Education Minister to VSB: Balanced budget in one week, please

Post by Mike Klassen in


Bacchus to MacDiarmid: "Part of me wants to dissolve into laughter"

Apparently in media circles they're asking themselves how much deeper VSB Chair Patti Bacchus can bury her personal reputation. Bacchus, wife of longtime The Province newspaper columnist Lee Bacchus, is a deft media manipulator. In recent weeks she's been using her anger and hyperbole to control the message like a west coast Evita, and for the most part reporters have gobbled it up.

Just the other day Vancouver Sun reporter Janet Steffenhagen referred to Patti as the VSB's "feisty and popular" chairwoman. I corresponded with Janet to ask her about the quote, and she explained the term "feisty" really was based upon doing several interviews with her. It could be interpreted as either lively, or irritable. "Popular" because she topped the polls in 2008 and because she received a rousing response in April from a partisan crowd (see the full email response here).

Today Minister Margaret MacDiarmid held a news conference at her constituency office and announced that she expects a balanced budget from the VSB by their June 18th deadline. Bacchus earlier dismissed the Comptroller-General's review as "politically tainted". The VSB Chair held her own press conference in response to the Minister's request.

Bacchus has become famous for her glib responses to serious questions, and today she didn't disappoint. In response to the news of the Minister's request, Bacchus was quoted by CKNW's Janet Brown as saying the following:

"I would have to laugh if this wasn't a joke. Part of me wants to dissolve into laughter."

"If the board is fired we would consider ourselves to be political martyrs."

Asked what she thought the Minister's next move would be, Bacchus retorted:

"Her doctor should be worried about her next move."

MacDiarmid became gravely ill with pneumococcal meningitis last year, but we don't think that's what Bacchus is referring to.

Asked if she will present a balanced budget to the Minister, Bacchus replied to CTV, "I can put it on some prettier paper for her." She said that their budget was done in April and she plans to make no changes to it in light of the C-G's recommendations.

Following Vision/COPE's BCTF-inspired messaging since the announcement of the review by the Special Adviser has been like nailing Jello to a wall.

First Bacchus & co. said they welcomed the report by the third party. When the C-G's scathing review of the Vision/COPE's incompetence came out, their first reaction was naturally to shoot the messenger. The BCTF and Mike Lombardi (a former BCTF staffer) circulated a video of Bacchus' press conference recorded by CBC. Later she responded that "I didn't run for office so I could carry out this government's dirty work and slash programs."

Bacchus is actually incorrect. The trustees co-govern the School Board with the Province. The Province gives them a budget, and they make decisions on how to spend it – full stop. So, like it or not, she was elected to make decisions based upon the limits set out by Victoria.

In the days since the release of the C-G's report, all stakeholders related to the BCTF – including the Vision/COPE board, the VESTA teachers group and the NDP education critic have all claimed that the report by the Comptroller-General was not "independent" enough. Reports have it that David Chudnovsky and his activist wife Ruth Herman (a former COPE trustee) have also been heavily involved in this political action by the Vision/COPE trustees, along with their NDP masters.

Bacchus also goes out on a limb to suggest that the Minister has a hidden agenda. Quoted again by CKNW the Chair stated:

"This is about an attempt to get rid of voices that are publicly elected and shut them down, I think," said commented Bacchus. "[MacDiarmid] would like to see us appointed regional boards that she can control – do business in the back rooms no public consultation. I think this is an attack on local democracy is what it is to deflect attention away from a government that has badly screwed up the finances of this province."

In the middle of all this rancor is all the damage being done by the Bacchus/BCTF carpet bombing of the media. Our kids and the reputation of our school system is being destroyed by Bacchus and her union radical buddies. It's no wonder many parents are giving private education a closer look in our town.

If you've not read Trustee Carol Gibson's response to the horror that is the Vision/COPE board, read her op/ed in today's Vancouver Sun.

- post by Mike


First she cries, now she wants to laugh. Does she have any emotional control?

Patti, if you can't get the job done, don't let the door slam your ass on the way out.

It's not Bacchus/BCTF who are dystroying the public education system - it's MacDiarmid / Campbell / BC Librals who are responsible for putting the brakes on what was one of the better public school systems in the world! Cheap does not mean better.

The goal of the BCTF is to defeat the Liberals in the next election. Controlling the school board is helpful but the money is in Victoria. Until people wake up and realize the BCTF is just another union whose sole interest is the members' economic welfare and not the kids, our education system will be disfunctional and more people will opt for private school.

The Thought of The Day

"Her name is Bacchus! There. I'd let her deliver the Happy Nectar of the Gods , and only then, maybe, present her with the concept of a 2010 Balanced Budget."

