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Political fiasco, Nova Scotia style!

One Government Place

One Government Place is where the premier's office is in Halifax.

I happen to have made friends with a fly. It's cold this time of year but it still gets around. It sometimes spends the day at One Government Place. There is a crack by the window in the premier's office where it can get in and the thermostat is turned up so it’s very cozy. The fly has nothing much to do so it hangs around and eavesdrops. When it gets bored it flies off. It has a great memory and can repeat what its heard verbatim.

There's only one problem: the fly doesn't recognize anyone -- it claims all humans look alike. Sheesh! So, although it has a photographic memory for conversations, I've no idea who it who it's been listening to. Oh well, I've got nothing better to do than to listen to a fly.

Anyway, the Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil and just called an emergency session of the legislature to impose a contract on teachers working to rule. Education Minister Karen Casey wanted to crack the whip. Ten minutes after it was convened, the legislature adjourned. Say what? To try and figure out what was going on I talked to my source, the fly on the wall.

• Friday, December 2, 2016: One Government Place

Voice A: This is turning into a real mess.

Voice B: What?

Voice A: All these demands from teachers. They want more time for course planning and classroom preparation; help with photocopying, data entry, and contacting parents; caps on how many students they have in their classrooms. Don't they realize we can't afford all that?

Voice B: It's true. They don't realize how good they have it. I was just reading that in Malawi the average class size is over 70 students...

Voice A: [Interrupting] That's probably not such a good comparison.

Voice B: Umm, OK.

Voice AVoice A: But we do have to do something. What if we legislate them back to work?

Voice B: But they're not on strike.

Voice A: They’re not? Didn't the Chronically Horrid just write that they are taking job action?

Voice B: The union said that starting on Monday, teachers would only be doing what their contracts specify. They won't be staying after school to do all the things they normally do for free, like rehearsing school plays and concerts, providing team coaching, helping out with clubs, those sorts of things. "Work to rule" they call it.

Voice A: They only want to do what they are being paid for? That’s outrageous!

Voice B: I know, I know.

Voice A: We have to respond, to do something. If they are not on strike, let's lock them out! Then we can legislate them back to work!

Voice B: Wouldn't that look a bit odd? I mean, locking them out and then forcing them back to work?

Voice A: Hmm … well, you're right. OK. We'll lock out the students instead.

Voice B: The students?

Voice A: Yes. We'll say that the "work to rule" campaign is threatening the safety of the students so we have to lock them out.

Voice B: Their safety?

Voice BVoice A: Sure. It's unsafe because...because...well, I'm not really sure why, but there must be some reason schools will be unsafe if teachers are only doing their jobs. We can come up with something. Anyway, maybe the media and opposition won't bother to ask so we won't need to say anything.

Voice B: But how about the teachers? If we recall the legislature to force a contract on them, they'll descend on Province House like a herd of banshees.

Voice A: Got it covered! We'll tell the teachers they have to report to work.

Voice B: But, the students have been locked out.

Voice A: So?

Voice B: So, they'll just sit all day in empty classrooms?

Voice A: Exactly! That'll keep them out of our hair.

Voice B: But...cancelling school will mean a major headache for parents! Don't you think they'll blame us?

Voice A: Nah, remember the safety thing. We'll just tell them that the schools are unsafe so we have to take action.

Bzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Voice A: What is that thing?

Voice B: Just some stupid bug. I don't know how they get in here.

Voice A: Well, open up the window and get rid of it. I've got to go talk with the chief of staff and make this happen.

And with that, the fly flew the coop.

• Monday, December 5, 2016: One Government Place

Despite the unwelcome reception it received on Sunday, on Monday, the fly was back at One Government Place -- something about an attractive smell, I'm not really sure why.

Nova Scotia Teachers Rally

Voice B: This doesn't seem to be working out that well.

[Pause]

Voice B: Don't you think?

[Pause]

Voice A: I can't understand why the parents and students are so upset. I mean, a day off from school?

Voice B: Upset? We have a thousand of them outside chanting at the top of their lungs!

Voice A: I know, I know! The noise is making it hard to think. We have to do something.

Nova Scotia Teachers Rally

Voice B: I've run out of ideas. And the legislature is just about to sit. Where is that back-to-work legislation? I hope I didn't leave it at home on the kitchen table.

Voice A: I've got it!

Voice B: The legislation?

Voice A: No, an idea! We adjourn the legislature!

Voice B: Adjourn it? But we just called it? It's an emergency sitting and it hasn't even started yet.

Voice A: That's not a problem. The first order of business after resuming will be a motion to adjourn the House.

Voice B: Adjourn?

Voice A: We need to buy some time to figure out how we can get out of this mess. Plus, the backbenchers are threatening to mutiny.

Voice B: What?

Voice A: They are being bombarded by protests from irate parents. A bunch of them say they'll vote against the bill if we introduce it.

Voice B: What?

Voice A: It would make us look like complete idiots.

Voice B: (Muttering) We already look like complete idiots...

Voice A: What's that?

Voice B: Nothing. I just said that if they oppose it they are complete idiots.

Voice A: Of course they are! If they vote against the bill I'll send them behind the backbenches, way in back, behind the shed.

Voice B: We don't do that kind of thing anymore.

Voice A: Well, we should.

Voice B: So, what do we do then?

Voice A: We'll say we're in talks.

Voice B: We are? With whom?

Voice A: (Irritated) No, of course, we're not. We'll just say it. And if we don't say with whom, then who's to know? It'll put the media off the scent.

Voice B: But then what? If we're not talking to anyone, how do we change the channel?

Voice A: Aha, that's the masterstroke! Then you'll come out and say that, as a result of the talks we're satisfied that there is no longer any danger to students.

Voice B: I will?

Voice A: Yes. And then schools can resume. It will look as if we've brought the teachers into line and gotten them to satisfy our safety concerns. We'll look as if we've been right all along and the problem has been solved! Bingo!

Voice B: (Muttering) I don't know if the media and opposition are going to be fooled by...

Voice A: What's that?

Voice B: Nothing, nothing. Just saying that the opposition and media are fools.

Voice A: Of course they are! They'll swallow it hook, line and sinker! It's that kind of tactical thinking that demonstrates why we're in government!

Voice B: But, then what do we do about the teachers?

Voice A: What?

Voice B: I mean, we've called an emergency session of the legislature, we've prepared a bill to impose a contract, and now we're recessing the legislature without even introducing it. And there's still no contract and the teachers are still working to rule. So we're really not any further ahead.

Voice A: Oh, yeah....Well, don't worry about that now -- we'll figure something out. We could always call the legislature back and pass back-to-work... (fading away)

Voice B: What??

Fly on a wallVoice A: Anyway, I'll get back to you on that. I've got to talk with the House Leader.

Bzzzzzzzzzzzz ….

Voice A: Why are there always flies in this place? Maybe there's a dead rat somewhere in the walls. They're rats all over the places this year. We're going to have to call in exterminators. In the meantime, chase that dratted thing out the window, will you.

And with that, the fly was out in the cold again.

Now the fly and I we like to shoot the shit. We kid around; I call it vermin, it calls me carrion -- that kind of thing. But I don't know about the fly. Sometimes I think it might just be lying.  Anyway, would you trust a bug to tell the truth? Meh...you be the judge.

Christopher Majka is an ecologist, environmentalist, policy analyst, and writer. He is the director of Natural History Resources and Democracy: Vox Populi.

 

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