job value based on hours, physical exertion and risk, types and level of skills involved, training and responsibility.

Then the government stepped in and passed legislation (Bill 29) that allowed for health authorizes to contract out jobs to private companies. This forced the wages of hospital cleaning staff down by half, bringing them to “comparable” hotel staff standards of pay (and cleanliness). Families fell into poverty as mothers’ wages tanked.

For women, attacks on public sector unions are a double-whammy: they further erode women’s wages and, at the same time, lower the quality of services that children and families rely upon such as schools, health care, libraries and social work.

Just look at how the BC Liberals have gone after the BCTF. In 2002, the government  simply legislated away negotiated class size limits, even though the teachers had agreed to forego wage increases in 2001 in exchange for those limits.  In 2011 the B.C. Supreme Court told the government to put the class size limits back; they ignored the ruling. A second ruling this year again ordered the government to reinstate the limits, which had, by then, been routinely exceeded for over a decade. But the government continues to stall and appeal.

Education Minister Fassbender says that bringing back the 2001 limits would cost taxpayers “up to a billion dollars” a year extra (The BCTF says that this is an over-estimate), I keep wondering how the minister managed to suppress a classic “Bwa-haha!” evil laugh while admitting that his government, by ripping up negotiated contracts, short-changed the public education system a billion dollars a year for 12 years, has no intention of putting the money back, and is spending many more tax dollars on an appeal.

The government doesn’t want us to talk about class size; it wants to focus on salaries. The Ministry of Education reports almost twice as many certified teachers as there are teaching jobs in public schools. In traditional economics, a surplus of laborers, whether in hard hats with shovels or in sensible shoes with whiteboard markers, means workers have to accept less.

But while it may be possible to compute the ideal efficiency point for staffing a factory or mine, efficiency is a concept that is ill-fitted with the project of raising and schooling a child. In striving to create leaner schools in an already-lean family economy, we’ve crossed the line into just plain mean.

There is an alternative. We can lower class sizes, and hire some of those “surplus” teachers. Money spent on lower class sizes goes straight into wages, which are mainly spent on local economies, which in turn feed back into the tax system to keep on doing more of the same.

Kids get smarter, local businesses get healthier, and the future looks brighter.

There is another argument that goes, “Families (and this usually means “mostly mothers”) expect too much of schools. Let parents feed and take care of their own kids.”

This argument is based on a faulty view of history. The truth is that we have never asked so much from parents and helped them so little.

Don’t believe me?  Here is a little number-crunching exercise. Money Sense Magazine estimated the out-of-pocket expenses of raising a child to their 18th birthday to be $12, 825 per year, for a total of  $243,660.  This estimate did not even include any monetary value for parental time and labor, or for lost time in the paid workforce. It did not include day care, or any costs past the child’s 18th birthday although the average Canadian kid sticks around home, hopefully going to university rather than playing videogames in the basement, until she or he is 24.

For comparison, look at that base-funding formula for schools. If we bump it up by a couple of thousand per year to account for special needs funding, we get about $10,000 over 13 years as the public school contribution to the project of raising a human being.

Parents spend more than $20 out of pocket for every dollar that the public pitches in for the education of a child; and the 20:1 ratio of time and other forms of investment is about the same. Transpose this to any other time and place in history, and people would say, “That’s ridiculous. Why are we abandoning parents that way, when we all have a stake in raising good kids to handle the future?”

Ridiculous, indeed. It takes, as they say, a village.

A generation or two ago, the village was a literal one. Children went to church or temple, skipped down to the corner store, met neighbours on front porches and played in one another’s back yards. But those informal outside spaces are disappearing.  Now, parents fork out for sports and lessons and other activities outside of the house—if they can.

School is the main place left outside of home for many children to receive nurturance, wisdom, knowledge, physical activities, fun, and a reflection of themselves as belonging in the world. Given the state of school funding, too many kids are heading from impoverished homes to an impoverished village site—in the midst of a thriving economy that does not want to share.

There is a kind of back-up plan, however, when the taxpayer fails to support schools and other services for children: if a child is in need, somebody of tender heart won’t be able to walk away from that suffering, and so they will stoop to help, even if no one pays them or notices.  The Liberals are counting on the emotional ties that teachers have to their students to cover up the dirty aftermath of cost-cutting.

Sure enough, it is teachers who stock their classrooms with tissues and supplies, buy the fund-raising chocolates to support music and outdoor education trips, slip granola bars to hungry kids and stay at the school until 5:30 to teach them to play ball, then go home to mark assignments and review the next day’s plans.