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
Romeo and Juliet by Will the Bard

BACCHUS - Barnyard Aroma Creamy Chewy Herbal Utterly Smoky.

That's what's in her name. I've also heard she makes a good seafood dinner companion.

We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

Bacchus - popular as in 'would get re-elected'.

MacDiarmid - unpopular, as in 'couldn't get her own family to vote for her at this point'. And, likely target for recall.

At the following links you will the following two letters from the VSB to the Minister of Education:

1. VSB letter of response to ministerial directive.'s%20report,%20Minister's%20Directive,%20VSB%20Budget.pdf

2. VSB follow-up letter to meeting with minister to discuss report of Special Advisor.

Mike Lombardi

Ian - as in "I ran a Vision campaign" Reid.

Wrong - as in out of step with mainstream parents and voters.

Cheap - as in Bacchus' rude comments.

Lombardi, you are part of a cabal of fools. Bacchus' letter may play well with ideologues who want to play a game of brinksmanship as a precursor to the next provincial election, but it's taunting tone will not play well with the Ministry. This comes as no news to you, but then the letter was more designed to continue a war than to provide good leadership and stability to a school district.
Voters, remember these self-absorbed fools when you next mark your ballot.
No doubt, these puppets are scoring points with the special interest groups that have paid for their campaigns and have bought them off, but serving children they are not.

"If not the school trustees, who should
advocate for our children? Are we going to leave it to non-profit
organizations?...[Trustees] should be the preeminent advocates." —
Paul Shaker, SFU Education Professor Emeritus

Not non-profits Patti.

There are plenty of 'professional' business persons operating throughout this province that could sit as an educational advisory panel.

People with the education, business background (because, this is a business), and people that have had to, and know how to, operate within a budget and operate in a 'professional' manner.

People like Mr. Jim Pattison.

I can tell you, and I think others will openly state this as well-if we ever spoke to our employer in the manner that you and the other 'educational' trustees have spoke to the Minister, we would be fired - and justifiably so.

Your childish personal attacks on the Minister and reference to the HST problems of the Provincial government speaks volumes that you are an advocate for your political agenda and not an advocate for children.

Patti you just don't get it. For years school trustees around the province have advocated for kids. They haven't chosen to deride the minister then expect more funding. They don't fire missiles and wonder why missiles are fired back. The independent comptroller general was very clear that SOMETHING IS TERRIBLY WRONG AT THE VANCOUVER SCHOOL BOARD. You are over your head.

What you and your vision colleagues are doing goes well beyond simple advocacy. It's pure partisan politics and you know it. Unfortunately, the kids are the ones that are going to get hurt.

Come down off the precipice, roll up your sleeves, and get to work producing a balanced budget that will result in a good education for our kids. Full stop.

I've spoken to dozens of parents over the last few days who like me were very supportive of your position at the beginning, but we're all feeling like we've been hoodwinked. We thought you actually cared for our kids, but now it's clear you just care about partisan politics.

Perhaps you should step down and let someone else chair the board for a while. This could help to cool tempers and lower the temperature which should yield better results. Do it for the sake of kids. Resign today.

If the comments attributed to Bacchus and Lombardi on this site are truly theirs, they are quite revealing of the problems plaguing the VSB school Board. Stop behaving like small time impudent BCTF shop stewards and act like trustees in charge of a $480 miilion dollar budget. Lombardi's comments are prefaced with feign sophmoric hopes that education under funding would be addressed. He repeatedly describes the tone of the report as inflamatory and attacks the ability and credibility of the auditor. Obviously he has not read the report as he made no effort to discuss/attack the findings; his laziness is amplified by his cavalier attitude towards his trustrees' fiduciary responsibility in so doing. Bacchus is like a purile puffer fish who is equally ignorant of her duties as a trustee. The schhol act nor its regulations impose upon school board trustees the duty of advocating for additonal funding. Indeed, section 112 does permit the trustees to ssek additional funding via referedum but Bacchus was so focused on the BCTF shop steward manual she missed this. Or, did she know taxpayers in the school district would not support a tax increase to fund the eight million dollars for teacher pension plan contributions. The Vision trustees have violated the oath of office that the school act requires they swear and should resign. If Bacchus and Lombardi want to advance the economic interests of teachers good on them but choose the right political office and do not abuse the office of school board trustee.

this money is the province's money -- ie all of BC's taxpayers have to share. What Patti wants is to ensure her students (ie teachers and unionized staff) get more funding than other BC students and Patti will pout, cry and stamp her feet until she gets it. Time for the naughty chair - it's the only way to deal with 2 year olds - no point reasoning with them.

This discussion here & the broader one have gotten far to polarized. Time for some sober 2nd thought. Total confrontation politics may have worked 90 years ago but they won't here without collateral damage to the children.

