Monday, September 1st18.9°C

Parents scrambling for daycare

Daycare operators in British Columbia are scrambling to keep up with increased demand for child support as more parents need places to babysit their kids because schools will not open.

Janos Stiasny (YANOS Stee-AZ-nee), owner of Wise Owl Montessori Child Care, says spots in his daycare have filled right up because of the ongoing teachers' strike.

He says he normally gets more than 65 children, but after the strike his care centres are looking after about 90 kids in total.

Talks between the government and teachers fell apart over the weekend, dashing any hopes parents had that school would start as scheduled on Tuesday.

Both sides have said they are willing to speak again, but no meetings have been scheduled.

The province's 40,000 public school teachers went on strike two weeks before the summer break started, booting half a million students out of class.

The sticking points are pay, class size, and the amount of support staff per class, and talks over summer months progressed at a glacial pace.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version of this story wrongly stated the number of children Stiasny normally receives.

The Canadian Press


A letter from Min of Education

As all British Columbians are aware, the teacher strike continued through the summer and into this school year. It is not known when school will start.

Minister of Education Peter Fassbender penned this letter to try and clarify his position on the ordeal. 

Here it is in full form:

I’m writing you this evening because I know we're all unhappy about the teachers' union's strike -- all of us, students, parents, and teachers. I have grandchildren caught in the middle of this dispute. I understand the challenges this will cause families. This is not where any of us want to be.

From the very start of these negotiations, my goal has been to negotiate an affordable agreement - one that is fair for teachers and taxpayers.

My only motivation is to make sure we get to a settlement so that schools can open, teachers can teach, and students can learn.

This week I called the head of the BCTF, Jim Iker, and the lead negotiator for school districts, Peter Cameron, to my office. I mapped out a path to settlement: set aside the grievances associated with the ongoing court case. That's before the court so let the courts decide. Focus instead on the issues we can agree on like wages, benefits and putting more educators into classrooms for students.

Unfortunately, the BCTF has stubbornly refused every move we’ve made at the table. Most disappointing, they also refused to allow teachers a chance to vote on going back to work while an agreement is mediated.

We believe teachers deserve an affordable raise - just like 150,000 other public servants who have reached agreements without going on strike. But the BCTF continues to demand nearly twice as much as everyone else. They even want a $5,000 signing bonus - something no other public servant has received. With finite resources, higher wages and expensive benefits for BCTF members means fewer resources for students - plain and simple.

This weekend provides further proof that the BCTF has no intention of reaching an agreement. Instead, they want to pressure government into legislating them back to work. They would prefer to keep kids on this broken treadmill we’ve been on for 30 years. Instead of negotiating a fair deal and selling it to their members, the BCTF keeps demanding more money and benefits not offered to other public sector workers. This is unfair to members of other unions, and more importantly, it means fewer resources available to hire more educators for students.

We have to stand firm -- on behalf of the long-term public interest, and on behalf of all British Columbians.

We need a negotiated deal that works for both sides. That's why our offer includes an affordable wage increase and at least $375 million over five years to address complex classroom needs. We want to focus what funds we have on adding more educators to classrooms to help students learn.

It would be irresponsible to legislate teachers back to work; we would be shelving the same problem for a few short years. The cycle of strike and legislated contract has to end.

British Columbians have asked us to balance the budget and keep taxes affordable. That's a promise we must keep. We will not make cuts to other services people depend on to pay for raises for the BCTF.

We remain committed to negotiating a deal, including reasonable moves on our offer. We will continue to be ready to negotiate should the BCTF decide they’re ready to bargain.

In the interim, we will do everything we can to support parents through this labour disruption. Every parent of a public school student under 13 will be eligible for 40 dollars a day per child for the duration of this strike. If you need it, here's where you can find more information:

As hard as it is, we have to stand firm until the union is ready to move off their unaffordable demands. Let's get our students back in school. Let's get a fair and negotiated settlement at the table without disrupting BC schools and families.