Not everyone volunteers, but the most generous teachers keep my child’s high school open every day from before 8:00 a.m. until after 8:00 p.m., providing extra tutoring and activities that fill in the gaps of a threadbare “village” every week day for 10 months of the year.

The callous, bottom-line financial reasoning we’re seeing feels more appropriate to an industry like mining than it is to human services.  I’ve seen many teachers begin as fountains of generosity, then slowly acquire the look of a stripped-out resource, tired to the bone and weary from doing so much caring.

Care is not an extractable resource; it is a renewable one. It less like coal and more like water or soil—it needs time and protection. Push a piece of ground to produce beyond its ability to re-absorb nutrients and it will become a desert. Push teachers to do more and more with less and we will find them coming to work with old lesson plans, empty eyes  and throbbing headaches.

Put the money back into public education. Bring respect and good faith to the bargaining table. Hire more teachers, and also more librarians, school nurses, cooks and child care workers. This kind of infrastructure is every bit as important a priority as any bridge, road, pipeline, rail corridor or airport.

It’s all connected. Our teachers, our moms, our kids, our planet, our oceans, our food supply—we have to get it through our thick heads that nothing is really free to keep taking from forever.

Every school child is going to be an adult one day, ready, we hope, to restore the polar ice caps, or build a green house, or cure Alzheimer’s, or change my bedding in the nursing home, or even design a better video game. But that child needs help to get there, and it is our job to support the mothers and the teachers who make it happen.



Photo of desks at Fraser Valley Elementary School in B.C. by Labpluto123 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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  • bluesandgolds

    Excellent. Excellent piece. You drew connections I had missed and included much-need facts that have been missing from a lot of the reporting on this.

  • sukhhayre

    Did you delete my comment? If yes, I’d love to know the reason why.

    Or did something just go wrong?

    • vjgee

      Maybe what happened, while it appears to be posted, at last second there is little note/button, lower right, “Post as …” and you need to click while you can; if you move off the page, and then come back the button and the message are gone (if mine disappears too, then I don’t know what it is) (or I’ll figure there’s a line-up for an off-line moderator makes sure newbie’s don’t do scorn, troll-thing), PS Frustrating. I’d like to read your thoughts if encouragement helps.

      • I’ll check into the issue – thanks for bringing it up! There’s no delay for comments to be posted unless they contain links or appear to be spam (as defined here by Disqus: https://help.disqus.com/customer/portal/articles/569646-why-are-my-comments-disappearing-). Either way I need to go in and evaluate and release the legitimate comments and delete the spam. I try to do that once a day.

      • vjgee

        ah-hh, thank you, here I have learned something–wondered why, elsewhere, one of mine (with a link) disappeared (thought it was the actual LINK) and then disappeared again when I put spaced within the link–thinking one is meant to do a work-around. Thanks for the education. “No LInks within,” that’s the rule, good one.

    • Hi Sukhayre – I haven’t deleted any comments on this article but I went in and checked. It was held for moderation because it contained a link so was flagged as possible spam. I’ve approved it now so you can see it below! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      • sukhhayre

        No worries. It’s posted below.

        • sukhhayre

          Just refreshed my screen and my original comment is showing as “awaiting moderation” again. I’m guessing this because I replied to a reply and inserted another link in my reply? :)

          So, it’s not my original reply that’s awaiting moderation this time, it’s my reply to a reply (because it also has a link).

          I think I’m figuring out how all this works.


  • vjgee

    “The woman connection” is a good one–when I started teaching I told a co-worker, female-type chemistry teacher, that my aunt was a chemistry teacher in Ontario 1960-1970s, and at the start of her career she was on a lower pay scale than male teachers!–something about the boys after the war needing jobs to support families. My co-worker leaned in to tell me, it was the same in BC when she started. Thank goodness for common sense–I mean, for unions that stand-in for common sense.

    Last time around, on-line I read from a guy in the interior, who was fed up and certain we’d be better-off negotiating locally, every man for himself for “what he’s worth” sort of thing. We may hate it, all this “brothers and sisters” stuff that makes people blush self-consciously–a totally different experience working with the tools on big projects than it is working in imperceptible steps to share the curriculum with young minds. It blows me away, the amazing people, the BIG doers and shakers that are the teachers in the young-people communities. The imposter complex leaves me–the role I play (work, not play) seems too small, but students come with their own doubts. Working together, it’s worthwhile.

