The False Argument of Equivalence

Mike Smyth’s Sunday editorial [Ed. The link is no longer available.] is a classic example of BC’s mainstream corporate media once again spinning the narrative of equivalence with regard to BC’s education system. We’ve seen it for years from mainstream commentators like Keith Baldrey, Jon Ferry and Tom Fletcher. [Les Leyne of the Times-Colonist is a recent and significant exception.] The spin basically says that both sides – the government and the union – have been equally intransigent in our so-called “education wars”.* As a result, any government malfeasance is entirely excusable, and perhaps even banal. It’s the rhetorical equivalent of “move along here; there’s nothing to see”.

Except Judge Griffin doesn’t see it that way. She lays blame on one side: the government. No matter how you slice it, what the BCTF has been saying for years is true. The government has had no interest in good-faith bargaining, and much interest in creating havoc with our kids to advance an ideological agenda. That’s not spin or interpretation; it’s what the BC Supreme Court has ruled.

But let’s get back to Michael Smyth. His snideness is matched only by his laughable bias. In the editorial mentioned above, he argues that the NDP gave the BCTF a sweetheart deal in 1998. He conveniently forgets to mention that the deal (as well as previous provincial and local deals) came at a tremendous cost to teachers’ salary and benefits. It was a negotiated deal that worked well for kids but not for the pocket books of teachers. And when the BC Liberals illegally broke that contract [according to Justice Griffin], teachers lost class size and composition language and their foregone salary and benefits.

Even worse, Smyth implies that a government negotiates with both the teachers and the school boards. This allows him to argue that the Liberals were taking away one bad faith deal with another.

… What did the NDP government do with a tentative union contract opposed by the teachers’ employers? They rammed it through the legislature and forced it into law over the objection of school districts.

In other words, the Liberals have now been found guilty of bad-faith bargaining for ­removing contract provisions that were arguably imposed through bad-faith bargaining by the NDP.

Equivalence, right? Nonsense. It simply doesn’t work that way. A government will consult with school boards, but it doesn’t “bargain” with them. The role of a school board, as lousy as it might seem, is to implement government policy, not negotiate with the government. So, nice try, Mike, but it’s another false equivalence.

In the end, Smyth’s rhetorical efforts help explain how a right-wing, Senate track journalistic corp works to blunt and minimize the political effects of a stinging judicial rebuke against a cynical, union-busting Liberal government.


* We also see the deployment of the “equivalence” argument in defense of corporate funding of the BC Liberals.

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2 Comments to "The False Argument of Equivalence"

  1. February 2, 2014 - 10:31 pm | Permalink

    As you say, as teachers we knew what the government was up to. I’m still quivering over it, though. A government that callously disobeys the court of law is a frightening thing. But in the wake of all this revelation, what keeps churning my gut is how the principals and vice principals ran and hid. We fought the fight, and they did not support us. Not one iota. Now I guess they’ll pat us on the back and act like everything is cool, but I’ll never forget that in the heat of battle, they cut and ran.

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