Peter Fassbender
Minister of Education
MLA, Surrey-Fleetwood

Teachers: 40 years of battles

All summer long, there's been one overriding conversation amongst parents who have school-age children: British Columbia's acrimonious teachers' strike.

Project analyst Robert Ford, with Credential Financial, has a 12-year-old daughter and six-year-old son who won't be starting their school year this Tuesday, and he said the parents at his company all feel the same.

"Fed up," he said. "That's it. No matter what, they want it done. Parents have actually devolved in their opinions to (picking) neither side. Just get 'er done."

Fourteen weeks have passed since BC's more than 40,000 unionized teachers walked off the job in a rotating and then full-scale strike last June, ejecting half-a-million children from classes about two weeks before summer break.

Just a day before the scheduled start of the fall session, there was no indication about when, how or to what extent the conflict will be resolved.

On Saturday, a veteran mediator who spent three days attempting to jumpstart bargaining declared an impasse between the BC Teachers' Federation and BC Public School Employers' Association, the government's bargaining agent. Lead negotiators for both sides acknowledged the new term would be derailed indefinitely.

Many parents and students say they're holding BC's politicians and the teachers' union equally responsible.

"I think it's crazy. There's no reason why it shouldn't be (over). They've had lots and lots of time to negotiate and get a deal done. I don't see why it takes over 16 months to get a contract in place," said Victoria Barker, who recently graduated Grade 12 at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary in Surrey.

Now Barker, who concluded high school with less than 12-hours notice, is anxious about the potential impact of the delayed school start on her younger brother and peers in lower grades.

The trigger for the current dispute is usually identified by teachers as a unilateral blow to the collective bargaining process that occurred in 2002. That's when Premier Christy Clark, who was then BC's education minister, stripped the union's right to bargain class size and composition.

BC Supreme Court has since ruled twice that the government's actions were illegal, but inability to get closure on the case, which is under appeal by the government, remains a major sticking point. Wages, benefits and classroom conditions have been the other key obstacles.

But today's bitter standoff is actually backloaded with more than four decades of labour strife in the province's education sector, said a historian who has documented 140 years of the BC school system.

Tom Fleming, who wrote the book "Worlds Apart" in 2011 and lead a Royal Commission on Education in 1987-1988, said there's been more than 50 strikes and three lockouts since April 1987.

"We've had this reputation of having very turbulent labour relations," said Fleming, a University of Victoria professor emeritus.

"There's a history of struggle and conflict that is now in the DNA of both sides. The teachers are innately distrustful of government and government is innately distrustful of teachers."

Fleming said the province's public schooling system was peaceful for a century up until 1972, run by a neutral civil service that ensured "nobody ever felt the rough hands of politicians on educational issues."

But then school trustees began setting their sights on politics while a partisan union was built. A recession in the 1980s prompted "restraint" legislation that reduced the number of teachers and teaching assistants by about 2,000 positions, he said.

With a general strike in BC appearing imminent, Fleming was appointed in 1987 to helm a commission to bring peace between the teachers and government. But even before the report was out, the government of the day for the first time granted teachers full-scope collective bargaining powers.

"The BCTF stepped up and said, 'Well, we are the true defenders of public education. We will speak for children, we will speak for parents, we will speak for schools,'" Fleming said. "So now you've had since the '80s a battle for hearts and minds over control of school policy."

The present-day dispute is the culmination of 40 years of battles clouding over the fact BC consistently ranks as an internationally top-performing school system, said Jerry Mussio, who spent much of 30 years in the education ministry as a senior bureaucrat.

"You've got these excellent teachers," said Mussio, who has since served as Canada's representative in the development of the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment. "I think that they've been poorly served by both government and by their union."

He said a positive outcome of the past three months of turmoil would be at long last recognition from both sides they must figure out a better way to manage their relationship.

"In terms of the larger picture, getting together and sorting this out so we don't have a repeat of this is crucial," he said. "Otherwise we are going to have a crumbling of the public school system, which is disastrous."

The Canadian Press


Fatal Coquihalla crash

6:50 a.m. update:

A woman is dead following a single vehicle rollover on the Coquihalla.