    Economists watch the bottom line, while labour (particularly women as labour) needs to stick-together for the bigger picture. Adding technology (for one thing) does not add “efficiencies of scale” to teaching, where we can all have more students because they learn from computers. To learn technology as tools, or for illumination, tech is good, but it’s not teaching. People can interact and it seems reasonable (common sense again) that teachers know where the tipping-point, the saturation point, where you can’t meaningfully serve more students than a certain number. I remember the number was 33 when I first started, and there were no learning-differences, students worked efficiently like machines, no interruptions, just provide the information and training–stressful in its own way, and not enduring; “productive” but not satisfying.

    Always heading towards goals to improve, we know what needs doing and micro-managing (meddling with the process for cost sake, without understanding) can get in the way. Somebody said, “I don’t need you to give me an opportunity–just open the door, I’ll get it myself.” Give us the tools we need.

  • vjgee

    World’s number one valuable resource is people, just an opinion. Sounds like we should be afraid of the future, and not work towards anything, just sit and wait for the inevitable. Developing economies want to sell their goods and develop their resources to improve life and living standards–better income levels are currently pushing China ahead and people with more information about the wider world (than has ever been available before) are having a look around for opportunities. “Don’t buy from them” is a strategy that cannot help world’s #1 resource. You are right, the economic-cycle is going to come around again (always does), this economy IS doomed!, as is every stage, always (prosperity, growth, inflation, recession, prosperity).

    I do agree that Government’s tight-fisted because they are aware of economics and the economic-business-cycle, yes. However fall in revenue is partly explained by policy that encourages resource extraction for the employed taxpayers it creates. Many times lately I have read references to “BC Resource extraction 2001 (coal, metals, industrial minerals) provided taxes of $4.2 billion; then, Resources 2012 taxes were $2.5 billion.” Why charge companies LESS in taxes for extracting MORE. There IS the trickle-down effect, where Workers and Shareholders are paid, and then they spend their money, so taxing would decrease those elements from spending in the economy–though economists keep talking about how “trickle down” doesn’t work. It’s possible workers and shareholders take their gains to pay off personal debt and go on foreign holidays, just one possible answer to why-doesn’t-trickle-down-effect-in-the-community-improve-the-economy? puzzle.

    The purpose of education. Ah-hh, I need to read your source article. But in the meantime, I have a feeling it may say, Purpose of Education is to create skilled workers for the world’s industries; true, dark-spin, but true. See, while maybe to some degree “trickle-down” works, then being Skilled-labour IS the only way to obtain a piece of the prosperity-pie. A more optimistic-spin though, is that purpose of education is to develop more value in what we are to ourselves (satisfaction and a happy life), and what we can provide to the community (“Ask not what God can give to you, ask what you can give to God … or your country, your community, anyway–education is to improve the potential value of what people can contribute). Just my opinion.

    I will try to search the article in youdontknowwhatyou. Meantime, Education is a feminist issue. Money CAN develop people toward a happy life because education COSTs money and women deserve education and money, as a measure of value of their increased-inputs. “Tightfisted” government can represent some of which is warped against things going in the right direction.

    • vjgee

      “recovery”, I forgot Recovery. There are various version of the continuum in “the economic/business cycle” but one of them is prosperity-growth-inflation-recession-RECOVERY-prosperity. Current economy is said to be in a slow-Recovery phase. And we avoided huge “inflation” through recent cycle (too much money chasing too few goods) possibly because government strategy of low interest had made easy-money available for so long that there was no ROOM for inflation, people already spend and live on credit. Feeling less prosperous already, employers aren’t allowing wages to go crazy, employment is down, excess money (except for Vancouver housing, some of which is speculative-betting) did not result in inflation from cost of money (interest) being used to curb spending. Slow Recovery (towards prosperity) may be result of timid consumer spending, and government as a spender may feel the same way–along with encouraging resource industries (a good thing) but how much encouragement is necessary or affordable? Cycle is temporary, and these issues are ALWAYS current.

  • vjgee

    Yours is a Fantastic inquiry–thank you for this (from your page (whatyoudontknowCanada). Please understand that improving educational outcomes of First Nations children IS a top priority that we work on every day throughout all days in our schools. I read some thoughtful pessimism in your writing on issues in current education thinking. Thank you for introducing me to Chomsky’s with the YouTube article on your site, “Purpose of Education” clip. Most people are at least vaguely aware (me) of biggest assertions in the clip, but he puts a lot of “current thinking” in a nutshell, a few nuggets:

    Two concepts of “purpose of education” system. First, Traditional philosophy, the enlightenment (enquire, create, search riches of the past, internalize significant bits) and further, in your own way, to help people determine how to learn on their own for yourself [HIS PREMISE THROUGH ALL OF THIS]. Second, Indoctrination, to accept and not challenge–after activism of 60s, concern that “crisis of democracy” saying that institutions aren’t indoctrinating the young effectively, towards life of conformity, for passing tests for vocational training–RATHER than inquiry, pursuing interests (opposite of enlightenment tradition).