Patti & Mike, why not start the process of solution by making the changes that need to be made like closing schools such as Garibaldi with +/-50 students, laying off the 3rd & 4th floor types in the same proportion of the front line staff have been over the past few years [as has been done in Richmond on an on-going basis], then tell the Minister you'll have to, say, cut 'inclusion' initiatives unless there is more money.

If you can show some good faith in this process & you put something valid on the table to discuss you are in a position to perhaps be successful. If you were I'm sure you'd earn the respect of your colleagues & perhaps voters.

I know a number of teachers well. I know they are past their limit to be able to continue @ the high performance level they expect of themselves. In the medium term better funding for them needs to happen but, today it can't. We have a deficit.

Public education is not a business! What do you do when a student fails a test? Fire them?

I can "vision" her in the naughty

Patti Pattycake,
Of course, as Shaker states, Trustees should advocate. Without question!!
Just who are you advocating for. Oh I see the words, I hear the interviews.
But with your taunting and your goading,
it is clear that there is a political agenda.
Many of the districts have had cuts. They use the channels that have been developed by them to advocate for their students.
Clearly, this is not the government of your choice, but it is the government.
Your actions may play well within the political circles you hang out with, but nobody outside of those circles is fooled by your boorish behavior.

COPE/NPA have 5 votes, Vision has 4 on the Vancouver School Board. Perhaps it's time for COPE/NPA to remove the Chair of the Board and replace her with someone truly interested in putting the interests of students ahead of special interest groups. Will anyone in COPE be brave enough to put this motion forward? Do it for the kids.

Another sidebar to this issue is that Vancouver has traditionally shown leadership @ the civic level in this province. Vision's current attempt here with all or nothing confrontation politics is a retrogressive step well into the past which is not helpful or productive. It also accentuates divisions within our communities when we should be working to achieve the opposite.

Gordo has until 2013 in his mandate, Vision 2011. It seems to me 2013 leaves time to potentially turn things around, 2011 does not.

Having said the above & on the related topic of cutbacks, I am dismayed @ what a poor job the government has done @ explaining the HST & even more disappointed in that they have done little to soften the blow. If voters saw some compromise, such as cutting the PST portion of the HST to 5% for a year & 6% in the 2nd, back ti 7% in year 3 voters may well be more receptive.

On the other hand we have a deficit so the reduced revenue would prolong retiring it & would also prolong the need for austerity. It's one of those rock & a hard place situations. But, Gordo might regain some purchase with us by sharing what his grand plan is.


Education is a business - a multi million dollar business.

If not, what do you call it?

Public education is a public trust not a business. The goal of a school is not to make money or grow market share. The goal of a school is lay the foundation so that one each and every child can become a contributing (through voting, taxes, protesting) part of our Canadian society. You can not do that through a business model!

Bill McCreery says "Gordo has until 2013 in his mandate, Vision 2011. It seems to me 2013 leaves time to potentially turn things around, 2011 does not."

There is so much wrong with this analysis it's hard to know where to start. So let's go to the basics. Vision has an enormous lead in the polls. The NPA is nowhere. Ergo Vision doesn't need to "turn things around."

The BC Liberals? Let's just say the bell has been tolling for a while now. Or to mix metaphors, the snowball is picking up speed. Do you really believe Lekstrom is the last?

Bill, the truth is the BC Liberals might not even have till 2011. Piling on the VSB at this point in the 'mandate' is nearly suicidal, at least in the city - from maybe three winnable seats, the BC Liberals are now looking at one, two at best.

'Vision has an enormous lead in the polls.'


Really, according to who?

The communications company that donated over $125K to Vision, the group that ran their' supposed' poll showing them as strong?

Funny, a journalist friend of mine who covers city hall for one of the local papers cringed at that 'revelation'.

They hold no credibility.

Vision has stepped on a lot of toes and have not lived up to their campaign promises so I wouldn't be so sure that they are a 'shoe in' for the next election.

Remember Robertson's promise of 'ending homelessness', or his new 2010 version of ending 'street homelessness' - regardless of wording, neither have been accomplished and seem to have been abandon for bike lanes and street food vendors.

Tick tock.

Ian, re: polls. If you believe the Vision poll best get your eyes checked. We shall see.

Re: Libs. Yup, Gordo has some work to do, please see my observations from the wilderness above. He normally doesn't consult me for advice but, hey, that was free. I'm not suggesting the Libs will turn it around, I'm just saying they could in 3 years. And, I think he could / should have softened the blow. However, I'm not privy to all the info the Government has. It may be possible that he is getting a bit tired, it's a tough job &, after a while simplistic solutions [all or nothing HST] & mega projects [600M stadium roof & an in your face casino Vancouver doesn't need] are indicative of that.

Check out!

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