The accident happened at around 6:45 p.m. Sunday night, 13 km north of Merritt.

RCMP report a 2010 Mazda 3, traveling south bound, went off the highway to the left, the driver corrected to bring the vehicle back onto the route, but the vehicle skidded and rolled over several times as it crossed the highway. It ended up in the ditch on the opposite side of the highway facing the wrong direction.

The 27-year-old female was pronounced dead at the scene, the 30-year-old driver had minor injuries.

Highway 5 was closed for several hours while the RCMP and the BC Coroner's Office investigated.

Alcohol is not suspected to be a factor in the accident.


8:30 p.m. UPDATE

Highway 5 between Merritt and Kamloops remains closed after a motor vehicle accident. 

The current estimated time of reopening is between 12 a.m. and 2 a.m.

A motor vehicle accident has closed the southbound lanes of Highway 5 between Merritt and Kamloops. 

Merritt RCMP could not be immediately reached for details.

An assessment is in progress and there is currently no estimated time of reopening. 

More to come.

BC sets up support payments

The BC government has started a website for parents to get $40 per day for daycare due to the disruption of school. 

Starting today, parents of public school students 12 years old and under can register at to receive $40 per student for each day school is not in session due to the ongoing labour disruption in B.C. public schools.

The Temporary Education Support for Parents (TESP) program is intended to help parents with the added cost of learning and supervision for the duration of the labour disruption.

Parents and primary caregivers are eligible to apply. Primary caregivers can include step-parents, legal guardians, foster parents, host parents for international students, caregivers with temporary custody arrangements, and family members who normally care for the student, such as grandparents.

To register parents and primary caregivers will need to provide the name, address, date of birth, school district number and school for each eligible student.

Payment will be made by cheque in a single payment mailed to the address provided during registration.

Most payments will be processed within 30 days after the month that the labour disruption ends.

Payments for students attending kindergarten, and for students who are new to B.C. public schools, will also be made after the labour disruption ends, once enrolment for the current school year can be confirmed.

Eligible parents will have four months from the end of the month in which the labour disruption is settled to register for the temporary education support.

No new registrations will be accepted after this date.

Quick Facts:

  • For those without access to a computer, registration by paper form is also available by calling 1 877 387-3332 or 250 387-3332.  
  • The payment is not taxable and will not affect provincial and federal tax credits and benefits such as the new BC Early Childhood Tax Benefit, BC Low Income Climate Action Tax Credit, Sales Tax Credit or the federal Canada Child Tax Benefit or GST credit.
  • The payment will not impact other provincial support assistance such as income or disability assistance, child care subsidy, subsidized housing, MSP subsidies, or Fair Pharmacare.

BC to start daycare payments

British Columbia expects to start giving cash to parents to offset the costs of daycare that result from kids not being in school because of a teachers strike.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender says parents who start registering at the government's website can expect to receive $40 a day starting late September or early October.

He reaffirmed his promise to not legislate teachers back to work, despite what appear to be irreconcilable differences between teachers and employers.

Fassbender’s remarks come after talks between teachers and their employer collapsed on Saturday.

The veteran mediator who brought the parties together walked out on the third day of meetings, saying both sides were too far apart.

Vince Ready’s departure from the latest round of discussions has many worried that an ongoing teachers’ strike will delay the start of class indefinitely.

The Canadian Press

No school Tuesday

RICHMOND, B.C. - Veteran mediator Vince Ready has walked away from talks between British Columbia teachers and their employer, smothering hopes of parents that the school year would start on time.

All 40,000 of the province's public school teachers went on strike two weeks before summer vacation in June, and ongoing job action had many worried the start of school would be put on hold indefinitely.

Now that Ready has left, Peter Cameron, the government's negotiator, said the current round of talks is over.

Ready is widely regarded as one of the best labour trouble-shooters in the country, and many had hoped his involvement would break an impasse between the two sides.