    Impact of Technology. The significance of communications is not as big as transportation, or even plumbing–changes are real, but not as dramatic. Tech is neutral, the hammer doesn’t care–researcher has to have a framework for which Internet is a valuable tool. Inquiry directs your research, illuminating what ought to be pursued. A biologist isn’t just someone with access to the information–awareness of what matters is fundamental, while Internet and communications aren’t helpful, even potentially harmful, if result is cult-generated factoids without evaluation.

    Education, a Cost or an Investment? Do we want free, creative individuals, or who can increase the GDP?, which are not the same thing. Though cost/benefit analysis can be used–e.g. work on the Internet at MIT, where people explore possibilities for useful tools, for scientific and cultural progress–including master artisans that rise on the shoulders of others–it does not come from nowhere, it comes the lively cultural and educational system that encourages creative exploration, independence of thought, willingness to challenge & cross frontiers of accepted beliefs–without, you are not going to get tech that leads to economic gains.

    Assessment vs Autonomy. Tests for students and instructors are to see what I know and where to go from here–a person can do well on tests, but understand very little. Constructive purposes (rather than hurdles that divert from what you ought to be doing) are purpose of tests. Tests are useful tool, for helping improve what we’re doing–but doesn’t compare with engagement, searching, inquiring, pursuing topics, which is far more significant. You remember what you discover. Physicist teacher is asked, “What are we going to cover in this course?” response is, “It matters only what you discover.” Inspiring students to discover on their own, to challenge if they don’t agree, to look for alternatives, to work through great achievements-of-the-past that interest them. Education is helping students get to the point where they learn on their own, not absorb material from the outside. ~ Noam Chomsky

  • vjgee

    1. “The skills one needs to perform one of these jobs (the 70% not requiring a university education), are adequately, and quite easily, learned with maturity and experience.” ***Skilled-labour has to battle the perception of second-best all the time—people have to be SMART to undertake trades qualifications—things like framers, riggers, boiler-maker/welders, technically qualified engineers. These require post-secondary where part of formal training is on-the-job (OJT) and part is in classrooms, to ensure continuity, foundation skills, so variations of expertness do not leave draughty holes in education and experience that marks them as qualified.
    2. “The best way to fill this large number of needed jobs is to have people blame themselves for not having done better in school.” ***It’s not altogether a problem government solves. Professionals in the trades (and not just the professions) do not blame anybody for their responsible, valued (i.e. properly paid) positions. Experienced people find themselves in-turn, helping to train-up people to help them in being successful. There is a lot of self-employment in working in the trades. An expert can have more than two arms! (one head of know-how and then many arms and legs working under their guidance), efficiently fulfilling the vision and specifications of production that they undertook as a leader in their trade. Interesting, LUCRATIVE work and businesses in the trades have challenges. Trades people are smart and work hard and are valued with good pay for their value-added—anyone that says different might become interested in what interests them, enough to learn how fulfillment feels.
    3. “Consider what would happen if sufficient resources were directed to ensure that everyone had a realistic chance of graduating with a post-secondary education (of value). Seventy percent of the needed jobs in the economy would then be filled with disgruntled, “over-qualified/educated” individuals.” ***“Disgruntled” and “over-qualified/educated”—may describe worker or student either clinically depressed or feeling guilty as they look back that they did not undertake opportunities open to them (blame others, including teachers and parents, for not guiding their interests and talents into areas they might have liked). In BC, for years now, we have the required-courses, Planning 10 at age 15, and Graduation Transitions 12 at age 17—students in public high schools learn to recognize their personal interests and aptitudes; they investigate post-secondary options (institutions and on-job-training); and they research industries and careers that are expanding rather than shrinking. Students can complete high school AND take valuable post-secondary education, though as you point out, difficult life-circumstances can make it hard, in life’s chaos, to turn down a regular job-job (instead of enduring a personal siege-mentality to train for a career they know they will eventually enjoy). University degrees are not the only post-secondary, just like blue is not the only colour. Opportunities for post-secondary are too numerous to count and too varied to summarize—the “sufficient resources” directed to ensure students undertake valuable training [for experience and formal-education] includes PEOPLE, teachers and skilled workers at every level who train young people up for valuable credentials—even Minister Peter Fassbender—as a cameraman, producer, then director—watched and learned. People are GIVEN opportunities, which they see, think (study), and do! That’s an education (which does not end); that’s a life.