He brought both Jim Iker of the teachers' union and Cameron together for two days of talks exploring the chance of mediation, which many parents hoped would prevent the start of the school year from being derailed.

Cameron says Ready walked away because both sides were too far apart for mediation to begin, which means school will not start as usual on Tuesday.

"This is effectively terminated," he said. "We think we have been very frank with Vince."

"It will not start on time," Cameron said, referring to the school year.

Cameron says both sides will be waiting for Ready to determine when they are close enough to begin discussions again.

Prior to those discussions, Iker and Cameron met with Education Minister Peter Fassbender, who proposed that both parties put aside the most contentious issues and start mediation.

Public school teachers across the province went on strike two weeks before the start of summer vacation, booting half a million students out of class.

There was little progress during the summer regarding the main issues, which were class size, pay and the amount of support staff in each class.

The government has said it will not legislate teachers back to work.

-By Steven Chua in Vancouver.

The Canadian Press

Woman sues ex after failing class

A 22-year-old B.C. woman is suing her ex-boyfriend to pay tuition for a class she says she failed due to distress over the breakup.

Roopam Plawn, a marketing student at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, says in her notice of claim that she is seeking $500 for the class, $600 for anxiety, depression, insomnia and loss of working time and performance and $250 for "severe distress."

She also wants Jasmeet Ahluwalia (AHLOO'-wall-ia) to pay court costs.

Plawn says in the court document that she met the international student in September 2013, they broke up in early 2014, got back together again and ended the relationship for good in May.

Plawn also says she lent Ahluwalia $3,500 and she wants the money back, with interest.

None of the allegations have been proven in court, and Ahluwalia has 14 days to respond to the notice after he's been served. (Kamloops This Week)

The Canadian Press

Elevated chemicals near breach

Elevated levels of seven chemical elements have been found by B.C. government staff in the sediment near a mine tailings spill.

The Ministry of Environment says copper, iron, manganese, arsenic, silver, selenium and vanadium were found in concentrations that exceeded provincial standards during testing near the Mount Polley mine Aug. 12 and Aug. 15.

The early August failure of the mine's tailings pond released millions of cubic metres of water and silt into local fish-bearing streams.

But the ministry says testing before the spill, at the end of May, also showed the seven chemical elements exceeded the same provincial guidelines.

Interior Health will continue to monitor testing results for potential long-term health risks, and the agency continues to advise local residents not to drink cloudy water.

Mine owner Imperial Metals (TSX:III) is responsible for cleaning up the spill, and several investigations are examining the causes of the breach.

The Canadian Press

Bus crash update

Interior Health has announced that seven people are now listed in critical condition following Thursday afternoon's tour bus crash south of Merritt.

Of the 43 patients sent to local hospitals, 10 were sent to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, 22 to Kelowna General Hospital in Kelowna, and 11 to the Nicola Valley Hospital & Health Centre in Merritt.

At this time:

  • 19 have been discharged from hospital, including all 11 from Merritt.
  • 9 remain at Royal Inland Hospital and 15 at Kelowna General.
  • Of the 24 remaining in hospital, 7 are in critical condition, 6 in serious, 11 have non-life-threatening injuries.

In addition to those patients taken to interior hospitals, 12 patients were directly transferred from the accident scene to hospitals in the Lower Mainland. 

Six went to Fraser Canyon Hospital in Hope, five to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster and one to Chilliwack General Hospital. These patients are all in stable condition.

A Code Orange was initiated at all three local hospitals, bringing in additional staff and physicians to support patient care.

The bus involved in the crash is owned by Western Bus Lines, located in Kelowna. The tour company involved is Super Vacation, located in Richmond.

Nicholas Kam, their director of sales, emphasized in a press conference Friday morning that the bus is not owned or operated by Super Vacation. He says Western Bus Lines has a strong reputation with more than 35 years in service, and they've used them in the past.

The company has sent about half a dozen interpreters to different hospitals in order to help with translations, as many of the injured are from Southeast Asian countries and do not speak English as a first language.

The tour group was on their way back from the Canadian Rockies when the accident happened.

Super Vacation has still not received an official police report on the incident and were unable to comment on the cause of the crash or the condition of the driver.

UPDATE 10:30 A.M.

Merritt RCMP and the Central Interior Traffic Services are continuing their investigation into yesterday's bus crash.

It has been confirmed that there were several children on board the bus and that none of the children suffered any serious injury.

To date there have been no fatalities reported and the status of the other patients is still being determined.

CITS has confirmed that the road conditions were bare and dry as well as clear visibility at the time of the crash. A mechanical inspection is being done on the bus and the investigation into the cause of the accident is still ongoing.

Members on scene are crediting the quick response by BC ambulance services and emergency personnel as well as many doctors, nurses and first aid attendants on scene for the amazing care provided to all of the injured passengers.

A language barrier also proved to be detrimental to members on scene and many passersby were able to assist with the Cantonese and Mandarin languages being spoken.

Passengers are determined to have been from Canada, The US and China but numbers from each country have not been confirmed as yet.

The Mounties say a dashboard camera from a tractor-trailer captured a tour bus rollover that injured dozens of people on a B.C. highway and it appears speed is not a factor.

RCMP Sgt. Brian Nightingale says that leaves mechanical problems or human error as possible causes.

The bus, which was operated by a Chinese tour company, rolled over about 30 kilometres south of Merritt, B.C., on Thursday afternoon, sending 43 people to hospital.

Nightingale says a tractor-trailer was travelling behind the bus when the accident happened and police have reviewed the dash-cam footage.

He says tire marks show the bus drifted into the grassy centre median of the highway, and he says the bus apparently veered out of control as the driver tried to correct its course.

Fifty-six people were aboard and Interior Health says five are critically injured, 10 have serious injuries and 28 have been treated at its facilities for non-life-threatening injuries such as cuts and bruises.

-- With files from the Canadian Press

Coquihalla bus crash


Raw video by CTV Vancouver

1:55 a.m. update: Highway 5 is now open after the route was closed due to a bus crash, 30 km south of Merritt, Thursday afternoon.

UPDATE 9:55 P.M.

At this time, Interior Health has received 43 patients from today’s bus accident on the Coquihalla Highway, south of Merritt.

Of those, 10 were sent to Royal Inland Hospital (RIH) in Kamloops, 22 to Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) in Kelowna, and 11 to the Nicola Valley Hospital & Health Centre in Merritt.

Of the patients received in IH hospitals, patient conditions are as follows:

  • five are in critical condition
  • ten are in serious condition 
  • 28 have non-life threatening injuries

All three Interior Health hospitals initiated a Code Orange response to this situation. Through the Code Orange response the facilities brought in additional staff and physicians to support patient care.

The next update will be issued at approximately 10 a.m. Friday, August 29.

UPDATE 7:30 P.M.

The bus has been identified as an Asian tour bus headed to Vancouver. The tour company has been identified as Super Vacation which has an office in Richmond. 

All 56 passengers on board the bus suffered varying degrees of injury. Six of those are in critical condition and have been airlifted to hospital.


UPDATE 4:55 P.M.

Both Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops and Kelowna General in Kelowna are on Code Orange which means a disaster or massive casualty incident..

According to Interior Health, Royal Inland is preparing for 40 patients while KGH is expecting up to 20.


Six people are in need of immediate medical attention after a tour bus carrying Asian passengers rolled over on the Coquihalla Highway, 30km south of Merritt.

The incident occurred shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday.

According to Sgt. Norm Fleming with the Merritt RCMP, 56 people were on board the bus heading from the Okanagan to Vancouver.

"There were 35 that have suffered a minor level of injury, basically, ambulatory, non emergency...15 of them have what would be considered a more major injury, compound fractures and serious broken bones.

Six are being considered as a Code Red requiring an immediate air lift to a hospital for emergency services. Nobody is at this point a fatality."

Fleming says he does not have information as to where those needing more urgent care are being taken.

BC Ambulance has dispatched numerous people to the scene.