    • sukhhayre

      In regards to the above. I do not disagree with much of what you have to say.

      What I’m saying is, 1.) The only way to create the number of jobs required to employ the vast majority of people, the service sector plays a key role in the economy. It is not that the people providing services, and this even includes what are seen as skilled trades, are not smart. In a world of overcapacity, their jobs are seen as jobs “anyone could do”, whereas jobs that require a university education have been designated as the “chosen ones” that deserve a higher level of compensation.

      For now, skilled trades people are doing very well because much of the overcapacity is currently being absorbed by the housing bubble. When the bubble pops, there will be over capacity which in part will be offset by a growing level of baby boomers moving into retirement, or long-term disability.

      Gotta go.

      • vjgee

        The value of anything is what someone is willing to pay. In 1985 my friend introduced me to a friend, our waiter, who had just graduated from UBC Law–and was undecided whether he wanted to practice law after all. There’s no way I agree with assertion that university education marks one as “chosen,” deserving of high compensation. It doesn’t match reality either. University is where people pursue their interests–I knew a guy graduated from Forestry UBC, worked at that, went back for Medicine at UBC, worked at that, started work on a database computer program for BC’s medical system–went back for Computer Science at UBC. He pursued his interests, the PAY wasn’t much of a motivator and no one thought of him as chosen, he just worked hard and with great interest as EVERYthing he considered pursuing (he’s not dead or even retired yet either …)

        Jobs that “anyone could do” are unskilled. No investment in time and studying, no responsibilities, reflected with little value in pay.

        In my estimation EVERY job is a service job, accountant, lawyer, doctor (not ready to SERVE are the ones that don’t thrive), teacher, carpenter, production line (serve management with quotas), banker–there are no jobs but service jobs. It is something people, especially students, need to be understand.

        Skilled trades are doing well because they have worked hard to become more valuable with what they know how to do. Economists worry that labour is NOT transportable but when there is no work–what reasonable person would not move to where the work is, or retrain. It’s BIG disruption but people do it, or their children do (there IS a long-term picture, the whole economy is not on what ONE person decides to do).

        • sukhhayre

          I think what you are going to see is that, when the credit/housing bubble pops in Canada, the wages earned by skilled trades might not drop immediately as wages are quite sticky through a recession, but what you will see is, the number of hours worked will fall considerably, so overall compensation will still take a significant hit. It is the artificially high demand created by the housing/credit bubble that is currently fuelling higher wages for skilled tradespeople.

          Also, after the next recession hit Canada, you are also going to see a lot more jobs “require” a university degree, where a degree isn’t necessarily needed, or has not been needed in the past.

          Now, some of this will be offset with many baby boomers moving into retirement. And many close to retirement who lose their jobs will apply (and receive) disability pensions to carry them through until they are eligible to collect CPP/OAS/GIS.

          In regards to the person you talked to in 1985, the early 80’s were the low point of economic activity. In the mid ’80’s is when the credit bubble began. Since then, almost everyone you talk to will be able to give you a success story. That is the miracle of an economy where credit is expanding and where we are the beneficiaries of China’s slave labour (as they sacrifice and do whatever is necessary to leapfrog from a 19th century economy to a 21st century economy) and the oil-exporting nations “giving away” their oil for pennies on the dollar. The circumstances that allowed this to be so have now come to an end.

          • vjgee

            No, he DECIDED not to use his law degree, nothing to do with a poor economy, which it wasn’t. It was EXPO ’86 time, the city was doing well, he could have gone to a law firm to complete his articling but instead, he worked at Los Marguerita’s, happy with his job and with a shiny-new LLB. Education provides one with CHOICE. Economics doesn’t boss anyone around nearly as much as you credit it for.

            There is less evidence of housing bubble in the interior, except because of high employment in an area. There are possibly 3 economic reasons to own real estate: A) rent it out for revenue income; B) live in it for employment nearby that off-sets cost of living there (or opportunity COST of hiding from winter weather); C) renovate it to flip it (or hold it while local inflation to do with (B) takes place). As long as there is lots of employment in and around the transportation hub that Vancouver is, as long as the weather is pleasant compared to “winter”, as long as rental income potential makes economic sense, then VANCOUVER and places similar, will have this “over-valuation” (free market says “no-such-thing”). Speculative investment might end-in-tears, where borrowing out-strips A) rental revenue, B) employment sufficient to pay cost of living, C) value someone in the market-for-housing it willing to fork out for your reno-flip, then prices will maintain relatively high levels. “It’s worth it,” is what any buyer will say, right?, or they are going against their beliefs?

            Interest levels MIGHT cause this bubble to burst. If interest goes up the COSTs of everything (borrowing, living, employing workers) will increase and with less demand housing will appear to be more “affordable” (when you cannot find employment, along with everyone else …).

            Jobs might not “require” a university degree, but it becomes the norm and signals a tenacity, a stick-to-it-iveness about an individual that says they’ll make a more responsible, invested employee while they value that you value their ability to set goals and work over the long-term to complete them. That they can take-on challenges and responsibility and get-it when it comes to the bet an employer has placed on their integrity and comprehension of the importance to not to let the job down.

            I figure you are correct to note that China IS leap-frogging all of us “developed nations” into the lucrative tech era. Aside from that, hard work is making old-family Canadians blink in respect and disbelief that new Canadians can figure out how to get ahead, and even whole countries are improving their standard of living (historically “we” found their labour useful, while currently “we” labour for WHOEVER owns the company). Increasingly North American population is a minority-majority, what amazing and energizing times we live in, eh?.

            PS what is the motive for oil-exporters to “give-away their oil” for pennies?, I don’t think that’s been the truth with Texas, or the history of OPEC cornering the market as illustrations. Perhaps nations without the tools to extract their own resources are taken advantage of, by those that invest to remove. Meantime, populations don’t stand around dumb to the facts, they take control, and even take-over projects in their home territory. The investment gets torn back and forth, but the suggestion seems they are mute and dumb and that resource companies are the bad guy when just as often they have brought prosperity, knowledge, opportunity, to some corners.

          • sukhhayre

            I said the economy was bad in the early 80’s and the start of the credit bubble in the mid-80’s began to turn the economy around.

            Your friend is the exception to the rule.

            Today, buying a property to rent it out is not an economically sound “investment” as the rent does not cove the carrying cost of the property. Interest rates cannot go too much lower so, that will no longer be a source of future price increases, nor are household incomes rising as fast as they have in the past 30 years (we have benefitted from families going from one income to two income families, wage increases have slowed significantly, the housing/credit bubble).

            Also, as we are now an older working population than we were in the past and this means that the higher level of wage increases that come in the first ten years that one is in the workforce are also no longer a force. When people are in their 50’s, it may be their peak earning years, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that that is when they see their greatest increases in income (percentage and dollar wise).

            The U.S. has used their strength in the Middle East to ensure that oil production levels were at the highest level possible, even though it would have been more profitable, and better resource management for them to limit production. The oil finds in the North Sea, Mexico, and Alaska factored into this as well.

            The U.S. was okay with oil prices being supressed because not only did it import a majority of its oil, with the oil that was produced in the U.S., the nation benefitted more from overall low oil prices than from having states like Texas benefit more from higher oil prices.

            What a person with a university degree takes a job for which a university degree was not previously required, it puts a downward pressure on wages.

          • vjgee

            *The point about the law degree is that people do what they want with their education. He pursued his interests, and, like you say, he’s smart and will continue to pursue his interests in whatever motivates him. He got something for his efforts, no matter how he values it.

            *Buying revenue property covers the COSTS and then-some, or WHAT would be the motivation? e.g. many people are temporarily in a place and are glad to borrow-a-place (rent) for their short-term needs. Many people do not have the down-payment (tens of thousands of dollars) to buy a place–so they are happy to pay the rent which equals “the cost of carrying” meaning the mortgage payment, property taxes on the place, Hydro electric, strata, plus a premium which represents revenue INCOME to the entrepreneur renting to them. Famously a government strategy of “rent controls” backfires–landowners sell when profit MOTIVE is gone.

            *Interest rates can’t go lower so you are right, prices will go up when interest rates go up. The result will be that Demand will decrease because no one can afford the higher interest. The result will be lower prices, but still no one will be able to buy because of cost of borrowing.

            *You are right, household incomes will fall–when interest rate rises result will be employment will decrease due to the cost of borrowing to run businesses including production, construction, and resource extraction.

            *High wage levels were not due to a young VIBRANT population–high employment and wages are from Demand for goods and resources like the things young families buy–strollers, furniture, homes–which all need to be produced by labour (which in turn spends), including labour from the resources sectors. Without employment (jobs) people don’t demand goods or even start families. Old people demand lots of things, single-level homes, retirement holidays, health care products, services. It has been pointed out by Canadian demographics and economist guy, David Foot, that in the 50s and 60s, after the War, all a person needed to get a job was “a grey flannel suit and a pulse.” High employment was not the result of Youthful people, but of Demand for production to provide the wants that filled peoples’ needs (I need a vacation, I want … can be cheap or expensive, e.g. Mexico? or camping, both are alternatives to fill the one need). Business opportunities are available as the population ages–needs must be met and retired people have potentially saved a lifetime of money they are willing to spend to fill their needs.