"We have sent six helicopters and 19 ground ambulances to the scene,” says Kelsie Carwithen, BC Emergency Health Services spokesperson. “We are currently on the scene and accessing the situation.” 

The entire highway has been shut down for the time being.

Fleming says the northbound lanes are being used as staging for air ambulances and should be open soon.

The southbound lanes are expected to remain closed for some time. Traffic is being rerouted to either highway 1 or 8 at Merritt.

At this point there is not an estimated time of opening. 

UPDATE 3:25 P.M.

The Coquihalla Highway is closed southbound at Merritt due to a tour bus accident 30km south of the city. According to DriveBC, detours are available via Highways 1 and 8. No estimated time of re-opening is not available at this time.

Details of the crash involving the tour bus are still sketchy.

It is believed the bus did flip over and catch fire.

Sgt. Norm Fleming with the Merritt RCMP Detachment says he does not know how many passengers were on board, how many were injured or the seriousness of those injuries.

Fleming says he believes triage will be performed on the injured passengers at the scene.

Patients would then be sent to hospital either by ground ambulance or air.

A witness of the accident tells Castanet that it appears multiple people are injured and there is visible blood on the side of the bus. 

We will have more details when they become available.

Send pics, video to [email protected]

There are reports of a possible crash involving a tour bus on the Coquihalla Highway south of Merritt.

This has been confirmed by Merritt Fire Rescue, who say that one of their rescue trucks and five members are headed to the scene.

It's believed the crash happened about 20 kilometres south of the town. 

Multiple ambulances are also believed to be en route.

No further details are available at this time.


Girl abducted, sexually assaulted

Police say a nine-year-old girl was abducted from her bedroom while she slept and sexually assaulted by a man who then left her in a nearby yard in Surrey, B.C.

RCMP say the girl's mother called 911 on Wednesday night to say her daughter fled back to her home after the alleged abuser took off.

They say the child was taken from her room through an open window then assaulted in a park, and is now receiving care in hospital.

Police canvassed the neighbourhood Thursday trying to find a suspect.

They're warning the public to keep windows secured, especially in ground-floor suites.

The Canadian Press

Remains matched to Ontario man

Human remains found in the mountains near North Vancouver have been identified as those of a 20-year-old Ontario man who went missing more than a decade ago while visiting his grandmother in British Columbia.

The BC Coroners' Service says the woman reported her grandson, Dante Ponzanetti, missing to Vancouver Police in June 2003.

Dr. Bill Inkster, acting manager of the service's Identification and Disaster Response Unit, says a hiker discovered the skeletal remains in November 2004 but they could not be identified despite comprehensive forensic analysis.

He says the bones have now been linked to Ponzanetti through a match on a database of DNA from missing persons' family members.

Inkster says the coroners' service database is the only such one in Canada and that privacy issues involving living donors have prevented the development of similar databases elsewhere in the country.

He says Ponzanetti was from Thunder Bay, Ont., and that the circumstances surrounding his death are still being investigated.

The Canadian Press

Mediator sits down for strike talk

A potentially pivotal meeting between B.C.'s teachers' union, a government negotiator and a labour mediator is underway in the Vancouver area.

Teachers have been on strike since mid-June, and there is still no deal to end a strike that is threatening to derail the start of the school year next week.

A labour mediator who has been monitoring the dispute for the past two weeks is at a hotel in Richmond, B.C., meeting with the president of the teachers' union and a negotiator with the BC Public School Employers' Association, which bargains on behalf of the government.

The meeting is being described as "exploratory" and will allow mediator Vince Ready to assess whether the two sides are close enough to begin formal mediation.

The gathering follows a proposal from the province's education minister, who asked the teachers' union and the employer to enter into mediation, put aside some of the most contentious issues in the dispute, and agree not to stage strikes or lockouts for two weeks.

The employers' association negotiator, Peter Cameron, says the education minister's proposal isn't a precondition for negotiations, though he says he hopes to see some movement from the union.

The Canadian Press

Read more BC News


Recent Trending




Member of BC Press Council