            *Myth U.S. controls everyone’s oil–the U.S. doesn’t ensure, profit, or manage Middle East oil–those countries do. Top 10 oil producing countries produced over 64 % of the world oil production in 2012–U.S. is just ONE of the players–top 10 are Saudi Arabia (13 %), Russia (13 %), U.S. (9 %), China (5%), Canada (4 %), Iran (4 %), Venezuela (4 %), United Arab Emirates (4 %), Kuwait (4 %) and Iraq (4%). U.S. does not control the North Sea or Mexico. International companies are owned by shareholders (you and me if we store our savings in banks or in investments). International public companies include Shell from Netherlands and petroleum companies from the U.K., lots more than just U.S. have interests in oil. The U.S. imports oil but I think they have to buy it?, which is good for sellers.

            *When a university degree is required for employment it brings up the education of the population–IF the requirement of a degree puts downward pressure on wages I think it is only the value of a degree that you are talking about. It’s not the wages that are falling.

            *AFTER a credit/housing bubble bursts people who invested by borrowing, particularly for housing, will get burned including borrowers who default AND lenders who loaned to defaulted borrowers. All they have are empty real estate that no one can borrow enough to pay for, sitting in areas where employment is gone (companies borrowing money at a cost of 0% to hire workers won’t be able to borrow if it costs money, while no one can afford to purchase what they produce because they cannot afford to borrow the money … with no jobs …)

          • sukhhayre

            One last comment:

            It will not be rising interest rates that cause housing prices to go down. It will be the popping of the Canadian housing/credit bubble.

  • vjgee

    This clip is Right-On! (uncomfortably amusing, but right-on). The world is a sorry place–and reasons it is SUCH a sorry place are now, thanks to mass media, in yer face. The class system in Great Britain (well, actually anywhere, right?), the caste system in India, the factory for Joe Fresh that fell down, AND history of carnage in Canada too, yes. Entitlement everywhere is EXPOSED as sin and crimes against humanity. What we do about it is current events and not history. All we’ve got is a conscience, and observing all I can see to be grateful for is that people aren’t in love with “stuff” as they used to be, small spaces are okay, urban living instead of wrecking the wilderness with low-density-spread is in vogue (encourage or force people-animals to live only IN cities, so natural world can have its place). Aspirations to “be the-man” are running out of gas. Small comfort but many people seem to know truth, like in what anthropologist Margaret Mead says: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

  • vjgee

    Fantastic clip–I took 5 pages of notes, trying to consolidate in my head what was in there (1st yr Econ I couldn’t see the trees for the forest, now, as you say, with some maturity I figure I understand it some).
    Regarding your thoughts, there seems some us-and-them that I don’t share, though you make use of the us-is-them too, so it’s all good.

    Resource extraction revenues. I hear you, “There are limits on what one can collect in the way of royalties (sic) [taxes] because we do not have a monopoly on these resources”–and, yes I see, resource extraction companies CAN go buy from other resource-rich providers–but I say, possibly we give a bigger break than is necessary to attract them AND they don’t pay the REAL costs. BC is betting that resource companies will provide good jobs which in-turn provide taxes from Wage Earners’ incomes.

    “… other countries “leaders” are willing to give away their country’s
    resources for a lower cost because the riches are not as equally shared
    with the entire nation [… notion of taxation as WEALTH REDISTRIBUTION …], then developed nations are only able to collect
    royalties [taxes] on the marginal need for resources that China [as a purchaser] cannot get from
    lower-cost providers.” … Which is to say, corporate shareholders want a cheap price (flip side of that is their own profit)–they don’t care whether it’s from tax breaks, or cost cutting in other areas (like cheaper labour–failing the requirement that the companies hire Canadian employees in good-jobs who in-turn PAY TAXES off their personal wages as income). As long as we HAVE something they want, we can at least do our part to have them pay the REAL costs, meaning taxes in line with burden of taxes on other corporations, shareholders, and wage-earns; AND costs of “a living-wage” to labour, and costs for mitigating damage to environment.

    One bit that sounds bit alarmist (us-versus-them) to me is, “The reality is, developed nations are educating more than enough people needed for the skilled jobs.” [I disagree. If we had enough SKILLED labour the cost of those particular skills would decrease and workers would not be attracted to take those trades or would take up another that IS more valued–that’s not what industry is saying in ads just now …] “The trick is to get 70% of the population to not do well because we need them to accept the jobs in the economy that still need to be done, but that do not pay nearly as well.” Suggesting?, that SCHOOLS set workers up?, trick people?, so we’ll have plenty of un-skilled, low-valued, workers for low value jobs?, serious?

    My starting point is that “skilled” MEANS valuable, as in responsible, demanding, challenging, with rate of pay equal to the rare person that undertakes the training, demands, challenge, and possible uncertainty (danger if you don’t learn, and screw-up on the job), which is valued with a deserving pay level (a knowledgeable worker on an oil rig in 40C below at 3:00 in the morning for 6 days straight as an example; or a rigger preparing a scaffold to hold up dozens of men to set up the big sign in centre field–man, you DO NOT want to screw it up and you better know, through training and experience, what you are doing). “And people blaming themselves for not having done better in school is a great social management tool.” Suggesting the reason any one person didn’t do well in school is by some grand design? If that’s not what you meant then I don’t follow you.

    “Education may be a feminist issue, but the reality is, in the developed world, women are already doing better than men when it comes to post-secondary education success.” [Yes, finally]. “And I am assuming that the gap will only get wider. So, it may be a feminist issue in a completely different way, when society has to deal with the fact that men are not getting as well educated as women and the societal issues that arise as a result.” I think the pie has simply gotten bigger. The opportunities are still there. Young women are shooting past men in the white collar professions–accounting, law, medicine. So what?, there’s room at the top. Men are not sitting around lost and unemployed, they are being educated too, it’s just that relative numbers are even, isn’t that nice? Quality is being maintained, quantity has risen. I don’t see young men losing hope they can succeed because of too many women taking their jobs …

    Thank you for the clips you brought together! The last dealt so heavily with new theories of hours of work …
    4 parts: intrinsic incentives to work; structural & cultural incentives to work; social insatiability of wants as incentive to work–in trying to explain how American hours of work have gone up! These guys are BRILLIANT.

    “Finally, I am a huge optimist. Things will get better, if society can be managed properly. But, there is going to be a huge adjustment period as we move from a world of full-time work to a world of part-time work and much more time for leisure and enjoyment.” Your final clip provided persuasive ideas about why a move to leisure is NOT in the cards–in Europe where they are not free to vary their hours workers want more hours of work (if we can’t spend a lot, we simply do what’s offered, e.g. the happy Italian with longer vacations and retire early, enjoy food and talk, while they CANNOT work more hours); in the U.S. it’s different, your guys suggest ‘The Overworked American: the unexpected decline of leisure,’ by Julie Schor. American experience is that workers have a leisure-preference but exaggerated consumption with perceived inability to fill unmet wants, PLUS heading into increasing longevity, increasing inequality, and increasing COST of leisure means working harder for enough.

    “Here is a video I put together (it’s on my website somewhere, but I’ll post it here separately): It doesn’t always start right at the beginning, so make sure you watch it from the very beginning.” It played pretty well, but it helped to go to the YouTube for the very last bit.

    I learned a lot. VERY much appreciate your effort putting this stuff together (things I might have learned but that went over my head when that window of opportunity was first presented to me). Life’s an education.

  • slavador

    I can guarantee that my children will be better educated during the strike. The $40/day for the families of the children will open up a lot of avenues for quality education formerly unavailable. I just hope the strike never ends…

  • slavador

    I tested my grade nine daughter on a few things. From school she knew all about the injustices involving non-standard breeding techniques, use of recreational drugs, specific climate change political positions, and animal rights issues. Unfortunately she had not been taught how to factor large integers or show me where Switzerland was on the map of the world. Perhaps insertion of bogus feminist extremism into our education mess will add to the problems rather than lead to solutions.

  • Terry

    Interesting article that makes some great points that are important to consider, yet fails to address a key point. How to pay for this? Where would you take the money from, and please a serious answer. If you increase taxes, doesn’t it hurt the very people you are referring to in this article? If you cut spending, likely programs in place for poorer individuals will get cut and they will suffer. This isn’t a jibe, this is an honest question because investing the money here means it gets taken from somewhere else. I see you charge $180 per hour for your services by the way and I wonder what your position on increased taxation is?

    Who I think is truly forgotten here, are the parents (usually moms) who spend countless hours volunteering their time for nothing, often barely a thank you, for the schools, the programs, the kids, the PAC and many other things to keep the school function. They don’t complain or strike though, they give happily without compensation every day.

    Also, I am not sure who spends $1000 a month on each child before daycare, but whoever is, well they are either doing it wrong or have lots of money!